English for parents – travel sick

You just got in the car, 8 hours drive ahead of you, a little voice pipes up “Mum, I feel sick”.

Stop the car! grab a bucket, bag, newspaper or hat! “I’m ok now.”

Travel sickness or motion sickness is the bad feeling you get when travelling by car, bus, train, plane or boat. When you travel by water we have a special name ‘sea-sick’ as it effects more people than travelling on land, and you can say ‘air-sick’ if flying makes you feel bad. You can also say ‘car-sick’ although we don’t normally say train-sick or bus-sick.

It could be that you feel dizzy, throw up or feel really tired by travelling.  Children usually say ‘I feel sick’ or ‘I feel bad’. You can explain ‘He/She gets travel sick’ before you travel. While you’re travelling say: ‘He/she is travel sick.’

The NHS website has more information about motion sickness. In the UK you can buy travel sickness medicine at the pharmacy.  Please ask the pharmacist which is the best medicine for your child, or for you. You can also pick up ‘sick bags’ at the pharmacy just in case.

Happy travels!


English everyday – British history

In the UK, we’re surrounded by our history, from the building and towns we live in, to our accents, vocabulary and even spelling.

One of my young students loves reading history comic books (maybe this is just a Japanese thing) but she knows a lot about Japanese history now. I thought I’d see if I could make a comic for a story from British history.

So, I found some fantastic software at Storyboardthat.com. Here is my effort to tell the story of King Henry VIII and his six wives, in only six pictures!

Henry viii cartoon
Henry VIII and his six wives


Here’s your challenge: you can use the software at Storyboardthat.com for free, can you tell me a story from history, either from the UK or your country, in just six pictures?

Please send me your stories and I’ll share them here!


English everyday – Time’s up

You might have seen Hollywood actors recently getting involved with a campaign against sexual harassment called Time’s Up.

But why is time ‘up’? not down or over or another preposition? Here’s some more examples, what do they mean?

  • eat up
  • clean up
  • grow up
  • pack up
  • dry up
  • finish up

In these phrases ‘up’ suggests to complete or to finish something. So when you tell your children to ‘eat up your dinner’ you mean finish it all. When your holiday is finished you have pack up and leave the hotel, you have to pack all your things, not just some of the them.

So with ‘time is up’ we feel that the time is over or complete. In this case the campaign is against people who sexually harass others – they had time to do that, but now they will not be able to control others in the same way, not any longer.

We can use ‘time’s up’ at the end of an exam or test. The exam was 3 hours and the 3 hours have passed – so time is up. In any situation where there is a time limit, at the end of the time you can say Time is up.

There are a lot more examples of ‘up’ phrasal verbs  here, and up has lots of different meanings.

Now my time is up, let me know what you think below.






English for parents – play dip

How do you make a decision? Weigh up the pros and cons, decide which is the best value for money, ask another person? How do children make decisions? Chances are they’ll say a little rhyme. I saw a student of mine, who is 3 years old, trying to decide which colour crayon to use, and saying a rhyme under her breath… which made me think…

When children play games together, they often say a rhyme to decide who will be ‘it’ – the person who will catch the others. In the UK there are loads and loads of different rhymes, but probably the most well known is Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo,

Catch a tiger by the tail

If it bites you, let it go

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

But there are a lot of different versions. The middle two lines vary, some people say Catch a tiger by the tail, if it squeals let it go…. Or Catch a spider on your toe, if it tickles let it go… or…

Children stand in a circle and the rhyme is said, in the video above the children point to select the person, but sometimes the rhyme is said while the children stand close together, touching shoes in a circle. We used to call this action of choosing ‘play dip’ or ‘do dip’.

Another popular rhyme begins – Ip Dip…

Ip dip sky blue

it is not you

This also has a lot of variations – ip dip dog shit, it is not you. …. or a longer version:

Ip dip sky blue
Is it me, is it you?
Not because you’re dirty
Not because you’re clean
My mum says you’re the fairy queen

There are many other rhymes and the words vary from county to county or even school to school.

What counting rhymes did you use as a child? Write your favourite in the comments!

English everyday – pop

My daughter got a few sticker books for Christmas. They have lots of stickers that you have to put in the right place in your book to make pictures. The picture above is a shot of one page, yes it’s Peppa Pig!  I was interested to see the instruction ‘pop the sticker here’… what does it mean?

Pop has a lot of meanings, how many can you think of?

  • pop (noun) a short, little explosive sound (like the sound popcorn makes)
  • pop (verb) to make a short explosive sound “The kids popped all the balloons”
  • pop (verb) the sound and feeling when your ears adjust to a different air pressure. “My ears popped when the plane landed.”
  • pop (noun) a soft drink, soda or a fizzy drink
  • Pop (noun) father.
  • pop (noun) pop music
  • pop (verb) to go, informal, suggests a short time. “I’ve got to pop to the bank for some money”
  • pop (verb) to move suddenly, especially from a small space “The cat popped up from the box”.
  • pop (verb) to put or take quickly. “Please pop the pizza in the oven now” “Pop your shoes on and go!”

The last one is the one we’re interested in now. We popped all the stickers in the book, and it was done in five minutes.

Do you know any more meanings for pop – or any phrases with pop in?



English everyday – nuts

At our house Christmas is a time to eat nuts. We used to get them whole and spend Christmas morning filling up our just emptied stockings with broken shells.

Nuts is one of those English words that has about a million meanings.


  1. is, of course, the hard fruit that you can eat.
  2. a small metal fastener, with a hole, used to tighten or hold bolts.
  3. to be angry – “He went nuts when I broke his phone”
  4. to be crazy or mad – “The old man talking to his dog is a bit nuts”
  5. to be a fan, to really like something “He’s nuts about trains”
  6. head (always singular). “She bounced the ball 12 times on her nut.”
  7. to hit with your head. “She nutted him because he touched her bum”
  8. men’s testicles (always plural). “He had to sit down for 10 minutes because he got hit in the nuts.”
  9. part of a stringed instrument, like a violin.
which bit is a nut?

There’s lot of phrases with nuts – to do one’s nut means to go crazy or get angry. “My mum will do her nut when she finds out I failed again.”

Off one’s nut  also means to be crazy. “They think I’m off my nut, because I want to write a blog about cheese.”

There are a few more expressions that use nut, can you think of some?

English everyday – plug in

That message pops up – 20% battery remaining….oh no, where’s the cable, where’s the plug? Plug it in! Quick!

Eventually the device is fully charged, and then you can … plug it out? deplug? Do you know the opposite of plug in?


Unplug is the opposite of plug in. What’s the thing on the wall, that you plug your plug into?

That’s the socket. But what’s the hole for headphones or microphones called? That’s a jack. And the hole for USBs? That’s a port. And the hole in your phone for charging with electricity? That’s also a port.

But we can still say plug in your headphones, plug in the USB and plug in the charger. And the opposite of all of them is unplug.









English for parents – potty training

Potty training, or sometimes, toilet training. We have to go through it. That time when children must learn to use the toilet and forget about nappies.

In British English, potty only means the small pot that children learn to use, like the one in the picture at the top. This is a potty. ‘Do you need to go potty?’ A toilet is the larger one in every bathroom.

While you’re training there might be a lot of accidents. We use accidents to describe when the child pees in the wrong place. ‘Did you have an accident?’ Wet is also used to describe accidents especially in certain places, for example: ‘He wet the bed’ (past tense) = he peed in the bed. ‘She wet herself’ = she peed in her clothes. We don’t say ‘he wet the floor’ or ‘she wet the sofa’ in these cases we’d say ‘he had an accident’, or he peed on the floor’ or ‘she peed on the sofa.’

Your child will have to learn to use underwear instead of nappies. In the UK, we often say pants not underwear, both for children’s and adults’. Some times knickers are used for girls’ pants.

And by the way, what’s the verb for taking off your pants to use the toilet? Because you don’t fully take off your pants we say ‘pull down your pants’ and after ‘pull up your pants’ when you’ve finished on the potty.

You can get your children involved in the process of potty training, and learn some fun songs, and even some sign language, with videos like this:




English everyday – go on then

Christmas is coming, the adverts are getting fat, please put some money in Tesco’s hat.

What I’m interested in is the last scene where the daughter asks:

Daughter: Dad, d’you wanna turkey sandwich?

Dad: Oh go on then.


So what does ‘go on then’ mean? Does the Dad want a turkey sandwich? Or not?

We use ‘go on then’ when agreeing to something, or accepting something. It is used when we are reluctant, or when we need to be persuaded.

For example

Child: Mum, please can I play on the swings? Please?

Mum: Go on then, but just five minutes.


You might hear this phrase at Christmas, especially after meals:

Daughter: Do you want some more sherry Gran?

Gran: I shouldn’t, but, go on then, just a small one.

Can you think of any more situations where you could use ‘go on then’?


English everyday – racist words

Did you know it’s offensive to use the word Jap to refer to Japanese people? It might seem like a useful shorter word but actually it’s now considered offensive.

There is a long list of ‘ethnic slurs’ on Wikipedia that shows many words that are offensive about people’s nationality or ethnicity or race.

So these are some words that you shouldn’t use. They are offensive because they judge people by their skin colour, but you still might hear them in the UK:

Chink or ching chong – used about Chinese people, or who look Chinese.

Nigger – used about Black people.

Paki – used about people from Pakistan or the Indian sub-continent.

Towel head or raghead – often used about Arab, Muslim or Sikh people, or people who traditionally wear a head scarf or covering.

Coloured – these days it’s more common to say A person of colour.

Nicknames that are used about other nationalities, these are not so offensive, but are impolite to use.

Paddy – used about Irish people.

Jock or Jimmy – used about Scottish people.

Taffy – used about Welsh people.

Frog – used about French people

Kraut – used about German people

Yank – used about people from the USA.


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