Art & History

The Invention of the Piano

Would it surprise you to know that the piano that was invented 1709 is quite similar to the pianos being sold today? Despite huge leaps in technology over the past couple of centuries, the basic function of the piano haven’t actually changed much. We take a look back in time at the invention of the piano.


School & Career

Tips for Moving to a New School

Moving to a new school is always scary, whether you’re moving from primary school to high school or into a new school in a different area. What can you do to make it easier?

My kids are old hands at this because they’ve moved school so often, even going into schools in a new country where they haven’t known the language. We’ve lived in Germany, Switzerland and UK and they’ve been to local schools speaking German, French and English. It wasn’t ever easy but they’ve made great friends who they still keep in touch with now that they’ve moved on.

I asked them for their advice on moving to a new school.

1. Get Ready

“How are you getting to school? Have a trial run a week or so before school starts. You’ll feel a bit daft but on the first morning, you’ll be a lot more confident if you know how to get to school.” — Cat, 16 years

Sounds obvious but being prepared really helps to settle the nerves. Don’t be running around on the first morning, looking for your calculator or your geometry set. Get everything ready a few days earlier so you’ve time to buy any missing items. Pack your lunch the evening before if you can. Know how to get to school and go to bed on time so that you aren’t struggling to get up in the morning.


2. You Are Not Alone

“Everyone else is in the same boat, even if they are playing it cool and acting really casual”  — Connor, 14 years

Even if you are moving into a new school in a different area or country, then you are likely not alone in being nervous and worried. Most schools have at few new pupils every year so there is a good chance there is someone else around your age starting school with you. It’s ok to be nervous – ask your parents about their first day in a new job. I bet they had butterflies in their tummy too! And I’ll tell you something else. Your parents will be sitting at home or at work on your first day of school, worrying about you and hoping that you are ok.

And finally – some of your teachers will also be new in the school and they are nervous too. Even the ones who look really calm and collected will be a bit anxious that everything goes well and their new pupils enjoy their class.


3. Take Your Time

“Don’t panic and latch onto the first person you meet.” — Cat

When you get to the new school, don’t feel that you have to rush to make new friends. It may seem like everyone pairs up immediately but often the first person you bump into and start chatting to doesn’t end up being your friend. It’s ok to take a moment to look around, listen to the other kids and suss out which of them sounds like a person you’d get on with.


4. Change is Normal

“By the end of your time at the school, you’ll probably not still be friends with the same folk you knew at the start. You change, they change, and you drift away and make new friends who better suit the person you become. That’s ok” — Cat

If you already know some of the kids from your previous school, you might feel that you want to stick with them for a bit. Don’t let that stop you from looking around and making new friends. And don’t feel that you have to stay friends with them for the rest of your time at the school.


5. Just Start Talking to Someone

“When I went to my new school in Scotland, a girl came up to me and said that she didn’t know anyone there and asked if she could be friends with me. I thought it was really cool and we ended up being really good friends.” — Cat

I know it is a LOT easier to say than to do but the person you start talking to might be really grateful that they didn’t have to make the first move. You may not find a friend for life but at least you weren’t standing around alone!


6. Be Kind

“There’s nothing more annoying that those kids who swagger around, shouting loudly and showing off.” — Connor

Some loud kids are just extroverted people, some of them are bullies, but a lot of kids who do this are trying to cover up their nerves. In an effort to sound cool, they show off, tell tall tales, or make snarky comments about others. Don’t be mean about others in an attempt to be funny, or to impress others. People respond well to kind and friendly people so just be yourself!


7. Connect With Your New Friends

“If you are already using social media, then find your new friends online. Sometimes it can be less awkward chatting online and you can arrange to meet up outwith school.” — Cat

If you don’t yet have social media accounts, then exchange phone numbers with your new friends. Not only can you contact them to double check you’ve understood your maths homework correctly, you can also arrange to meet before school so you can walk in together.


7. Raise Your Hand

“When the teacher asks a question, most kids don’t want to be the one she calls on. If she asks something that you know the answer to, stick up your hand. That way she won’t call on you next time – when you maybe won’t know the answer.” — Connor

You don’t have to jump out of your chair like Hermione Grainger every time the teacher asks a question but it’s a good idea to show willingness to participate. Once the teacher has called on you, she’ll turn her attention to others and you can relax for a little bit without worrying you’ll be asked something you don’t know.


8. Manage Your Expectations

“Maybe you were great in maths in your old school but struggle in the new one, or you were top of the class in French but now sit next to someone who is much better than you. Don’t panic – and don’t compare yourself to others!” — Cat

Definitely DON’T go into a lesson saying loudly to everyone, ‘I’m really great at this subject’. In your new school, you may find you are ahead in some subjects but behind in others. You’ll feel even worse if you’ve just announced that you are awesome and you find out you are not as great as you thought you were! Don’t worry, it will all even out over time.


9. Have an Emergency Calm Down Plan

“When I’m really stressed, I find a quiet spot and listen to my favourite music. It helps to calm me down and then I can go back to the next class.” — Cat

What helps you feel calm? Maybe it is spending a moment talking to a friend, or listening to music. Or just counting to 20 slowly. An app such as Calm can teach you how to meditate – even if you aren’t allowed to use your phone in school.


10. Give it Time but Get Help if You Need It

“The first week is the worst. It will get better! Speak to your mum and dad or a teacher if you are being bullied or you are really unhappy. They’ll try to help you”. — Cat

You might be one of the lucky ones, and you love your new school from day one. If you don’t then just hang around for a bit. Once everyone settles in a bit and you know your way around, it will most likely improve. If you are still really struggling, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to someone. A friend or your parent, or perhaps your school has guidance counsellors or a buddy system in place.


More Suggestions from Readers

Don’t Worry if they Speak Funny

“Don’t worry if they speak a bit funny, because they are not doing it to annoy you. It’s just their accent. When we arrived in Cyprus, I thought they were speaking in dialect to leave me out, and I didn’t like it. But they always speak like that anyway.” — Nikolas, 11 years

A bonus suggestion from a reader, Nikolas. A great reminder that if you move to a new country, or even a new part of your home country, the kids may speak differently. Either a completely different language or a dialect or accent that sounds weird and unfamiliar. Some people pick up accents really fast and some keep their original accent forever – maybe in a year you’ll sound exactly like your new friends. Or you’ll always sound a little bit different.



The Ultimate Guide for Kids to Pack Your Own Suitcase

Welcome to our ultimate guide for kids to pack your own suitcase!

When I was a kid, my parents were Scout leaders and one of their rules was that kids should pack their own suitcases. My mum always said that if the kids packed themselves, they knew what they had in their bag or rucksack and how to find things. And they were able to pack to go home.

Now I have my own kids, I can see exactly what she meant. My kids have been packing their own suitcases since they were little. In the beginning, I’d check to ensure that they didn’t have 12 t-shirts and one pair of trousers for a week-long holiday but now I just remind them to take their toothbrush and any vital pieces of kit.



Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

First think about where you are going, how long you are going to be away, and if there are any cultural norms in the country you are visiting. In some countries, for example, girls wearing strappy tops or shorts is frowned upon, particularly when visiting religious buildings.

What kind of holiday is your family planning? Do you go to the beach for two weeks or camping and hiking in the mountains? You’ll might still want to take swimwear to the mountains but can leave your walking boots at home for the beach holiday!

How are you getting there? If you are flying, what limits do you have for luggage? A lot of airlines limit weight of suitcases to 20kg but check with your parents to be sure.

Will you be in a hotel or a holiday home, which may have a washing machine? Your parents may not want to do washing while you are away so check with them. Put the clothes you want to take in the washing at least a week before you start packing. This avoids arguments with your parents the day before you leave on holiday because your favourite t-shirt is in the washing basket!


Make a List

Photo by Honza Kahanek on Unsplash

Some people pack complete outfits, others prefer to take a selection of trousers/skirts and tops/tshirts that they can mix and match. Whichever way you choose, it’s a good idea to take a couple of extra items in case you spill something and have to change clothes more than expected.

Start with these items and adjust to suit your preferences and the time you’ll be away. If you are going away for more than a week, you’ll probably have to wash some clothes after the first week is over.

Example Packing List for One Week

  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 10 pairs of socks
  • 3 – 4 bras or cropped tops if you wear them
  • 7 t-shirts or tops
  • 3 – 4 pairs of trousers or skirts
  • 1 – 2 dresses if you wear them
  • 2 PJs
  • Shoes and sandals
  • Jacket and/or cardigan/pullover (depending on weather)
  • Swimwear
  • Sunhat
  • Toiletries
  • Toys and games
  • Gadgets
  • Favourite cuddly toy
  • Book or magazine


Lay Everything Out

<span style="font-size: 8pt;">Photo by Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash </span>

Photo by Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash

Now take everything out of your wardrobe and cupboards and put on your bed.

If you aren’t packing complete outfits, make sure you have items that you can combine in different ways. You don’t want to come home with unwashed tops that you couldn’t wear because they didn’t go with any of your trousers!

Get rid of bulky and heavy items unless you really need them. If you are going somewhere cold, it’s best to wear these items to travel rather than take up space in your suitcase.

Shoes take up a lot of space and weight so think about which ones you really need. Flipflops or slipper socks are handy for wearing around the hotel or holiday home.

Now is the time to discard a whole lot of unneccessary items. Take a good look at the stuff on your bed and ask yourself ‘Do I REALLY need this?’.


Pack Your Own Suitcase!

Rolling clothes saves space but can make your clothes more wrinkly and harder to find in your suitcase. This video is pretty amazing – I’m not sure it’s necessary unless you are REALLY short of space but you can try out both methods and see which you prefer!

Rolling up socks and putting them in your shoes saves a lot of space. Fill gaps as much as possible with small items.

Leave space in your bag for souvenirs from your trip.


Gadgets and Chargers

Photo by Ady TeenagerInRO on Unsplash

Check with your parents to find out which gadgets are allowed on the trip. Get them out the day before and ensure that they are fully charged and have new batteries. If you have a camera, does it have a specific charger for the battery?

Can you double up any of the chargers? If you are taking a phone and a tablet, check to see if you can use the same charger for both.

Is the journey a long one? Will you need some of your chargers while you are on the go? Find out if you’ll need hand luggage for the trip, and decide which of your gadgets you can do without, and which you’ll want for the journey.

One way of saving space and hassle is to take a multi USB charger plug like this one which can be used in many different countries – don’t forget to check if you’ll need an adaptor before you go! If you and your family have a lot of devices, it might be worth taking a extension lead with you so you just need one adaptor.



Image by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

If you are going on holiday with your parents, check with them to see if they are taking shampoo and shower gel for the whole family. Otherwise, travel sizes are a good way to limit weight.

Make sure your toiletries are closed properly so they don’t leak and pop them into a washbag so they nothing gets onto your clothes.


Hand Luggage

Image by PHUOC LEOC LE on Unsplash

Depending on where you are going and how you are getting there, you might need hand luggage for the trip. Here are some things to put in your hand luggage:

  • Gadgets and chargers (see above)
  • Essential medicines and toiletries
  • Spare set of underwear – again, if you are flying, this doesn’t take up much room and could be really helpful if your case gets lost or delayed!
  • Book or magazine
  • Neck pillow or a cotton scarf that you can use to rest your head on
  • Snacks and water – no chocolate or messy food, and water is better than fizzy drinks that might spill and make a mess

Ensure that you comply with safety regulations if you are flying.

The main one you need to know about is no liquids over 100ml, and all toiletries must be kept in a clear plastic bag that you take out and put on the security conveyer belt. You can buy these bags at supermarkets and chemist or online. You can also use a ziplock bag, which is a bit less expensive than these bags. It does have to be resealable though, so a normal sandwich bag won’t do!

You can’t take aerosols, knives, scissors or other dangerous items in your hand luggage. These items have to be packed in your main suitcase which goes in the hold of the plane.

Find out more about the hand luggage restrictions in UK airports here and in the carry on bag restrictions in the United States here. If you live elsewhere, google the name of your country and ‘hand luggage restrictions’ but they are generally very similar worldwide.

Important Information about Medicines

“There are some weird rules about medicines, so it is sensible to get your parents to check the FCO website, take labelled meds (which might mean having the outer box) and have a copy of your prescription so you can prove what it is for. I always recommend taking meds in hand luggage so there is no panic if checked-in luggage goes astray and it is more temperature controlled so less likely to cause drugs to deteriorate.”

Thanks to our contributor Asha for this information!

Coming Home

Image by Ludomił on Unsplash

Take a bag with you for dirty laundy to keep clean clothes separate from the ones you’ve worn. It’s best to dry swimwear before packing to come home, but if you don’t have time, put it in a plastic bag to make sure you don’t get everything all wet!

When you get home, unpack right away – the longer you leave it, the more annoyed you’ll get when you keep tripping over your suitcase!












Language & Literature

A Short Story – The White Dove

Dad walks over to me. He’s carrying several slices of bread.

‘Hi, Grace.’

‘Hi,’ I say, giving him a look which I hope he understands means, I am so not impressed with this new pre-birthday arrangement.

Dad doesn’t seem to have noticed my look. I wonder what he’s doing with the bread.

‘For the ducks,’ he says when he catches me staring at it.

I nod and decide not to mention that I am no longer five years old and that feeding the ducks in the park doesn’t exactly excite me anymore.

‘Right,’ I say, as we head over to the pond.

‘So, Grace, how have you been?’

We sit down on the bench next to the willow tree.

‘Fine,’ I say, thinking that he wouldn’t have to ask this stupid question if he saw me every day like he used to; if he still made me toast with honey for breakfast, drove me to school and said goodnight after telling me not to read for too long.

Dad sighs. ‘I’m sorry I’m not seeing you tomorrow, Grace. It really can’t be helped. I—’

‘It’s fine,’ I say, even though it isn’t anywhere close. ‘Mum and I are going to Pizza Express.’

‘You’re not seeing Munira and Amelia?’

‘They’re away – on holiday.’

Dad hands me a slice of bread. ‘That’s a shame.’

I tear the corner off my piece of stale bread. It’s brown and full of seeds. It must be Roxanne’s bread. I throw a piece into the pond. A female duck swims over and eats it.

Dad tears several pieces from his own slice and throws them in. A few more ducks swim across to our side of the pond, quacking as they come.

‘You know you shouldn’t feed bread to ducks?’ I say.

‘Really?’ Dad says.

‘Amelia told me. It’s bad for them, or something.’

Dad stops tearing his slice of bread. ‘I guess a small amount won’t hurt.’

‘I guess not.’

‘We could feed the pigeons instead?’ Dad suggests. ‘Like that guy.’

I look over to where Dad’s pointing. On the other side of the pond, a man is feeding pigeons. He’s surrounded by them. I think the guy must be homeless. He’s wearing shabby clothes that look like rags. Some of the pigeons land on his outstretched arms. He’s got a white pigeon on his shoulder. It’s strange how they don’t seem afraid of him.

‘No, thanks,’ I say. ‘I don’t want a load of birds to come and land on me like that.’

Dad smiles. ‘Like in, The Birds, right?’

The Birds is an old film that Dad and I watched together. We used to watch a lot of films together before Dad moved in with Roxanne. In the film flocks of birds start attacking people. It’s actually pretty scary, for an old film.

‘Yeah,’ I say, ‘Like The Birds.’ I smile and then remember I’m supposed to be angry with Dad.

‘You should apologise to Roxanne,’ Dad says. ‘For scaring Kai.’

I shrug and push the toe of my trainer into the dirt. There’s no way I’m apologising. ‘Maybe,’ I say, trying to remain non-committal.

Dad sighs and I can tell I’ve disappointed him. ‘I’m sorry I haven’t got you anything for your birthday,’ he says. ‘I thought I’d ask you what you want first.’

‘I don’t want anything,’ I say, which of course isn’t true. There are lots of things I’d like. I could reel off a long list but I don’t want Dad to think he can just buy me something and then everything will be okay again.

‘I saw these great Converse,’ Dad says. ‘They were purple with a skull and crossbones—’

‘I don’t want anything,’ I say again, cutting him off, even though the Converse actually sound pretty cool.

‘There must be something,’ Dad says. He looks upset.

I feel bad now. I hate being like this with Dad. I remind myself that it’s his fault. He didn’t have to leave us. He told me he was unhappy with Mum. I think he should have tried harder.

I have to be happy, Grace, Dad had said to me. I’ll be a better Dad if I’m a happy Dad.

The bird man has wandered over to our side of the pond. He’s singing a funny song.

Make a wish
A wish for you
Make a wish
And it will come true.

‘There is one thing,’ I say.

Dad looks at me.

I know it’s never going to happen but I say it anyway. ‘I want you and Mum to get back together.’

‘Oh, Grace,’ Dad says. ‘That’s never going to happen, sweetheart.’

I look down at my scuffed trainers. ‘I know,’ I whisper. ‘It’s the only thing I want.’

Dad puts his hand on my shoulder. ‘There must be something else you’d like?’

I think for a moment. ‘I’d like you to stop arguing with Mum,’ I say.

The bird man is very close to us now. He’s got a long beard and small grey eyes. The pigeons flutter at his feet. He continues to throw seeds to them whilst singing his funny song. Dad and I both watch him.

‘He’s a real character, isn’t he?’ Dad says.

‘Yes,’ I say, and it’s true. The bird man looks like a magician from a storybook. He looks like he knows a thousand secrets. I’ve never seen him in the park before, even though I come here all the time.

‘That bird on his shoulder,’ Dad says. ‘It’s a dove.’ I look again at the white bird.

‘Dove’s are the symbol for peace,’ Dad says thoughtfully.

‘Is that why people have them when they get married?’ I ask.

‘I don’t know,’ Dad says ‘Maybe.’

‘Maybe they’re for love too,’ I say.

Dad looks thoughtful. ‘I tell you what, Grace. I’ll make a deal with you. I promise to stop arguing with your Mum. I mean, I’ll really try my best. But I would like you to call Roxanne and apologise for scaring Kai with the worm. It would make things much easier, for all of us.’

I think for a moment. Dove’s are the symbol for peace. It feels like a sign. I look at the bird man. He smiles at me and I notice the crinkly lines around his eyes. He looks as old as time. I guess

Dad’s deal is a fair one. ‘Okay,’ I say. ‘I’ll call her. As long as you stop arguing with Mum.’

Dad leans over and puts his arm around me. ‘That’s my girl,’ he says.

I roll my eyes and try to wriggle away, although it’s kind of nice. I feel relaxed for the first time in weeks. I feel, just for a second, like I’ve got my dad back.

The bird man suddenly lifts his arms and all the birds fly into the air. I shriek and cover my face with my hands. I can’t bear the sound of their wings. The bird man begins to laugh.


Emily Critchley grew up in Essex and now lives in North London. She is the author of Notes on My Family, long-listed for the 2018 Branford Boase award. Emily has a degree in Creative Writing from London Metropolitan University and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading, watching films, and bouncing her mini-trampoline.


Written By You

Drama Clubs for Kids – Written by You

Hi! My name is Cait, I’m 14 years old and I live in the North-East of England. No matter where you live in the world, there is a good chance there are some drama clubs for kids in your area. Drama is one of my favourite hobbies, and I thought by answering some questions it may make you think about starting drama!

Do you have to know what you are doing?

No! When I first started doing drama I had absolutely no idea how to act, and that was okay. I went into this small drama club and had no idea what I was doing. But over the time that I went there, I gained skills and I learnt how to act. Going into drama having no idea what you are doing can be good because it means you can learn so many new skills, which is great! Over time you can learn how to do other things as well such as singing or dancing!