Monster News

The Science of Reading for Children: Unlocking the Power of Literacy

(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?

A schoolboy playing Teach Your Monster Reading for fun

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. 

References
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’

Math and Music: How Catchy Songs Boost Children's Number Skills

(4 minute read)

Teach Your Monster Number Skills Math song characters

“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.

Real-World Applications

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! 

  1. Counting to 5 - Teach Your Monster Number Skills
  2. Counting to 10 - Teach Your Monster Number Skills
  3. Number bonds to 10 - Teach Your Monster Number Skills
  4. Pattern learning - Go Noodle
  5. Count to 3 - Go Noodle 
  6. Subitizing - Harry Kindergarten Music 
  7. 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.

Boogie Mites

Let's get weird - dark and sweet stories reflecting the complex world of kids

(3 minute read)

Teach Your Monster Number Skills halloween update

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.

The Key To Mathematical Confidence: Learning Number Bonds At An Early Age

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.

Children sat on the floor in a classroom learning number bonds in a maths lesson

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.

image showing number bonds between 2 and 3 from the teach your monster number skills game

The Importance Of Learning Number Bonds Early

Conceptual Understanding

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. 

Confidence Boost

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

Understanding Singapore Math: A Guide for Parents of 3-6 Year Olds

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.

A child plays Teach Your Monster Number Skills on her tablet.

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

A visual chart detailing the Singapore Math mastery approach.

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:

A teacher and pupils enjoy playing Teach Your Monster Number Skills together in a classroom.

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

A screenshot from Teach Your Monster Number Skills - an educational app for kids.

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

Expert Insight

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

A happy young girl plays Teach Your Monster Number Skills on a tablet.

References

Westacott, B. "Exploring Math Visually." Mathematical Exploration Strategies

Dr. Yeap, B.H. "In-depth Number Understanding." Approaches to Singapore Math

The Best Wellbeing Apps For Children

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.

A child plays Teach Your Monster Adventurous Eating on his tablet.

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.

Go Nisha Go: My Life My Choice

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 App

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.

Breathe, Think, Do! with Sesame

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

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.

The Digital Dilemma - Valuable screen-time or square eyes?

Girl playing Teach Your Monster to Read on a laptop

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.

Adam Samuel, Year 3 Teacher, talks about the benefits of screen-time

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!


Kay Leathers,
Ex-Primary School Teacher and Contributor at Teach Your Monster.

The Best Reading Apps for 4-5 Year Olds

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.

A boy playing Teach Your Monster Reading for Fun

Teach Your Monster to Read

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

Teach Your Monster Reading for Fun

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

Learn to Read - Duolingo ABC

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

Homer

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!

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

Hooked on Phonics

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. 

Meet the Alphablocks!

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

Reading Eggs - Learn to Read

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

Bob Books Reading Magic

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

Scholastic F.I.R.S.T (An adventure on Ooka Island)

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

The Best Math Apps for 4-5 Year-Olds

Mathematics can be a daunting subject for many. Skipping over the fundamentals as a child can mean a lifetime of struggles in this area, which is why it’s so important to build a solid base as early on as possible. Here, we list the best quality math-focused apps for early years learners. on Apple, Android, Amazon and web.

A kid playing Teach Your Monster Number Skills

Designed in collaboration with experts in early years mathematics, this fun-filled game offers an exciting new way to practice numbers, using the unique Singapore Mathematics method.

Aligned with the Pre-K/Reception curriculum, Teach Your Monster Number Skills has 40 fun-filled levels designed to build a strong foundation in mathematics, and covers areas such as number bonds, subtraction, addition, counting and much more. A dashboard is also available for both parents and teachers to track progress.

Downside: It currently only features numbers up to ten, with numbers up to 20 coming very soon!

Price: Free trial on iOS, Android, and Amazon. Free to play on PC and Mac

Math Makers

Designed for Reception-aged children, the award-winning Math Makers teaches kids a range of topics, including multiplication, division, fractions and counting, all through fun physics-focused games featuring hilarious, wacky characters. Kids will solve puzzles and carry out exciting challenges to achieve their goals. 

Downside: A large number of puzzles require abstract thinking and logical reasoning and offer little to no help in solving them, which can cause frustration.

Price: Free on iOS and Android, includes in-app purchases.

Zap Zap Kindergarten Math

This is a great games-based numbers platform for home learning, to accompany children throughout their early mathematical education and is designed by experienced teachers, gamers and parents. There are over 150 mathematics lessons to practice, with a fully developed comprehensive curriculum that has been designed to mirror school Standards.

Downside: Because this game caters to a large range of abilities, it may not be suitable for everybody within its target demographic.

Price: £2.49. Available on iOS and Android

 

Elmo Loves 123s

This official Sesame Street app features Elmo teaching reception-aged children number identification, subitising, number tracing and more. There is tons to explore with songs and videos, coloring pages and games - all focused around numbers 1-20. Plus, parents can track and see what their kids are learning. 

Downside: Reviews claim that the image of Elmo only features in the introduction, with the remainder of the game only playing his voice, so kids might be disappointed!

Price: £4.49. Available on iOS and Android

 

Quick Math Jr.

All the essentials of mathematics are covered in this game, ​​including counting, addition and subtraction, place value and writing numbers. Quick Math Jr learns as kids play, adjusting the difficulty of the questions to make sure each individual player is always at a level that is just right for them. The game features a total of twelve games, all aligned with international maths curricula, including US Common Core and the Australian National Curriculum.

Downside: Pricey, at a cost of £7.99

Price: £7.99. Available on iOS

 

Drive About Numbers

Available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Russian, Drive About Numbers allows preschoolers to “drive”, “fly”, or “sail”  around Number Neighbourhood, visiting familiar destinations while learning basic math skills and fine motor skills along the way, through verbal instruction.

This Parents’ Choice award-winning game created by educational game designers encourages free play, allowing kids to practice early numeracy at their own pace.

Downside: There is no clear ending to each game and no reward system upon completion.

Price: £2.49. Available on iOS

 

White Rose Maths: 1-Minute Maths

Designed to be used both at home and in the classroom, 1-Minute Maths helps pupils build greater number confidence and fluency, with targeted practice in engaging, one-minute chunks. After choosing a topic, users answer a series of randomly generated questions and when the one minute’s up, the questions are automatically marked and presented on a breakdown screen, giving instant feedback on how they’ve done. There are a total of 41 topics with hints available when needed.

Downside: Visually, some may find this game isn’t as exciting as others on offer

Price: Free on iOS, Android, and Amazon

 

Splash Learn

An immersive game with a massive 4000+ library of content to practice, covering over 400 curriculum-aligned maths areas. There are personalised daily learning plans, exciting rewards and narrative-driven games to keep early years learning fun. A real-time progress dashboard offers easy tracking for both parents and teachers.

Downside: Some of the games may feel a little too challenging

Price: Free on iOS, Android and web. Includes in-app purchases

Todo Maths

This inclusive and accessible maths app has reached #1 in the Apple App Store in over 20 countries. It covers all the fundamentals of early maths education, including multiplication, subtraction, counting and number concepts. Clocks and calendars also assist children in learning how to tell the time and the days of the week.

Downside: The drag-and-drop and write-in-your-answer options might be tricky to manoeuvre, and some trace numbers, if not written clearly, will not be recognised.

Price: Free to try on Android and iOS, then a range of subscription prices

How to Encourage Your Child's Imagination: Creative Activities for 4-5 Year Olds

At Teach Your Monster, we know that as a parent or teacher, you want to give your child the best possible start in life. We understand that life can be busy and challenging, but we're here to help! Encouraging your child's imagination is a great way to foster their creativity and help them develop important skills that will serve them well throughout their life.

So, where do you start? Here are some fun and creative activities that you can do with your child to help stimulate their imagination:

A child in dressing up clothes doing imaginative play

Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts are a great way to encourage your child's imagination. You can provide your child with a variety of materials (such as paint, paper, glue, and markers) and let them create whatever they want. Give your child a theme or a prompt to help guide their creativity. You could ask your child to create a drawing or painting of their favourite monster from Teach Your Monster, or to make a collage using different colours and textures. There is so much that they can do! Have a look at Pinterest for inspiration!

Outdoor Activities

Spending time outside is another great way to encourage your child's imagination. You can take your child on a nature walk and encourage them to explore their surroundings. What can they see? What does a tree feel like? Can they describe it to you? You can also provide your child with outdoor toys. Grab some balls, frisbees and jump ropes, and let them come up with their own games to play.

Storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful tool for encouraging your child's imagination. Read them stories and encourage them to ask questions and make connections between the story and their own experiences. You can also ask your child to tell you a story, either by themselves or with your help. This can be a great way to spark your child's creativity and help them develop their storytelling skills. Have a look at our game Teach Your Monster Reading For Fun too. There are over 70 books that your child can read, this will also help develop their storytelling! According to the National Literacy Trust, children who read for fun are more likely to have greater vocabulary and writing skills, which help to develop their imagination.

Pretend Play

Pretend play is another great way to encourage your child's imagination. Give them dress-up clothes, puppets, or other props and let them create their own stories and scenarios. This can be a great way to help your child develop their social skills and their ability to think creatively!

Encouraging your child's imagination is an important part of helping them develop into happy and healthy grown ups. By providing your child with opportunities to be creative and to think outside the box, you can help them develop the skills to use everyday.

Good luck, and happy learning! 

From Teach Your Monster HQ

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