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Education

Mindfulness matters

By | children's health, Education, Health, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments
by Claudine Lacroix
The Mindful Me Club

How can mindfulness help you and your family deal with the increasing pressures of modern living.

Time
The clock is ticking, the children aren’t dressed and you find yourself shouting as you are feeling the pressure that you are going to be late for work. How many hours in our day do we run around being driven by the clock? Often it is not until we are on a holiday, perhaps looking at a beautiful sunset or a stunning view that we may allow our minds to stop for a moment of calm, then it may only be a matter of moments before we revert back to being consumed by uncontrollable thoughts and worries of the
past or future. A mind consumed with things we need to do, have done already or think we could have done better, is all too common.

Our children
For our children, it is not uncommon to be stressed as a result of trying to deal with such difficulties as: parents fighting, divorcing or separating, themselves being bullied, undergoing school stress, money worries, a new sibling or fear of the future. For both parent and child, living in this way can cause a lifetime of chronic stress and anxiety that can often lead to many ailments such as insomnia, depression and suppressed immunity.

The body and mind connection
The understanding that stress can induce illness and the impact that our mind has on our health, are certainly not new ideas. It has been recognised for many years in such fields as behavioural medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, hypnotherapy and Chinese medicine that the way that we think and feel, has a significant effect on our physical health. Jon Kabat-Zinn is an American professor of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and recognised for his extensive work using mindfulness with patients to relieve stress, pain, anxiety and illness. His book, ‘The Full Catastrophe’ provides an in-depth background to mindfulness and it’s benefits on the body.

So, you might be asking what is mindfulness and how can it help my family and I?
Mindfulness is an effective, yet simple practice that involves the repetition of basic techniques including conscious breathing, movement and listening. It is done in a self-directed training programme and results in developing greater acceptance and awareness of the present moment. As a result of repeated practice, a sense of calm, self-acceptance and a change of perspective can occur benefiting both mind and body. One learns to step back from worried thoughts and stresses, responding rather than reacting to life’s challenges. Children too, can learn techniques to help them to deal with difficult emotions and negative thought patterns. Through teaching some simple facts about the brain and its connection to these thought patterns the children can feel more in control, develop resilience, self-acceptance and emotional awareness. Children learn that they don’t need to hide or suppress their feelings but can manage and understand them instead. Parents and children can do some of the techniques and mindful activities together, making it part of the family day. The techniques not only include the conscious breathing, listening and moving, mentioned earlier, but also sharing feelings and experiences and talking about them together.

As long as you can breathe and you have the willingness and discipline to practice then that’s all you need. The practice may, at the very least, create a space in your day to relax but it’s also possible, with regular practice, to experience a more constant state of calm that filtrates into all areas of your life and has some noticeable beneficial effects on your health and lifestyle choices. At the very best, you will awaken to the truth and beauty that is available to you in each moment and that could change your life.

Claudine Lacroix is a mother, aromatherapist, English teacher and Mindfulness practitioner having recently studied humanistic counselling at the Gestalt Centre, London. Claudine provides mindfulness classes in local primary schools, private classes outside of school hours and provides one to one sessions with adults, teenagers and children.
Claudine Lacroix runs The Mindful Me Club – to find out more or book a class in Brighton call 07341 565 445 or email themindfulmeclub@gmail.com or visit Facebook page: The Mindful Me Club.

Making up is hard to do – so how do we teach it?

By | Education, Relationships | No Comments
by Richard Taylor-West
Headmaster, Shoreham College

It was Neil Sedaka who famously sang ‘ breaking up is hard to do’, wasn’t it? He had a point of course; it is. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone we have shared time with and invested in, emotionally. It’s hard to say goodbye, move on and process that change. Sometimes it leads to deep grief. It is equally true, I think, that ‘making up’ can be very hard to do, as well.

Making up involves all kinds of qualities and skills. We need to be self-aware; we need to have empathy and understand the impact of our words and actions for others; we need ultimately to be able to make ourselves vulnerable and place ourselves in the power of others, in a sense, by saying “I’m sorry and I hope you can accept that from me.” We need to have the appropriate language at our disposal.

I might be, according to my birth certificate, into my fifth decade. (I struggle to believe this at times, until I try to lift heavy objects) and I am by no means certain that I have wholly mastered the arts of these human challenges. Are we surprised, I ask myself, if we find children are not really able to do it, at times? I don’t know why, if we are.

As young people grow and develop, they need to be coached and given the chance to develop these skills and I am of the opinion that this has become more and more tricky for some young people. I am not at all convinced, for instance, that the Internet, for all its huge advantages in some ways, is helping with this. It is undoubtedly creating new ways of communicating.

Dr Aric Sigman, an expert in neuro science and psychology, is a colleague with whom I have worked delivering presentations and workshops to young people and he has pointed out that, after years of research, there is some evidence that overuse of devices amongst young people may be rewiring their brains in such a way that they are less capable of having ‘empathy’ for others. There is some strange unnerving distance emerging in social interaction. He wrote: “When using the Internet, for example, the areas of the brain associated with empathy showed virtually no increase in stimulation’ and so their brains may not be developing ‘fundamental social skills’ ”
(‘The Impact of Social Media and Screen Time’).

This is a fairly sobering idea. After all, if they don’t have empathy for others then understanding why they need to say sorry is going to be a challenge, let alone actually being able to then deliver these messages, know how to, or even what it really means to make up, after a break up. Logically, if this is the case, then it seems possible to me that their experiences of human interaction and exchange are going to be frustrating, broken and may lead to anxiety simply for this reason.

It seems then that we need to do all that we can to ensure that, if this is happening, it does not get too much of a hold. We need to prepare young people to realise that successfully managing relationships with others is tricky, challenging, can be learned and is ultimately very rewarding and important, if we get a hold on it.

At our school, as with many schools of course, we try to tackle this area of work with energy. Our PSHE (Personal Social Health Education) sessions and programmes from Early Years through to Year 11 are tailored to contribute to this project. From the moment they are with us, we aim to teach them to be reflective and develop cognitive frameworks for reflecting on their behaviour towards others and its impact. We run sessions and workshops with titles like: ‘Making Good Relationships and Respecting Others’.

Through our programmes, tutorials and assemblies, we look at topics that include the ability for students to reflect on who they are, whilst at the same time learning to respect differences in others. This work encourages self-awareness and empathy, which seem key to ‘making up’ and ‘breaking up’.

I think the challenge for all schools going forward is going to be nurturing young people in terms of ensuring they are resilient and able to deal with changing relationships. We need to help them to understand that relationships change, why feelings can develop and even come and go. We need to show them that
this is essentially part of life and not necessarily the end of the world and something to catastrophise (a horrible, but quite useful word).

Perhaps though, most of all, we need to ensure that we teach them ‘empathy’ and essential ingredient of ‘love’ and ‘kindness’. Without having the ability for the former, the latter qualities are, I would argue, pretty difficult to develop at all. Dr Sigman has rather worried me on that front.

Between parents and schools there is quite an important job to do. We can prevent our young people thinking that people are ‘things’ that exist at the end of a fibre-optic, from the perceived safety of their bedrooms and that real communication happens when we talk face to face, understand body language, respect others and ourselves and listen to each other carefully. (All of which many adults are not good at doing either.)

As one website for training states: “Listening is so important that many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees. This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, and increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work.” (Skills You Need, 2018)

I would say it runs even deeper than this. Our young people need to listen with empathy and kindness when forging relationships. If they do learn to, they may need to break up less often, or make up less often too. When either does happen, they will still need to be able to listen to themselves, in order to process their emotions and move on constructively. It will certainly help them to live in families, communities and work in teams.

Please call 01273 592681 to find out more about what Shoreham College can offer you, or to arrange a personal visit at any time of the school year.
www.shorehamcollege.co.uk

How the maths problem in the UK can be fixed

By | Education | No Comments
by Dr Stephen Curran PhD, MA, BA(Hons), B(Mus), PGCE, Dip.RSA, MCollT
Founder of AE Tuition and AE Publications

Since the late 1950s Britain has had a progressive educational approach which is now being questioned. This approach has greatly affected the teaching of mathematics in our schools. There are many positive things that have come from this progressive approach, such as pupil-centred learning and a focus on the needs of the child. However, it has also included a spiral curriculum which places more emphasis on understanding rather than solid technique, and haphazard organisational principles in the process of teaching maths. In a metaphorical sense, the ‘tail has wagged the dog’ – children start with a problem and discover a way to solve it rather than being taught a mathematical technique and then being set exercises to reinforce this technique.

What was happening in schools?
Another way of characterising the progressive approach is as follows: a dumper truck arrives on a building site and unloads all its contents. Workers with no expertise are then supposed to construct a house from these contents, assisted by expert builders when necessary. It is a chaotic learning process with no real methodology but, through discovery and experiment, the workers eventually find a way to build the house. This is a metaphor for what was happening in primary schools even after the education reforms of the 1980s. At this time, the national curriculum was very confusing and lacked logical structure.

‘Old school’ is the solution
A return to a more traditional approach to teaching mathematics is needed in primary schools. The new curriculum introduced just a few years ago was a step in the right direction, with a clear structure and an emphasis on teaching basic technique. I was proud to be involved in the creation of this new curriculum as a government advisor. However, it needed to go much further and mirror itself on the success of the Singapore curriculum which, incidentally, is very similar to how British schools used to teach before the advent of progressive approaches.

A strong foundation is needed for children’s education
Maths is a system and it must be taught as such. To return to our metaphor, what really needs to happen is that each part of the house should be constructed in the correct order – first the foundations, then the walls, windows and roof, followed by the internal furnishings. To fully comprehend maths, a system of understanding needs to be constructed piece by piece in the child’s mind. In other words, the teaching of maths should be sequential: firstly, basic number facts, followed by the four rules of numbers, decimals and fractions, percentages, ratios and so on. This is how the AE tuition centres operate and how AE Publications’ workbooks are designed.

AEP’s workbooks support a child through each stage of the system with their ‘how-to’ approach. It is normal for parents to feel they have gaps in their own education; the ‘how-to’ workbooks are there to guide the parent and the child, whilst still following the national curriculum.

Free thinking is still there in the national curriculum
All educationalists, whether they are on the progressive or traditional wing of education, want to encourage free thinking and creative skills in children. I am not against progressive approaches, but I want to ensure children have grasped basic technique and have a structured understanding of the maths before they move on to secondary education.

Ultimately, we all aim for children to be able to solve problems and have inquiring minds. The real debate is about the route we take, and I believe that firm foundations in maths are essential, particularly in primary school. It is very hard to solve numeracy problems in secondary school as children are moving between teachers and there is little opportunity for intervention. This is compounded by the fact that subjects such as physics, chemistry and design & technology require mathematical competency for children to succeed.

The AE Publications range of maths books for Years 3 to 6 comprises over 30 titles.
It has been developed over 20 years and ensures children are taught solid mathematical technique. These books, if used diligently by parents with their children, have the potential to transform children’s mathematical skills in the United Kingdom. They contain a clear and structured process of learning that moves from subject to subject in a logical way and are useful in preparing children for SATs tests
and 11-plus examinations. Most of all they provide a way to ensure that the majority of children can succeed at primary level.

Dr Stephen Curran PhD, MA, BA(Hons), B(Mus), PGCE, Dip.RSA, MCollT,
has 30 years’ experience in both the secondary and primary sectors.
Stephen is the founder of AE Tuition and AE Publications, supporting children through 11-plus and SATs exams, and he is also a former advisor to the UK Government.

The importance of a broad and balanced education

By | children's health, Education, Sport | No Comments
by Mr Adrian Perks, Headmaster
St. Andrew’s School, Woking

In a world which seems increasingly to be driven by social media with its limiting and somewhat populist and opinionated messages, I have been concerned for some time that our children are increasingly isolated from a reality which still requires a broad and holistic view of the world to provide balance and clarity. There remains therefore, in our opinion, a significant need for our young children to be exposed to educational experiences which allow them to explore and investigate areas of learning. This will provide them with the tools to make better informed judgements in the course of their young lives.

This journey of broad discovery essentially starts at primary and indeed pre-primary level and provides all children with the opportunity to seek out and explore areas of interest and to develop talent which provide many with a lifelong love of learning. Over the years I have spoken to many parents whose main requirement, when considering the options for their children, is to ensure their children are happy. Happiness and thus mental health are of key importance in a world of increased pressure and expectations. Children supported and nurtured and indeed loved within their school will automatically have a head start and hopefully will develop a hunger for knowledge. Of course the breadth of study and the balance of the curriculum is also key and provides the option for all to explore their individual burgeoning interests. All children develop academically at a different pace. On many occasions I have had to reassure anxious parents that their child is not a failure because they are struggling with their spellings or their fractions. These are just moments in time in the life of a young person and should not be the basis of perceived success nor failure.

Confidence is key together with a large dose of resilience. So your child isn’t going to win a Spelling Bee! But watch them play their musical instrument with pride and courage or hear them sing in front of an admiring audience. Look at their artwork and wonder at their developing sensitivity. Stand back in awe at their prowess on the hockey field and feel proud at their selfless teamwork and support for others. Marvel at their enthusiasm for their castle project in history or their ability to recite verse in French or Spanish. And admire them on the stage in the school production as a child you barely recognise as the one who you take home every day from school!

The impact of a broad and balanced curriculum is felt in so many areas and over the years as a Headmaster I have noticed a massive positive change in our children as a result of our focus on providing a broad curriculum. It is simple – not every child will be a star in maths or English but opportunity and encouragement in other equally important areas inevitably lights a flame. A flame which hopefully will burn brightly as the years pass by. The important aspect being the interest nurtured by allowing children to shine in areas other than the core boosts confidence. This is the key to learning and results in commendable achievement across the academic spectrum. Many schools have redoubled their efforts in these areas and have reaped the rewards for their pupils. Over the years our children have achieved significant recognition through scholarship or otherwise in many areas. Indeed this year we were fortunate enough to receive a record number of scholarships in art, drama, music and sport together with academic awards. I strongly believe that in a non-selective environment children are the beneficiaries of a structure which sets high expectations but more importantly provides a broad base for knowledge and ultimately confidence. A healthy antidote perhaps, to a judgmental world.

St. Andrew’s School is a respected and thriving co-educational Nursery, Pre-Prep and Prep school for girls and boys aged 3-13. St. Andrew’s seeks to create a nurturing and happy environment of trust and support in which all pupils are encouraged and enabled to develop their skills, talents, interests and potential to the full.
Next open mornings:
Saturday 3rd November 2018
and Friday 15th March 2019.
www.st-andrews.woking.sch.uk

Why teaching kindness is so important

By | Education, family, Mental health | No Comments

Kindness and empathy are vital qualities to develop in children from a very early age, as they’re key to all of their interactions with others both at home and in other environments. Equipping children with the skills they need to demonstrate empathy and kindness will help them form friendships, work well with others, be more resilient, confident and have high self-esteem.
Former teacher and creator of Education for Social Responsibility learning
resources at PlanBee, Oli Ryan, shares his tips from the classroom on how to teach children the value of kindness.

1. Encourage empathy
A young child can find empathy a challenging emotion as their first instincts are to be egocentric in their early social interactions. However, developing emotional intelligence is crucial if they are to understand why we should be kind. Here are a few ways to encourage early awareness of empathy at home:

Start by simply asking young children to notice the emotions of others and describe them. You can refer to TV characters or others around them to explore a range of emotions. Ask what are they doing, how they may feel, how would they feel in the same situation and what could have been done differently to show kindness. Building up these social cues from an early age will greatly assist in their long-term emotional development.

After infancy, older children tend to be more capable of feeling empathy. An effective strategy which great teachers often use to resolve spats between children at school is to explain how empathy can help children find their own solutions to their problems. Disputes with young children often revolve around whether or not they feel something is ‘fair’. Try not to use this language when dealing with arguments between siblings or friends. Instead, ask them to put themselves in the place of the other person. What would make things better for them? Is it something that they can work out together? Shifting the discussion away from whether something is fair or unfair and focusing on finding acceptable solutions is empowering, but it does take time and consistency.

If you notice your child has done something considerate, make sure they know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed! Take a moment to speak to them personally: ”I noticed you said this, and I just wanted to say how kind and considerate you are – keep it up!”

2. Explore the power of words
We’ve all got upset when we’ve misread a text from a friend or relative, without fully understanding what they might have meant. It’s important to equip children with the skills to express themselves confidently, clearly and most importantly, accurately. We can’t be there all the time to monitor every interaction that our children have, but we can introduce them to language that will help them to express their emotions more effectively:

Role-play in the early years is an important part of a child’s education. Games, like playing shopkeepers or school teachers, gradually teach them how to respond to requests and different needs, whilst expanding their vocabularies for clearer interaction.

Sharing positive words can have a profound effect on the way we feel, but they can be challenging to express. Compliments in particular trigger the reward centres in the brain, and each one is an incredibly simple but effective way to express genuine kindness. In the classroom, teachers play the compliment game: they ask their students to throw a ball around the room and to give a compliment every time they make a throw. Try doing this at home to practise feel-good kindness with all the family.

3. Demonstrate kindness
Equipping children with the skills to go out and demonstrate kindness to others is vital for their confidence and resilience. If they can reach out to someone and be kind to them, they will feel very confident in social situations and group activities.

Here are two simple approaches to adopt:
• Make your children aware of others who might want to engage in play activities, but are unsure. Encouraging your child to include others in play
is a great way to help them build friendships and empathy for others.

• ‘Being the bigger person’ is a powerful strategy for children. Reward children with specific, personal praise when they share something, resolve an argument themselves, or include other children in play. Hopefully, we can all remember what it felt like to receive specific praise about our good behaviour or our maturity when we were young ourselves!

Looking for more information and ideas on how to encourage education for social responsibility at home and in the classroom? Become a PlanBee member to gain access to an extensive range of KS1 and KS2 lesson resources.
www.planbee.com

Marvellous Marvellous massage

By | baby health, children's health, Education, Mental health, Relationships | No Comments

Parent experience and research show there are many wonderful benefits of baby massage – emotional, physical and social. Here I will focus on three key benefits to learning how to massage your baby.

Bonding and attachment
The ancient art of baby massage incorporates touch, eye contact, verbal communication and the expression of love and respect. This, combined with focused one-to-one time promotes the bond between a parent and their baby.

Baby massage can also help promote sibling bonding in the same way that it promotes the parent/baby bond – through eye contact, nurturing touch and communicating love.

Baby massage is a great way for families experiencing periods of separation to reconnect with their baby. For example, baby massage offers parents working away, or working long hours, the opportunity to reassure their baby of their loving affection and give them time to refocus on home life and relax in their baby’s company.

Relieve and promote
By stimulating their baby’s bodily systems (including circulatory, digestive, lymphatic and respiratory), through baby massage parents can help to ease their baby’s colic, wind, constipation and digestion.

Using touch, parents can also soothe teething pains and growing pains and relieve psychological and muscular tension in their baby.

Babies who are massaged are reported to have improved balance and coordination, plus improved muscle development and tone. This can support movement as they grow.

Baby massage also promotes improved sleep patterns and deeper sleep for your baby, which brings me to the benefits of baby massage for you.

For you The International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) classes are for babies from birth to one. Classes are baby-led, which means that it doesn’t matter if class time coincides with nap or meal times. Parents are encouraged to follow their baby’s cues and comfort their baby as needed. All babies are welcome with all of their emotions and ways of expressing them.

It can be nerve wracking leaving the house with a baby; an IAIM baby massage class offers a safe space where everyone is welcome and accepted. It is also a great opportunity for you to get out of the house and meet with other like-minded parents and drink a nice hot cup of tea.

Attending classes with your baby is known to break feelings of isolation that many parents feel when they have a baby. The IAIM baby massage program specifically has been shown to promote recovery from post-natal depression.

When parents massage their baby the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) reduces and the levels of oxytocin (the love hormone) increases in both the parent and the baby. This reaction reduces stress and helps to promote bonding.

The interaction encouraged by baby massage can also help parents better understand their baby’s non-verbal language and feel more confident in responding to their baby’s unique needs.

In learning baby massage, you learn a new skill. A skill you can use long after your course has finished – to soothe growing pains, for example. You will also be shown how to adapt the IAIM massage strokes to suit your growing child.

Longer term, research has shown that infants who receive nurturing touch through baby massage grow up to be healthier, more empathic and happier adults.

As you can see there are many wonderful benefits of baby massage, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

If you would like further information about the benefits of baby massage, or how to find your nearest classes, please contact your local Certified Infant Massage Instructor through the IAIM website.
We are always happy to help!

Cheryl Titherly Certified Infant Massage Instructor with IAIM
Cai Baby Massage caibaby.co.uk @caibabysussex cheryl@caibaby.co.uk

Hacks parents shouldn’t live without

By | Education, Safety | No Comments

Parenthood can be one of life’s biggest expenses so it’s good to know a few hacks to make the time a little easier and cheaper. Here are some tips to make parenthood cheaper and a lot more fun.

Always carry eco-friendly wet wipes
It’s always handy to have a pack of eco-friendly wet wipes on you for wiping messy faces and hands or cooling overheated children down.

Freeze yoghurts and soft pouch drinks
Freeze squeezy yoghurts and soft pouch drinks and use them as ice blocks. They’re perfect for keeping food cool to take on a picnic and by the time you eat them they should be defrosted enough to enjoy. They’re also ideal for using in school pack lunches during the summer.

Use a dish drainer to store notebooks and colouring books
Ever wondered what to use that redundant dish drainer for? The plate section will keep colouring and note books in perfect order and the cutlery holder is ideal for felt tips, pens and pencils.

Microwave two bowls at a time
If you need to microwave two bowls at a time, put one on a glass jar or mug. That means you have one low and one high and two bowls of food ready at the same time.

Cover plug sockets with plasters
If you need to childproof your sockets, try putting a plaster over the pin holes; this will stop little fingers getting in.

Use an outdoor paddling pool as an indoor ball pit
Make use of your paddling pool all year round and bring it indoors over the winter. You can use it as a fun ball pit, or a playpen filled with toys.

Add a sticky hook to the back of your high chair to store bibs
If you can never find a bib when you need one, attach a sticky hook to the back of your high chair and hang them on there.

Use cookies cutters as door lockers
If you’re fed up of having your cupboards emptied by your children, put cookie cutters over the handles to stop them getting in.

Use an over the door shoe holder to store baby must haves
If you have stacks of stuff in your nursery and not enough room to store it, try using an over the door shoe holder. You can pop in nappies, wipes, nappy sacks and ointments – in fact, anything you use frequently and need close to hand.

Make slippers slip proof
If your tot slips over every time they put their slippers on, try putting glue on the bottom. Let it dry first and then let your little one have a wander. The bumpy glue makes them non-slip.

Recycle cots into a kiddie sized table
When your children have outgrown their cot, turn it into a kiddie sized table. Remove
the moveable side, take out
the mattress, add a couple of chairs and you have a table for tea parties.

Turn a DVD case into a pencil case
An empty DVD case is great for storing pencils and crayons – you may even be able to get in a notebook too. Perfect for long car journeys.

Cut up food with a pizza cutter
If you need to cut food up into bite sized pieces, use a pizza cutter rather than a knife.

Use a swimming noodle to stop your little one rolling out of bed
Try putting a noodle under a fitted sheet – it acts as a barrier to stop your little one rolling out of bed.

Make up wipes will clean anything
Toothpaste stains, grass stains, face paint will all come clean courtesy of a make-up wipe, they’re also great for polishing your shoes.

Information supplied by
www.promotionalcodes.org.uk

Swimming with babies

By | Education, Safety, Sport, swimming, Uncategorized | No Comments
by Fiona Edwards
Little Dippers

Baby swimming has become increasingly popular over the last 10 years and with good reason. As one of the first activities you can do with your new baby it not only gives you special one on one time with your baby, but also imparts your baby with a skill for life.

But taking that first step into the pool with your baby definitely comes with its fair share of questions and nerves. What if they get cold? What if they cry? What about their ears? Rest assured your babies are so much more adaptable than you realise and swimming is a completely natural progression for them having spent nine months in the fluid environment of the womb.
What’s more, babies are born with a natural dive reflex action which means they are already fully equipped to go underwater. It is truly amazing to see your baby dive underwater for the first time and come up again completely unfazed!

Safety
One of the first considerations for going baby swimming must be safety. With drowning still the third most common cause of accidental death in children, learning to swim must surely be a priority for all parents. Teaching your baby key water safety techniques and confidence in the water will give them skills that, if they should ever fall into a pool, lake, pond or even the bath, will mean that they won’t panic and can utilise the skills that they have learnt – which could potentially save their life.

Bonding
Baby swimming is a great way to spend special one on one time with your little one away from the intrusions of everyday life. This is a time when you can truly focus on just you and your baby. Plus the added benefits of skin on skin contact can help to regulate baby’s heart rate and breathing as well as making them feel secure. For mums, it can release hormones to help with breastfeeding and build the nurturing instincts. It’s also a great way for dads to get involved and enjoy special bonding time.

Physical and physiological benefits
The buoyancy of the water enables babies to use muscles they could never use on land and they love the sense of freedom to kick freely. Despite looking gentle, swimming is great exercise for your baby, helping to strengthen their heart, lungs and respiratory capacity which in turn aids the development of the brain.

In fact, the exercises taught in baby swim classes, kicking, reaching, learning and responding to commands, provide the perfect stimulation for your baby’s brain and helps to develop their cognitive skills and hand/eye co-ordination. It has also been proven that the combination of activities in the pool strengthens nerve pathways between the two sides of the brain, helping to store and retrieve information more effectively. All good for future learning!

What’s more, regular swimming can improve your child’s eating and sleeping patterns – surely a bonus for everyone!

Fun for all the family Swimming is great exercise for all the family and is something you can enjoy together even when babies are very little.

Parents’ confidence
Don’t worry if you are not confident in the water yourself, most baby swim classes take place in shallow pools and don’t require you to do much more than hold your baby. However nervous you may be feeling make sure you try to remain calm and keep a big smile on your face as your baby will pick up any apprehension that you may feel. It’s amazing watching parents’ confidence grow as they watch their babies thrive in the water.

Meet new friends
Besides learning key survival skills swimming is fun! Singing songs, splashing around, blowing bubbles and playing games, it’s an easy way for parents to get involved and meet new friends along the way. It’s best to go somewhere with small groups so that everyone can get to know each other and your baby will respond to other babies in the group and enjoy the clapping and splashing.

A few things to think about before you go swimming
You can start swimming with your baby from birth although most parents tend to wait until their baby is around six to eight weeks. Contrary to popular belief, babies do not need to have had their immunisations before coming to a pool.

It is best to book a course of baby swimming classes before you take your baby to the pool on your own, so that you can learn how to hold your baby
and exercises that you can practise with them. Smaller classes with groups of around six or seven in private pools provide a calmer quieter environment for you and your baby. Try to find warm water pools; babies can’t regulate their temperature so look for classes that take place in pools ideally heated to around 32 -34O C.

Before choosing a class think about your baby’s feed and nap times. A tired or hungry baby won’t enjoy their class and give yourself plenty of time to get to your class and get changed. It’s amazing how much longer everything takes with a baby in tow and you don’t want to start your class flustered and stressed.
You can help prepare your baby for lessons by having fun in the bath splashing, grasping toys and singing songs.

With all these benefits surely it’s worth taking the plunge!

Little Dippers have been teaching babies to love the water for 25 years.
Classes in lovely warm water pools in the North Laine and Patcham in Brighton with free drop in sessions.
Free trial available to book.
For more details check our website www.littledippers.co.uk or call 01273 229 390

Marriage vs Cohabitation Understanding your legal rights

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships, Uncategorized | No Comments
by Deborah Bailey
Gowen & Stevens Solicitors

Marriage, or indeed a civil partnership, which is treated the same as marriage upon breakdown, is not for everyone. Even though there have been changes in the law allowing same sex partners to marry, a growing number of couples still regard it as old-fashioned and believe they have no requirement for ‘a piece of paper’ to confirm commitment to each other. Living together or ‘cohabiting’ remains the fastest growing family arrangement.

Often, it is only when facing the breakdown of a relationship that unmarried couples realise how that seemingly irrelevant piece of paper could have altered their situation. Furthermore, even if you remain blissfully together, there are still potential pitfalls for cohabiting families as time passes. Read on to find out how you can protect yourself and your children.

Even if you have lived together for a long time or have children together, the law will not protect you if you break up. Despite the media’s love of the term common-law wife, or indeed husband, this is not a recognised term in law. The fact that your relationship even existed, when it comes to the law, may be irrelevant. Often, the only issue to resolve in a breakdown of a cohabiting relationship will be what happens to the home. The fact that there may be children to re-home may not be a consideration and you could end up in a desperate situation.

Conversely, when looking at how to distribute a family’s assets on divorce, a spouse can call upon the matrimonial law to look at all the relevant circumstances of the relationship, often before but certainly during and after the marriage. The goal in these circumstances is to seek a result that is fair to both spouses with the welfare of the children being treated as a primary consideration. The future living arrangements of all involved will be a concern as will the financial position of each spouse following the divorce.

Whilst campaigners are lobbying for a change in the law to protect unmarried families, until this happens, people need to be aware and take steps wherever possible to protect themselves and their children. So what can you do?

Property
If you own property together and both names are on the property register, then you probably had a discussion with your conveyancing solicitor about how you would own the property so there is a chance that your ownership will already be clearly defined.

Matters become more complicated if the property is owned by only one of you. However, the non legal owner may still have an interest in the property dependant upon how finances were arranged during the relationship and what agreements you had. Seeking legal advice in this scenario is essential and can help determine your interest and how you can realise this.

If you are buying a property in which you intend to live together, speak to your solicitor about the ways in which you can own the property and how you can protect yourself.

Maintenance
If you are looking after the children, you can claim maintenance following a break-up from your former partner for your children. If this cannot be agreed, apply to the Child Maintenance Service.

Unlike divorce, unmarried former partners cannot claim maintenance for themselves from the other partner, even if they are the stay-at-home parent looking after the children.

Inheritance
As cohabiting partners, unlike married couples, there is no automatic right of inheritance if your partner dies without making a will. Whilst you and your children could make an application against your partner’s estate if they were maintaining you prior to their death, this could be a stressful experience at an already difficult time. Making a Will could avoid a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for your loved ones.

Partners should also think about taking out life assurance.

Consider also making Lasting Powers of Attorney. If you become ill and incapable of managing your own affairs a cohabiting partner has no legal right to make decisions on your behalf. This could cause difficulties with the wider family who may or may not know your wishes. Appointing your partner as your Attorney could avoid such difficulties.

Cohabitation Agreements
It’s not very romantic but thinking about your arrangements before you buy a property or move in together can save a lot of heartache if things go wrong. A cohabitation agreement is strongly recommended and a solicitor can help you consider all the issues that could arise and, provided it is properly drafted, could protect against costly court proceedings.

Ultimately, every situation is different but being aware that living together is very different from being married means that you can take steps to avoid problems later if things go wrong. Always seek advice from an experienced solicitor who specialises in this complex area of family law.

An established practice for over 120 years with offices in Cheam, Banstead and Sutton. Offering a highly personal service tailored to all aspects of your family and business life.
www.gowenandstevens.com

Let’s dance…

By | dance & Art, Education | No Comments
by Rianna Parchment
Kicks Dance

It will come as no surprise to you that as a dance teacher, I believe the benefits of dance for children are endless! With news headlines regularly expressing concern about childhood obesity, both parents and schools are on the lookout for children’s activities that promote and develop a healthy lifestyle. With many activities to choose from, what is it that makes dance classes so beneficial for children?

The physical benefits of dance lessons are obvious (and plentiful!). The physical act of moving your body causes your heart to beat faster and pump blood around your body, which helps to increase your cardiovascular fitness. In children’s dance classes, the repetition of exercises and routines helps to improve stamina and muscle memory. Regular dance lessons can help to strengthen muscles and improve balance whilst working towards developing flexibility and mobility. These are especially important for little bodies to help them become stronger, and to develop a good posture, alongside their co-ordination and motor skills.
The best part is that children enjoy dancing to music they love, so they are often reaping all these physical benefits without even realising.

Just as important as the physical benefits, the social aspects of a dance class also make it an important activity for children. Children learn to work with others who may not be in their class or may even go to a different school. Aside from the obvious benefit of making new friends, they learn how to communicate with other children, and how to share ideas with children who may not agree with them, whilst being kind to each other. They get the opportunity to regularly perform in front of their peers and get feedback and praise that contributes to a development in their self-esteem. Dance classes encourage children to learn how to follow instructions and use their problem-solving skills to approach tasks that they may find difficult.

If I had to choose, my favourite benefit of dance for children is it’s positive impact on a child’s mental health. In lots of dance classes, children come into the class without their parent. For some children, this alone is a big step, which makes them feel a little bit exposed and anxious. Even for some more confident children, the thought of performing in front of their peers induces some level of anxiety. As a dance teacher, I find there is nothing more rewarding than gently encouraging a child outside of their ‘comfort zone’ and inspiring them to share their ideas or try something new. During a dance class, you are able to see children grow in confidence and realise that they are capable of doing something that had previously scared them – be that volunteering an idea to the rest of the class, asking a child they don’t know to be their partner or even just coming in to the studio without their parent. Things that may seem like small achievements, such as coming into class alone or showing the rest of the class a favourite dance move, can be instrumental in developing a shy child’s self-esteem and make a difference to their confidence.

Dance classes provide the perfect opportunity for children to take part in a physical activity, which helps them to keep fit, but also to have fun and feel good – developing their social skills, creativity, confidence and self-esteem!

Kicks Dance is a fun, friendly dance business providing dance classes, workshops, parties and PE Support
for children aged 18 months – 11 years. Kicks has recently opened a sparkly new franchise in Reigate and Redhill!
www.kicksdance.co.uk