Story telling on Spirit FM

Most of you will know I ran an illustration competition for kids earlier this year – it’s a great way to engage readers and the community – and I’m passionate about getting kids writing, so I was really excited when I heard local author Lynne Healy had teamed up with radio station SpiritFM with a unique creative writing competition.

97B6CCB4-8F90-400C-A6CE-04261544DDD6

Here’s Lynne to tell us what happened …

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to win an advertising package with Spirit FM, our local radio station. As I have created Birdham Bear to inspire children to find and express ‘their unique’ I thought a fun way to use it would be to run a creative writing competition for children in West Sussex. The brief was simple: children aged 11 and under were invited to write a short story, up to 500 words, on anything that inspired them.

Spirit were very impressed with the number of entries. Judging was a challenge as the stories were all so unique. In the end it was easy to choose Willow as the winner. She was one of the youngest entrants and her story was simple and fun with a delightful message of kindness that both. Birdham Bear and I loved. We also both agreed that we’d love to blow bubbles every time we speak!

The radio presenters recorded her story.
https://www.spiritfm.net/win/creative-writing-competition/

Dog behaviour for kids

It seems our entire class sprouted new puppies over the summer holidays. Some are well behaved, others somewhat less so. When we got our dog several years ago, we spent a lot of time setting boundaries and he’s a super chilled, very happy, child-friendly boy. We struggled with recall, well he is a terrier, but got there in the end with only one instance of an early morning sprint down the street in a semi-clad state after an escapee pup who had promised he only wanted out for a pee – luckily no photos exist!  Our rules include things like:-

  • we always go out of a room/ house before him (to establish that we are in charge, not him)
  • he isn’t fed from table (we can actually put a plate of sausages on the floor and he won’t touch them)
  • he isn’t allowed to jump up on visitors (not everyone likes dogs)

In the excitement of an adorable cute puppy joining the family, I totally understand that isn’t easy for children to understand why they can’t do some of these things, although by the time the pup is fully grown it becomes obvious.

Written by experts, Home Alone Harry is the perfect book to help young children understand both the HOW and WHY of dog training. I absolutely love it! If you have young children and are welcoming a dog into your house, you need this book.

And even better, it’s the first in a series of four. I can’t wait.

Home Alone Harry Cover

 

Blurb

Harry is a mischievous young dog, adored by his family, Dad and Mum, Maisie (8) and Max (5). When the family leave him on his own he creates chaos. Dad demands, “That bad dog must go!” Alone and sad in bed that evening, Max asks, “Can anyone help?” How will the Thunkies respond to his call?

Purchase Link – https://shop.thunkies.com/

 

About the authors and illustrator

 

Jerry Rhodes AUTHOR bio

Jerry Rhodes’ life-long research and teaching is the inspiration behind ‘Home Alone Harry’, this first book in a series for children featuring the cartoon characters, Thunkies®. After completing his degree and teacher training at Oxford University, Jerry’s career as a school-master was cut short by polio. He changed course to a management career in industry, discovered his talents for creativity, and formed his world-wide consultancy to collaborate with international organisations. A special project with Philips led to the discovery of ‘Thinking-Intentions’, to which he has now given the playful name, Thunkies®. Jerry writes his books from his weather-beaten old farmhouse in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.

Rachael Messiter AUTHOR bio

Rachael Messiter, a Dog Listener, uses the approach known as Amichien® Bonding pioneered by Jan Fennell. Rachael has her own practice, Talking Paws, based in Staffordshire. Previously she lived with wolves for close on two years in Colorado, USA, to learn how packs work. She has identified a group of issues that dog owners experience that are due to the well-meaning but flawed behaviours of owners, rather than ‘nuisance’ dogs. How to properly avoid and resolve such troublesome issues will be the theme of each book in the series Thunkies® love Dogs.

Nicky Hill ILLUSTRATOR bio

Nicky Hill is an illustrator and storyteller from Winterbourne near Bristol. Her artwork is featured throughout the Thunkies® Love Dogs books, bringing a bright, vibrant style that captures the imagination. A great lover of animals both wild and domestic, Nicky also illustrates and writes her own series of books about ‘The Wotton Pack’; a group of inquisitive pooches who spend their days and nights having many adventures. She currently lives with her own pack of three dogs in Wotton-under-Edge, a small town in Gloucestershire, where she also co-runs the shop called ‘The Collective’.

 Social Media Links

Website – https://thunkies.com/

Shop – https://shop.thunkies.com/

Facebook – @thunkies

Instagram – @thunkies

Pinterest – thunkiesteam

Round up of the Creative Writing Skills book tour

I literally have no idea how to start, but I wanted to thank all the amazing book bloggers who took my Creative Writing Skills Workbook on tour! I’m thrilled with the response it’s received, not to mention the many requests for more books for different ages, pocket-sized books, and also a grown-up workbook.

Creative Writing Front Cover

Anyway, the formatting is lousy but here are all the links – happy browsing 🙂

Thanks again,

Lexi

Blog Name Blog Tour Content
Laura’s Interests https://dogsmomvisits.blogspot.com/2019/10/creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees.html
Mai’s Musings https://maitaylor567291325.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/creative-writing-skills-lexi-rees/
Broad Thoughts From A Home https://broad-thoughts-from-a-home.blogspot.com/2019/10/book-review-creative-writing-skills-by.html?fbclid=IwAR0GPVM-1wVdK64ybYHBrZ9aNioxOTbqsY-c1X1TZZU7JkCgArEkehvCJmk
Babydolls and razorblades https://babydollsandrazorblades.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/book-reviewcreative-writing-skills-over-70-fun-activities-for-children-by-lexi-rees/
Historical Fiction with Spirit https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/book-review-lexi-rees-creative-writing-skills/
Radzy Writes http://www.vainradical.co.uk/blogs/creative-writing-skills-review/
B for bookreview https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/creative-writing-skills-lexi-rees-promopost-blogblitz-rararesources-lexi_rees/
Love the Smell of a Book https://lovethesmellofabook.com/2019/10/07/review-today-we-are-really-excited-to-be-joining-the-blog-blitz-for-creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees-creativewritingskills-backablogger-blogblitz-rararesources-lexi_rees/?fbclid=IwAR0tlEilKcClMsdL5cpyKtzMXRvB3mqeGNdVM69NW9AB0jmTuPjm1puhIPc
Southern Girl Bookaholic https://www.southerngirlbookaholic.com/2019/10/creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees.html
World Geekly News https://worldgeeklynews.com/books/creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees-review/?fbclid=IwAR3_6qsFenN892F7vRuxOr-XGd_CiddwavzNe3ub_iS1BKqyTApm2-ZIh6c
Through Novel Time & Distance https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/blog-tours/2019/10/6/creative-writing-skills-over-70-fun-activities
Bookworm for Kids https://bookwormforkids.blogspot.com/2019/10/creative-writing-skills-over-70-fun.html
Jazzy Book Reviews https://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com/2019/10/creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees.html
donnasbookblog https://donnasbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/blogblitz-bookreview-for-creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees-rararesources-creativewritingskills/
Reviews by Prisha https://prishayadav.blogspot.com/2019/10/creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees.html?fbclid=IwAR2NLdLKfwA7vyoedFXyLTfckfrihIlWvRkj17cxM9_WApm_wWuh_hIrQkU
Nesie’s Place https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/1dayblogblitz-creative-writing-skills/
Rachel Bustin https://rachelbustin.com/books/creative-writing-skills-over-70-fun-activities-for-children/
The Book Moo https://thebookmoo.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/blog-tour-creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees/
My baby and my books https://mybabymybooksandi.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/book-review-of-creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees/
Splashes Into Books https://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/creative-writing-skills/
Twirling Book Princess https://twirlingbookprincess.com/2019/10/blog-tour-book-blitz-creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees/
Cat and Mouse Reading http://catandmousereading.blogspot.com/2019/10/creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees.html?m=1#more
Linda’s Book Bag https://lindasbookbag.com/2019/10/07/creative-writing-skills-over-70-fun-activities-for-children-by-lexi-rees/
Herding Cats https://likeherdingcatsblog.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/creative-writing-skills-by-lexi-rees-blog-blitz/
Ellesea Loves Reading https://norwayellesea.blogspot.com/2019/10/new-release-spotlight-creative-writing.html
Dash Fan Book Reviews https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/2019/10/blog-tour-creative-writing-skills.html
Jane Hunt Writer https://jolliffe01.com/2019/10/07/creative-writing-skills-lexi-rees-4review-lexi_rees-rararesources-lexirees-outsetpublishing-creativewritingskills-childrensbooks-kidlit-nonfiction-workbook-writing-7-blogblitz/
The Photographer’s Way https://www.thephotographersway.org/creative-writing-skills-review/
Novel Kicks http://www.novelkicks.co.uk/book-review-creative-writing-skills-over-70-fun-activities-for-children-by-lexi-rees/

Maximum dinosaur dose!

Like so many others, my family definitely went through the stage where spending every weekend visiting Dippy at the Natural History Museum in London was essential.  (Top tip – the side door has a far shorter queue than the front door). By the way, if you’re keen to meet Dippy he (is it a he?) is on tour – here’s his schedule where to meet Dippy – he’s currently in Newcastle and next stop is Cardiff.

So I was curious about this dinosaur book, plus I was keen to hear the weekly podcast iknowdino for some serious dinosaur facts.

Taking the podcast first, there are an astonishing 253 episodes in the series which I hoped would keep even the most dino-obsessed youngster happy for a while, but whilst interesting, the podcast is serious stuff so really not young-child friendly, and this is (mostly) a kids blog!

Anyway, on to the book 50 Dinosaur Tales: And 108 More Discoveries From the Golden Age of Dinos

50dinosaurtales_cover

The first thing I didn’t know is that we’ve recently discovered new types of dinosaurs, so the 50 in his book are NOT the standard triceratops etc. Great!

The book is a mixture of short stories and facts. Given this is an unusual combo, Sabrina Ricci kindly agreed I could share this excerpt: the story of Weewarrasaurus pobeni, a dinosaur whose bones were opalized.

I’m interested to know what you think? I think it would be a great resource for the school library, but where to display it? The non-fiction section? Here you go …

Weewarrasaurus pobeni

Look to the right. Nothing. Good. Look to the left. Still nothing. Good. Tilt head back to the right. What’s that crackling sound? Just a fellow Weewarrasaurus pobeni taking a step. Good.

Weewarrasaurus has been on guard for hours with her brother and sister, watching over her family’s territory. The three ornithopods stand in a semicircle, ready to sound the alarm at any moment, if necessary.

The rest of her family is busy foraging for food. Weewarrasaurus doesn’t mind. She has an important job: to keep her family safe. After her shift ends, she will be able to eat.

They are in a particularly lush area. Sweet, fresh vegetation is everywhere. Weewarrasaurus knows that she won’t have any problem finding a snack later.

Like the rest of her family, Weewarrasaurus is a small animal, and living in a group has a lot of advantages. Someone is always watching for threats, so it’s safe to concentrate on finding food. If there are any threats, Weewarrasaurus can band together and show their strength in numbers. At night, everyone cuddles for warmth.

Most of the time, guard duty is uneventful, but it is also exhausting. Weewarrasaurus is on constant alert, looking in all directions and listening for any unusual sounds. Even normal sounds require scrutiny. A small splash could be her brother taking a drink or a potential predator dipping its toes into her family’s usual watering hole.

To be an effective sentry, Weewarrasaurus must stand upright on two legs, her head held high. She likes to stand on her toes to get the best view. Weewarrasaurus never takes a break, not even when her legs feel tired. Her job is too important.

Weewarrasaurus hears a smacking sound. She turns her head and sees her brother chewing on a plant. He’s on all fours and has used his beak to crop off a few tender leaves. Weewarrasaurus moves to his side and smacks him with her tail—a warning that he should respect his duties.

He flinches and stares at her for a moment, still chewing. Then he swallows and stands up straight.

Weewarrasaurus moves back to her post and looks away from him to show her disapproval. She has a reputation in the family for being a reliable guard, and she doesn’t want her brother to ruin it.

Luckily, her duties are almost done for the day. The sun is low in the sky, and the foraging family members are looking full.

Weewarrasaurus looks over to her mother, the leader of their group, for a sign that they’re ready to go home. Her mother notices the sun and lets out a quick grunt. Everyone stops feeding and lifts their heads. As a unit, they start to move back to their home for the night.

Weewarrasaurus quickly bends down into a quadrupedal position and heads to the nearest plant. She picks off as many leaves as she can with her beak. Once her mouth is full, she runs to catch up with the rest of the group, chewing as she goes. Her brother and sister follow.

Weewarrasaurus is satisfied. Another job well done.

Facts

  • Weewarrasaurus pobeni was an ornithopod that lived in the Late Cretaceous in what is now New South Wales, Australia.
  • Weewarrasaurus fossils were preserved in green-blue opal.
  • Weewarrasaurus had teeth and a beak to eat vegetation.
  • The genus name Weewarrasaurus refers to Wee Warra, where the holotype was found.
  • The species name pobeni is in honor of Mike Poben, an opal dealer who first recognized the fossil when it was in a bag of rough opals he got from miners. He donated the fossil to the Australian Opal Center.

Find out more in the I Know Dinopodcast, episode 212, “Wuerhosaurus.”

Blurb

Gualicho takes a bite out of the ornithopod’s back as it runs away from her, causing it to stumble and fall. She jumps on top of the body and rips open its neck with her teeth. The ornithopod becomes still and limp.

Satisfied, Gualicho begins to feast. But, after only two bites, she senses something is wrong. She lifts her head and sees a Mapusaurus making its way toward her.”

About 50 Dinosaur Tales
Blending fiction with fact, 50 Dinosaur Tales imagines the way 50 newly described dinosaurs from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous lived in their natural habitats.

Also included is a list of fun facts for each dinosaur story, and facts about 108 additional dinosaurs.

If you want to hear more about new dinosaurs as soon as they are discovered, listen to the weekly podcast I Know Dino.

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SSKV7XM

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07SSKV7XM

Author Bio

 

50 Dinosaur sabrinaricci_profile

Sabrina is a writer and podcaster. She loves nerdy things, like technical specs and dinosaurs, especially sauropods. When she’s not writing, she’s podcasting with her husband at I Know Dino(iknowdino.com), a weekly show about dinosaurs.

Social Media Links –

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iknowdino/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iknowdino/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iknowdino

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/iknowdino/

Website:  https://iknowdino.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/iknowdino

Happy birthday Agatha

I grew up on a diet of Agatha – the books and films. To join in her week long birthday celebrations, I asked cosy crime writer and Agatha expert, Isabella Muir, about Agatha’s childhood. It turns out we share some of our favourite childhood books – I’m actually about to re-re-read The Phoenix and the Carpet. And did you know she was home educated but her sister wasn’t? Interesting. Anyway, over to Isabella …

Agatha Christie – a child of her time

Young Agatha Christie (Miller)

As we are about to celebrate the birthday of Agatha Christie – that famous Queen of Crime – I’ve been reading about her childhood – what would life have been like for the young Agatha – strange to think that she lived her first ten years in the 19thcentury!

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on 15 September 1890 into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon. She was the youngest of three children born to Frederick Alvah Miller, an affluent American stockbroker, and his Irish-born wife Clara.

Agatha’s sister, Margaret was also born in Torquay, eleven years earlier and her brother, Louis, who was born in New York, while Frederick and Clara were on a business trip, was ten years her senior. When Frederick’s father Nathaniel died, he left his daughter-in-law Clara £2000 and it was this money she used to buy ‘Ashfield’, a villa in Torquay where her third and final child, Agatha, was born.

Ashfield was a much loved spacious home, with well-kept gardens, a conservatory ‘full of wicker furniture and palm trees’ and a greenhouse.  The gardens became Agatha’s playground, as although Agatha’s sister, Margaret, was sent to Roedean School in Sussex for her education, Clara decided Agatha should receive a home education.

Clara believed that starting education too early was not a good thing, suggesting: ‘…no child should be allowed until it was eight years old, since delay was better for the eyes as well as the brain.’ (from Agatha Christie: a biography by Janet Morgan.

But Agatha had different ideas! By the time she was five years old she had taught herself to read and went on to enjoy books by Mrs Molesworth, including Christmas Tree Land(1897) and The Magic Nuts(1898). She also read the work of Edith Nesbit, including The Story of the Treasure Seekers(1899), The Phoenix and the Carpet(1903), and The Railway Children(1906). Once she was a little older, she moved on to reading the verse of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, which inspired her at the age of 10 to write her first poem, ‘The cowslip’.

The Cow Slip

There was once a little cowslip and a pretty flower too. But yet she cried and fretted all for a robe of blue.

Now a merry little fairy, who loved a trick to play, just changed into a nightshade, that flower without delay. The silly little nightshade thought here life a dream of bliss, yet she wondered why the butterfly came not to give his kiss.

 

Agatha grew up at a time when wealthy families employed servants. Her ‘wise and patient’nannie, ‘Nursie’, took on the main responsibility for Agatha’s upbringing in those early years, while ‘Five-course dinners were prepared daily by Jane, the cook, with a professional cook and butler hired for grand occasions…’

Nursie took Agatha off to dancing classes and her parents taught her arithmetic, which she loved, and she learned to play both the piano and the mandolin. She also had a passion for dogs – one of the earliest known photographs of Agatha depicts her as a little girl with her first dog, whom she called George Washington.

From her early years it was clear that Agatha had a love of language and a vivid imagination. Janet Morgan describes her as being ‘fascinated by words and phrases’. She had little or no contact with other children until the family decided to spend winters in Europe.  This was a time when upper middle-class families found it cheaper to let the house out in England with its cold climate, and enjoy the benefits of warmth and sunshine in southern France and Italy – even though they would be paying to stay in hotels. It was here she started to form friendships, as well as gain a good grasp of French and a love of travel that would stay with her throughout her life.

Her father was often ill, suffering from a series of heart attacks and when he died in November 1901, aged just 55, money was tight, but Clara and Agatha continued to live together in their Torquay home.

Agatha and her mother, Clara, lived a relatively comfortable life.  In her biography of Agatha’s life, Janet Morgan writes: ‘There was a comfortable order and predictability to life…her world was private and safe.[…] She was given responsibility for amusing herself and looking after her animals and birds…

However, Agatha later claimed that her father’s death marked the end of her childhood, as in 1902 she was sent to receive a formal education at Miss Guyer’s Girls School in Torquay.

Up until her father’s death Agatha and the rest of her family were fortunate to enjoy financial comfort.  Even after that time, the financial struggles they experienced were nothing compared to many during the late Victorian era who were not so lucky. This was a still a time when the fear of the workhouse loomed large for anyone who was unemployed and living in poverty.

But the spark of imagination that was evident from Agatha’s very early years led on to her prolific output of novels, short stories and poetry.  She wrote more than sixty detective novels, as well as romance under the name of Mary Westmacott and her own autobiography, which was published in 1977, after her death. She started writing as a child and continued into her eighties. No wonder then that she is said to the best-selling author of all time, outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible.

It has been fun researching Agatha Christie’s life, which I was inspired to do as I developed my Sussex Crime series, which introduces readers to the fictional world of Janie Juke, the young librarian and amateur sleuth who sets out to solve crimes and mysteries.

It is Agatha’s wonderful detective, Hercule Poirot, that Janie Juke sets out to emulate as she develops her sleuthing talent in the sleepy seaside town of Tamarisk Bay.

This blog post is one of a series, which leads up to Agatha Christie’s birthday and national #cozymysteryday on 15th September, as I enjoy the opportunity to be Chindi’s ‘Author of the week’.  Chindi is a network of authors, both traditionally and independently published, based largely in West Sussex.   Between us we publish a wide range of books, from historical and crime fiction to romance and children’s books, from humour to self-help.

To find out more about the great Queen of Crime and help to celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday, then look out for the other blog posts in the series:

Agatha Christie and Isabella Muir  https://isabellamuir.com/blog/

Agatha Christie and the sixties  https://patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com/daily-blog/

What is a cosy mystery?  https://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/blog/

The good, the bad and the ugly  https://samefacedifferentplace.wordpress.com/

Investigating the past  https://rosemarynoble.wordpress.com/

Agatha Christie and Janie Juke https://isabellamuir.com/blog/

And as a present to you, on Agatha’s behalf, I am pleased to announce that the first book in my Sussex Crimeseries – The Tapestry Bag– will be available on Kindle for just £0.99p for one week only – grab it while you can!

Plus, there’s more! You can get a free copy of her novella, “Divided We Fall“, when you join here

Isabella Muir is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series:

Isabella Muir 3D COVERS x 3

BOOK 1: THE TAPESTRY BAG

BOOK 2: LOST PROPERTY

BOOK 3: THE INVISIBLE CASE

Her latest novel is: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN

She can be contacted via:

Twitter: @SussexMysteries

Facebook: www.facebook.com/IsabellaMuirAuthor/

Website: www.isabellamuir.com

Or on Goodreads

 

 

 

Rocking the art

We’re well into the summer holidays now, so I thought it was time for some arts and crafts. Given the amazing weather, it had to be outdoorsy too, which means ROCK ART! My extended clan ranges from 5 to 15, so finding activities for all can be a challenge but this was a huge hit with everyone (including granny and grandpa).

We gathered the rocks on a hike (we’re currently up in Scotland and hiking daily, to some teenage mutterings). The 5 year old had ambitious plans that left his dad looking like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill in Greek mythology. The others had more modest sized selections. Back home, we decorated them using these

  • acrylic pens – I got a multipack plus silver and gold extra. The black ran out first, so next time I might get a spare as it was used to outline everything (I hadn’t realised that).
  • “>modge podge – we used the gloss finish but you can get matt if you prefer.

Several hours of painting and varnishing later, we had a large collection.

We then wrote the details of the local rock art FaceBook group on the back of each rock, to encourage people to share pics of when they found them, and hid them across the area (hike number two with absolutely no complaints from the teenagers). Just search for “rock art” to find the local group.

Here are some examples where we have hidden/ found rocks but there are loads of groups

Aboyne Pebbles & Rocks

Hidden Rocks Chichester

288a290f-3810-4643-9be3-d71a446b6f93

The next morning, I woke to demands of a repeat of the activity – result! More hiking, more art. Happy families 🙂

There was huge excitement as several rocks were spotted over the next few weeks and the finders very kindly shared pictures of their finds on FB, but sadly most of the rocks vanished without a trace. We consoled the kids with the fact that their art work was so good people wanted to take it home as treasure. If you do find any rock art, I would urge you to share a snap with the FB group as it really makes the kids’ day.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Do I need an English culture coach?

Since I featured the book Bloom Where You’re Planted on expat life, I’ve had people asking me about relocating, so I thought it would be interesting to invite a professional to provide another perspective. Victoria runs Perfect Cuppa which supports people, usually professionals, relocating to the UK with the language and culture. Since my blog is not a corporate blog, we had a chat about settling the family in, which was not covered in great depth in the Bloom book.

Anywhere, here she is with her top tips …

Top tips for settling your family into the UK

Moving to a new country can be a big challenge, even if you have done it previously. In  fact many people I meet as clients believe moving to the UK will be easy, as London is a large, multi-cultural city with English as the international language. This is true to a certain extent, however, relocating to London with a family might not be as straight-forward as it seems, so here are my top tips to help the kids feel settled quickly & you feel orientated & more plugged in.

  1. School gate chat: chatting to other parents at drop off & pick up time, is a great way to have your questions answered about the school, how things are done & where to find things in the local area. Not sure how to kick off? In the UK the weather is a good topic & we like to comment on the weather, even it’s only a little bit warm or cold! But of course anything to do with school is a hot topic like SATS (the national tests in years 2 & 6. The British are quite keen on testing kids, even at early ages), whether people are tutoring or not (can be controversial), homework etc.
  2. Coffee mornings: depending on the school, you may find coffee mornings are organised as socials or information meetings, and you can meet other parents & learn more about what’s going on in the school. Don’t be fooled by the name, yes there is coffee, but tea is still the drink of choice in the UK. Usually drunk with cold milk (not hot milk or cream), the most popular way to make tea is in a mug, tea bag first, then hot water, finally milk. If you have a friend around, you will need a kettle to make a proper cuppa! I don’t recommend making a cup of tea in the microwave, it just doesn’t taste nice.
  3. Lunchtime: School dinners confusingly can be the name of the meal at lunchtime, and every school will provide an option to eat there. The meals are free for school years Reception to year 2, and there is a small charge for the other years. If you prefer your child to have a packed lunch, then this is possible, and they can bring in a cold lunch, usually including the very English sandwich, in a lunchbox. Just check your school’s rules on what you can include, as some schools are very strict about nuts or chocolate, plus sweets & crisps (the British names for “candy” and “chips”).
  4. After-school fun: there are countless opportunities for after-school clubs, inside school & in externally-run groups. If you child is shy or they are trying to get better at speaking English, then they can get to know their classmates in a more relaxed environment. There is a group for anything & everything out there, and if you’re looking for recommendations, then check out your local parenting facebook group, e.g. “Hampstead Mums” is the facebook group to join if you live in Hampstead. Alternatively, I think Girl Guiding & Scouts are another good option for your kids to meet friends, and don’t forget there are a number of day activity camps in London during the school holidays.
  5. Play date rules: Another popular thing for after school in the UK are playdates. We tend to organise these in advance with the other parent, and it can be in a local playground, one of your homes, or soft play. Usually they are quite short, an hour or 2, and the kids will have a snack but won’t have a full dinner, unless you specifically make an arrangement. Play dates with younger children would expect you to go along too, but with older ones, if you’ve arranged for them to be picked up after school by the other parent, then you need to let the school know in advance that you give permission. Occasionally people will spontaneously organise a playdate, especially in the summer when lots of parents might head to the playground, but it’s more unusual.
  6. Chill time: a great way for your kids to understand British life & other children can be as simple as watching TV, and if English is a 2nd language, then this can help them improve. Even at advanced levels, it’s worth watching with the subtitles on to improve fluency & connect British pronunciation with words. I would highly recommend you check out programmes via the BBC i-player app, which is an on-demand service you can access for free if you have paid your TV license fee, and CBBC is the children’s channel. Current popular programmes include Blue Peter, Millie Inbetween, and the 4 o’clock club.
  7. Charity fundraising & dressing up:Whether it’s Red Nose Day, Halloween, or Children in Need Day, you need to know the British are pretty serious about key events in the calendar & charity fundraising. You can expect quiz nights, school fairs & fancy dress or “wear your own clothes” days (very exciting as British schoolkids usually wear a uniform), all ably organised by the school’s PTA (parent-teaching association). You can volunteer to help organise these events, which is another good way to make friends. Also don’t forget that fundraising & school events include lots of cakes, sugar consumption & prizes, all in the name of charity!

 

Thanks Victoria, I could do with some help on school gate chat myself! Hope you have found the tips useful and if you have any further questions do comment below or get in touch with Victoria directly: Victoria@perfectcuppaenglish.co.uk,www.perfectcuppaenglish.co.uk.

About Victoria

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Victoria Rennoldson, Founder of Perfect Cuppa English, was born in & has lived most of her life in London with her young family. After a first career in brand marketing, she re-qualified in teaching English, and took the plunge to become an entrepreneur. She set up her company, Perfect Cuppa English, in 2015 to offer private English language and British Culture courses for adults, in Everyday & Business English, for greater speaking confidence. She regularly gives talks and writes articles about British language, life & culture.

You can regularly find her zipping between client meetings on the London underground, and she’s now pretty fast on the escalators. Her favourite things include tea (of course);  a good pair of flat shoes to maximise speed up & down escalators on the speed dash between meetings; beautiful notepads & a great selection of coloured pens. If you’re making her a cuppa, she prefers Twinings English Breakfast tea.