The Power of Audio Stories: Boosting Children's Literacy and Imagination
From timeless tales of adventure to heartwarming bedtime stories, literature has been an essential part of a child's upbringing for generations. But in today's digital age, where screens dominate, the way children engage with stories is evolving. One remarkable evolution is the rise of audio stories, and they come bearing a treasure trove of benefits for young minds. According to research by the National Literacy Trust, listening to audio stories can significantly enhance children's literacy skills, and Voxblock, the screen-free audio player, has been leading the way in this literary revolution.
By Heidi Scrimgeour
Say sorry or we’re going home right now,’ I hissed, my cheeks turning redder with every awkward second that ticked by.
Predictably, silence followed. You can guess what happened next. Not five minutes into our much-anticipated day out at the park with friends, I was marching my three year old home on account of his stubborn refusal to apologise for repeatedly snatching his friend’s beloved toy.
by Richard Templar
The Rules of Parenting brings together over 100 Rules for bringing up happy, confident children. Not instructions but guidelines, based on observations of what actually works. Fans of the book were recently asked to vote for their top 10, so here’s a preview of those Rules that parents who have read the book swear by most…
Movies are a fantastic way to keep children entertained, but from as early as 19 months, kids can begin to copy what they see in others, which is why it’s crucial that caregivers expose them to positive content. Here we look at seven classic and modern film characters who serve as fantastic role models for kids. Grab the snacks and kids’ pyjamas because you’ll want a movie marathon after this!
1. Riley (Inside Out)
Inside Out first premiered in 2015 and follows the life of Riley, an 11-year-old who is forced to embrace a new life in San Francisco after leaving everything she knows behind in Minnesota. Her actions are controlled by her five core emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger.
Riley’s character is a great role model for kids because she demonstrates resilience; she goes through a huge life change and is forced to learn how to deal with the consequences of this. The role her emotions play teaches children that it’s OK not to feel joy all the time and that all feelings need to be embraced.
2. Charlie (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Nobody inspires children quite like Charlie Bucket! Created by British novelist Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was originally published in 1964 before being adapted for the screen – first in 1971 and then again in 2005. Viewers can join Charlie, a sweet little boy caught up in a life of poverty, on a highly anticipated tour of the famous Wonka Factory.
Charlie is an incredible role model to little ones because he demonstrates kindness, patience, and optimism despite the awful challenges life continues to throw at him. His grandparents are bedridden, there’s never enough food to go around, and he’s forced to sleep on the floor. For many, this type of life would turn us bitter and cynical, regardless of age, but Charlie never loses positivity.
3. Mirabel (Encanto)
This 2021 film was both a commercial and critical success, earning over £200 million at the box office and receiving widespread critical acclaim. Encanto itself boasts several impressive features, but it’s the characters who captivate the audience the most – specifically, Mirabel.
Your children can look up to Mirabel, the film’s protagonist, because she’s determined, forgiving, and very family-orientated despite feeling like an outsider. When danger is brought upon the family miracle, Mirabel – who received no magical powers like the other Madrigals – risks everything to protect it.
4. Po (Kung Fu Panda)
Although Po is a panda, he still represents everything that’s good in somebody, and your child should be encouraged to adopt Po’s most endearing qualities. Despite his clumsiness and the fact that the wider kung fu community (initially) refuses to accept him, his unwavering enthusiasm helps him persevere.
Po shows us that it’s perfectly fine to do things a little differently and can be seen to encourage young children to find their own way in the world. He was presented with challenges at first, but in the end, he fulfils his destiny and becomes a true hero.
5. Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter)
If you want your little one to grow up brave, independent, and with a strong sense of self, you should expose them to Luna Lovegood’s character in the Harry Potter film series. This wonderful character doesn’t appear until the fifth instalment of the franchise (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, released in 2007), but a Harry Potter marathon is never a bad idea.
Luna is proud to be different, and she doesn’t let anyone else’s opinions or judgements get in the way of being her true, authentic self. Sure, she’s seen as a little weird and quirky (‘Loony Luna’), but she refuses to apologise, nor does she try to change herself to fit into society’s expectations.
6. Matilda (Matilda)
Another work of art from Roald Dahl, Matilda is a timeless classic that can still delight its audience 26 years after its premiere. The character of Matilda is a remarkable idol that all children should aspire to be like. Although she spends her entire young life being neglected by her awful mother and father, Zinnia and Harry Wormwood, she retaliates against the abuse and works hard to create a new, happier life for herself.
Matilda takes charge of her education, reading countless books despite her family’s relentless taunts and lack of effort to understand, and then demands she be sent to a real school to further her learning. She is strong, determined, and teaches young people that it’s never okay to be bullied and manipulated.
7. Peter Parker (Spider-Man)
Is there anyone more inspiring than a superhero? Spider-Man was first introduced to the world in 1962 as a comic-book character, and since then has been the main character in nine different films. Both Spider-Man and Peter Parker (the young man who becomes the superhero after receiving a bite from a radioactive spider) are striking role models for kids.
Peter Parker is a true hero because he continuously sacrifices his own well-being for the greater good of the community. As superheroes typically do, Spider-Man teaches young children to be brave and selfless, and that it’s okay to struggle under tremendous responsibilities. What matters is that you try your best. ν
Feature source: Cath Kidston https://www.cathkidston.com
By Gavin Oattes
Need, Need, Need, Need, Need…
I remember as a young kid being obsessed with sticker albums. It was so exciting when my dad brought home the latest one, the buzz of going to the wee shop to get packets of stickers, only to tear them open was just pure magic. The goal was always to fill the album as quickly as possible, so I was first to be able to say “completed it!”. The race was always on.
We would spend every ounce of our pocket money, no matter how little we had, on those stickers. It’s an expensive business! More often than not, it was football stickers. I don’t even like football. But like millions of other wee kids, I was obsessed with collecting these sticky treasures. From the highs of finding a ‘Shiny’ to the crushing lows of discovering your pal had a ‘doubler’ of the sticker you needed most, but wouldn’t do ‘swapsies’ with you. It had it all.
Every day at school and every day straight after school; need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, got, need, need, need, need, need, need…
I never completed one. Ever. Very few people do. Like many things growing up, it’s usually a short-lived fad. Or we keep getting the same stickers, the ‘swap’ pile grows exponentially, and we lack the highly sought-after glittery ones. It can get repetitive, frustrating, boring even, we get distracted, jealousy creeps in, others get there first, they’re collection is bigger, better, and their parents buy them more, so we move on to something else.
There were always rumours that someone had completed it. Never saw any proof so in my head it didn’t happen. I reckon no one ever truly completes a sticker album. I really wanted to though, more than anything, was that too much to ask?
So often I wished I’d never started!
The attic in my mums house most likely has a box of nearly completed sticker albums. Everything from World Cups to Transformers to the Olympics. I even had the Neighbours album, none of them full.
Sounds a bit like life, no one ever completes it. It’s like the internet, you can’t finish it, there’s simply too much to do, too much to see. Yes, life is full of glittery prizes but there’s just too many “shinies” to collect. And it always feels like there’s someone who has nailed it and has it all. They’ve ‘completed it!’
But that’s part of the problem for so many. It’s always been the problem. The race is on, a constant search for the big prize of being first, constantly seeking the glittery moments, craving what others have, the dream car, the promotion, the mansion, prepared to swap it all just to be the first to say “completed it”…and then probably post it on Instagram.
Need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, need, got, need, need, need, need, need, need…
In life, the things we think we need are usually things we want. We really don’t need very much.
The only finish line in life is death and I’m not sure about you but I’m definitely not keen on finishing. There’s so much to learn and so much to do, you can’t possibly do it all. By all means, ram your life full and live life to the max but one of the biggest lessons we can learn is to be grateful for what/who we do have rather than spend all our time thinking about what we don’t have.
I’m just like you are. I enjoy collecting experiences, new memories and making new friends.
But if you’re one of those types, always chasing the next big shiny prize, then there’s no shinier prize than your happiness. And we all know the things that make us happy aren’t things…
Life isn’t for completing. And it’s not for competing.
It’s for living.
Here’s to being happily unfinished.
By Heidi Scrimgeour
Dreading the school hols? Or looking forward to ditching the school run and enjoying life at a slower pace? Whichever camp you’re in, here’s our guide to surviving the school summer holidays...
Let’s not beat around the bush - many mums and dads quietly dread the school summer holidays. From the question of how on earth to keep the kids entertained (especially if the weather fails us - please, no...) to whether we can stretch to a family holiday this year, those long weeks off school can seem like an exercise in endurance. And for working parents there’s the added headache of arranging childcare throughout the summer. But with a bit of creative thinking and a dash of forward planning the summer holidays can be the highlight of the year. Honestly. Here’s how…
This is a little cheesy but I think it’s true - the way you talk, feel and even think about the summer holidays can have a real impact on how they pan out. If the kids overhear you stressing about how you’re going to cope with them at home, then there’s every chance that they’ll come to see the holidays as an opportunity to drive you up the wall. In contrast, if they pick up on the vibe that the summer is all about slowing down to spend some fun time together as a family, then you’re probably (marginally) less likely to hear those dreaded ‘I’m bored’ cries before breakfast on day one of the hols. So talk up the holidays and tell yourself that your summer will be brilliant. And it just might!
Fail to plan... plan to fail
Personally, I’m more of a failure than a planner but if I’ve learned one thing about parenthood, it’s that a good plan can make the difference between a brilliant family experience... and a disaster. Obviously, there’s no need to schedule in events and activities for every day of the summer - half the appeal of the holidays is the freedom to stay in your pyjamas watching family films till lunchtime if you so choose. But having some goals in mind is a great way to give some structure to your summer. Try sitting down as a family to draw up a wish list of things you’d each love to do during the summer holidays. Be as creative and inventive as you can, and remember it’s not a task list, so you don’t have to slavishly attempt to tick off every activity before it’s back to school season - just let your list serve as inspiration for your summer plans.
No holiday? No worries
We’d all love a week or two in the sun, ideally at a five star all-inclusive resort with cocktails on tap, a Kindle - fully-loaded with beach reads - at our disposal, and around-the-clock award-winning kids’ clubs. But a holiday or short break in Scotland can be just as good as a trip abroad. Visit www.abbeyford.com for a range of family-friendly accommodation in Fife.
Anyone for holiday club?
Chat with other parents to co-ordinate diaries so that your children can go to the same clubs as their friends. There are loads to choose from in Edinburgh and Lothians - sports, dance, drama, cookery, arts & crafts. The Wild Outdoors offer amazing adventure camps at various locations across Edinburgh where kids can have the most incredible fun-packed days doing shelter building, wild cooking, woodland hunts and zorbing. PLUS - these camps have sleep out options!
For dates and more info go to
Get by with a little help from your friends
Hollie Smith is a parenting author and mother of two. Her top tip for surviving the summer is to avoid being holed up home alone with the kids. “Get together with friends as often as you can - preferably outside if possible. Sod the mess and just prioritise time for hanging out.” Kids love company and a houseful of friends is a sure-fire way to keep them entertained, at the same time as giving you a break from your role as chief entertainer or squabble-resolver.
Get creative with childcare
Amanda Coxen is director of Tinies (www.tinies.com), a UK childcare agency. For working mums and dads, she recommends considering a nanny share with another local family during the summer holidays. “Perhaps an expensive option, but certainly the most flexible one, is to hire a temporary nanny for the holidays,” Amanda explains. “You can have someone come to look after your children every day, or for part of the day, or just a few times per week - you set the hours to fit with your working hours. And it can also be quite a relief to have someone else do the cooking during the school holidays!”
Invest in summer fun
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, the summer is the time to make full use of it. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make it a kid-friendly outside play space, but investing in some games or play activities for the garden is likely to be money well spent. My sons spend hours on their trampoline, and have their hearts set on a playhouse which I’m pretty sure they’d spend the best part of the school holidays in, if we obliged and bought one in time for summer.
Make like a tourist
Seeing your city through the eyes of a tourist can be a fun way to fall back in love with where you live. Visit The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, go on a cruise with Maid of the Forth, wander around the city and enjoy the buzz, go up Arthur’s Seat, visit parks, hills, beaches and enjoy finding some of Edinburgh’s hidden gems.
By Heidi Scrimgeour
If they gave out awards for mum guilt, I’d have them all, every single one. Read the book and got the t-shirt? Forget that - I could give lessons in mum guilt and how to be consumed by it.
I’m not talking about suffering the odd pang of parental guilt when I did something trivial, either. This goes way beyond getting a bit snappy with the kids, rushing them through the bedtime routine so I can collapse on the sofa, or skipping a page or two during bedtime stories and feeling regretful afterwards.
By Sid Madge, Meee
No one knows what’s around the corner, but we can pretty much guarantee it will involve change. New day, new week, new school, new terms, new friends. Getting comfortable with change is a life skill and it is important to help our children to develop this.
By Elisabeth Quinn
Christmas is an incredible time of year but it’s also when we feel most burdened. We think that we have to have the turkey, the tree, the presents… otherwise it “won’t feel like Christmas”. Somewhere along the way we confused a feeling with thinking we need to follow a script to achieve the feeling. But that famous ‘Christmas Feeling’ isn’t in the turkey or the presents. Where is it? Read on:
By Elisabeth Quinn
It’s probably perfectly fitting that just before I sat down to write this article (on letting go of trying to be perfect) I was combing nits out of my kids’ hair. Not only combing nits, but everyone grumpy, shouting, screaming, while combing nits. The neighbours must have thought we were murdering each other. And honestly, how do you even get nits in the summer holidays?
Various, MADE magazine