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Young boy in field

The Great Outdoors

By Education, environment, Forest School, fun for children, Green, Mental health, Nature
by Chris Gunn
Headmaster, Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School

At a time when children’s wellbeing is seemingly so constantly under attack, it has never been so important to seek the advantages of ‘The Great Outdoors’! Some of my fondest memories are of adventuring, exploring, and challenging myself in nature – I was never happier than when climbing trees, playing hide-and-seek with friends, soaking up picturesque views or exercising. I vividly remember the sense of accomplishment, motivation, and sheer joy at these times. I can still recall the slip and slide of mud and grass underfoot of past games of football, and feel the warmth of the sun on my back during picnics with family and friends.

In an ever-changing world burdened with social pressures and geo-political issues, the outdoors is a solace. A peaceful calm. It is both an outlet for anxiety and stress as well as one of the greatest resources we have access to for maintaining our positive mental wellbeing. We teach children strategies to improve their mental wellbeing, strategies which children can access and employ to cope with the many challenges and changes they will meet throughout their lives. In my opinion, visiting ‘The Great Outdoors’ is the most effective way to improve mental wellbeing, bar none. It is essential that we provide our children with plentiful opportunities to learn outside of the classroom so that they too have access to this wonderful, naturally healing resource.

I was reminded of the impact of the outdoors recently after a busy exam week. A group of children spent their Friday Activities playing a giant game of ‘capture the flag’ and team ‘hide-and-seek’. For many, the anxiety which the week had induced seemed to be lost and forgotten about in a heartbeat. The excitement of charging into space, to find a quiet spot out of view and the eyes of the opposing team; the anticipation of whether they would be found by a determined seeker; the sprint back to ‘base’ after the time was up. Children were children again. Laughing, panting, smiling. A sense of freedom and enthusiasm. A sense of relief.

The benefits of outdoor activities, such as orienteering, shelter-building, scavenger hunts, and wood whittling on children are unquantifiable. Not only do such activities teach valuable life-skills but they also highlight personal qualities and characteristics, which in turn will lead to better understanding of self and a greater likelihood of successes in the future. Direct links can clearly be drawn between those days outdoors, the skills we learn, and the people we become.

Resilience. Resilience to climb that tree a little higher, or to remain calm when getting back down again. Aspiration. Pushing for a personal best when running a race or vying for the win in a team sport. Self-esteem. To be successful when trying something new, or when involved in informal competition, can make such a difference to a pupil’s self-worth. Courage. Courage to explore, to try new things, or to stand up for and to protect the environment. To know and understand their own physical capabilities and boundaries and to push these a little further each time. Respect. Respect for the habitats, keeping ‘The Great Outdoors’ clean and tidy. Not having to be prompted to pick up a crisp packet, or litter. To protect wildlife and ecosystems, so that plants and animals can thrive. Compassion. Compassion for those who share the space. Wildlife, people, our opponents in sport. Integrity. Having a strong moral grounding of what needs to be done by the Government and local authorities to keep our green spaces and the planet happy and healthy. To compete within the rules of the game. It is these characteristics, that make a young person stand out from the crowd, that will enable them to inspire others.

It is only when outside regularly – walking, exercising, taking the dog out – you see the impact of the change of seasons. The leaves changing colour in the autumn, the first frost, the horse chestnuts, the birds flying south, the leaves beginning to fall. For children to experience first-hand the change in the seasons, to appreciate how fragile life is and get a sense of what they can do to help support the environment, is again of the upmost importance. Children will inevitably hear comments such as “The daffodils are coming up earlier this year” or “It hasn’t snowed for years,” but seeing it, investigating it, monitoring and testing it, enables children to see the impact of a change in our climate. It gives them a real understanding of the effects of greenhouse gases and why changes in our individual habits as well as large-scale changes in industry shape the way we live on and work with our planet Earth. The next generation of scientists, inspired by the outdoors.

I am fortunate enough to have two happy and healthy young sons. I have tried to refrain from using the term ‘outdoorsy’ however they love nothing more than to explore nature. Climb trees; splash in muddy puddles with their wellies on; have fun at the local rugby club. The fondest memories that they make are not whilst sitting in front of a tablet screen. They are out there – wherever that ‘out there’ might be. They are made through a sense of adventure, exploration and getting out into the fresh air. Stopping, standing, listening. That is the greatest ‘soul food’ of all.

Sompting Abbotts is a West Sussex preparatory school near Worthing for girls and boys aged 2 – 13. Tel: 01903 235960.

To find out more about what Sompting Abbotts can offer you, or to arrange a personal visit at any time of the school year, please visit

education and play

They are not just playing!

By Education, play, Playing
by Shelley Allen
Teacher at Burgess Hill Girls Prep School

When you enter an Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) classroom, either in a nursery or a reception classroom, you might look around and see that children are ‘just’ playing. But what is really happening here? Why is play such a crucial part of the day for these young people who are only at the beginning of their learning journey?

Beyond its entertainment value, play serves as a versatile tool that fosters cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development in learners of all ages, not just those in early years.

1. Cognitive development
Play engages the brain in ways that traditional teaching methods may not. It stimulates creativity, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking. When children engage in imaginative play, they create scenarios, characters, and narratives, which require them to think abstractly, plan, and make decisions. In our classroom this might take the form of using figures from the small world to tell a story, creating a rescue mission for superheroes, or making a character or puppet on the creative table.

2. Social development
Play is a social activity that encourages interaction, co-operation, and the development of interpersonal skills. Through play, children learn to share, negotiate, and communicate effectively with others. Games and group activities create opportunities for teamwork and collaboration, teaching valuable lessons about compromise and conflict resolution. They discuss and organise turn taking in role play, decide together who will put the next brick on the tower or the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle.

3. Emotional development
Play provides a safe space for emotional expression and regulation. Children, in particular, use play as a means of exploring and understanding their emotions. Whether engaging in pretend play, storytelling, or board games, they learn to recognise and navigate feelings such as joy, frustration, and empathy. They also build resilience, a key factor in positive mental health later in life. They learn that if the domino tower topples, they can try again.

4.Physical development
Physical play, including activities like running, jumping, and climbing, contributes to the development of motor skills and co-ordination. This physical play not only impacts on physical health but on attention and concentration. You may see us having ‘movement breaks’ throughout the day where we can be found dancing around the room, this also aids in gross motor control, essential in developing stability for writing. Another firm favourite is our daily ‘dough disco.’ To an outsider it may look like we ‘just’ are dancing and playing with modelling dough at the same time. In fact, we are building hand strength and motor control in preparation for writing and learning to follow and imitate sequences.

5. Cultivating a lifelong love for learning
When learning is presented in the context of play, it becomes a joyful and intrinsically motivated activity. Playful learning experiences create positive associations with education, fostering a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom. Whether it is through games, role play or construction, incorporating play into the learning process makes education an active and enjoyable journey.

From early childhood through adulthood, play serves as a powerful tool for whole person development and it is important that we embrace this. Educators and parents alike should embrace the idea that play is not a distraction from serious learning but an integral part of it. By harnessing the natural desire to play, we can unlock the full potential of learners and create environments that nurture creativity, resilience, and lifelong curiosity and development.

To find out more about Burgess Hill Girls, visit

happy children in forest

The power of a small prep school Embracing the ‘try everything’ philosophy

By Education, environment, Forest School, fun for children, Green, Mental health, Nature, Primary school, Relationships
by Charlotte Moore
St Christopher’s Prep

In a world where education is often evaluated by standardised testing and one-size-fits-all metrics, nestled in the heart of a vibrant community, small preparatory schools are quiet powerhouses that have a unique charm. They offer a distinct advantage over larger educational institutions, such as smaller class sizes, a strong sense of community, and individualised attention from teachers. They punch well above their weight through a compelling philosophy that sets them apart – the ‘try everything’ approach to learning.

This philosophy encourages pupils to engage in a wide range of experiences, regardless of their interests or perceived talents. This inclusive model is particularly feasible in small prep schools, where the environment is often more adaptable and personalised than in larger institutions. The imperative of a ‘try everything’ philosophy is not just to expose pupils, but to embed a spirit of curiosity and cross-disciplinary agility.

The encouragement to engage with various subjects and extra curricular activities reflects a deeper understanding of the education process – it’s through experience and reflection that genuine learning takes place. Pupils are taught to value the journey of learning, to embrace failures as learning opportunities, and to develop a growth mindset that views challenges as stepping stones to mastery.

Pupils are invited to dip their toes into a variety of subjects and extra curricular activities – from arts to sciences, sports to technology – and discover passions they may not have known they had. They might find themselves coding a robot in one class, sewing a blanket in another and rehearsing a Shakespearean play in the next.

The key to this method is the idea that true learning comes from exploration and experimentation, which isn’t always found in textbooks. In a rapidly changing world, it is ever more important to be adaptable and have a broad skill set as well as specialised knowledge. From teamwork and leadership in sports, critical thinking in debate clubs, to innovation in STEM projects, pupils become well-equipped for future challenges. Such an education cultivates adaptive individuals who can thrive in the dynamic environments of higher education and the professional world.

Small class sizes of typical prep schools allow for highly individualised attention. Teachers are really able to nurture the curiosity of each pupil, encouraging them to take risks in a safe and supportive environment. Not only does this foster a love of learning, but it also helps to build resilience and confidence, both of which are qualities that are essential in both personal and professional lives.

A small prep school often has a much closer-knit community which provides more leadership opportunities. With fewer pupils to compete with for positions on school councils, drama productions, or as school prefects or team captains, pupils are able to step up and lead in more areas. This close-knit environment fosters a greater sense of responsibility and community engagement.

Small prep schools are able to promote an inclusive culture where hobbies and abilities are not dictated by societal expectations but by personal exploration and growth.

By encouraging all pupils to get involved, and try everything, teachers are creating opportunities for collaboration. It also helps break down barriers and fears. Those pupils who may have been reluctant to join a robotics club or a sewing club, for fear of not fitting in, may discover a love for engineering or garment making. Not everyone is naturally gifted at academics or sports but by being encouraged to join in, those who may have thought they were not great, may still find joy in doing it.

Subjects can often be compartmentalised but this ‘try everything’ approach supports a cross-disciplinary learning. Pupils applying their historical knowledge in English discussions or their artistic sensibilities in science projects shows a holistic educational approach that small prep schools champion.

Smaller class sizes and a more diverse lesson curriculum helps broaden the horizons of pupils so they become more rounded human beings when they progress to their senior school. These people are prepared to not just navigate the world but shape it into something better. A smaller school can be an incubator for future leaders. With the access to teachers and the excellent resources and opportunities the pupils have, these schools help ignite curiosity and arm the pupils themselves with the tools needed to build a fulfilling life. Alumni of small prep schools often attribute their success to the versatility and adaptability that was nurtured in their early education.

The ‘try everything’ philosophy at a small prep school is a powerful tool for education and is not something to be missed. It champions the idea that pupils should be encouraged to embrace a multitude of experiences, helping to shape them into adaptable, curious and innovative thinkers. In schools like these, the power of learning is limitless, and the outcomes are as diverse as the opportunities that they provide.

St Christopher’s Prep is an outstanding independent co-ed prep school. Please call 01273 735404 to discover how we could be the perfect match for your child’s educational start.

Dandelion blowing

Artificial Intelligence and education

By Artificial intelligence, Education
by Mrs Sarah Bakhtiari
Principal of Shoreham College

Artificial Intelligence (AI), once confined to the realms of science fiction, is now a reality that permeates many aspects of our lives. It quietly operates in plain sight, through chatbots and virtual assistants, as well as in ways which remain largely unseen. For example, assisting in diagnosing diseases, analysing medical images and predicting patient outcomes. In the field of education, AI refers to the use of intelligent systems and algorithms to enhance teaching and learning experiences and so has the potential to enhance the way children learn and teachers teach. It encompasses various applications such as personalised learning, accessibility aids and the automated marking of work.

There is no doubt that AI is here to stay and while there is undoubtedly a storm raging about the relative benefits and challenges of AI, schools are diligently setting about exploring how AI can be used to enhance education. By embracing this technology we hope to empower our children with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in an increasingly digital society.

Personalised learning
AI enables educators to provide personalised learning experiences tailored to each child’s needs and abilities. Intelligent systems can analyse vast amounts of data to identify individual learning patterns, strengths and challenges. This information can be used to create customised learning paths, ensuring pupils receive targeted support. Adaptive learning platforms can utilise AI algorithms to deliver personalised content and track pupil progress.

In mathematics an AI platform can ‘learn’ a child’s mathematical strengths and challenges and provide content and questions aimed at building on those strengths and alleviating the challenges. The way that you might see this working in our classrooms is that a young person who is good at their times tables could have a ‘starter’ times table task to increase their confidence. They then progress on to long division, which they find more difficult – starting two steps behind the exact concept that the young person mastered in the last session, to build their confidence and move their learning forward. A teacher cannot reliably remember two steps behind, but the AI absolutely will. A master at the seven times table but always stuck on six times seven? Six times seven will come up again and again until it is cemented in the child’s long-term memory. This is powerful for moving concepts from the working memory to long-term schemas, which organise information according to how it is used and can be reliably recalled and built upon.

Enhanced collaboration and engagement
AI-powered tools can facilitate collaboration among children, encouraging teamwork and communication skills. Virtual reality (VR) simulations can transport children to historical events or scientific experiments, enabling them to actively participate and engage with the subject matter. AI chatbots can act as virtual tutors, answering questions and providing guidance, promoting independent learning and critical thinking. This does not replace real-life experiences; for example our Year 4 children will gain much from their annual trip to Bignor Roman Villa, but this can be supplemented with a virtual reality tour of one of the most significant proofs of Roman civilisation – Pompeii. We would happily take a secondary school trip to Pompeii, but never our Year 4!

Developing future-ready skills
As AI becomes increasingly prevalent in the workforce, equipping children with AI literacy is essential. By introducing AI concepts early on, schools can prepare pupils for the jobs of tomorrow. For example, coding platforms like Scratch or AI programming languages like Python can introduce children to the fundamentals of AI and computational thinking. This knowledge empowers them to become creators rather than mere consumers of technology, fostering innovation and problem-solving abilities.

When used most effectively AI complements, rather than replaces, existing relationships and teachers. Maintaining a strong teacher-pupil relationship is essential for effective education. By leveraging AI’s capabilities while preserving human relationships, educators can harness the power of technology to enhance learning outcomes and prepare children for the challenges of the future.

While AI can provide personalised instruction, it cannot replace the empathy, emotional support and mentorship that teachers and teaching assistants offer. Striking the right balance between AI and human interaction is crucial to ensure holistic learning experiences.

The integration of AI in primary schools offers a multitude of opportunities for our children’s education. By embracing this technology, we can provide personalised learning experiences, foster collaboration and equip our children with the skills necessary for success in the future. At our school, we support and encourage the thoughtful integration of AI, helping to ensure that our children are prepared to navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape with confidence and creativity.

Please call 01273 592681 to find out more about what Shoreham College can offer you,

or to arrange a personal visit at any time of the school year.

girls in class

Early Years learning – a foundation for life

By Early Years, Education, Primary school
by Matthew Byran
Headmaster, Longacre School

Forgive me, dear reader, for starting an article about the early years talking about myself. You see, I’ve been a teacher since I left university, which means that not only have I never skipped a long summer holiday, but I’ve also always had a sense that I knew a fair bit about education and what really mattered (for good and not so good). The problem was, it has only been in the last few years that I stopped getting things completely upside down.

You see, I fell into the trap – and it’s common enough – of thinking that because I was most aware of the impact of university and secondary school (which helped me considerably to get into that university), that this phase of education must be the most important. The inspiring Mr Chips/Dead Poets Society/History Boys kind of teachers, the independence, the club ties, the grown-up vocabulary and ill-judged use of Foucault, Derrida or Rousseau to gain intellectual gravitas. When people ask where you went to school, they don’t mean when you were five. And therein lies the problem: it is easy enough to categorise someone if you know they went to Harvard, or boarding school, but in so doing you are leaning only on preconceptions about that place, or that kind of place, and you lose sight of the individual, unique, human in front of you.

Even when I was fortunate enough to have children, and they in turn went to preschool, I didn’t understand that this moment, right here, was to be pivotal in what I sincerely hope will be a happy and fulfilling life for them. When I saw that they had played with shaving foam, or made ‘food’ from play dough, I was mostly glad that it hadn’t been left to me to do the cleaning up; when they appeared in their first nativity plays, I worried about whether they had been cast in an appropriately starring part – often, indeed, as a star of some kind…

Reception seemed much the same, a riot of building blocks and stories and – mostly – playing nicely with other children. Meanwhile, I was busily giving my son toys and puzzles that were pitched far in excess of his actual age in what I now recognise was a bid to increase his chances of one day going to one of those high-profile schools or universities that people often talk about.

To clarify, I have no quarrel with those seats of learning which give their students outstanding opportunities to learn, debate and produce new ideas. Nor do I take exception to parents who want the best for their children – even now, I bow to no one in my hopes and aspirations for my children. But I fundamentally changed my outlook when I took on the job of being a prep school Head, with its own Early Years setting. My aspirations now extend to some 250 children, and I want to give every one of them the best chance to succeed. How to do this? The most efficient way is to give a child the best Early Years experience possible.

As the Head of an independent school, I am sometimes asked what is the most important phase of schooling if parents only have limited funds which they wish to invest in education, or what is the minimum number of years to be in private prep school in order to gain access to a prestigious secondary school, or a non-fee paying grammar school. The older I get, the more unequivocal my answer: there is no more important phase in a child’s education than their first years. For working parents, and notwithstanding government initiatives, preschool is a seriously expensive business. Reception at an independent school means yet more significant expense. This isn’t a sales pitch, either for my school or private schools in general, but I do encourage parents to find the best possible early years experience for their children. Don’t fall into the same trap that I did, of thinking that those early moments with crayons and blocks, mud kitchen and dressing up boxes, are anything less than critical.

The best days in the Early Years are filled with stories, multi-sensory experience, physical activity and making your mark on the world. Children must learn independence, as well as how to leverage the knowledge and experience of their teachers. Let them learn self-reliance, and how to share. Let children play in imaginary worlds and discover knowledge for themselves. Understanding exactly when to follow the rules, and when to exercise one’s own judgement and break those rules, can take a lifetime. I was once told that toddlers jump in puddles to prove their existence in the universe. If only Rene Descartes had had that kind of existential awareness.

Practitioners in Early Years settings routinely show some of the best pedagogical techniques that you will find anywhere. Play-based learning ensures fun, ensures motivation, ensures genuine educational progress. Learning is tailored to individuals, rather than a one-size fits all approach to lesson planning. Children’s answers are taken on their own merits, rather than a test of how closely they approximate to a teacher’s predetermined answer in fact. They experience fun, excitement, variety, fresh air and utilise all of their senses.

Children have agency over their choices and activities, with the guiding hand of an adult expert in the background ensuring that they cover the full range of crucial learning goals. They are allowed – nay, encouraged – to fail, reassess, persevere and find a way. There is a noteworthy absence of grade point averages or positions in class. There is barely a mention of extrinsic motivation in the form of house points or treats – not needed when visible learning and progress provide their own encouragement. There should be a total absence of fear: no fear of being shouted at by teachers (as a parent, I wish I could say that I had never lost my temper with my toddler child, but I can assure you that it’s a great deal easier when working with other people’s children!), nor fear of disappointing parents by failing to live up to their expectations.

But what of phonics? Or cursive handwriting? The essential step of learning pencil grip or fluent reading aloud? Well yes, each of these has great value. They should all come, and in an ideal world will come before a child reaches the point of cognitive development wherein they are aware of their relative prowess compared to peers – usually around six to eight years old. But not at the expense of the personal, social and emotional development, physical development and communication and language which will underpin a whole lifetime. Not before the child is ready. And definitely not by skipping some of the key foundation points in a bid to ‘get ahead’.

There is no sense, nor lasting learning, in memorising the first phonic sounds (S, A, T, P, I, N in case you wondered) before one can recognise and understand the environmental sounds around us – a ticking clock, a telephone ringing or a knock at the door. There is danger in making assumptions, and great value in utilising the skills, experience and perspective of an Early Years specialist. These years really are a foundation for life, the best way to ensure that our children grow up to be confident, kind, resilient and thoughtful.

Longacre School – delivering an engaging learning experience for boys and girls aged 2+ located between Guildford and Cranleigh.
Visit us


Which primary school?

By Education, Primary school, Relationships

Applying for a state primary school in the UK is a crucial step in a child’s education journey. The process can seem overwhelming, especially for first-time parents or those new to the country’s education system. However, with the right information and preparation, it can be a straightforward and manageable task.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to apply for a state primary school.

1. Understand the basics
Before you start the application process, it’s essential to understand some key concepts:
• Catchment area
State primary schools often prioritise children living within a specific catchment area. This means your residential address can significantly impact your school options.

• Admissions criteria
Each school has its own admission criteria, which can include proximity to the school, siblings already attending, or other factors like religion or special needs.

• Key dates
Keep track of application deadlines, as they vary by region and school. Generally, applications are due around January for entry the following September.

2. Research schools
Begin by researching the primary schools in your area. You can use magazines like ABC, online resources, school directories and word of mouth to compile a list of potential schools. Pay attention to OFSTED ratings, which indicate school quality, and visit school websites to learn about their programmess, facilities and admission policies.

3. Determine your preferences
Consider your priorities when selecting schools. Think about factors such as location, school size, teaching approach (e.g. Montessori or traditional) and extracurricular activities. Make a list of your top choices based on these criteria.

4. Check admission criteria
Review the admission criteria for each school on your list. This information is usually available on the school’s website or through your local education authority. Understanding the criteria will help you assess your chances of securing a place at each school.

5. Visit schools
Whenever possible, visit the schools you’re interested in preferably with your child. Open days and tours provide an opportunity to get a feel for the school environment and meet staff members. It can also help you decide if a school aligns with your child’s needs and your expectations.

6. Complete the application form
Most schools in the UK use a common application form provided by your local education authority. You can usually find this form on the authority’s website or request a copy from the school. Fill out the form accurately, providing all required information, including your school choices.

7. List schools in order of preference
On the application form, you’ll typically be asked to list your preferred schools in order. It’s crucial to rank them carefully because this order can affect your child’s chances of getting into their top choice.

8. Proof of address
Be prepared to provide proof of your address, as this will be a significant factor in school allocation. Utility bills, council tax statements, or lease agreements are typically accepted as proof.

9. Sibling priority
If you have other children already attending a particular school, mention this on your application. Many schools give sibling priority, increasing the likelihood of your younger child being admitted.

10. Submit your application
Submit your completed application form by the specified deadline. Be sure to keep a copy for your records and request a receipt or confirmation of submission if possible.

11. Wait for offers
After the application deadline, you’ll have to wait for the local authority to process applications and allocate school places. This process can take several weeks, so be patient.

12. Respond to offers
Once you receive offers from schools, you’ll need to respond promptly. If you’re offered a place at your top-choice school, accept it as soon as possible.

13. Appeals process (if necessary)
If your child doesn’t get a place at your preferred school, you have the right to appeal the decision. The appeals process varies by region, so check with your local education authority for guidance on how to proceed.

In conclusion, applying for a state primary school involves thorough research, careful planning and adherence to deadlines.

Understanding the local admission criteria and prioritising your preferences will increase your chances of securing a place at a school that aligns with your child’s educational needs and your family’s values. Remember that the process can be very competitive, so it’s essential to be well-prepared and flexible in your choices.

Good luck with your application!

teach your child about endangered animals

Teach your child about endangered animals

By Education, environment, Forest School, Nature, Relationships

The topic of endangered animals can be a difficult one for adults, let alone children. How do you explain, in simple and sensitive terms, that human action is destroying the planet and subsequently wiping out entire species of animals?

It’s the younger generations that are going to suffer the most from the impact of climate change, so it’s in their best interest to learn the hows and whys as early as possible. Knowledge is power, after all.

Here, My Oceans has put together their top tips for teaching children about endangered animals.

Use sensitive and simple language
There’s a fine line between being realistic and just plain terrifying. Children must understand the severity of the situation, but you should try to avoid harsh words and confusing terms that they’ll likely not understand.

Don’t: “Human ignorance is killing innocent animals; when the population of a species has declined at least 70% for reasons unknown, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declares it as endangered.”

Do: “Endangered animals are animals that have become so rare that they’re at risk of disappearing forever! This is why everyone must come together to take necessary the steps to protect them before it’s too late.”

Get the whole family involved
Make this a family activity by getting the whole crew together! If your children have older siblings who perhaps already know about endangered species, it still might be a good idea to get them involved.

Most little ones subconsciously mimic their older siblings, so they’re far more likely to take an interest in the topic if their brothers and sisters do too. Plus, helping save the world is a fantastic family bonding activity.

Find children-friendly books
If you’re not the best at wording things, or if your children need a little more clarification, look for children-friendly books that address the topic.

Fortunately, there are hundreds out there which are ideal for children aged three to 11.

You can find books that explore specific at-risk animals, such as ‘A Polar Bear in the Snow’ or ‘Give Bees a Chance’. This might be good if your child has a favourite animal that they want to learn more about.

There are also books that explain the subject of endangered animals in a general sense. Recommended reads might include works such as ‘My First Pop-Up Endangered Animal’s by Owen Davey and ‘A Wild Child’s Guide to Endangered Animals’ by author Millie Marotta.

Books are a fantastic way to enrich a child’s learning, especially for topics that might be a little upsetting or confusing. Set aside some time to go through each book together.

Let them ask as many questions as they need to
Children are incredibly curious – sometimes too much so. However, it’s important you let them ask as many follow-up questions as they need to.

If you want them to get their head around a totally bewildering subject, you should expect and prepare for an interrogation.

Some questions might be outrageous (hey, children are children) but do your best to give clear, honest answers to help them further grasp the topic.

Think of ways to help
Now that your little ones have a better understanding of what endangered animals are, you must plan all the ways that you can try to help the cause together.

As an adult, you’ll probably know the obvious solutions (more on those below), but this brainstorming session should be about encouraging your children to the discussion.

Nudge them in the right direction but let them feel like they’re the ones contributing awesome, life-saving ideas. This will make the children feel much more motivated to carry out the ideas in the next stage.

This is perhaps the most important part of teaching your children about endangered animals: putting those plans into action.

Once you have your list of solutions, research each one until you have a good idea of your ‘who, what, when, where and why.’

Types of activities you could consider include:
Adopt an animal
Expose your children to endangered animals in a fun way that promotes responsibility. Your small monthly donation can help fund crucial work, plus, in exchange, you’ll typically receive a cuddly toy, regular updates, and a certificate.

Make eco-friendly lifestyle changes
Many adults have adopted bad environmental lifestyle habits, and bad habits are hard to shake. From early on, before these negative routines cement themselves in your children’s life, teach them:
• How to recycle, and why it’s crucial we do so
• The importance of eco-friendly products (such as plastic-free toilet paper and reusable shopping bags)
• How to reduce energy usage
• To avoid single-use plastic
• To eat less meat.

Raise funds together
There are plenty of UK charities for protecting endangered animals and their habitats, such as People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and WWF.

A possible ocean-specific charity you could support is the Marine Conservation Society, an organisation working to achieve a cleaner, healthier environment. Think of exciting ways to raise money for these charities, such as bakes sale or walking fundraiser.

Visit an animal shelter or wildlife centre – a super educational way to support a fantastic cause while helping your children to comprehend the topic in greater detail. Find your local animal shelter or wildlife centre and volunteer your time feeding the animals, cleaning and tidying habitats, or just being a companion.

Incorporate fun activities – children love to play! Playing is crucial for their development as it benefits a variety of skills, including cognitive and social. As you embark on this journey of better understanding endangered animals, look for fun activities that’ll help and engage them:
• Arts and crafts
• Roleplay
• Puppeteering
• Painting and drawing
• Singing and dancing.

They have the power to change the world
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re raising your children with the right beliefs, attitudes and knowledge. Theirs is the generation that will be hurt the most by the impacts of climate change, so it’s only right we give them the necessary tools to fight back – as early as possible.

Support them in grasping the severity of the situation in a way that motivates them to help the cause. No one is expecting a six year old to single-handedly change the world, but soon that six year old will be a fully-fledged adult that has a much better chance of doing so.

For further information please visit


encourage reading in children

Why parents should read out loud to children of all ages

By Education, Mental health, reading
by Chris Couchman

A YouGov poll commissioned by digital subscription app Readly revealed 43% of parents and grandparents have shared a cherished comic or magazine with children, but how many of us are reading out loud to children regularly to impart a keen love of reading?

Studies demonstrate that children of all ages continue to benefit from being read to. Reading together strengthens the bond between parent and child as well as nurtures children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development.

For very young children, reading with a caregiver is linked to increased focus and decreased levels of aggression and hyperactivity. Reading to children gives them the words to describe their most difficult feelings, which allows them to better regulate their behaviour when they’re feeling sad, angry or frustrated.

Brain scans indicate that hearing stories activates the part of the brain responsible for processing visual imagery, story comprehension, and word meaning. Even babies benefit from being read aloud to and the benefits don’t stop even when children are older and can read for themselves. Research suggests children from six to 12 enjoy a cognitive boost when they are read to for an hour each day.

As reading levels continue to plummet amongst older children, reading aloud has the potential to stem the growing tide of non-readers. Sadly the numbers show parents stop reading to their child by the age of eight, with just 19% of eight to 10 year olds read to daily by an adult, across all socio-economic groups.

While the YouGov survey respondents understood that that reading “improves language skills”, “enables children to learn more about various subjects or cultures”, and “gives children time for themselves”, it takes a more hands-on approach to set children up for life when it comes to reading. It’s unequivocal that reading out loud is essential, but how do parents engage children of all ages to enjoy reading together on a regular basis?

Here are some expert tips from Readly, the digital magazine app, to get started:

• Don’t just read at bedtime
Reading before going to bed is a classic ritual but for some children, it can be associated with having to stop playing. Build a more positive association with reading by switching up times and locations. Parents can try reading under the table in a den or at a picnic outside while eating snacks to make it fun.

• Don’t be afraid to embrace technology to encourage reading
Just because children are turning to devices doesn’t mean they have to switch off from reading. There’s a plethora of easily accessible content on the web and in apps to encourage our children’s literary growth. Every opportunity to read is valuable.

• Comic books can be a great place to start
With an emphasis on reading being fun, easy and above all, essential to establishing a regular reading habit, embracing comic books is a simple way to help more children find reading pleasure. Comics are also an excellent, fun and non-threatening reading option for children to start reading in a non-native language.

• Lead by example
Children imitate their parents and other adults around them. Set a good example by cultivating your own reading habits. Don’t forget to discuss the latest article, magazine or book you’ve read with your child any time the opportunity arises.

• Ask and answer questions together
On that note, reading widely even if you think the material is too advanced for your child is a great way to introduce new words and concepts. Use this as a way to capitalise on children’s natural curiosity to explore and learn together.

From recognising patterns in language to discovering something new about the world we live in, the benefits of reading aloud to children builds by the day. We must make more time to read.

With unlimited reading to over 7,500 titles, Readly has a magazine for all the family and as it gives five profiles per household, all the family can read their favourite titles. Perfect for children and grown ups. Visit


defiant toddler

Teaching your child boundaries

By Childcare and Nannying, children's health, Education, family, Mental health, Relationships, Special support needs
by Michelle Elman
Author, How to Say No

You will remember a time in your child’s life when “no” was their favourite word but as a child hits three to four years old, saying “no”, getting their needs met and communicating how they feel, gets a little bit more complicated. They start to develop Theory of Mind which means they start to get an awareness of the fact that not only can they think, but other people think too. Over time, this realisation turns into the knowledge that if someone can think, then they can think about you and they can also think badly about you.

As adults, you will understand that your own boundaries are usually in conflict with caring what people think, and children also suffer with the same issue, especially when popularity, fitting in and being liked by their peer group is such a high priority. This is where it is important to emphasis the need to keep boundaries in their vocabulary, starting with the simplest and first boundary we all learn – the word ‘no’.

As we all know, children don’t do as you say, they do as you do and therefore practising boundaries yourself is the best place to start to be an example to your children. Learning boundaries isn’t just something you should do for your children though, it can positively impact your life in many ways – from self-esteem, to protecting yourself from burnout, to reprioritising your need for rest and looking after your body. As much as children might struggle to do what you say, if you create an environment where everyone feels listened to, they often start to listen to you more too, if they feel heard themselves.

The word “no” is crucial to understanding how you feel, what you want and it also means that your “yes” has more power. If “yes” is the only word you can use, then that’s the default and your life becomes filled with meeting everyone else’s needs and demands. As much as a child using the word “no” may make your life more difficult as a parent, it’s important to understand that it’s a crucial skill as they grow up and become adults.

We want to foster a sense of independence and knowing how to communicate well, even if they still need to comply with the rules of the household or school. When they set a boundary that is simply not feasible, for example, staying at home alone because they don’t want to attend a family friend’s party, then you are still able to congratulate them on communicating their needs, expressing their boundaries and making them feel heard, listened to and respected.

If you lead with empathy, you are treating them with the respect you would with any adult who has their full autonomy and freedom to make their own decisions. I’m sure you’ve had evenings where you’ve not wanted to attend an event that you previously were looking forward to or there are times as an adult, you just want to be left at home alone to enjoy your solitude. For your child though, that might be unsafe and therefore communicating that to them, not only gives them respect but understanding as to the decision making process.

Saying something like “I know you don’t want to come tonight. I know you are tired and I wouldn’t want to come too if I had as long a week as you have. I can’t find anyone to stay with you last minute though and I do not feel comfortable leaving you at home alone so for your safety, you will have to come with us”. When you come from a empathetic standpoint, you can understand why a child wouldn’t want to go to a grown-up party where they have little in common with the people there, and it is easier to come up with a compromise, for example, “If you would like some alone time though, why don’t you bring a book and we can find a room where you can be by yourself while all the adults are talking?”

Teaching boundaries is also about teaching your children to respect other people’s boundaries so when you set rules about behaviour, make sure you echo the reverse. For example, if they don’t want their siblings barging into their room, then they also have to lHow to say noisten when their siblings say no to them entering their room. Emphasising that we also want to respect other people’s boundaries and giving them the language around boundaries is also really helpful. A boundary might not always sound like the word “no”, it can be “That doesn’t work for me”, or “I don’t like the sound of that,” and when you understand that this is someone conveying their boundaries, not only do they have phrases to listen out for but they have the same phrases they can use themselves.

‘How To Say No’ released by Puffin, is available now.

make maths fun for children

Incorporate maths into playtime

By Education, fun for children, numeracy skills, play
by Lucy Alexandra Spencer
Tutoring and Alternative Provision Director at Education Boutique,
part of the Eteach Group

When we incorporate maths into play, we create curious problem-solving thinkers who are ready to explore the world.

Incorporating maths into play is a well-evidenced catalyst for developing capable mathematicians, who are comfortable using maths skills in their everyday lives. The National Numeracy Organisation reports that half of the working-age adults in the UK have a numeracy level below the expected abilities for an 11 year old. It’s therefore vital that educators and parents work together to find ways to link maths to enjoyable everyday life events, in order for children to build a positive relationship with the subject and reduce the chance of developing maths-based anxieties and low self-esteem.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework sets the standard for providing early play-based maths experiences. It is supported by a report from the Education Endowment Foundation which found that play-based learning can be particularly effective at raising attainment in learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.

So, drawing on the evidence of the benefits, what can busy parents do to easily incorporate maths into play and everyday life routines?

Empowering every home to have a maths role model
By showing enthusiasm for maths and demonstrating resilience to problem-solving, parents can shape a child’s mindset for life. You don’t need to be ‘good’ at maths to be a positive role model. Even if you have had a rocky road with the subject yourself, now is a great time to draw a line in the sand and embrace the opportunities to form a collaborative partnership with your child. Together, you can help them to have fun and explore the wonderful world of numbers, shapes and statistics.

Don’t label the practise
Being ‘good’ at maths is so much more than buying your child every workbook on the internet or learning times tables. Don’t feel like you have to give maths at home a label, especially with younger children. What sounds more appealing to you – “Let’s do 20 minutes of maths” or “Let’s investigate the different quantities of ingredients needed to make the perfect banana smoothie?”

Learning through doing, will help a child develop many skills that link to a range of subjects, reaching much further than just the maths curriculum.

Utilising time efficiently
When your child has number facts or times tables to memorise, you can buy yourself some neon chalk pens and write the information on the bathroom mirror, for example. This means your child will be looking at and thinking about the content regularly, sometimes without being cognisant of the fact they are absorbing information. It’s an excellent routine to establish.

Additionally, creating a car journey routine where iPad maths apps, such as ‘Hit the Button’, ‘Prodigy Maths’ and others could be incorporated can work well. Don’t worry if your car journeys are device-free zones, play some of these great car journey maths games:
• Number plate maths
Make the largest or smallest number out of the numbers on passing registration plates.
• Guess the number
One player thinks of a number and the others in the car ask numeral questions to guess what it is.
• Number tennis
Choose a rule such as ‘add seven’ and go around the players in the car until someone gets out.
• Rule master
Count from one upwards and every time you get to a multiple of 10, create a new rule such as ‘clap instead of saying 10’.

Here are some of my other top tips for integrating maths into play:
• Cooking
The kitchen is a great place to incorporate numbers. Asking children questions such as: “How can we double this recipe?”, “What can we do if this ingredient is missing?” or “Can we cook it at double the heat for half the time?” are exciting ways for them to engage in maths.
• Shopping lists
Giving your child agency over shopping lists by using online supermarkets is another good way to incorporate maths. For example, you can challenge them to find where they can get items for the best price and ask them to organise the weekly shop while not exceeding a certain budget.
• Games
Gamifying maths is often talked about, but some of these may exist in your house already! Dust off Monopoly, a Lego set or try orienteering and geocaching on a sunny day.
• Collecting data
It can be helpful to consider how you can involve your child in collecting data. Family decisions such as holidays or meals can be a great opportunity to do this and for them to present their results.
• Sports
Dart boards can be an excellent resource to learn how to read the minute hand of the clock. Create a clock dart board and when you throw a dart read the minute hand value. How about quick mental calculations with three darts? The possibilities are endless!
• Music
The rhythm and beat of the music is an exciting way to incorporate counting. Games which involve counting in numbers in time to the beat of the music, for example, can work well, as well as counting how many times a certain word is repeated. Investigating speeding up and slowing down as well as recording audio messages may also capture your child’s interest.

Lucy supports children with emotional-based school non-attendance and helps families access LA funding, offering tutoring for children with additional needs.