(2 minute read)
In the realm of education policy in the United Kingdom, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party often find themselves at odds over various issues, and one such area of contention is the teaching of mathematics. Labour has proposed a policy to introduce maths education at a younger age, while the Conservative Party advocates for extending compulsory maths education for 16-year-olds by two more years. In this article, we will delve into why Labour's approach of teaching maths at a younger age is superior to the Conservative Party's proposal of extending compulsory maths education.
1. Early Development of Fundamental Skills
Labour's policy to introduce maths education at a younger age recognises the importance of building a strong foundation in mathematics during the early years of a child's education. Research has consistently shown that early exposure to math concepts enhances cognitive development and problem-solving skills. By starting math education at a younger age, children can gradually develop their mathematical skills, ensuring they have a solid grasp of fundamental concepts before they reach secondary school.
2. Reducing Math Anxiety
One of the key benefits of starting maths education early is that it can help reduce math anxiety, a common issue among students. When children are introduced to mathematics in a nurturing and age-appropriate manner, they are less likely to develop a fear of the subject. In contrast, the Conservative Party's proposal to extend compulsory maths education for 16-year-olds may exacerbate math anxiety by forcing students who may already be disinterested or struggling with the subject to continue studying it against their will.
3. Improved Long-Term Academic Outcomes
Labour's policy aligns with research indicating that early math education contributes to better long-term academic outcomes. Early exposure to mathematical concepts has been linked to improved performance in mathematics throughout a student's academic journey. By starting at a younger age, students are more likely to excel in mathematics in later years, leading to higher attainment levels and better career opportunities.
4. Flexibility and Individual Choice
Labour's approach promotes flexibility in the education system, allowing students to choose when they want to engage in advanced mathematics. It recognises that not all students are equally inclined towards math, and some may have different career aspirations that do not require advanced mathematical skills. This approach empowers students to make informed choices about their education path, promoting a more personalised and student-centered learning experience.
5. Addressing Teacher Workload
Implementing the Conservative Party's proposal to extend compulsory maths education for 16-year-olds would put additional pressure on teachers, who are already grappling with heavy workloads. Labour's policy, on the other hand, provides teachers with the opportunity to introduce mathematics in a less rushed and more developmentally appropriate manner, reducing the burden on educators.
In the ongoing debate between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party over mathematics education in the UK, it is clear that Labour's policy of teaching maths at a younger age holds several advantages over the Conservative Party's proposal to extend compulsory maths education for 16-year-olds. Early math education promotes better foundational skills, reduces math anxiety, leads to improved academic outcomes, and provides greater flexibility for students. By focusing on the developmental needs of students and recognising the diversity of their interests and abilities, Labour's approach offers a more balanced and effective approach to mathematics education in the United Kingdom.
(3 minute read)
Did you talk to your kids about feelings on World Mental Health day (10th October)? Missed it? No worries (or any other negative feelings please!) We’re going to discuss how we can help our kids develop healthy ways of talking about their feelings.
Recent studies have shown that mental health has declined in almost 40% of school children in England, prompting organisations such as ITV to launch campaigns like Britain Get Talking - with a focus on helping young people communicate their feelings with the people around them. If you have older children, why not try out this handy homework from the campaign with them.
Just like adults, young kids have a wide range of complex emotions, but don’t necessarily have the language or understanding to express them, or recoginse them in others. This is known as emotional intelligence. The early years of a child's life, spent both at home and in school, play a huge role in shaping their emotional intelligence and overall mental health. One of the increasingly popular methods of developing this in schools is called Social and Emotional Learning (SEL for short).
SEL means that children should be able to identify and label emotions so children are able to recognise and talk about a range of different emotions; relate feelings and thoughts to behaviours so they can see what triggers and maintains these emotions; and regulate their emotions through learning about simple strategies and tools to manage them. Developing these skills of self-awareness and self-management help build for more success in education, career and life!
Here at Teach Your Monster, we’re really interested in helping this process of emotional development in young children through play. So much so that we are creating an exciting Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) minigame that empowers children to understand and manage their feelings effectively.
If you have feelings (!) about this topic, we’d love for you to join our Teach Your Monster Feelings Facebook group, where you can share your experiences, insights, and strategies for teaching children about feelings as well as helping us develop the minigame and get exclusive updates on it’s development!
In the meantime, here are some strategies you could use at home to promote mental wellbeing at home:
- Open Communication: Encouraging open communication with young children is crucial. Create a safe space and time where kids feel comfortable expressing their feelings without judgement.
- Emotional Literacy: Teach children to identify and label their emotions. Use books, art, and storytelling to help them recognise and understand different feelings.
- Empathy: Encourage children to understand and show empathy towards the feelings of others. This helps them build social skills, relationships, and emotional resilience.
- Healthy Role Modelling: Demonstrating healthy ways to manage stress, express emotions, and resolve conflicts can significantly impact a child's emotional development.
- Routine and Structure: Establishing a daily routine provides children with a sense of security and predictability. This stability can reduce anxiety and promote positive mental health.
- Encourage Play and Creativity: Play is essential for a child's mental health. Encouraging creative activities helps children express their emotions and develop problem-solving skills.
- Physical Health: A balanced diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep are essential for a child's overall wellbeing. Physical health is closely linked to mental health. If you have a fussy eater at home, why not try out our free game Teach Your Monster Adventurous Eating to make those foods a little less scary and a lot more fun!
ITV’s ‘Britain Get Talking’ Mental Wellness Campaign
Mind - World Mental Health Day
Impetus Social and Emotional Learning Report - Dec 2022
NHS Mental Health of Children and Young People In England Survey - September 2021
(3 minute read)
When I was eight, I stole my brother’s book about scary mythological creatures. It was like an encyclopedia of all scary things; vampires waiting at your windows, ghost heads dripping blood through the floorboards, sirens calling innocent sailors to crash on the rocks so they could devour them… It terrified me… but I loved this book! I pawed at its pages every night, taking in all the weird and wonderful tales. I remember each page vividly and the stories have stuck with me ever since…
Moral lessons, friendly characters, and happily-ever-after endings are what we often think about first when thinking about children’s stories. They provide comfort, reassurance, and a sense of stability for young readers and they have a purpose. They often teach valuable life lessons about kindness, friendship, and perseverance and show a simple world where problems are solved, and justice prevails.
However, children, like everyone else, have complex emotions and experiences that can't always be neatly packaged into sweet and safe narratives. Children can enjoy a wide spectrum of stories, including those that are dark, weird, unsettling, or even frightening! Think of the terrible weird things that happen in your favorite Roald Dahl story (George's Marvelous Medicine!), the popularity of Fungus the Bogeyman, Where the Wild Things Are, or warnings about wolves in Grandma's clothing from your favorite fairy tale.
These darker or more ambiguous stories serve a different purpose. Children are naturally curious about the world around them, and they encounter challenges, fears, and uncertainties as they grow. Darker stories often acknowledge the presence in life of feelings such as loss, fear, and adversity.
It’s true that unsettling or horrible stories may seem inappropriate for children at first glance. However, these stories, when crafted thoughtfully, can also play a valuable role in a child's literary diet. They provide an opportunity for children to confront their fears and anxieties in a controlled and comfortable setting. By experiencing these feelings through fiction, children can learn to cope with strong emotions and develop their resilience.
These stories can also serve as a vehicle for discussing challenging topics with children. They can help parents and educators start discussions on tricky topics, provide valuable lessons about empathy and social responsibility, and address issues like bullying, discrimination, and the consequences of negative actions.
Children's lives are far from one-dimensional. They experience moments of joy and sorrow, bravery and fear, love and hate. Like all of us, they grapple with the complexities of existence. They are drawn to stories that encompass the full range of human experiences. By embracing the richness of children's literature and offering a diverse array of stories, we empower children to become more compassionate, resilient, and emotionally intelligent individuals.
Whether my early experience with my brother’s book of ghosts and vampires had any long term effects, I can’t say, but (yes, we may be biased) we believe that Monsters can be fun.
We asked members of the Teach Your Monster Team for their favourite spooky, dark and weird children's books and here's what they came up with...
- Dracula: A BabyLit by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver
- The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Lane Smith and John Scieszka
- The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and Dave Mc Kean
- Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
- Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski
- Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski
- Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffer
- Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton
- The Dark by Lemony Snickett and Jon Klasson
- How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green
And for slightly older readers the Worst Witch by Jill Murphy and the Little Vampire by Angela Summer-Bodenburg had a few fans!
Kay Leathers, Contributor at Teach Your Monster.
(3 minute read)
Some children appear to ‘magically’ pick up reading where others struggle, especially those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. So how can we create a strong reading foundation for ALL kids?
Peter Usborne CBE, the founder of Usborne books and Teach Your Monster, believed that a solid foundation in reading is essential for children to grow into healthy adults. His career was dedicated to helping children develop their reading skills and improving access to reading. These principles led to the creation of our very first game, ‘Teach Your Monster to Read’. Key to its development was understanding the science behind how children learn to read.
Researchers and educators have worked for decades to understand the processes that underpin reading. This extensive body of work includes everything from studies on the long-term efficacy of reading instruction methods and interventions, to patterns discovered from brain scans in cutting-edge neuroscience research labs.
The modern ‘Science of Reading’ movement emerged from this foundation of evidence-based learning research. Today’s teachers, parents, and reading experts understand the importance of phonics, decoding and comprehension to improve reading outcomes for every student.
Successful early interventions can start with these building blocks of reading:
Phonemic Awareness: This is the ability to recognize and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.
Phonics: To comprehend text, children must first understand the relationships between sounds (phonemes) and the written letters that represent them (graphemes). “Decoding” – matching letters to sounds – is what we mean by ‘phonics’.
Vocabulary: A rich vocabulary is crucial for comprehension. Children need to learn and understand the meanings of words to make sense of what they are reading.
Fluency: Fluency involves reading smoothly, accurately, and at an appropriate rate. Fluent readers can focus on comprehension rather than struggling with decoding.
Comprehension: Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading. It's the ability to understand and make meaning from text. Effective comprehension strategies include making connections, asking questions, and summarizing.
In most UK schools, children are actively taught phonics from an early age. The method is catching on in American Schools as well. (I’m sure that class teachers would be happy to share the systems they use to teach phonics with keen parents!) Many teachers use our Teach Your Monster to Read game in their class because it was designed to help kids practice the foundational skills of phonics and phonemic awareness.
Parents can also support early reading development at home to build understanding and contribute to their child’s success. Here are some key takeaways from the research:
Start Early: Reading aloud to infants and toddlers promotes language development and can help spark an interest in reading.
Create a Literacy-Rich Environment: Surround children with books, magazines, and other reading materials. Encourage reading for pleasure to help it become a part of daily life.
Model Reading: Children are more likely to become readers when they see adults and siblings enjoying books. Be a reading role model.
Tailor Instruction: Recognize that each child is unique and may progress at their own pace. Provide support and help when needed.
Stay Informed: Keep an eye on the latest research and best practices in reading instruction. This knowledge can inform teaching methods and strategies.
The science of reading isn’t fixed — it is constantly updating and uncovering new insights into how children learn to read. But by studying and understanding the processes involved in reading and applying evidence-based strategies, we can empower children to become confident readers. Reading is not just a skill; it's a gateway to knowledge, imagination, and lifelong learning.
APnews - An end to the reading wars? More US schools embrace phonics
PBS - Why more U.S. schools are embracing a new ‘science of reading’
(4 minute read)
“Time for a music break!” As a primary school teacher, I used to love sticking on an educational song in my lessons, both as part of the learning process AND as a useful brain break if my pupils started to get restless. Quick and easy to implement, songs are super engaging, super fun and help promote memorization for young kids. I think we all remember ‘baby shark’ being stuck in our brains as a permanent earworm since 2015…
You may think of music and mathematics as unlikely partners but did you know that songs and musical experiences actually play a significant role in enhancing children's math and number skills? The impact of music in the field of mathematics is a subject that is gaining increasing attention. Let’s take a look at why.
The Rhythm of Learning
Music is often described as a universal language, and it's no wonder that it can serve as a powerful tool for teaching math concepts to children. The beats structured in rhythmic patterns, melodies, and lyrics in songs can help young learners grasp concepts in a fun and engaging way. Here are some ways in which music aids in mathematical development.
Memorization: Catchy songs with repetitive lyrics can help children memorize key mathematical facts, such as multiplication tables, addition, and subtraction.
Numerical Concepts: Music can help children understand numerical concepts like sequencing, patterns, and order. Songs that involve counting, such as "Five Little Monkeys" or "Ten in the Bed," reinforce the concept of numbers in a memorable repetitive way.
Spatial Awareness: Learning about fractions, geometry, and measurement often requires a solid understanding of spatial relationships. Music has its rhythmic beats and patterns, as well as positional thinking with low, middle and high notes. These help children develop spatial awareness or reasoning which has been linked to better mathematical understanding. Check out this Boogie Mites video for more on this.
Problem-Solving Skills: Music encourages problem-solving as children try to match rhythms, melodies, and lyrics. This problem-solving approach is transferable to mathematical problem-solving, where children apply their skills to real-world situations.
The Power of Catchy Tunes
Catchy songs have a unique ability to stick in our minds — the earworm effect — with melodies that are hard to forget. When applied to mathematics, this effect can be a powerful tool for enhancing children's number skills. Here's how a catchy tune works to benefit mathematical learning.
Engagement: Catchy songs capture children's attention and keep them engaged in the learning process. The excitement and enjoyment they experience while singing along to their favourite tunes make them more receptive to mathematical concepts.
Retention: Melodies and catchy lyrics are easier to remember than dry mathematical equations. Children can recall mathematical facts more readily when they are set to music, facilitating long-term retention.
Confidence Building: Success in singing along to a song can boost a child's self-confidence, making them more willing to tackle math problems and exercises.
The integration of music into mathematics education is not just theoretical — it has practical applications in the classroom and at home:
Math Apps and Games: Educational apps and games that combine mathematics with catchy songs and interactive elements are becoming increasingly popular. They provide an engaging way for children to practice math skills. Check out our math game Teach Your Monster Number Skills!
DIY Math Songs: Parents and educators can create their own math songs tailored to specific topics or skills that children need to develop. Personalized songs can make learning even more enjoyable and effective.
The relationship between music and mathematics is a harmonious one, benefiting children's development of their foundational number skills. Catchy songs and musical experiences provide an enjoyable avenue for children to explore mathematical concepts, from basic counting to more advanced problem-solving. Here at Teach Your Monster, we love this concept and after lots of research and development…drumroll please… we have just added 3 NUMBER SONGS to Teach Your Monster Number Skills! We can’t wait for these catchy tunes to help kids memorise their numbers (sorry in advance - these are definite earworms!)
Here is a list of our top 7 math songs for you to play at home!
- Counting to 5 - Teach Your Monster Number Skills
- Counting to 10 - Teach Your Monster Number Skills
- Number bonds to 10 - Teach Your Monster Number Skills
- Pattern learning - Go Noodle
- Count to 3 - Go Noodle
- Subitizing - Harry Kindergarten Music
- Count to and back from 10 - Gracie’s Corner
So, let the music play, and watch as it helps children dance their way to mathematical success!
Kay Leathers, Ex-Primary School Teacher and Contributor at Teach Your Monster.
As parents and educators, we all want our children to thrive in education, especially in mathematics. Building a strong foundation in math can significantly impact a child's confidence and success as they progress through their educational journey. One crucial aspect of this foundation is learning number bonds at the ages of 4 to 6. In this article, we'll explore the importance of teaching number bonds during this critical developmental stage and how it lays the groundwork for mathematical confidence in the future.
What Are Number Bonds?
Number bonds are a fundamental mathematical concept that helps children understand how numbers are related. A number bond consists of three parts: a whole number and two parts that add up to make that whole. For example, in the number bond 5 = 3 + 2, the number 5 is the whole, and 3 and 2 are the parts that combine to equal the whole.
The Importance Of Learning Number Bonds Early
Learning number bonds at a young age help children develop a deep knowledge and understanding of addition and subtraction. Instead of memorising isolated math facts, they learn all about the relationships between numbers and the different ways in which they break apart and go back together. This understanding is the foundation upon which more advanced mathematical concepts can be built.
When children can easily break down numbers into their constituent parts, they gain confidence in their ability to work with numbers. They feel less intimidated by math problems because they know they have the tools to tackle them. This early success fosters a positive attitude towards math, which is crucial for long-term success.
Mental Math Skills
Number bonds enable children to perform mental math calculations quickly and accurately. As they progress through their education, they'll find this skill invaluable in solving more complex problems. Mental math proficiency not only saves time but also enhances problem-solving abilities.
Stronger Problem-Solving Skills
Children develop strong problem-solving skills from learning number bonds. They learn how to think critically and logically about mathematical concepts, which are essential skills in various aspects of life as well as math.
Better Prepared for Future Concepts
Number bonds provide a solid foundation for learning more advanced math concepts, such as multiplication and division. When children have a firm grasp of the relationships between numbers, they are better equipped to tackle these higher-level concepts.
Teaching Number Bonds Effectively
Now that we've established the importance of teaching number bonds at a young age, let's look at some strategies for effective instruction:
Use Visual Aids: Visual representations, like diagrams and pictures, can help children grasp the concept of number bonds more easily.
Hands-On Activities: Incorporate hands-on activities, such as counting objects or using manipulatives like counters or beans, to make learning number bonds interactive and engaging.
Repetition and Practice: Reinforce number bonds through regular practice and repetition. This helps children internalise the concept.
Real-Life Examples: Show children how number bonds are used in real-life situations, such as sharing toys or dividing snacks among friends.
Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate small achievements and provide positive feedback to boost your child's confidence in their math abilities.
Teaching number bonds to children early is not just about helping them with math skills; it's about building a strong foundation to serve them well throughout their educational journey. By understanding the relationships between numbers, children gain confidence, enhance their problem-solving abilities, and are better prepared for more advanced math challenges. Invest the time and effort in teaching number bonds early, and you'll set your child on the path to mathematical success and confidence that will last a lifetime.
Click here to try Teach Your Monster Number Skills for free
Navigating through the world of numbers can be a delightful experience for young minds! Especially with Singapore Math, a method that has become popular globally for teaching kids about numbers in a unique and effective way.
What is Singapore Math?
Singapore Math is more than just a way of teaching math; it’s about helping children understand how numbers work. This method encourages:
Understanding over memorization: Kids get to know why numbers work the way they do, achieving maths mastery.
Visual learning: Using objects and pictures to help explain math.
Mental math: Helping kids feel comfortable to work out problems in their heads.
Step-by-Step Progression: Kids progress from concrete (objects), to pictorial (visual), to abstract understanding (numbers).
Building Confidence with Numbers
Singapore Math helps kids become friends with numbers. It does this by:
Teaching basics well: Kids really understand the basics of math before moving on.
Making math real: Uses real-life examples so math has context and makes sense.
Practicing regularly: This helps turn understanding into confidence.
Simple Tips for Parents
If you're a parent looking to help your child with math, consider these simple steps:
Use objects: Count using things around the house.
Include math in stories: Make numbers a part of bedtime stories.
Talk about numbers daily: Counting fruits or toys can make math a fun daily activity!
Using Teach Your Monster Number Skills
Teach Your Monster Number Skills is a fun app that mixes games with Singapore Maths concepts. It:
Makes learning fun: Kids are engaged and focused on playing the game, while learning fundamental number skills.
Adapts to Your Child: The app changes to suit your child’s learning speed, ensuring they grasp one concept firmly before moving to the next.
Click here to try Teach Your Monster Number Skills for free
Our math education advisor on Teach Your Monster Number Skills, Bernie Westacott, highlights how visual learning is crucial: "Singapore Maths teaches children to represent a problem in a visual way as something to look at and explore before progressing to more abstract calculation methods."
Dr. Yeap Ban Har, an international authority on the Singapore Math Method, asserts: "One of the key strengths of math teaching in Singapore is the development of number sense before the memorization of number facts."
Charting a Joyful Numerical Adventure for Your Child
Helping your child learn and enjoy math can be simple and effective with Singapore Math. Every child’s learning journey is different, and each step they take towards understanding numbers is one to celebrate!
Remember: With consistent and fun learning, kids will find joy and confidence in their mathematical journey!
Click here to try Teach Your Monster Number Skills for free
Westacott, B. "Exploring Math Visually." Mathematical Exploration Strategies
Dr. Yeap, B.H. "In-depth Number Understanding." Approaches to Singapore Math
Wellness and wellbeing apps designed specifically for children can play a vital role in fostering their holistic development and mental health from a young age - offering a range of age-appropriate activities and resources that promote emotional intelligence, mindfulness, physical activity, and positive habits. Here, we list what we believe are the best wellbeing apps for children to play on Apple, Android, Amazon and web.
From the team behind Teach Your Monster To Read and Teach Your Monster Number Skills, Teach Your Monster Adventurous Eating is a unique game that encourages kids to eat a broader range of fruit and veg and build a better relationship with food.
Designed in collaboration with Dr. Lucy Cooke (an expert in children's food preferences and eating habits,) Teach Your Monster Adventurous Eating is packed full of fun mini-games that encourage kids to explore new foods with all five of their senses.
Winner of the 2023 Games For Change Award for Best Learning Game, Go Nisha Go is aimed towards adolescent girls, and has been developed to empower players to make informed choices and shape their future with confidence as they grow out of childhood and into adulthood.
The story-driven game provides an entertaining space where adolescents can discover, learn, and build decision-making skills through interactive role play in a virtual world. Players go on a journey with the game's protagonist, Nisha, helping her navigate the course of her life.
Avokiddo Emotions lets kids of all ages explore feelings in a free play style. There are no rules or pre-set expectations other than to have fun while learning fundamental social skills.
Featuring a zany zebra, a shy sheep, a jolly giraffe, and a modest moose - children discover emotions by dressing up, feeding, sharing toys and interacting with the animals and becoming familiar with their personalities and reactions - inspiring curiosity as kids explore cause and effect relationships.
This simple app explores and demonstrates a way for children to calm down when faced with a frustrating situation. Using the 'breathe, think, do!' method, they'll learn to take long, deep belly breaths to calm down, think of a few strategies to handle the problem, and then do those things.
They'll laugh and learn as they help a Sesame Street monster friend calm down and solve everyday challenges such as putting on shoes, or going to school. This is a great way to help teach young children problem solving, self-control, and planning skills
Positive Penguins is a resilience building app that aims to teach children mindfulness and relaxation skills and to help them challenge negative thinking. Teaching youngsters how to identify and manage these feelings builds their resilience and helps with their overall emotional wellbeing.
The app features 5 minute graded and guided meditation and relaxation exercises to help children understand their thoughts and feelings.
We all know that screens are BIG parts of our lives. From spending all day staring at screens in the office, to a quick flick through social media, passing time in that sweaty tin can of a train journey on our evening commute. But what about for our kids? ‘You’ll get square eyes’ is now a threatening mix of guilty parental feelings and growing concerns over the potential impacts of excessive screen time on well-being and development.
The Digital Dilemma is that special tension between the potential benefits and concerns associated with screen time. On one hand, we know that screens can be powerful tools for learning, creativity, and social interaction. Holistically, screens have led to a more connected world, broadening our horizons and allowing other cultures, languages and experiences into our own front rooms. AND we all felt the massive benefits for education and keeping connected during the pandemic...
On the other hand, excessive screen time has been linked to a range of concerns. In a recent BBC survey of over 2,000 UK parents, 79% felt that their children have been using screens more since the pandemic, with 67% concerned about what their child is viewing. In particular, they were worried about the violence depicted on screen, the addictive nature of certain content and the use of foul language.
Although these factors are a massive concern, we would argue that this comes down to a matter of content and life balance, rather than the issues being with screen-time itself. As parents, carers and teachers, we can empower kids to navigate themselves to safe and fun environments online, just as they would do in the real-world, and alerting adults when they feel unsafe.
Valuable screen-time, such as watching educational programmes or using apps designed for kids, can promote independent learning, discovery and improve communication skills. 70% of the parents surveyed said that it is important that the content their child accesses comes from a trusted source. Trusted sources build for kids on a solid, pedagogical (teaching) basis, grounded in research, and hopefully using educational experts. Make sure to read the ‘about us’ section on gaming websites to find out about the research behind the games. Making it fun and entertaining is important too, keeping those little brains engaged and focused.
Primary school teacher, Adam Samuel (Abbott Alphege Academy, Bath) argues that “just 10 - 20 minutes of play a day would really help to greatly improve their passion for reading and surely be a welcome distraction during a long car journey!” When I taught in primary school, I would use educational screen time with my year 4 class and the kids always thought it was a reward for their hard-work - a win-win situation!
Making sure that screen-time is balanced with real-life experiences is the second factor and this can be a real joy for both child and parent. Asking kids to count out the number of apples needed at the supermarket can really boost those number skills picked up in that maths song you were listening to before, and why not read some labels using those phonics skills while they’re at it too?
Useful screen-time also presents an opportunity for connection as a family. As Nadia, a parent and Teach Your Monster super fan, says “we all kind of snuggle on the couch and watch them play. It’s a very nice way of having family time, they’re learning and having fun at the same time.”
The same BBC study found that 65% of the surveyed participants agreed that screen time has the ability to foster creativity and communication and an overwhelming 93% said that they are interested in educational programming for their children.
Ultimately, screens aren’t going anywhere so fostering open communication, setting clear boundaries, and prioritising a variety of activities, we all have the opportunity to guide our children towards responsible and balanced usage, in a way that promotes healthy development and well-being. It's worth remembering that square-eyes can be looking through a window into a valuable world of learning.
Finally, check out this awesome animation from the BBC about getting square eyes!
Ex-Primary School Teacher and Contributor at Teach Your Monster.
Finding good quality apps or games to help your Reception or Pre-K aged child learn to read is hard - there are just so many. Here, we list the best apps for early years learners to get them started on their reading journey.
This app, created by non-profit Teach Your Monster - who are part of the Usborne Foundation - is both designed in collaboration with leading academics and aligned with school curriculums. It is suitable for both home learning and in the classroom, complementing all synthetic phonics programmes. Children create a custom monster and take it on its own reading adventure, meeting other fun characters and winning exciting prizes. The game covers everything from letters and sounds, to reading full sentences, and even offers a tracking tool for parents and teachers to see how learning has progressed.
Downside: Some may find games a little repetitive.
Price: £4.99 on iOS, Amazon and Android. Free on PC and Mac
Created as a follow-up to Teach Your Monster to Read, Reading for Fun is focused on helping children develop a love for reading, rather than only reading to learn. Kids carry out fun chores and challenges and are rewarded with e-books, which include everything from comics to recipes - helping reception-aged children learn a variety of reading. With over 70 books on offer, there’s plenty to explore!
Downside: Some children may be frustrated by the need to complete challenges to win their books
Price: Free on iOS, PC and Mac
Designed alongside experts, Duolingo ABC offers a number of interactive stories and 700 bite-sized reading lessons, to help preschoolers build reading fluency over time. Fun imagery and highlighted words assist children in reading independently, and rewards keep kids motivated to learn, whilst building confidence.
Downside: Children are unable to select a starting point, which can be tedious for those who might already be a bit more advanced.
Price: Free on iOS
Following the Homer method - a 4-step process that teaches letter sounds and symbols, then adds those letters into words, words into ideas and then those ideas into knowledge through thinking skills - children are taken on a personalised learning journey, with interactive lessons, activities, stories and more - all adjusted by age, skill level and interests.
Downside: There’s an emphasis on alphabet and phonics but with little attention to comprehension.
Price: Free to try on iOS and Android and then $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year
Epic! Offers an unlimited library of over 40,000 books for children to access, from respected publishers such as harperCollins and Scholastic. In-app progress tracking and weekly progress emails help teachers and parents keep an eye on development, and badges and rewards encourage learners to keep motivated. There are two subscriptions to pick from, each one tailored either to families or to educators, and each one allows for a number of profiles.
Downside: Watch out for subscription auto-renewals. Also, the game is not available on Amazon devices.
Price: Free to try. Subscriptions are $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year
Ideal for preschool and kindergarten-aged children, hooked on phonics is designed with the help of childhood education experts and utilises cutting-edge research to assist learners in working on areas that they may be struggling in. There are over 250 songs, award-winning videos, interactive games, reading lessons and e-books on offer and parents will have an insight into progression thanks to reporting features.
Downside: The game focuses on repetition to ingrain ideas but some children may find this a little boring.
Price: Available for iOS, Android, Amazon, Mac and PC. 1 month: $6.99, 1 year: $39.99, lifetime subscription: $49.99.
Designed by the BAFTA award-winning team at Alphablocks Ltd, Meet the Alphablocks is a spin-off from the popular hit TV show as seen on Cbeebies. This fun game helps children learn letter sounds and names, using best-practice phonics as taught in UK schools. Conveniently, videos are available both to stream and download for when you’re out and about.
Downside: Some reviews suggest that a number of games are difficult to find within the app
Price: Free on iOS, Android, and Amazon
Used by over 20 million children across thousands of schools, this award-winning app features alphabet games, spelling games, phonics activities, word puzzles, nursery rhymes and over 3,000 story books for kids.
Five essential components of reading are covered: Phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension, and much like the other great educational apps we’ve mentioned so far, a reward system motivates children to keep going!
Downside: Design feels a little outdated and a subscription is required
Price: Available on iOS, Android, PC and Mac. 30 days free and then £6.99 per month
Reading magic brings the best-selling Bob Books to life, with a phonics-based reading game featuring a simple drag-and-drop interface. Bob Books characters and full-color animations encourage kids along the path of learning to read and children will master a number of skills, including making the connection between letters and sounds, sounding out simple words, and spelling words that they’ve read. The game includes twelve scenes for a total of 32 words. Four game levels provide increasing learn-to-read challenges for children as they play.
Downside: Unavailable on Android
Price: £2.99 on iOS
Ooka Island transforms teaching foundational reading skills by breaking the process down into thousands of micro-actions — 6,695 to be exact. With a robust methodology and highly adaptive technology, this game personalises each student’s path toward fluent reading.
Built on Dr. Kay MacPhee’s proven, research-based concepts, Ooka Island leads with securing children's phonemic awareness while teaching phonological skills to ensure reading words becomes as effortless as speaking, so that students can focus on comprehension.
Downside: Some reviews state that they had issues with in-game glitches
Price: Free on iOS and Android