24 May 2020

What free online exercise classes are there for kids?

If you've been wanting to find out what free online exercise and physical education classes there are for kids you've come to the right place. The answer is - there are loads. During the lockdown and quarantine stages lots of newcomers have provided fresh new content to complement the older and established favourites. In this post I want to share my and my kids favourite free online resources for kids physical exercise - there are lots of ideas for a variety of ages, from nursery age to early teens. 

During lockdown I've insisted on two topics - P.E. and maths. We have done other topics too of course, but less regularly and led by my daughter's interests, as I've explained in my unschooling homeschooling post.  If we stay indoors, then for P.E. we often go for one of these videos below.

girl doing ballet in front of tv


P.E with Joe - Joe Wicks started doing daily 30 min P.E. sessions for the kids on his YouTube channel. Monday to Friday, 9 AM (BST). All the sessions are available to watch on his channel so you don't have to join in on time. They are best for older kids, such as later primary years and secondary schools, and of course parents often enjoy joining in too. 

He's also got a selection of five minute workouts for kids if you want something quick! These hold the attention of the smaller ones better. 

Andy's Wild Workouts - This is done by the children's TV CBeebies presenter Andy and better suited for the younger ones, six and under, than Joe Wicks. Lots of fun and magical videos, with dinosaurs, sea creatures and like. 10 videos, available on YouTube and BBC iPlayer. 

Les Mills on Demand - Les Mills on Demand has a Born to Move section for kids, which includes a limited selection of free videos for a range of ages, 4-5 years, 6-7 years, 8-12 years and 13-16 years old kids. They are around 20 minutes long with music and fun exercises. Limited to two free videos per age group. 

Get Kids Moving - these videos are computerised workouts and seem to be popular with P.E. teachers who are setting lockdown workout. Work well for some primary school kids, particularly those that love Marvel and other comic book heroes! I personally prefer ones with a human instructor, but I can see these videos suiting well some kids.

two kids doing home exercise


Lots of great dance resources out there! 

Go Noodle - short and active dance videos and exercise challenges on YouTube - perfect for the little ones in primary.  

The Ballet Coach - great selection of ballet classes for a variety of ages. Classes available for guide ages of 2-5 years, 5-7 years, 8-12 years, and 13+ years - although total beginners would probably want to start from the earlier years. 

The videos are cleverly colour-coded so you can find the relevant class quickly from the stream of them and are streamed live Mon to Fri, 9.30AM to 5PM if you want to join in. There are adult and grandparents videos too, so even us oldies can try our plie ha ha. 

Oti Mabuse - the Strictly Come Dancing judge does live streamed dance lessons for kids from her living room. Lots of great dance videos for kids, based on popular pop songs or kids films like Moana or Tangled, or Frozen. These are very energetic and great exercise, very fun to do. Better for kids 6+ as some moves can be a bit challenging and tiring. 

Kidz Bop - Aimed at primary school age kids and tweens, these are fun pop songs performed by kids. There are two main exercise related playlists, Dance Along videos and Kidz Bop Fitness. Great ideas to spice up a dance routine with current pop songs. 

Bounce Patrol - for the youngest of kids, in nursery and early years. Short educational songs and little dances, about washing hands, vegetables, colours and so on. Very colourful and children's TV style videos, very fun for the little little ones. 


Cosmic Kids Yoga - the favourite YouTube channel for lots of nursery and early years teachers! These are so fantastic, gentle but do get the kids moving and also calming down and practicing mindfulness, particularly great for these trying times. 

They are founded on play and incorporate story-telling and imagination, and there are many all-time favourites such as Frozen yoga, or Moana yoga for Disney fans. Great for young kids, probably 8 and under. My daughter is a great fan of Cosmic Kids and often chooses this as her first choice of P.E. 

Yoga for Kids - more of basic yoga moves, rather than story telling, but suitable for kids. This will appeal to kids that have outgrown Cosmic Kids but still enjoy yoga and could do with calming activities.  

Have you got any other tips for physical exercise online resources for kids? Would love to hear new ideas!

11 free and fun online video collections to get kids moving! Fitness, dance and yoga, and suggestions for all ages from nursery to teens.

11 free and fun online video collections to get kids moving! Fitness, dance and yoga, and suggestions for all ages from nursery to teens.

11 free and fun online video collections to get kids moving! Fitness, dance and yoga, and suggestions for all ages from nursery to teens.

11 May 2020

How we do it: 11 easy tips for the unschooling way of homeschool

So - if you have been thrust into the world of homeschooling... How is it going for you?

After trying to get a 6 year old complete her school homework, while trying to tend to a toddler and a newly invigorated cleaning routine, I found it just too much. Too damn much. 

It was not working for us. Due to the corona-crisis the situation we found ourselves in was so very different from a normal homeschool set-up, where you supplement your home-schooling with trips to museums or other places of interest, playgroups and leisure centres for socialising and so on. A further worry of mine was that by stressing about homeschooling I would become even more of a shouty mum and cause even more stress on my child, in a situation that is already stressful enough.

girl reading a book on sofa

In the end - I decided that we would be unschooling instead of homeschooling. And if you are struggling with homeschooling, you are not alone. Here, have my permission to give yourself a break. 

Unschooling is, in a nutshell, allowing your child to follow their own interests. It is NOT leaving your child to do it on their own - rather, it is facilitating their learning based on the topics they choose. 

The foundational idea of unschooling is that everything is learning and children learn the best if they learn things that interest them. And as children are interested in so many vast different things, they will learn all they need - although it may not be in the same timeframe or the same structure as you would do in a normal school. For example, a true unschooler would be relaxed about their kids learning to read - and believe that eventually their children will choose to learn to read because they will need to to learn more about their chosen areas of interest. 

In practice, the approach I've taken could be characterised as a mix of school homework and unschooling. The way I have done it is:
  • I prioritise reading, writing and maths. Reading and writing because it is essential to all other learning, and are my daughter's favourite things to do anyway. Maths because it is the foundation to so many other areas of learning and if you don't practice it, you lose it, and it is difficult to build back up. 
  • I ask my child what she would like to learn about. For example, she has chosen Ancient Egypt, Tudor fashion, marble runs, and creative writing amongst other topics. So we have covered lots of ground using these topics to guide learning. 
  • I check the school homework sheet weekly and pick topics I think my child would be interested in. For example, last week I did a lesson on Ramadan using the school resources. She has many muslim friends and enjoys learning about different cultures and customs - an easy win for me. 
  • I check the school homework tasks to get ideas. Sometimes the tasks and resources seem interesting and like they will support the topics we are already doing, so I use them. Sometimes I know my kid would find it too boring, too difficult or uninteresting, and I skip these.
  • Leave time for free creative and learning activities. So during "break time" (which we have a lot of) my daughter gets to do her own things - which often end up being educational in arts or writing or reading anyway. 
  • For "boring" subjects a roundabout way of doing it might work. Like I mentioned, unlike a true unschooler, I do choose to "force" my kid to do some topics she'd rather not. For her the dreaded topic is maths. I've used a variety of resources - open-flap books, maths games, The Maths Factor website and so on to make it more fun and enjoyable. We are getting there... 

homemade marble run from recycling

Here are a couple of examples for topic-based learning using the topics my kid chose:

1) Ancient Egypt: history by learning about Ancient Egypt in general; women's history by learning about Cleopatra; engineering by learning about pyramids and how they were built; arts by learning about hieroglyphs and writing them yourself; creative writing by writing a story of yourself sent to Ancient Egypt in a time machine...

2) Tudor fashion: history by learning about Tudor times; arts by making a paper doll and Tudor clothes for the paper doll; history by learning about clothes worn by royals and by paupers; creative writing by writing a story about a royal and a pauper changing places; arts by designing and creating a Tudor hat...

The opportunities are endless if you use your imagination a bit. 

I asked some of my fellow bloggers for hints and tips from their own unschooling journeys and some ideas were to:

  • Follow their loves and develop "work" around it. This gives them the independence to make decisions. For example, when her daughter became interested in orangutans, Kelly from The Rebel Tribe developed work around it with a big focus on play and discovery - they used books to learn more about them, drew them, looked for information how they live in the wild. She described it to be an amazing way to learn. 
  • Everything can be an education. As Sophie from Mama Mei discovered, everything from running a home to buying food, or playing shop / cafe, doing crafts, cleaning or even creating content can be a learning activity. 
  • It is OK to encourage learning through play. Children constantly learn through play, and while Jennifer from Rice Cakes and Raisins encourages the kids to try activities sent from school, she doesn't make it into a battle. Instead, she allows her kids to play to learn - and for example, one morning her boys, totally unprompted, made a museum featuring all their favourite books and later sought different bugs in the garden.
  • Let kids choose from activities provided by you. Jenny from Monkey and Mouse shows books and activities for her kids, but doesn't expect them to do them. She lets them choose - and often they like the look of them anyway!
  • For kids with special needs a relaxed approach may work well. As her son has autism, Eva from Captain Bobcat discovered he finds homeschooling a difficult concept as it is illogical to him. So while homeschooling they concentrate on life skills and educational games and programs like using money, or animal documentaries and educational apps. 

sisters playing with play doh

I hope some of these tips helped in making homeschooling or unschooling - which ever approach you prefer - an easier thing to do. And I would love to find out if you have any experiences of your own that have worked well! Let me know in the comments if you have tried or are planning to do any unschooling or homeschooling using these tips!

You might also like: How to talk to your child about coronavirus and What I've been thinking about the lockdown

How we made homeschool more fun by moving to unschooling - and 11 easy tips and ideas for unschooling.

2 May 2020

What I've been thinking about the lockdown

I was quite shocked to realise that we have been in lockdown for five weeks, now entering the sixth week. Seems like an eternity, and yet at the same time, not that long. I've been meaning to write down some lockdown thoughts of mine, but finding the headspace to do this with all the other stuff going on has been difficult. 

rainbow blocks

What it has been like in London

We live in the suburbia of London and I used to commute to work to my Central London office a few times a week, depending on the meetings. During February it was all pretty normal. The whole corona-business seemed like it would be blown out soon. 

Then March happened, and reports from Italy started to become increasingly worrisome. Shops started to run out of some key items. By the second week of March the reduction in normal rush hour Tube traffic was noticeable. There was such a strange, sullen mood in the capital, everyone cautiously continuing. "Stay safe" became the common greeting. There was a gradual easing into lockdown, from first encouraging home working, then closing down pubs and bars, and then the full lockdown on 23rd March. We are now able to go out for work, essential shopping, health and safety needs, exercise and to help others, and to me that feels like a balanced approach. 

London has always been a leading city in UK. And now it has led on corona-cases and corona-deaths too. To be honest, I am not surprised by that. Socially distancing, I mean truly and totally socially distancing, just is not possible in London. Too many people everywhere and difficult to source food deliveries mean at some point, you will have to go out, and you will brush past people. 

It has been annoying to see headlines in newspapers lamenting the failures of Londoners to social distance in the parks, when you full well know that it is not possible unless you want to confine people to their flats a la Spain. Funny that those who shout the loudest for the strictest lockdown seem to have comfortable houses and nice gardens to boot. 

Few thoughts I've had about people in this lockdown

During this lockdown few things have become quite evident. We are not in this together. Those living in small flats, no gardens, poor quality housing, low security jobs, unsafe families and relationships... They are in this a hell of a lot more than others in more fortunate positions.  We may be in the same storm but in very different boats - some in yachts, others in rickety rafts. 

I'm also not at all surprised by why so many normal people in Nazi Germany collaborated with the Gestapo. I've seen some real vitriol and hatred on social media when people talk about having seen someone else doing something "forbidden"... Like sitting on the grass. Playing football with friends. Walking too close to each other on the road. My my. Fear of an unknown enemy materialises into something tangible when you see people you can project blame on. While I do my inner eye-roll and silently call these rule-flouters morons in my head, they talk about calling the police on these rule-breakers or photographing them and posting it on social media for everyone to judge. It is not like police aren't busy enough with all the increased domestic violence cases to break up a footie match between a few guys, who may very well be flatmates anyway...

Fear also brings out the helper and maker in many people. It is heart-warming to see so many local volunteers, stocking up food for vulnerable neighbours, crafty people making all kinds of gowns for hospital and care home staff members, and fundraisers from small to big. There are so many good people who try to make a difference, and you can count on that in every emergency they will emerge. 

Now we are apparently past the peak. Or anyway, the first peak of possible new ones to come. What I'm sensing from reading stuff online is that people are still very scared. Very scared to leave their homes, very scared to send their kids to school, and many, possibly avoiding this as long as possible. I've even heard of some people who haven't left their house for weeks. I mean, weeks? Reportedly, people are also avoiding burdening doctors and hospitals, trying to manage their symptoms home, and at times inadvertently making it a whole lot of worse by not attending to serious illnesses early enough.

little girl working on a computer

What our lives have been like

We have been home a lot, but I try to take the girls to the park occasionally to run around, and as supermarket food deliveries are like gold dust, we go out to the shops once or twice a week - mostly to stock up on milk and bread. And it is nice, going out, and popping by the supermarket feels like a sliver of normal life. It just isn't sustainable to live your life in fear forever, anxious of needing to buy food. Of course, socially distance and wash your hands, but it is no life to isolate forever, and we are in this for a long-haul.    

Back home we have been doing home-schooling and un-schooling, choosing topics of interest for learning. So far we have done Egyptian history, bacteria and diseases, creating a country and all its trimmings in creative writing, dance lessons with Oti Mabuse, a Strictly Come Dancing judge, and lots and lots of drawings and junk modelling. And it has been fun at times, and frustrating at many times, especially when I've insisted times tables and maths homework needs to be done, everyday. 

It is difficult though, trying to combine working and home-schooling, and toddler-rearing, with the never-ending cooking and cleaning and other responsibilities. Oh yes, and our fence fell, garage wall had structural damage, and dishwasher broke. And no-one can fix them for the foreseeable future. It's not all sunshines and #blessed-lifestyles - but it hasn't been bad either. The girls have become great little buddies, entertaining each other so well. We have just got on with things, and little by little trying to make it a better new normal for all of us. 

How have you been faring with the lockdown?

You might also like: How to talk to your kids about coronavirus

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