All you carefree millennials sans famille – spare a thought for parents currently in lockdown. While twenty-somethings may be secretly rubbing their hands with glee at the chance to catch up on their books bucket list or work their way through Netflix over the next three months, there is no such joy for parents. The announcement that schools were due to close was met with a mild look of panic by every parent I know – we’ve all become teachers overnight, except without the PGCE or the crowd control skills, all whilst holding down the day job. Wish us luck.
Fortunately, in the age of the internet, plenty of help is at hand online. In fact, the volume of resources out there can be overwhelming and it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff and work out what is going to prove most beneficial for your children. We’ve mined the expertise of teachers to bring you the best educational resources out there, broken down by age.
In the current circumstances, Twinkl feels like a gift sent from above. Used by primary schools across the country, it provides everything from interactive maths games to helpful worksheets to build confidence in phonics and grammar. The pizza slice game is a firm favourite with my six year old and, by dividing its activities into topics, the site makes it very easy for parents to find resources that slot into the plans being provided to many pupils by class teachers. Twinkl have a week of emergency lockdown teaching resources available to download and are making all of their 630,000 learning resources free to parents, carers and teachers during lockdown.
Supermovers cleverly weaves maths and English concepts into catchy songs that you’ll be humming for hours (never mind the kids). Perfect for popping on when that urgent, unexpected work call comes in.
Wordshark and Numbershark
Despite the retro graphics these two online packages provide an impressive range of interactive games that factor in your child’s ability as they play. Wordshark and Numbershark have been a failsafe resource for primary school teachers across the nation for years and are an easy way to ensure that your child continues to progress, rather than just repeating the same exercise over and over. They’ll also highlight areas of your child’s learning where more help or practice is needed.
Splashlearn has a very well categorised selection of content to suit all primary school ages with simple games to teach key concepts. It’s easy to move your children up the list of tasks so that they build on each stage of learning.
Starfall offers free online learning games from preschoolers up to age 7. Kids will love the brightly coloured graphics. While the phonics games aren’t up to much, the geometry and maths games are both engaging and educational – kids won’t even realise they are learning whilst playing.
Teach your monster to read
This nifty game from the Usborne Foundation is a surefire way of developing your child’s reading skills in a fun context. Children must guide their monster through a landscape reminiscent of those sonic the hedgehog games we all loved in the 90s. They must teach their monster to read words and make choices between different phonics sounds to progress onto the next level. It’s great fun and, as with star fall, your child won’t feel they are at school. I find it a useful game to use as a reward for paying attention during the rest of the day. Best played on a iPad.
One of the biggest challenges for me – and for other parents I know – has been how to entertain your toddler while trying to explain multiplication and hyphens to an older child. Finding activities that will stretch and amuse little ones while the older ones learn will be a perennial battle over the months ahead. Here are some easy ideas to pull off at home:
Like play dough but so much better. Get them to pretend to cook with it, sculpt with it, bury toys in it, build sandcastles with it. It really is the gift that keeps on giving and great for occupying little hands while older ones learn.
Duplo have created a handy video of homemade games to play with their bricks in lockdown. My toddler couldn’t get enough of the shadow theatre and the labyrinth.
The internet is teaming with sensory play ideas but the best I’ve found are from the above video which talks about the importance of turning ‘no’ activities into ‘yes’ activities. My toddler is forever making unwanted mess around the house while I try and sit down with my son to teach him but if I create activities where she can make intentional mess, she stays transfixed for hours. Ice spiders, spaghetti and jelly trays are some of the best ones to try at home.
At the end of each ‘school day’ we’ve enjoyed putting on a show about something we’ve learnt, choosing costumes from the dressing up box and performing it on a homemade stage. This has been a great way of involving the little one in the day’s learning, even if they are too young for phonics and maths.
Ages 7 – 11
It’s worth mentioning that Twinkl, Splashlearn, Wordshark and Numbershark – detailed above – all provide excellent resources for this age category too. But if that doesn’t keep them out of trouble, here are a few more to add into the mix:
BrainPOP is offering free online sign ups during lockdown and provides a wellspring of fact files on all your child’s school subjects – from electric currents and batteries through to probability and algebra. It divides each topic into an explanatory video, a quiz and a set of games that test your child’s knowledge retention. Pupils can also build their own videos to explain concepts, draw mind maps and even practice coding skills linked to each theme. If you can get past the American accents and the hammy characters in the videos then there’s a wealth of information to be extracted.
National Geographic Kids
Eager minds can learn about everything from big cats to volcanoes on this YouTube channel. It’s perfect for bringing dry classroom facts to life.
Turtle Diary provides a range of multiplayer Maths and English games where your kids compete anonymously with other online users to get the best score. Maths Tetris and Ninja turtle racing will be sure fire hits.
Adapted Mind is used extensively by schools across the US and is a hit with parents and teachers because of its inbuilt ability to track a child’s progress, emailing you a summary of their attainment after each online session. It adapts tasks to your child’s ability, ensuring they are stretched and even switches off after a certain amount of screen time is reached. Kids will enjoy the chance to make their own monster once they’ve signed up which then acts as their avatar in the games and activities. Adapted Mind can be used from reception all the way up to year 6.
Innovations like Google classroom mean that many children at secondary school are carrying on lessons as normal, taught online alongside their normal classmates by their teachers. Teachers are then supplementing this learning with online resources available through their schools. Maths resources lend themselves particularly well to online learning with a variety of programmes favoured by teachers: Hegerty, Mymaths, CorbettMaths, DrFrost for KS3/4 and Exam solutions for Alevel were all popular recommendations by the teachers we spoke to.
Eton College has also just opened up their online self study tool to the nation to help secondary school children through lockdown. If you have inquisitive teenagers in the house then EtonX is well worth a look.
For those working towards a university place in a STEM subject, the British Science Association has launched its CREST Awards scheme where pupils can undertake engineering, science and technology projects at home to work towards a bronze, silver or gold award. These awards can form evidence of extra curricular study when applying for higher education.
There is an ever growing clamour of celebrities offering their tuppence worth of expertise to the nation’s children during lockdown – enough to form an entire day’s timetable, in fact. So if you fancy dance lessons with Darcey Bussell, here’s when to tune in: