Reception reading: How your child will learn to read at school

And what you can do to help at home.

Learning to read is probably the most important thing your son or daughter will do in reception (well, maybe equal with having fun!) but it won’t all happen in class: parents need to help at home too.child-reading

How is reading taught these days?

The way reading is taught has changed over the years, and the current favoured method in British primaries is through phonics. The Government has backed this approach and it’s definitely here to stay for the foreseeable.

So what is phonics teaching all about then?

Whereas many of today’s parents learned to read whole words using the ‘look and say’ method (think Ladybird’s Janet and John series), phonics is a systematic approach to teaching children the sounds that make up words.

Words are broken down into the sounds they’re made up from and then these sounds are ‘blended’ together to make the word.

So, for example, with ‘dog’, children learn the sounds the letters d,o, and g make separately and then how they blend to say ‘dog’.

Note that it’s the sounds the letters make that are important at this stage and not the letter names (i.e. not ‘ay’, ‘bee’ as in the alphabet song etc).

Phonics also helps children spell as they can hear the sounds in a word and then translate them back into the letters needed.
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Children Motivation

All children need motivation. In children, motivation drives the desire to achieve. Children look upon their parents as the key source of motivation to succeed in what they do. Motivated children focus on improving their abilities through personal efforts. These children also have a thirst for information that guides them on how to achieve the best. Motivation also helps the child focus on acquiring a new skill or knowledge.

motivating children

Tips for Providing Children Motivation

  • Provide your child with a stimulating environment and a variety of experiences. This can be done by providing the child with different objects such as books, puzzles, blocks and so on.
  • Give your child toys or materials that he can use to make changes. For example, vehicle toys can be moved from one place to another (change of place). Similarly, play dough can be used to make different objects from the same thing (change of shape).
  • Allowing your child to make his own choices can make him independent and make him feel motivated.
  • Assign your child with age appropriate chores can help him become more responsible and in turn motivated to perform tasks.
  • Assist your child in developing the art of persistence. This is the ability to remain involved in an activity for a long period of time without giving up. A highly motivated child has good persistence and does not give up easily.
  • Be enthusiastic about what your child finds interesting. Talk and ask him as many questions as you can about these interests.
  • Offer your child a variety of challenges that are appropriate for his development. Success in one challenge motivates the child to take up another.
  • Create opportunities for you to join your child in an activity and interact with him. You can use this time that you spend with him to observe and encourage him.
  • Reward your child for a task well done. Remember not to use the reward as a means of getting your child to do the task. Never announce the reward before hand.
  • Allow the child to join you and contribute his views when the family is involved in a decision making process.
  • Start reading to the child from his early skills. Choose a calm, warm and relaxing atmosphere. Reading aloud to him and showing him what you read can enhance his creativity and imagination. Keep the reading session to retain his interest.
  • Make your child understand that each child is different and help him analyse his strengths and weaknesses. Provide your child with opportunities that help him work on improvising his strengths.
  • Assure your child that you trust his ability to perform a task. Let him know that failure does not mean inability to perform.
  • Give your child simple experiments that stimulate his curiosity. You can give him a magnet and encourage him to find which objects “stick on” to the magnet and which do not. Curiosity and inquisitiveness play a wide role in motivating your child.
  • Praise your child when he tries to achieve a new skill. This can motivate the child work on improvising the himself. The praise should focus on the effort rather than the accomplishment.
  • Make reading funny for the child. You can make funny sounds and encourage your child also to do so. Both of you can also act out the characters in the story. This can make him excited about reading.
  • Ask your child to evaluate himself on his accomplishment. Asking him what he thinks of his performance is more beneficial than merely stating that he has done a good job.
  • Allow the child to use different approaches to perform an activity. Children learn how to do something using the trial and error method. Do not criticise the child for his wrong attempt.
  • Instead of telling the child how to do something, show him different possible ways he can try doing it.
  • Give your child opportunities to show others his talent and skills.

How to Know Positive Effects of Motivation in Children

The best way to analyse if your child is motivated is to study his emotions. A motivated child is happy with his performance and enjoys doing an activity. Children without motivation appear bored, quiet and withdrawn. They do not show interest in any activity and complain often. And if you have more than one child, offer experiences based on each child’s needs.

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Reading The World With Your Kids

Article by writer and teacher Shehnaz Toorawa

Throughout the school year, parents usually ponder the skills that their children need to develop. Many parents choose to practice reading with their children, knowing that better reading skills bring better achievement in school and better understanding of life.

But, you ask, “How, in my hectic schedule, am I going to fit in time to sit down and read with my kids every night?” The solution is not to relegate reading to a specific time and place each day.


Reading can be practiced anywhere and everywhere! Opportunities to practice reading hide in your hectic schedule. Watch for them!

Reading skills can be gained throughout the day: on the drive to school, in the kitchen, at the grocery store, at the mosque, on the computer, at dinnertime. Alongside reading, expand your children’s knowledge of life and train them to deal with it. Here are some ideas:

Scan supermarket shelves. Help your kids check the grocery list, locate the correct aisle, scan product labels, and read ingredients on packages. Teach them how to search for specific ingredients and determine the nutritional value of a product.

Search for signs. As you drive or ride the bus, encourage your kids to read aloud traffic signs, parking notices, and names of streets and stores you pass. Teach them what traffic signs mean.

Navigate a map. Invite your kids to join your search for street names on a map before you head to a new location. Teach them how to navigate streets on a map as you ride the bus.

Check off lists. Have your kids read your grocery or “to do” list and brainstorm additions. Teach them how to organize lists into categories and prioritize.

Flip through the news. Point out bold words, photo captions, and headlines in the newspaper to your kids. Teach them how to skim for important information and question biases in articles.

Stir a recipe. Your kids can read instructions and measure ingredients from a recipe while you cook. Teach them the different measurement scales and their abbreviations.

Browse a menu. Browse the menu with your kids while you wait for food in a restaurant. Teach them how to select healthy items.

Sing along with lyrics. If your kids enjoy nasheeds, find the lyrics so they can read as they listen. Show them that songs are a medium to convey a message.

Follow instructions. Involve your kids when you assemble or learn to operate a new toy, appliance, or furniture. Teach them how to give and follow step-by-step instructions.

Study Qur’an. When your kids recite Qur’an or memorize a du`aa’, encourage them to read and understand the translation. Teach them the context of what they read and how to apply it.

Getting these opportunities to read in different contexts every day, children benefit in many ways:

  • Children learn a skill and use it at the same time, making it real and meaningful. In this way, kids observe that reading has a practical purpose and is a useful skill.
  • When kids read for a purpose, they extend their thinking beyond decoding texts and letters. They engage with the text to make meaning. This deeper processing leads to deeper understanding and deeper retention.
  • Diverse reading opportunities expose children to diverse vocabulary and genres, and promote diverse skills.
  • Kids practice different reading strategies for different purposes. A newspaper, for example, requires different reading skills than a map. This way they learn to negotiate different strategies for different goals.

Variety sparks interest. Kids won’t dread reading if it arrives in fun and unexpected places.

When kids read the world around them, they develop broader skills, interests, and knowledge. Encourage your kids to read anywhere and everywhere.


How to teach your children to cook

Teaching your children about food safety, ingredients and cooking basic meals like spaghetti Bolognese will not only encourage them to eat more adventurously but give them a useful life skill and the confidence that goes with cooking

Cooking with children is a daunting experience – it can, after all, be a place fraught with potentially worrying things – sharp edges, hot pans and boiling liquids to name but a few. The best way around these issues, though, is to introduce children to the kitchen at a young age – giving them guidelines but also encouraging their inquisitive nature. If you’re spending plenty of time in the kitchen (and if you’re here, reading this, one can only guess you are), then it won’t be a challenge getting them involved either – and is something you will take great pleasure in. Well, perhaps except for the mess! My sister is due to have a baby in June and I for one know that as soon as the new arrival is able to hold a whisk I’ll be teaching them how to cook.

Safety first

Ok, so it’s not the most glamorous or fun side of getting into the kitchen but it is essential. It doesn’t have to be a set of strict instructions (“you can use that, you can’t ever touch those”) but rather an ‘induction’ of sorts – an encouraging lesson about what does what, the difference between a cake tin and a pie dish and what tools to use for what jobs – mashers, ladles, different spoon sizes, how to make sure your chopping board doesn’t slip… the list goes on. But of utmost importance is it must be positive, not negative. Investigate buying them their own set of tools – there are plenty of companies now manufacturing children’s cookware.

Then there are the hazards – but these can come after the nice bits. The fact that the oven is hot, pans get hot on the hob and what’s in them gets hot too – and that there’s fire involved along with some very sharp edges.

Where to start

Take your children shopping with you too – perhaps the supermarket isn’t the most exciting of venues but a local market is as good as a museum – packed with an amazing array of colours, shapes and flavours – people to talk to, things to look at and bits and bobs to taste. It’ll be a visual treat for, perhaps, both of you – and might even serve as some inspiration for your dinner. It’s lovely for children to watch the transformation of what you buy all the way though into their plate of food.

What to start on

Start with something they like, something that is easy and interactive. This may not be the healthiest of things – starting them off peeling carrots isn’t going to convert anyone to a life of cooking. A cake, for example, is a great way to get children involved – because you’ve also got the fun of decorating it together afterwards. And they’ll love the taste of what they’ve made. Carrot cake is a brilliant example of this – a forgiving doddle in the kitchen, lots of mixing, spices and carrots? In a cake? Has Mummy gone mad? Cookies are simple and fun (a set of exciting cookie cutters will be life-changing) – as are pancakes. They both have the added bonus of not taking ages to cook, either – so no running out of patience!cooking with kids

When to start

The key thing is to start your children off at as young an age as possible – within reason, obviously. Children are visual and like things in pots. They like to tip and stir and crack and knead and touch and taste. Let them do all that.

Get your hands dirty

The hands-on approach is critical. There are fun, useful techniques to learn, like separating eggs or using your hands to mix, knead and decorate – cooking is a hands-on thing. Bread is great for this; you start with a few ingredients, work them by hand, shape them, watch them rise (as if by magic) and then bake them into a golden, crusty, gorgeous loaf.

A couple of final things before you rush off to the kitchen! Take pictures. A visual record of all the things you cook will be lovely for all of the family and provide some entertainment at the same time. You can even set up a video camera and make your own cookery show! And use resources – a quick Bing search and you can find Jamie Oliver’s techniques for school teachers to teach kids to cook which are just as useful for the home-cook.

Lastly, make a plan based on how old they are. The things outlined here are for getting kids in the kitchen at a very young age, but children of any age should be encouraged into the kitchen. They’ll be able to master more advanced techniques quite easily and would perhaps benefit from some inspirational cookery books to read.

Article source: MSN Food

Teach kids with learning disabilities how to make friends

Helping children with learning disabilities build social skills and relationships can have lasting influence on their overall success. Strong friendships are also important for their self-esteem and sense of belonging. Here are some ways you can support them in this area.

1. Making friends with extra-curricular activities

Surprisingly, many children in special education programs do not participate in extracurricular activities, and they miss this important social skills teaching opportunity. Help your child discover his strengths and interests to help him choose the right place for him to learn social skills. Whatever your child enjoys, it is likely there are opportunities to teach social skills in your community and for him to join with others. For social skills teaching ideas, contact community resources such as the local  play

2. Organized activities help teach how to make friends

Your child will benefit from social skills teaching inherent in social interaction outside the school setting. With your encouragement, even reluctant or shy children can be taught social skills through interaction with others through activities. Many relationships he builds will flow naturally back into the school environment. Just as importantly, non-disabled students will have the opportunity to see your child in successful roles outside of school and get to know him as a friend, rather than an acquaintance.

3. Building friendships in easy-to-manage steps

 Teach your child social skills needed to develop friendships in small, easy steps. Social skills may not come easily for her. Children with disabilities may feel intimidated by other kids, and they may find it too uncomfortable to try to reach out to them. Help your child work on these social skills by setting small goals. Ask your child to smile and greet one new child each day. Just say, “Hi.” This is often enough to reduce the pressure and begin some conversations that build toward relationships. Each night, have a friendly chat about his day, and talk about how many people he spoke to.

4. Making friends takes practice

Teach social skills by rehearsing social situations ahead of time. Role plays meeting a new person with each other. Take turns being the greeter and “greetee.” Teach your child the art of getting others to talk about themselves. Help him see that by doing this, he can learn about his peers and find common interests. Kids can use friendly, polite questions to encourage kids to talk and break the ice. Focusing on others will also help your child feel less self-conscious. Help your child learn how to choose good friends to develop healthy relationships.

5. Game and sportsmanship can teach making friends in advance

Teach your child social skills needed to make friends by helping him learn and practice games and activities at home that are popular at school. Aside from being a good way to practice skills such as reading, counting, and fitness, learning these games will help your child participate in them with other children, while reducing the impact of his learning disability on his ability to play. He will feel more confident and enjoy his interaction with others if he knows the games and can play them with some skill. Consider making your house the hangout for outdoor fun.

6. Schedule fun time to make social skills and making friends a priority

Create a circle of friends by encouraging playtime with a few neighbourhood children. Invest in some quality time and snacks and you’ll cultivate friendships that may stay with your child throughout high school, maybe even for life. Friends from the same class at school can provide important social and emotional support, and not to mention, occasional homework help when a worksheet or assignment fails to make it from school to your house.

By Ann Logsdon, school psychologist.

Eid Toy Drive

Eid Toy Drive For Children In Palestine!

We are collecting donations for an Eid toy drive. The gifts will be donated to children in a little village called Dier Ibzia, near Ramallah.
I spent sometime volunteering in Dier Ibzia in 2003 and met a lovely young sister, who I have kept in contact with. Alhamdulilah she now runs a small project teaching mostly girls in Dier Ibzia.

The villagers in Dier Ibzia live on the poverty line and there is 70% unemployment.
Insha’Allah we hope with your help to make the children there smile!

Donated items should be light weight items, such as craft kits and stationery.

Cut off date is: 14th July 2012

Alternatively you can make a small monetary donation, details below:
Smart Ark Education Aid (Charity Number: XT28304)

By bank transfer:
Smart Ark Education Aid
Account number:78040225
Sort Code:090127
(please make the reference “toydrive”)

By Paypal:
(please make the reference “toydrive”)

May Allah reward you!

Please contact usEid Toy Drive for further queries:

Be What You Want Your Child To Be

These are words that should be addressed to parents and mentors in order to achieve a general benefit: Whoever likes his child to be something, should first be that something.

  Be a positive role model:

 Dear parent, your child is attached to you. You are his role model and leader and the basic moral benchmark on      which he depends in all that he does. So, be a positive role model for him to follow in your faith and worship of Allaah The Almighty; and be a positive role model for him in your morals, manners and good treatment. In other words, be a positive role model in the  complete sense of the word, through your practical treatment with your children, following the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him.)

Be What You Want Your Child To Be

Be fair:

If you are not fair, in no way can you be able to judge between two opponents even in a trivial case. Being so, what do you think of the whose case occupies you throughout your entire life? You would not be able to direct your child in the manner you like if he feels you prefer his brother over him. That is the kind of injustice which the child never accepts, as the Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him) did not accept earlier.

Be with him part of his time

Dear parents, you have no valid excuse before Allaah The Almighty, nor any argument that is acceptable to the child to justify your failure to find a specific time to sit with him, which is his right over you and everyone should be given his due right. That is also the trust of responsibility, and Allaah The Almighty commands you to give back the trusts to those who are liable to them. O you who leave your child to others to bring him up on your behalf; do not weep on the morrow because you are held guilty (for his negligence of you) for as you waste him when he is a child, he shall waste you when you grow old.

Be tolerant:

Frequent blame and reproach for everything, whether or not it is significant, inevitably leads to adverse results, the child would neither follow the given advice, nor would he give up (the mistake). The result would be that you would lose your position of awe and reverence in the sight of your child, who, in turn, would leave you and refrain from listening to you. Anas (ra) served the Prophet, (peace be upon him) for ten years, during which time he never heard from him (any word of rebuke even as trivial as) ‘Uff’. 

Be intelligent:

Utilize suitable opportunities and current events to implant all the values and morals you like in the heart of your child. What you give your child would then be imprinted in his heart, and become inerasable. The Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, made Ibn ‘Abbaas (ra) ride behind him on a donkey, and of course, he (Ibn ‘Abbaas ra) was happy about riding behind the best of all creation on the same mount. He taught him words which remained not only in his memory but also in the memory of the whole Ummah (nation): “If you are mindful of Allaah, He will protect you, and if you are mindful of Allaah, you will find Him ever with you. When you ask for anything ask it from Allaah, and if you seek help seek help from Allaah. Know that if the people were to unite to do you some benefit, they could benefit you only with what Allaah had written for you, and that if they were to unite to do you some harm, they could harm you only with what Allaah had written against you. The pens (of writing the Divine decree) have been lifted and the pages have dried (of their ink).” [At-Tirmithi]

Similarly, the Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him)  rescued the boy before bad habits were inculcated in his breast, and said to him once he noticed any kind of bad behavior: “O boy! mention the Name of Allaah, and eat with your right hand and eat of what is nearer to you (in the dish).” [Al-Bukhaari] The boy then did not forget it, as shown in his comment, “Since then I have applied those instructions when eating.”

Be a storyteller:

A story has the influence of magic on the soul. It absorbs the child’s mind and makes him live with its heroes. So, it is due on you, father and mother in particular, to pay special attention to relating stories to children. One-third the Noble Quran consists of stories about ancient people. Moreover, the Prophetic Sunnah contains many authentic stories. Therefore, you should employ those stories to be a source of reflection and giving lessons, as stated by Allaah The Almighty when He Says (what means): {There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding.} [Quran 12:111]

Be a companion: 

Dear parent, let each of you be a companion (to his child), so that you would attract him. No doubt, keeping company has a great impact on the child, and makes his heart like a blank page having all that the mother and father like to be imprinted on it. However, you are not the only companion of the child: there are evil friends who do their best to ruin what you build. So, occupy all the time of your child with your company, and be conscious before your child is stolen from you while you are heedless. Your company pleases him so much, and encourages him to relate his affairs to you and divulge his secrets. So, be his companion, encourage him and praise him a lot. Ibn ‘Umar (ra) never left the night prayer after he heard the words of the beloved Prophet, (peace be upon him)  “What an excellent man ‘Abdullaah is! Were he to pray at night.” [Al-Bukhaari]

Be a watcher:

Dear parent, do not throw the seed (in the land) and then go and leave it, saying to yourself: I have been cultivating . However, you should wait for the harvest, otherwise, the blight of evil and corruption would come after you to eat your crop before you pluck its fruits. So, you should watch over your child in his morals, particularly truthfulness, for lying is the basis of all vices. When the Messenger of Allaah,, (peace be upon him)  liked to prevent a man from all kinds of evil, he said: “Do not lie.” Watch over him in his friends and peers. Watch over him in his physical constitution and seclusion. Be careful, lest there arise factors that try to ruin what you have been building throughout the years, seeking the help of Allaah The Almighty at all times.

Article source:

Compost Awareness Week, from 6 – 12th May

Do you compost your waste?

Here at Smart Ark HQ we love to compost and have been doing so for 10 years. Below is a list of thing you can compost:

Tea bags
Grass cuttings
Vegetable peelings, salad leaves and fruit scraps
Old flowers and nettles
Coffee grounds and filter paper
Spent bedding plants
Rhubarb leaves
Young annual weeds (e.g. chickweed)
Egg boxes
Scrunched up paper
Fallen leaves
Twigs, branches and bark                                                                                            Tissues                                                                                                                                Hair

New research has found that almost half of the food waste in rubbish bins could have been composted. Did you know that composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, or your washing machine produces in three months?


Check out the Recycle Now website for all the information you need on composting.

NEW – Build A Masjid Game

“Build A Masjid” is a fun counting game where each player has to collect golden coins to help build the Masjid. But watch out for the magpie who loves to steal shiny coins!

Suitable for 2-6 players.

Build A Masjid Game

This game builds on:Math skills, social skills and concentration.

The sturdy game components can be used as various other educational resources i.e. the coins cards can be used as a stand alone counting resource and the masjid puzzle can be made up as a simple puzzle game for younger children.

Recommended age: 3-9 years. Available on May the 3rd insha’Allah!