three boys playing in a stream

Using nature to help children academically

How can spending time outdoors help our children develop into enthusiastic academic learners? Ginny Yurich from Michigan, USA has some interesting insights and tips after spending thousands of hours outside with her five children. Read them here.

boys playing with unit blocks

Block play and maths

"When children play with blocks, they are practising mathematical skills, " write Pamela C. Phelps, Ph.D. and Laura L. Stannard, Ph.D.


"Because it involves measuring lengths, widths, and heights (if only by eye), block play develops a child’s ability to mentally visualise relationships. Such manipulations are similar to those used in geometry and algebra during the child’s later school years" Read more.

Benedict Primary School

Well-designed classrooms boost academic success

A recent study from Salford University found that the construction and decoration of classrooms had a significant impact on reading, writing and maths. Professor Barrett who led the research told the BBC: "Individual classroom design played a much bigger role than whole-school factors, such as size, navigation routes, specialist facilities and play areas. In a primary school a child's classroom is their world. So when you are designing a school, you have to make sure each and every classroom works."

The environment is often called the ‘third teacher’ because a truly enabling classroom is a friend to the children and your own best assistant. The first step in arranging your classroom is to regard it from a child’s-eye view. Imagine yourself as a new student standing in the doorway. Does the room entice you to enter and explore? See what happened when this school changed their classroom layout...

Boy at workbench

Understanding how boys learn

With four brothers and three sons, I've always been fascinated by boys' learning. Many teachers have observed that four- and five-year-old boys find it particularly difficult to sit still for long stretches of time. They need lots of vigorous outdoor play. Tricky fine-motor skills like holding a pencil or cutting with scissors become easier after large-motor action.

Men who recall their own childhood can support lads in appropriate ways – but men are scarce in early years. So the rest of us must do our best to understand all the children we work with. Boys often learn best through hands-on activities with real tools. If we focus on their strengths, we can provide what each child needs to feel happy and competent.

block play reflection

Block play reflection

The longer I observe children and blocks, the more respect I gain. This lad for example is experimenting in ways I never dreamed of – and definitely learning about symmetry and geometry in the process.

Too often blocks are viewed as a "toy" to be left behind when children move to primary school. In fact, this is the age when youngsters are becoming most deeply involved! I've seen six-year-olds invent fabulous narratives with blocks and watched a twelve-year-old achieve architectural feats.

If you want to foster creative imagination, literacy, and hands-on learning of maths, physics and design, allow your children ample time with blocks. Then observe the truth of Einstein's words that "Play is the highest form of research."

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