How to celebrate World Earth Day with kids

Our planet is such a beautiful, amazing place, but it needs our help to thrive! That’s why every year on 22nd April we celebrate World Earth Day, a day to demonstrate our support for environmental protection. Celebrating World Earth Day with children is a great opportunity to teach them about the importance of environmental conservation and how they can contribute to protecting our planet. Here are some fun and educational activities you can do with kids this World Earth Day:

Plant Trees or Flowers

Plant a tree or do some gardening with kids. Teach them about the importance of trees and plants in absorbing carbon dioxide and providing oxygen.

Go on a nature walk

Go for a nice walk in nature, you could go to your local park or nature reserve. Encourage children to observe and appreciate the beauty of nature while discussing ways that we can protect it.

Recycling Craft Projects

Time to get creative with recycled materials! Help kids make art or crafts using recycled items like paper rolls, egg cartons or plastic bottles. This activity will reinforce the importance of recycling and reducing our waste.

Earth-themed Games

Play games that teach kids about environmental conservation. For example, a scavenger hunt for items like leaves, rocks, and flowers can help them learn about biodiversity and ecosystems.

Educational Videos or Documentaries

Watch age-appropriate documentaries or videos about environmental issues with kids. Once you finish you can discuss what they learned and brainstorm ways to make a positive impact.

Earth Day Pledge

Have kids make a pledge to do something good for the environment, such as reducing water usage, picking up litter, or turning off lights when not in use. Get them to write down their pledges and display them as a reminder.

Story Time

Read books about our world and nature, wildlife, and environment. This can spark meaningful conversations about the importance of protecting the Earth and its inhabitants. Our books Zara’s Caribbean Adventure and Emmanuel’s African Adventure are great books for getting younger children ready to learn about the world around them. Click here to shop our books.

Outdoor Clean-up

Check if there are any local neighbourhood clean-up activities happening around World Earth Day. Kids will get the opportunity to pick up litter in parks, beaches, or streets. Make it fun by turning it into a friendly competition or offering rewards for the most trash collected.

Cook Earth-friendly Meals

Prepare meals together using locally sourced, organic ingredients. Talk to kids about the benefits of eating sustainably and how it helps reduce their carbon footprint.

Remember to make the activities engaging and age-appropriate. Encourage children to ask questions and share their ideas throughout the celebration, by involving them in hands-on experiences and meaningful discussions, you can instil a lifelong appreciation for the Earth and a sense of responsibility to protect it. Happy World Earth Day.

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Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, women in STEM and the Montessori practice.

How to teach children phonics

What is phonics and why is it so important?

Phonics means using letter sounds to help you read words. It can be a bit daunting to work out how best to teach children their phonics.

Decoding the phonics buzzwords

Phonics: using individual letter sounds and groups of letters to read words.

Decoding: using phonic knowledge to sound out and read words.

Grapheme: a written letter or group of letters, like ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘she’ or ‘air’. Some graphemes are single letters like ‘b’; others are digraphs like ‘ck’.

Digraph: two letters that make one sound together, like ‘sh’, ‘ai’, ‘oo’.

Phoneme: the sound a letter or group of letters make – e.g., the word ‘sat’ has three phonemes, ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘t’. The word ‘book’ is longer, but it also has three phonemes, ‘b’, ‘oo’ and ‘k’.

Sounding out: using your phonic knowledge to help you say each sound within a word, e.g. ‘p-a-n’ or ‘k-i-ck’.

Blending: running the sounds in the word together to read the whole word, e.g. ‘b-a-t, bat’, ‘s-o-ck, sock’.

High-frequency words: these are important and very common words which we all use a lot. However they aren’t always decodable using phonics. This includes important words like ‘where’, ‘one’, ‘the’, etc. Children should be taught to recognise these words by sight.

The different phonics phases

Phase 1 phonics starts from nursery/ preschool. Here children begin developing their listening skills, develop their memory and improve their speaking skills. It also includes understanding different sounds, rhythm and rhyme and oral blending and segmenting.

Children typically start Phase 2 phonics learning close to the start of their first year at school (reception). This is when they start to learn the letters of the alphabet. Children learn the letters’ names, and they also learn the sound for each letter of the alphabet. So for example, the letter ‘b’ is introduced with a hard ‘b’ sound as in ‘bat’, not the soft sound it has in ‘climb’. Children also start to learn a short sound for each vowel (a, e, i, o and u) – for exampe ‘bat’, ‘pet’, ‘sip’, ‘hot’ and ‘cup’.

Phase 3 phonics introduces children to the last of the letters. Including the less common letters like ‘x’ and ‘j’ – and also some digraphs – letter pairs that make one sound together, like ‘sh’, ‘th’, ‘ai’, ‘ee’, ‘igh’ ‘oa’ and ‘oo’. Phase 2 takes around 12 weeks (but remember every child is different and will go at their own pace) to work through Phase 3.

In Phase 4 (commonly in the first year of school) children learn about words where there are two or more consonants together – like ‘stop’, ‘dust’, ‘stamp’, ‘splash’, etc. Now is the time to really encourage children to read things outside, such as road signs and street names or get their imagination going by getting them to write a short story based on a picture or drawing.

Phase 5 of phonics usually takes all of year one. This is because it includes a large number of different sounds and letter patterns. There is a lot for children to learn at this stage before children take the phonics screening test (UK) – but with your patience and support, they can do this! Here children begin to learn their graphemes and alternative ways to pronounce them, such as the difference between the OW in BOW and COW. By the end of phase 5 and year one, most children know enough phonics to be able to read the most common words in English.

Phase 6 begins in Year Two. Children begin using all of the phonics knowledge that they have now gained, to now help them become fluent readers and accurate spellers. By Phase 6, children will be able to read. They will also learn prefixes, suffixes, tenses, punctuation (where to put an apostrophe in words like I’m), how to use a dictionary, spelling rules and how to proof-read their own work.

Our new Phonics print is focused on the first sounds children will learn in phases 2 and 3. It acts as a reminder and a fun way to learn phonics as they progress through their Phonics journey. Click here to see our new Personalised Phonics Print.

Make learning phonics fun

The goal of phonics is to get children reading as quickly and easily as possible. So they can go onto reading lots of interesting books! Don’t make learning phonics become a boring chore, make it fun. So don’t forget:

Aim to stop before your child gets bored. So keep phonics sessions focused and short. Keep sessions no longer than ten minutes.

Make learning phonics fun! There are lots of phonics games that you can play. Check out some YouTube videos.

Don’t practice phonics when your child is tired. Find a comfy quiet place where they won’t be distracted by things like screens or other noise.

Don’t stop reading to your child when they become an independent reader. Keep on reading stories. Reading is also a good opportunity to spend some quality time together.

How to teach tricky words

Encourage children to sound out the parts of the word they know and then give them some support with sounds that they don’t know.

Teach children more letter-sound correspondences. For example, the letter ‘a’ is pronounced differently in ‘pan’ and ‘was.’ If children recognise both letter-send correspondences, then it makes it easier for them to read new words.

Below is a list of tricky words. You can make learning these words fun by writing them out using colourful pens, write them in sand or use play dough. Practice and repetition are important when teaching tricky words in phonics, so pick activities your child can repeat and remember.

See the most common tricky words below:

It’s worth learning how to pronounce the letters in the way children are taught them at their school. Your child’s teacher will be able to help you with this, or there are lots of guides online. It’s important to remember that not all children learn at the same pace. We have created a personalised phonics art print to help you teach your child phonics (it’s also great for classrooms too!). Shop our new Personalised Phonics Print here.

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Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, women in STEM and the Montessori practice.

Our top tips to keep kids entertained on a long flight

With summer holiday planning in full swing for many, parents often worry about their children’s behaviour on the flight to sunnier climates and how to keep them entertained. Keeping children entertained on a flight can be very challenging. We recently went to Orlando, Florida a long flight from the UK. So we thought we’d share the things we did to plan, prepare and entertain our daughter on the long flight.

Pack a bag full of entertaining essentials

    Include things such as; colouring books, crayons, activity books, small toys and your child’s favourite stuffed animals. Surprise them, pack a few small surprise toys or activities that you can pull out during the flight to keep things exciting.

    Pack PLENTY of snacks

    Let’s face it, aeroplane food isn’t the most tasty food. So pack plenty of snacks, just in case your child doesn’t like the food provided by your airline. Also, you know once a child gets bored, they want snacks, so be prepared! Pack a variety of snacks that your child enjoys. Snack time can be a good way to break up the trip and keep them occupied.

    Download some movies or your child’s favourite show/ cartoon

    Load up your tablet or iPad with their favourite movies, TV shows, or educational videos. Don’t forget to pack their headphones so they can watch without disturbing fellow passengers.

    Pack some books

    Pack some of your child’s favourite books. Interactive books with flaps or textures can be particularly engaging. Our lift-the-flap board books are fun, interactive and they would be great at keeping younger children entertained on the flight, as well as create some excitement about their travels. See our two books Zara’s Caribbean Adventure and Emmanuel’s African Adventure, both lift-the-flap board books. We also offer FREE shipping on all books only. Enter code FREEDEV at the checkout.

    Pack some games

    Pack some small games like travel-sized board games, card games, or handheld electronic games. It’s a good idea to download some interactive children’s apps, or you can even play simple games like “I Spy”.

    Walk around

    Don’t forget to take short walks up and down the aisle to stretch their legs and burn off some energy.

    Comfort items

      Don’t forget to bring any comfort items that your child relies on to sooth them, such as their favourite blanket or stuffed animal.

      Try to be be patient and flexible during the flight, as traveling with children can most definitely be unpredictable. You’ve got this!

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      Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, women in STEM and the Montessori practice.

      Why is toy rotation beneficial for children? 

      With the variety of toys and gadgets children have access to today. It’s so easy for children to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options to entertain and play with at home. This is where toy rotation comes into play (no pun intended) – a great way to bring a breath of fresh air to your child’s playtime. In this blog post, we’ll explore why toy rotation is great for children’s development, how it fosters creativity, keeps children engaged and helps to create a love for learning.

      Reduce overstimulation

      Too many toys in a child’s play area can lead to overwhelm and overstimulation. When a child is overstimulated, it can make it challenging for them to focus and engage deeply with any single toy. Rotating toys allows your child to concentrate on specific toys without feeling overwhelmed. By reducing overstimulation through toy rotation, this can help to improve concentration and creates a calmer play experience.

      Promotes learning development

      By introducing different types of toys through rotation, you provide your child with a diverse range of learning experiences. For example, a week of building blocks may enhance spatial skills, while a week with art supplies could encourage creativity and fine motor development. Toy rotation becomes a simple effective way to adapt to your child’s evolving interests and developmental needs.

      Imagination and creativity

      Toy rotation helps to keep things fresh and exciting. By periodically swapping out toys, you encourage your child to rediscover forgotten favourites and it helps your child to approach play with renewed enthusiasm. This regular rotation stimulates their creativity, prompting them to find new ways to play with familiar toys and fosters an imaginative mindset.

      Encourages appreciation

      When children have access to a limited number of toys at a time, they are more likely to appreciate and value their toys. This not only teaches them the importance of taking care of their belongings, but it also instils a sense of gratitude for the variety of toys they have.

      Minimise clutter

      Why does it feel like our children’s play area is always so busy?! Toy rotation will help you to manage clutter. By rotating toys, you can create designated areas for specific types of play, making clean-up easier for both you and your child. This organised approach fosters a sense of responsibility in children as they learn to return toys to their designated spaces.

      How to approach toy rotation

      Toy rotation isn’t just about moving toys around; it’s a strategy that opens doors to a world of creative possibilities for your child. There are no rules when it comes to toy rotation, so you can create a system that works for you. First you can gather all your toddler’s toys, then begin to de-clutter them by getting rid of any broken toys or toys that your child has outgrown. Then divide the toys into categories and rotate them as often as you feel necessary (weekly is a good starting point).

      Now time to watch as your child’s playtime becomes a journey of discovery and joy! Comment below and let us know if you rotate your child’s toys. How often do you rotate your child’s toys and do you see the benefits?

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      Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, women in STEM and the Montessori practice.

      Help us save Croydon’s Maintained Nursery Schools

      5 mins

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      The threat of closure of Croydon’s Nursery Schools

      Croydon’s standalone Nursery Schools are under threat of closure. The future of these Nursery Schools is currently being considered as part of a consultation around the future of Croydon’s maintained nurseries (local authority run nurseries). Our own daughter attends one of these maintained nurseries. She attended a private nursery from the age of 14 months until the age of 3 years. We became unhappy with this private nursery. The constant staff turnover, minimal stimulation for our daughter, unqualified staff, lack of developmental feedback and lack of care began to take its toll. So we decided to move her to the Ofsted rated outstanding maintained Nursery School that she goes to today. She now has a record of achievement folder, which is regularly updated and her key worker is a qualified teacher. Her development has exceeded our expectation and part of that is because of her nursery. We were even told in the summer during playscheme by a few of the staff members at the nursery that she is ready for Primary School (even though she is not due to start Reception until September 2024) and we were also told that if we lived in America, she would have been moved up a year.

      The impact that maintained nurseries have on the education sector

      Maintained Nursery Schools are local authority funded schools, with a headteacher and qualified teachers leading a team of specialist early years practitioners. They provide education for children aged 2-5-year-olds. There are now less than 400 remaining in England. 98% of them are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, a standard that is unmatched by any other part of the education sector. Below are just a few of the benefits of maintained nursery schools:

      • Unlike private nurseries, they have a unique pool of expertise in supporting children with SEND. They often take children whom other settings do not have the resources or expertise to support.
      • They have a huge impact on young lives: 64% are in the 30% most deprived areas of England, and because of the quality of education they offer (62% are graded Outstanding by Ofsted) they help to bridge the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.
      • The whole early years sector benefits from the expertise of maintained nursery schools. They act as catalysts to raise standards in their local community, through supporting schools and early years settings to work together to improve their quality, including through a network of Early Years Teaching Schools.
      • They help to provide a space for children with the greatest need.  They work closely with health and social care to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families and offer a much needed family support system within the nursery school and support many children in need who are increasingly not picked up by other services. 
      • Playschemes and wrap around care. Many provide affordable school holiday playschemes and breakfast and after school clubs for children up to the age of 8 years.
      • They’re substantially cheaper than private nurseries. Yet provide a higher standard of early years education.

      “No other part of the education sector is as highly rated as maintained nurseries, and yet no other part of the sector faces a less certain future”

      How you can help to save Croydon’s maintained Nursery Schools

      Croydon Council are asking for your views on a proposal for the future of Croydon’s Maintained Nursery Schools (local authority run nurseries). All responses will help the Executive Mayor of Croydon in Cabinet to understand the impacts of the proposal and make an informed decision on whether to close these nurseries. Please have your say by Tuesday 17th October 2023 (your child does not have to be in a maintained nursery):

      Have your say:

      More info:


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      Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, women in STEM and the Montessori practice.

      STEM Vs STEAM learning and why we’re launching art prints

      6 mins

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      As a business we’re moving from a core part of our business being focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) learning and moving towards STEAM (STEM + Art). STEAM like STEM focuses on developing a child’s critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity skills.

      STEM education focuses on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and maths. It encourages children to develop both their analytical and technical skills, as well as helping them to solve real-world problems using scientific and mathematical principles.

      STEAM learning on the other hand, adds art into the mix. STEAM focuses on using creativity and design thinking to help solve problems. STEAM recognises and values that art and design can enhance innovation and creativity and that incorporating art into STEM can lead to more innovative and well-rounded solutions.

      Both STEM and STEAM learning have their benefits. STEM learning helps to prepare children for careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, which are all in very high demand. It also helps develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are useful in many fields.

      STEAM education, adds an artistic and creative element to STEM learning, allowing children to explore different ways of thinking as well as encouraging them to use their imagination. It can also lead to more diverse and innovative solutions to problems. This is because art and design thinking can offer unique perspectives that may not be immediately apparent through traditional STEM approaches.

      Incorporating art into education has a lot of benefits for children. It can help children develop their imagination, creativity and self-expression, as well as empathy and their emotional intelligence. Art and design can also provide a form of therapy and stress relief, and can be a source of joy and fulfilment for children.

      If you would like to introduce STEAM learning to your children. We have a great pack of STEM activity cards. The 32 activities and experiments are simple and fun and can be created with everyday items from around the home and the supermarket. The cards are double sided with illustrated instructions and key learnings for each activity/ experiment. You can shop our STEM activity cards here.

      STEM activity cards

      Overall, both STEM and STEAM education have their benefits, and incorporating art into education can have a lot of positive effects on children’s development and well-being. As a business we will be launching an art prints range in May and we will be talking a lot more about art. Natalie is the illustrator for the business and a qualified web and app designer, so she has lots of creative experience.

      What are your thoughts about STEAM learning? Let us know in the comments below.


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      Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, black women in STEM and Montessori.

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