Do your kids know these dishes?

As a culture, our relationship with food and cooking has changed dramatically over the years. Although we have developed into a foodie nation, open to a wide variety of flavours and textures, the rise in easily accessible ready meals, take away and convenience food has made cooking from scratch less of a priority in many households. Researchers have revealed the true extent of this trend, finding that kitchen and cooking skills in children have dropped by a third over the past decade. Although this may be the case, home appliance manufacturer Samsung ran a survey of 2,000 British parents, learning the top 25 recipes that they would expect their youngster’s to know by the age of 11.

Here we run through the results – do your children know how to cook these meals?

Easy – just for beginners

Scrambled egg on toast, cheese on toast, stir fry, porridge, Rice Krispie/cornflake cakes:

We think that these dishes are simple enough to be mastered by even the most inexperienced cook, with minimum pan or oven contact required! With dishes for breakfast, a main meal and dessert covered in this section, if your child grasps these recipes then they will be on their way to foodie independence!

Medium – sous chef level

Spaghetti Bolognese, jacket potato with baked beans, sausage and mash, pasta bake, dippy egg and soldiers, stew/casserole, macaroni cheese, chilli con carne:

Once your child has become familiar with the basics in the kitchen, they can move on to these slightly more advanced meals. Be sure to teach them the importance of handling, preparing and cooking meat thoroughly to ensure every dish is tasty and safe to eat!

Hard – for the mini master chef!

Omelette, cottage pie, pancakes, pizza from scratch, lasagne, fairy cakes, roast chicken, beef burgers, meatballs, Victoria sponge, apple crumble, scones:

We were surprised with some of these meals and are sure that there are many adults well over the age of 11 that would struggle with some of these recipes! Making meatballs and burgers gives kids a little more freedom in the kitchen, letting them learn their likes and dislikes through the seasoning that they add. More complicated dinners such as cottage pie and lasagne have multiple elements, also teaching children about organisation and planning when cooking.


Do you know how to cook these 25 dishes? At what age did you learn how to cook? Do you think it is important that 11 year olds are confident in the kitchen? Share your thoughts with other parents in our online forum!

5 essential life skills to teach primary aged children

Children grow up so fast and when you first take your child to primary school they can seem so small but before you know it they’re heading off to secondary school and seeking some independence. It’ll be years before they’re ready to strike out on their own but teaching your children these essential life skills while they’re still at primary school can set them on the right path for adulthood and being successful in the future.

  1. Getting themselves ready for school

Getting ready for the school run can be hectic in a busy family home but teaching your child to get themselves ready can make it that bit easier. When they’re still young it can be as simple as getting them to pack their bag ready for the morning the night before and as they get older encouraging them set to an alarm and get washed and dressed without the need to be checked on.

  1. Managing money

If you give your child pocket money or they receive money for birthdays and other celebrations it’s a great opportunity to teach them to manage their money. Understanding the importance of putting some away for a rainy day or saving up for something they want will put them in good stead for when they’re older.

  1. Cooking simple meals

Cooking is a vital skill if you don’t want your child living on takeaways when they move out. Start out with very simple meals that don’t require too many skills or take too long to prepare and work your way up, including their favourite foods is a great way to get them interested. Plus, cooking or baking together is a great family activity that both of you can enjoy.

  1. Advocate for themselves

Being able to speak up when they have a problem or a question will prove a useful skill in their education and beyond. Knowing how to speak to a teacher if they have a problem can help to improve a child’s confidence, communications skills and learning. Many children will be nervous to advocate for themselves at first but with a bit of encouragement it will become second nature.

  1. Lifesaving skills

Lifesaving skills are vital and can start before children even go to school. To begin with you can focus on the emergency services, showing them how and when they should call 999. As they get older basic first aid is an excellent skill to have in their repertoire.

What skills do you think are essential to teach children before they head off to secondary school? Share your thoughts and tips on the School Reviewer forum.

Ways to help your child become a confident public speaker

Whether it is performing a presentation at work, giving a speech at a wedding or simply voicing your opinion amongst a group of people we are unfamiliar with, public speaking can be a daunting task and it is something that many of us avoid and find challenging to overcome. When your child must give a talk at school or even answer questions in class, do they have the same sense of fear about raising their voice? A new campaign led by the Oracy Network has launched, helping to make these worries a thing of the past to better prepare our children for the future.

This news comes in an age when a majority of the communication between young people takes place via text or instant messaging, rather than through verbal means, perhaps proving its necessity more than ever.

Why is it so important?

As well as ensuring that those important speeches and client meetings can go smoothly in the future, there are a number of benefits that children can gain from improving their speaking and listening skills. A study by a researcher at Cambridge University found that children who were confident in reasoning and discussion received better scores in maths and science, and an additional paper by the Education Endowment Foundation also found that refining spoken language skills is amongst one of the top 10 most effective methods for improving teaching!

How to help your children

While the Oracy Network continues to raise the profile of this matter, there are a number of easy ways that you can help your child become a confident speaker and listener at home:

  1. Ask complex questions

Next time you take a walk, go somewhere new or a notable moment happens in your child’s life, actively ask them how it makes them feel and to describe what they see around them. Push them further to vocalise how they are feeling, and reciprocate this by giving them answers of your own.

  1. Let them do the talking

When you are attending a doctor’s appointment and need to let the receptionist know you are there or are ordering a meal at a restaurant, let your child do the talking! This is a safe and un-intimidating way to get your child used to talking and interacting with people they don’t know.

  1. Practice with them

If there is a particular presentation coming up at school that your child is nervous about doing, something as simple as offering to go over it with them at home can make the real thing seem much easier. While it may be tricky to encourage them to speak in front of you at first, they will soon become more confident when they do so successfully!

What’s on your child’s Christmas list this year?

The trick or treat fun of Halloween is a distant memory, and the fire cracking Bonfire Night smells have dispersed for another year, which means we’re officially allowed to talk about Christmas.

We know that Christmas is about spending time with family and friends and enjoying the festivities together, but there really is no better feeling than seeing your little ones open the gift they’ve been waiting for. There are numerous Christmas toy guides, all detailing the ‘it’ toys for this year, but we’ve condensed it to our top five to (hopefully) make life that little bit easier when it comes to looking for the perfect toy.

Fisher-Price Code-A-Pillar: RRP £49.99


This innocent-looking caterpillar takes technology to the next level for children aged 3+. It is designed to teach basic coding in a fun and interactive way in eight different segments. These segments of the caterpillar can be mixed around in order to direct the code-a-pillar to move in a certain direction or do an action.

WowWee Chip the Robot Dog: RRP £199.99


For children aged 8 and above, this WowWee Chip robotic dog is robotics at its finest, and is certain to grab the attention of the whole family on Christmas morning. Children are able to train Chip simply by talking or using an app. In return, this not so furry friend will grow to become affectionate and develop his own little personality. He also comes with a ball so you can play fetch with your very own addition to the family.

LEGO City Volcano Exploration Base: RRP £79.99


No Christmas list in 2016 would be complete without LEGO. And containing 824 individual pieces, this City Volcano Exploration Base is a must-have for children aged 8+. The set features mobile operation vehicles, six mini-figures and volcano that measures in at 13cm. the set also includes four boulders and a whole host of tools, such as a shovel, pickaxe, crowbar, drill, camera, walkie-talkie and metal detector.

Star Wars BladeBuilders Spin-Action Lightsaber: RRP £44.99


With the new Star Wars due out this Christmas, it’s not surprising that a lightsaber features in Christmas lists. And what a lightsaber this is. Children can go over to the dark side and do battle against resistance fighters thanks to the 360-degree spinning connector lightsaber hilt, which allows defence from every angle of the lightsaber, as well as the light dagger to enable swift movements. Ideal for children 4–11 years.

Selfie Mic: RRP £19.99


If your child just loves singing along to their favourite toons and pretending they’re the next pop icon, the Selfie Mic is the ideal gift. It allows users to sing along to their favourite song, downloaded from the StarMaker app to a smartphone and sing, record and share their own music videos from the comfort of your own home. Perfect for those stars aged 8 and above.

What do you think to our top picks? Will your child love any of them?

Autumn activities to fill your half term

It’s the first half-term of the new school year and while the sun might not be shining throughout October that doesn’t mean that you can’t find plenty of indoor and outdoor family-friendly activities to fill the week break with and they don’t have to break the bank either.

Get creative

Having kids stuck indoors all week might sound like a recipe for disaster but there are lots of fun activities you can plan to keep your little ones entertained even if it’s raining outside. Crafty projects, from drawing to constructing spaceships out of boxes, or baking fun are great ways to keep the kids out of trouble during their week off school.

Film night

A film night is an excellent way to get cosy and have a family night that doesn’t involve spending lots of cash and for a special treat you can even pick up popcorn and other favourite snacks as you sit down to watch a much-loved classic or latest release. Of course, if you want to take a trip to the cinema there’s kid-friendly films out too, this October half-term break you could go and see Trolls, Storks or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Get active

It might be chilly outside but that doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. The autumn half term is the perfect opportunity to get active. It can be simple as exploring a local park or, if you have older children, trying something different like an assault course. If it’s raining outside that’s no excuse not to burn off some energy, you could visit an indoor play centre or trampoline park for some extra fun.

Visit an historic site or museum

Children will love wandering around a historic castle or a kid-friendly museum for an afternoon. Many sites will have special events put on for the holidays, such as a hands on experience or a performance, that’s sure to delight the whole family. While it can be pricy you can purchase family tickets to save and, in some cases, children may even go free.

Embrace the spooky

This year Halloween falls in the October half-term for many schools so it’s the perfect opportunity to plan some spooky activities. If you’ve got plans to go trick or treating or attend a party, you could plan a day where the kids make their own costumes or get creative in other creepy art projects. There are lots of scary films suitable for children too if you prefer to spend the spooky celebration at home.

Be sure to check out your local area as many councils and attractions will have events and special prices especially for the half-term that you can take advantage of.

Record number of parents ignoring fines and booking term-time holidays

Parents are increasingly risking fines and taking their children out of school to enjoy family holidays, according to the latest figures. Those supporting the ban on taking children out school argue absences can affect education but those against state quality family time is important too and the occasional absences should be at the discretion of the parent.

According to statistics from the Department of Education, around one in 13 pupils missed at least half a day that was unauthorised during the autumn and spring terms in 2015/16. While the biggest reason for taking time off was illness, one in 20 missed days were the result of a holiday, the figure represents a 5 year high. Despite the number of families choosing to take a holiday during term time, overall absence figures and persistent absentees, those that miss more than 10% of classroom periods, declined.

Previously authorising holidays during school time was at the discretion of head teachers but in 2013 the then education secretary Michael Gove introduced changes. The new rules meant heads could only grant authorised absences in ‘exceptional circumstance’ and parents can face a £60 fine for taking their children out of school. However, many local councils have chosen not to impose fines and in some cases fines have been overturned in favour of the parents in court. The fact that fines are not being upheld could be a contributing factor to the increase in unauthorised absences.

Even with the potential fines posed, many families still opt for term-time holidays due to the price hike on everything from flights to attractions when children are off school, especially during the summer holidays. For some parents getting time off work during the holidays can be a problem too as other parents are competing for the same time to book their holidays off. But can term-time holidays affect education?

For their part, research suggests that the majority of teachers don’t understand the ban on term-time holidays. In a survey almost three quarters of teachers indicated they didn’t agree with the rules and two thirds didn’t think missing school for a family holiday had a detrimental impact on the learning of primary school aged children.

What do you think about the increase in unauthorised absences, should children take time off for family holidays? Let us know your thoughts on our forum


How to keep your children safe when ‘trick or treating’ this Halloween

The ghoulish season of Halloween can be an incredibly exciting time for children of all ages, with lots of opportunities for fancy dress, fun games and spooky but sweet treats! As well as hosting Halloween parties ‘trick or treating’ is very popular at this time of year, which can sometimes seem like a scary thought to parents whose kids have never done it before! If your little monster is planning their creepy costume already, here are a few safety tips to keep them safe at night, ensuring that this time-old tradition is enjoyed without any spooky surprises!

Agree on a route

Plan a route beforehand with your child before they head out into the night. Clearly agree on which streets they can head down, and which they should avoid. If possible, talk with the parents of the other children that your child is heading out with, so you can all decide the same path together. Not only will this help to give you peace of mind, but if your little one returns home later than expected you can quickly find them again, knowing exactly where they will be.

Be seen

Although Halloween is about lurking in the shadows, make sure that your child has a torch or some kind of light source so that motorists can see them as they walk around at night, and also to ensure that they don’t get lost in poorly lit areas.

Have comfy shoes

Witches may normally wear pointed boots, but unfortunately these won’t keep your child’s feet comfortable when walking for long periods of time! Encourage your children to wear flat shoes that will keep their feet supported, while also reducing the risk of any trips or falls, leading to unnecessary bumps in the night! To help make this seem more appealing, why not customise your children’s sensible shoes with themed laces, or stick on cut out shapes of pumpkins, spiders or more to tie them in to their costume.

Only knock on welcoming doors

It may be hard for your excited child to understand, but some households don’t want to take part in Halloween and they will often show this by ensuring their gates are closed, curtains are shut and the lights are off. Teach your children to only knock on doors that have Halloween decorations outside, or have lights on and look inviting.

Don’t split up

Make sure that your children stick together – not only is there safety in numbers, but it will be more fun too!

Do you have any more tips for keeping your children safe this Halloween? Let us know in our online forum.

Indoor activities for those glum, grey days

Whether we like it or not, summertime has left us in the blink of an eye! And as the sandals and shorts are replaced with woollens and hats, the long evenings playing in the park slowly grind to a halt, causing kids to feel restless when ‘trapped’ at home. Rather than reaching for the video or computer games, here are some exciting indoor activities that can help to put the boredom at bay this weekend…

Treasure hunt

What child doesn’t love a challenge? This fantastic activity requires a bit of planning, but the enjoyment it will inspire certainly makes it worthwhile! Create some intriguing clues to guide your kids around your home, and let them guide the players from one to the other, eventually leading to the (well hidden) treasure. For extra fun, why not dress up as pirates to have a real swash-buckling adventure?!

Indoor camping

For adults and children alike, there is nothing more fun than creating a comfy hideout. This can be done with a small tent pitched indoors, or you can use your creativity to carefully arrange blankets, cushions, pillows and more to construct a fortress to be proud of. If your children aren’t tired out from the building work, hosting a fun sleepover in the newly built retreat is the perfect way to enjoy the den you have just made.

Make a story

Your children may have read their own books again and again, meaning that reading is the last thing they will want to do when playing indoors. But what if they told their own story? Get crafty and creative and encourage your kids to write their own story, comic book, magazine or newspaper and make it into a physical piece to share with the whole family.

Pumpkin carving!

Halloween is close, meaning that your children will be getting their costumes ready for Halloween parties and Trick or Treating with friends. And of course, there is no other finishing touch more appropriate for this time of year than a perfectly carved pumpkin. Depending on how old your child is, you may need to supervise them when using sharp implements to cut out the shapes of their character’s scary face, but there are lots of kits available to buy that come with child-friendly tools. Instead of the traditional creepy grin, why not try some more unusual designs such as a black cat, a zombie face or a gruesome wicked witch.

Who does your child idolise?

We all had childhood heroes, whether it was the best scoring footballer at the time, the number 1 pop star or our favourite national celebrity. Idolising those older than you is simply a part of growing up – but now, as parents, should we pay more attention to those that our kids aspire to be?

Jane Lunnon, head teacher at Wimbledon High School thinks so. After a poll of London school girls revealed that they considered celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and Taylor Swift to be role models, Lunnon urges these girls to look up to classic characters such as Cleopatra ‘who wield power and influence in a man’s world’, rather than today’s batch of starlets. In fact, Lunnon has gone so far as to launch a project as a reaction to this survey, aiming to help make Shakespeare’s leading ladies, and other old-time characters, feel relevant in present-day surroundings to push this incentive further.

While the principle of this is rooted in good sentiment, educating young children on the works of Shakespeare is certainly no bad thing, the fate that many of these heroines face in the renowned writer’s tales is far from something to aim towards. However, as this headline has caused controversy amongst the media this news has caused us, and parents across the country, to consider our child’s idols and the impact this could have on their early development.

Undoubtedly, at this young age, your child will learn their behaviours and habits from those that surround them. This includes you, relatives and friends, as well as the celebrities that they follow online, on television and on social media. As a parent, you have the opportunity to guide your child in the right direction that can lead them towards a happy, fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle. It is impossible to control your kid’s preferences, but you can show them positive role models by setting a good example in your own behaviour, as well as highlighting those in the spotlight that are famous for being determined, achieving goals and leading a positive life.

So, who is your child’s role model? Do you ever ask yourself this question? If you know the answer, how do you feel about the people that your child idolises – is Jane Lunnon right to be concerned?

We encourage all members of the school reviewer community to share their views online. Head to our forum to share your views with parents across the country.

Are smartphones affecting your child’s education?

Smartphones mean that for better or worse we’re always connected but there’s no denying they make a whole range of tasks easier. While smartphones have become an essential item for the majority of adults, they’re increasingly seen in the hands of teenagers and children but research suggests that without monitoring the devices could be affecting children’s education.

Around 90% of kids at secondary school have a mobile phone and for many parents it gives them peace of mind as their children become more independent. Knowing that in the cases of an emergency your child can easily contact you is certainly one of the benefits of mobiles. However, there are downsides too, particularly with smartphones, and some parents worry about who their child is contacting and their online safety.

According to research from Digital Awareness UK, how frequently and the time they are used could be a concern too. A survey found that 45% of teens and children check their mobiles after they’ve gone to bed and one in ten admit they check their phones at least ten times a night. Using and checking smartphones during the night is affecting how tired children are and their ability to concentrate during school, with 69% of respondents admitting it was affecting their school work and a quarter agreeing that they felt tired directly because of using their mobile during the course of the night.

For many children it was the fear of missing out that ensured they checked their phones throughout the night and a third said their parents weren’t aware that they checked their phone after going to bed. Whether your child likes checking their Twitter stream or Snapchatting friends these four tips could help:

Digital detox

As much as possible it’s a good idea for both adults and children to have a ‘digital detox’ for the 90 minutes before heading to bed, allowing you to relax and unwind. Encouraging your child to do something away from the screen, such as reading a book or simply chatting as a family, can prepare them for bed.

Switch off notifications

Anyone would struggle to sleep with a mobile next to them that is buzzing and flashing throughout the night. If you don’t want to switch the device off all together turn off notifications or switch it to ‘do not disturb’ mode for a better night’s sleep.

Use night mode

Studies have shown that the artificial light emitted through electronic devices can impact sleep. Some devices now have a night mode that reduces this and if your child is using a smartphone in the evening switching to this can help.

Monitor usage

You may not be aware of how often your child is checking their phone so monitoring usage can help you gain a better understanding. There are apps you could add to their devices to see how frequently they are turning it on.Are you concerned about the amount of time your child spends on smartphones? Share you views with us on the School Reviewer forum.