Category

Education

The future of financial education

By | Education, Finance, play

The world of money has changed drastically. For us, as parents, we could tell how much pocket money we had left just by jangling our pocket. Nowadays, pocket money has been transformed by the growth of contactless payments and ecommerce, with digital transactions making it all too easy for months of careful saving to be blown with the touch of a screen or tap of a card.
With a study by the University of West London showing that one in five Londoners below the age of 45 struggle to pay debts as a result of ‘tap and go’ payments, it is no wonder that many parents have concerns over their children’s finances in a cashless world. Whilst contactless payments have undoubtedly made spending more convenient for many, young people are becoming increasingly aware of the potential risks posed by the ease of digital transactions. As a result, over 5% of young people are switching back to cash to better control their spending.

Statistics like these shouldn’t scare children away from contactless payments entirely, but they should act as a wake-up call to ensure we are instilling in our children a firm understanding of the value of money and an appreciation that every tap adds up. Digital money is here to stay, and it is vital that children are integrated into this cashless society.

Lessons in financial literacy
Schools have played an important role in introducing children to the uses and functions of money since the inclusion of financial literacy on the national curriculum in 2014, with pupils in Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) being taught about managing risk and the importance of budgeting, and children in Key Stage 4 (ages 15-16) learning about credit and debit, income and expenditure, savings and pensions. Exposing young people to the practical applications of financial literacy skills is essential if they are to become financially competent and confident adults.

Though effective in theory, the limited time, resources and staff available to teach even the syllabuses’ core subjects, often results in financial literacy classes being squeezed out of the day. Lesson content is also a cause for concern; the emphasis placed on cash and coins neglecting the fact that digital transactions dominate the world outside the school gates.

With financial literacy lessons taking place inconsistently, and placing an emphasis on the physical forms of money, there is a risk that children won’t leave school with the certified grasp of digital money required in today’s world of consumer credit and contactless payments.

Outside of the classroom
Whilst financial lessons at school are invaluable, seemingly unexciting topics like budgeting, saving and responsible spending are best taught through hands-on experiences at home. Exposing your child to the realities of their spending in a controlled, safe environment creates an opportunity for them to comprehend the value of their money, cultivating their financial awareness and ability to manage their money independently.

Does your child know the average cost of the weekly family shop, or how much is spent on their school supplies? Encouraging them to get stuck in with the family’s finances exposes them to the daily, practical uses of money – consider setting your child a task to help with the next supermarket trip, challenging them to buy items on the shopping list within a set budget, or to work out your monthly spend from old receipts, so they can independently assess the purchases that cost the most.

Of course, managing their own money is key in a child’s financial education. Whether it’s saving up to buy the latest video game, or the satisfaction of building up a nest egg, successfully and independently budgeting their pocket money can enable children to realise the benefits that come with financial planning. Letting children treat themselves once in a while, be it from their own savings or with a little parental help, will encourage them to develop positive financial behaviours and habits.

Money management is a vital life skill that can be introduced from an early age, whether in the classroom or at home. As parents, we can supplement existing financial literacy classes with hands-on lessons from home, and help shape our children into a financially competent and confident generation.

Is your child anxious?

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships

Are you finding it hard to get support?
Help is at hand…

 

Half of all lifetime anxiety disorders emerge before the age of twelve with around 15% of children being thought to suffer from an anxiety disorder.
(Anxiety UK)

A certain amount of this emotion is considered to be normal in everyday life but once it begins to impact upon a child in a negative and persistent way it becomes a problem. Sometimes it revolves around a child’s social life and friendship issues. It may be more about fear of failing academically. It could include uncertainty about the future, fear of the dark, problems sleeping and school avoidance. However it presents itself, there are some very useful cognitive behavioural techniques that may be used to help the child think in a different way about their problems.

Guided Parent Delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (GPD-CBT) is a new evidence based service designed to support parents struggling to get help with their child’s anxiety. The programme which is being offered through the charity, Anxiety UK, has been designed to help increase parents’ confidence and empower them to support their child.

The positive impact that a parent can have in helping their child to overcome their problems should not be underestimated. This is emphasised throughout the sessions. There are a number of advantages to working solely with parents or guardians instead of with the child, not least the fact that parents are considered to be the experts on their own children.

CBT has been extensively researched.
It is a solution focused time limited form of treatment and one which is most often recommended by the NHS to patients needing support for a number of mental health problems.

The therapist registered with Anxiety UK to deliver these sessions, will work collaboratively with parents, providing them with strategies they can use at home to help their child, between the age of seven and 12, overcome anxiety.

Four one hour sessions are conducted with the parents face-to-face, by phone or web cam and two 15 minute sessions take place over the phone or via web cam. The support package includes a copy of ‘Helping your Child with Fears and Worries: A self-help guide for parents’ by Professor Cathy Cresswell and Lucy Willetts.

Annabel Marriott is registered as an Anxiety UK GPD CBT practitioner.
For further information or to arrange an informal chat about Guided Parent Delivered CBT, Toolkit for Anxiety workshops or self-help groups, please email Annabel at: annabel@toolkitforanxiety.com
www.toolkitforanxiety.com

Encouraging independence

By | Education, Playing, Relationships, Sport, Uncategorized
by Sam Selkirk
Head of Lower School at Reigate St Mary’s

Once asked by a university lecturer, what was my most enduring childhood memory, it didn’t take long to remember. Of course it was the hours I spent outside, playing with my siblings, my friends, no constraints and – most importantly – no adults looming. Our parents gave us clear instructions on where we could and couldn’t go, and what time we needed to return home; but freedom and the room to be independent was afforded to us. The expectation was that we made our own fun. I wonder if the same could be said now?

What do we mean by independence? The Cambridge dictionary definition is: ‘the ability to live your life without being helped or influenced by other people’. For young children it is about becoming an independent person which incorporates self-esteem and relationships with others; being independent with life skills and becoming an independent learner – finding things you need, asking questions, solving problems, thinking critically and for yourself, for example.

Where does it start? More recently, I was shown a YouTube clip – Ruby reaches for a toy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q2cL-WteZk: The clip was about three minutes long and showed six month old Ruby’s determination to reach a toy. I have since used this at a parent information evening and also during an assembly to four to seven year olds – their response was magical, they got it, this little baby could overcome barriers and reach the toy for herself. An extrinsic reward did not need to be dangled to entice Ruby, her satisfaction was evident when she began to play with the toy; it was intrinsic. During the video I was overcome by two thoughts, the first being: just help her get the toy – which I quickly dismissed – and secondly, how this short clip summed up so much of what I believe in. In allowing children to do things for themselves, they will undoubtedly develop the essential life skill of independence.

So how do we develop this? Evidence suggests that the ability to think and behave independently is possessed from a very early age. As such we need to nurture it in babies and young children. Reflecting on our behaviour is perhaps a good place to start: what have I done today for a child, which they could have done for themselves? As Lella Gandini of Reggio Emilia states: “children are strong, rich and capable. All children have preparedness, potential, curiosity and interest in constructing their learning, negotiating with everything their environment brings to them.”

So how do we help a child become that independent person? As adults we need to find a balance between not overprotecting our children, or pressurising them to run before they can walk; our expectations need to be realistic, and we must bear in mind that children will always develop at very different rates. The ‘Early Years Development Matters’ takes us through a child’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development and exemplifies the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’ from birth to five years old; some good ideas and guidance may be found in the DfE document ‘What to expect, when?’ which has been developed for parents and carers. Furthermore, it is important that we encourage healthy risk taking, through climbing trees or doing something new, and the opportunity to embrace mistakes. In the words of Carol Dweck: “What we do not want is to encourage a fixed mind set where a child feels they are unable to do something for themselves so they will not try, we want a child who is comfortable trying for themselves and develops a growth mind set – they will experience the feeling that before success comes failure after failure. But that hard work and persistence works.”

In many ways it is easier to identify the opportunities we can give our children to be independent when developing life skills, such as encouraging them to get dressed in the morning, cutting their own food, opening packets and having a go at pouring a drink, tidying up their toys, being provided with a cloth to mop up spills, to name but a few. Furthermore, many of these activities help a child’s physical development, therefore, providing a sound foundation for writing and drawing – a win win situation!

We also need to enhance a child’s innate desire to learn and explore. To do this we must ensure the home environment is ordered (a little like an Early Years classroom) and children know where to find things. Offering a couple of choices – such as what to eat at snack time or wear, (it is important not to ignore a child’s choice, as this will undermine their self-assurance) – and making decisions will enable them to develop their own thoughts, views and critical thinking. Allowing children to pursue their own plans, giving them the opportunity to choose what to play with and then leaving them for uninterrupted learning for increasing lengths of time in a safe environment further supports independence.

The report, ‘Developing Independent Learning in children aged three to five’, by the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge says:”Learning is intrinsic to life and because it is this important children need to be the owners of their own learning; they won’t see it as intrinsic to life if they don’t own it themselves – everything they do must have a purpose which makes sense to them.”

As already mentioned, children develop at varying rates; and as such it is important to know where each individual is on their journey, so we may support them in the next step. For example, if a child can put on their coat, demonstrate, explain and encourage them to do up the zip. New skills may need practising, help may still be needed; but practice will ensure independence in learning new skill sets. In the words of Maria Montessori “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” and Lev Vygotsky “What a child can do with assistance today she will be able to do by herself tomorrow.” Giving time is essential too, though it may be quicker at this point to do it for them, in the long run encouraging independence will save us time and help our children grow.

Ignatius of Loyola sums up the responsibility upon us as adults: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”. Now, all we need to do to ensure we provide children with the best ‘independent’ start in life, is to permit them to feel in control of their lives, confident and capable, provide them with opportunities to master new skills, think for themselves and afford responsibility – job done!

Reigate St Mary’s is a coeducational day school for pupils aged 2 to 11 set in 15 acres of beautiful parkland close to Reigate town centre. It is a junior school of Reigate Grammar School with an emphasis on nurturing confidence and self-esteem to produce happy learners.
High quality wraparound care is available onsite for all pupils aged 2 and above for 48 weeks of the year.
www.reigatestmarys.org

mum's mental health

It’s OK, not to be OK

By | Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Safety, Uncategorized

Mental health in pregnancy, birth and beyond

Eight months into being a mother, it hit me. Depression, together with its best friend, anxiety, came for an unplanned visit and as I write this months later, things are still very difficult, with the depression and the anxiety coming and going as they please, but I’m OK. I’m OK, not to be OK.

The most beautiful soul I have ever met, graced my husband and I with his presence in May of 2018 and what an amazing first year it has been. The cuddles; the late night/crack of dawn feeds; minimal sleep; bath time; nappy changes; weaning; playtime; teething; nappy changes; learning to crawl, walk and speak – and did I mention nappy changes?

How many blessings to have in one year. I have to pinch myself sometimes to check this isn’t just a wonderful dream. It is in fact reality, my reality, that this little boy is my baby boy and my absolute life’s purpose. How lucky am I? This most magical first year of being a mother, as amazing as it has been, has also brought many mental health challenges my way. I am not only learning to be a mother, but I am now also learning to accept and love the new me.

For seven out of my nine months of pregnancy, I was frankly scared of everything and anything going wrong. I made a decision that for my last two months of pregnancy, to work on just trying to worry less and enjoy this pregnant chapter of my life. This was much easier said than done but I really did have an amazing last two months of pregnancy where instead of fearing for this baby and what ‘could go wrong’, I looked forward to his daily kicks and hiccups and enjoyed this beautiful baby growing inside of me. I didn’t unfortunately wave a magic wand, I had to work very hard on ‘me’. I spoke openly about my fears, hopes and dreams; I attended Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT); I took early maternity leave to focus on me and my baby, as well as attending the mental health midwifery clinic attached to my local hospital. This internal work I was doing, together with the support of my incredible husband, family and friends, all helped me get to where I wanted and where I needed to be, in the preparation for my little man’s arrival.

I am a big believer in therapy and I hope that anyone struggling with poor mental health, gets help. It can be free, you can self-refer, you can choose to do it face-to-face, over the phone or online. So, if you are needing some help or just a nudge in the right direction, or know someone who is struggling, please speak up. You can reach out to your GP for a list of local therapies available or simply go online to see which type of therapy is right for you, whether it be CBT, counselling or other types of therapy. For employers, please check out Mental Health First Aid England, where they are helping drive mental health awareness in the workplace.

After being flagged as ‘high risk’ for mental health during my pregnancy, I thought I was going to experience baby blues (which can come in around day three when there is a hormone shift) but I didn’t, no baby blues. I thought I was going to experience postnatal depression but I didn’t. I don’t think. What did occur was I was back at work in January of 2019 and it happened. Depression. I found myself missing my baby so much whilst at work and felt like I was completely missing out on everything. My husband was daddy day care at the time and what a great job he was doing. This wasn’t a case of my baby not being well looked after, I was experiencing a sort of separation anxiety from my baby boy. But I just had to keep working long days and ‘deal with it’.

Whilst still struggling months later, I finally quit my job in order to enjoy time with my little man but also to work on myself. Self-love, self-care and mental health improvements, including daily meditation, yoga and therapy. Some days are good, others bad, others really bad – but I remain honest with myself and others. It really is OK, not to be OK. You are not a failure or ‘damaged goods’ which is how I would often label myself. You are real, showing your true colours and just going through a difficult time. You are exactly who you are meant to be for now and that is OK. All I know is that we have to truly accept ourselves and support others in whatever way we can. We need to remain an open and honest society, and most importantly please, be kind to one another.

At TheBabyChapter, we are dedicated to improving the quality of antenatal classes, ensuring soon-to-be parents are well supported and know all the information needed to make the right decision for you and your baby, in this new chapter, TheBabyChapter
www.thebabychapter.co.uk

nursery preparedness

Preparing your child for nursery

By | Education, play, Relationships

Your child’s first day at nursery or playgroup can be a daunting prospect for both you and them. But our advice will help to ensure that their experience of nursery or playgroup is a happy one from the start.

Boost their social confidence
Socialising with other children is a skill that has to be learnt gradually, and some children will find it easier than others. If you can introduce them to the idea of sharing and taking turns before they start at nursery they will find the whole experience less daunting. Don’t expect great things at first – children usually play alongside each other rather than together until they’re around three years old. And while you don’t need to stand over young children while they play, you need to be close by to step in if they start to squabble over toys. If you don’t have a network of other mums with children the same age as yours, joining a mother and toddler group is a great way to introduce your child to socialising while you keep a watchful eye.

Time away from parents
It will be easier for your child to settle at nursery if you’ve gradually got them used to being left with other carers, such as grandparents, relatives and friends. Start off by leaving them for short periods – an hour while you go shopping, for example – and then gradually build it up until your child is happy to be left for a whole morning or an afternoon without you. Most children won’t like being left with nursery workers they don’t know at first, but it shouldn’t be long before they come home chatting about what “Mrs X said” and “Mrs Y did”.

Visit the nursery
“When you’re choosing a nursery, it’s usually best to visit it without your child the first time,” says Diane Rich at Early Education, an organisation which promotes quality in early years education. “The next time take your child with you and see how they respond to the environment and watch how the carers interact with them.”

You should be allowed as many familiarisation visits as you feel your child needs. Some nurseries will allow you to leave your child for short visits without you to see how they get on. When you get home, talk positively about the school, the activities that go on, the other children and the staff. Chat through any worries your child has before they start for real.

Potty training
Some nurseries will expect children to be out of nappies before they start, so find out what the policy is if you don’t think your child will be ready. However, all nursery staff should be prepared for occasional accidents and won’t expect children to ask every time they need the toilet – they’ll get plenty of gentle reminders. Pack spare pants and a change of clothes in your child’s bag just in case and tell them that no-one will be cross if they do have an accident.

Feeding themselves
If your child is to have any meals at nursery other than drink and biscuits, find out if they’ll be expected to use a knife and fork or whether hands are acceptable. Practise at home with a little knife and fork, but don’t expect your child to be able to cut up his own food – the staff will do this for him. Make sure you tell the nursery staff about any strong dislikes your child has, and any food allergies or intolerances.

On the first day
Allow plenty of time. The chances are, your child won’t be prepared for you to just drop him off and leave on the first day, so be prepared to hang around until they are settled.

You’ll probably be feeling just as anxious and emotional as they are, but try to stay cheery and confident – children pick up on your feelings of apprehension.

Explain to your child when you’ll be back – don’t fob them off with fibs such as “Mummy’s just going to move the car” when you make your exit. Tell them you’ll be back after lunch/drink and biscuit time/story time.

Leave your contact number with staff in case they need to call you.

If your child cries and won’t let you leave, ask staff for advice. In most cases they’ll ask you to stay for a while with your child in the early days.

When you’ve said your goodbyes, try not to worry. If there is a problem, you’ll be contacted, but in most cases your child will be enjoying their exciting new experience.

Borrow some books to help
Visit your local library and borrow some books on starting preschool or nursery, such as Going to Playschool by Sarah Garland. When you’ve read them, talk to your child about all the fun activities they might be doing at nursery, such as playing outside on bikes, painting pictures, playing with sand and water, making models, singing rhymes, baking cakes and building with bricks and lego.

Problems settling in?
Some children find the experience of starting nursery stressful and still won’t settle after a few weeks. Don’t worry and don’t blame yourself – just accept that children are all individuals and your child will get there in the end.

Find out from your child’s key worker or carer what happens once you’ve left. Do they continue crying inconsolably throughout the session or do they perk up 10 minutes later once they’re distracted by an activity?

Try building up sessions gradually. Start with just 30 minutes and build up the time gradually each week until they’re able to stay a whole session without you.

Try staying with your child for the session, moving away once they become engaged with an activity, but not leaving the room.

Invite children from the group back to play to encourage friendships.

Some children will settle better if you keep your goodbyes brief – lingering may only make the whole process more painful for you both.

Don’t fret about letters and numbers
We all want our children to do well, but no nursery will expect your child to have a good grasp of letters and numbers when they start. “It’s easy to confuse what you want from early years education with what you will later want from a school,” says childcare expert Penelope Leach in The New Your Baby and Child. “Young children learn by playing and therefore optimal learning means being encouraged to play.” This doesn’t mean your child will have free, undirected play throughout the session – a good nursery should provide a balanced agenda of directed activities that are suitable for your child’s level of development and will help them to learn through playing.

If you want to encourage their learning at home it helps to make it fun: play games of I-Spy to associate sounds and letters; encourage number recognition by counting everyday objects like red cars in the street; bake cakes to find out about weighing and measuring; give them dressing up clothes to encourage role-play games; let them paint, scribble and draw so they learn pencil control which will help with writing later on.

Taken from the www.babycentre.co.uk

st catherines

Milestone moments

By | Education, family, Playing, Relationships
by Naomi Bartholomew
Headmistress, St Catherine’s Prep School

Life at Prep School is full of firsts. The first time we do anything requires courage and determination which is why I so admire young children and so enjoy watching their early journey through school.

Before joining school children will have already had many milestone moments – moving from cot to bed, their first steps, their first tooth and many more. The first day of school arrives all too quickly and from there a series of challenges and wonderful opportunities await.

Ahead of starting school, encourage your child to engage in creative play. Allow them to solve some of their own problems – when they put their shoes on the wrong feet, pause and see if they can figure that out for themselves. Provide simple choices but limit them to two or three options – I often refer to this as the ‘carrot or peas’ approach. Rather than, “What would you like to eat?” which is a crazy question to ask a preschool child, offer two alternatives. Give your child opportunities for play games which involve taking turns and sharing as well as dressing up and role-play. Encourage the use of full sentences when talking to your child. Avoid comments like, “Mummy wants you to come over and help” and start to use, “Please can you come and help me,” and “thank you.”
The first day of school is a major event but don’t overplay this. You will have spent considerable time and effort choosing the right school, trust your instincts and remain calm and positive. Allow plenty of time for the school run on the first morning and leave as quickly as you can once your child is in the classroom and starting to settle. Your child will spend the day learning names of the other children in the class, being shown their immediate environment and they will most likely come home exhausted.

In the first term, establish a good rapport with your child’s teacher and encourage their early reading and writing at home as advised by the school. Ask what happens in the book that they are reading, and help with extending their vocabulary to include words such as ‘first, second, finally.’ Don’t be scared to use the correct vocabulary –
if your child can recite Hickory Dickory Dock they can learn the correct vocabulary and should be moving away from pet names for things.

You will hear about the first falling out between friends. If you have watched ‘The Secret Life of 4 year olds,’ you will see these happen frequently and are as quickly resolved. There will be moments where your child’s effort and success is recognised and other moments when they feel overlooked or left out. They are still in egocentric infant mode and it is important to remember that you are hearing a four year old’s version of events.

The first nativity brings lines to deliver, songs to sing and the chance to ‘perform’ in front of an audience. They will want to please you, please their teacher and be starting to want to please their peers by this stage. Frantic waving and trying to get their attention from your seat in
the audience is adding pressure to an already fairly daunting experience for some children.
By all means wave to them on arrival and reassure your child that you are there but try to keep it discreet.

By the end of the first year your child will be very attached to their first teacher and the school will prepare them for moving on to a new class, possibly with new pupils arriving too which can change the dynamic amongst the class. Over the first long summer break encourage more constructive play which requires your child to build things, take things apart and put them back together. Go on walks, build dens in the garden, start to ride a bike with stabilisers. Check table manners and correct use of cutlery and ‘please and thank yous.’ Use the days of the week more and continue with reading and basic writing.

Then come swimming lessons, possibly picking up an instrument for the first time, presenting in assembly and taking on minor roles of responsibility within the class (taking a message to the office or assisting with classroom chores). You will increasingly feel that you are not there for every milestone moment. This is important as your child will be forming a self-esteem based on their sense of their own achievements and by six we hope finding intrinsic motivation. They will be working out that effort impacts outcomes and they will be turning to peers to share their achievements. Winning the sack race, learning their times tables, holding the door open for a visitor, sharing their snack at break are all equally important.

Each of these little steps are, in fact, giant leaps. At our school we aim to capture the magic as it happens and share it with parents when we can. We ask the children to give everything a try and to step out of their comfort zone with as much confidence as possible. Learning at this age must be fun and curiosity must be fostered. Enjoy the milestone moments – they are to be cherished.

St Catherine’s is situated in the village of Bramley, three miles south of Guildford, which has fast train connections to London. Prep School girls benefit immeasurably from the world-class facilities of the Senior School, including the extensive grounds, 25m indoor pool, Sports Hall, dance studio, magnificent auditorium and 19th century chapel. Girls from age four engage in a full and varied curriculum which includes music, IT, ballet, and sport delivered by dedicated specialist teachers. Our Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, said on a recent visit, “You are all extremely lucky to be at such a wonderful school.”
www.stcatherines.info

Why imagination is the most valuable type of thinking

By | children's health, Education, Health, Mental health
by Neel Burton
psychiatrist and author of Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking

Einstein held that imagination is more important than knowledge: “I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Until very recently, most human societies did not mark a strict divide between imagination and belief, or fiction and reality, with each one informing and enriching the other. In fact, it could be argued that, in many important respects, the fiction primed over the reality – and even that this has been, and no doubt still is, one of the hallmarks of homo sapiens.

The uses of imagination are many, more than I can enumerate. Most children begin to develop pretend play at around fifteen months of age. What are children doing when they pretend play? And why are they so absorbed in works of imagination? When I was seven years old, I would devour book after book and plead with my parents for those not already in the bookcase. By playing out scenarios and extending themselves beyond their limited experience, children seek to make sense of the world and find

their place within it. This meaning-making is full of emotion – joy, excitement, awe – which finds an echo in every subsequent act of creation.

Whenever we look at an object such as the Mona Lisa, we see much more than just the frame and the brushstrokes. In fact, we barely see the brushstrokes at all. In imagination as in our dreams, we ascribe form, pattern, and significance to things, and then reflect them back onto those things. Without this work of interpreting and assimilating, the world would be no more than an endless stream of sense impressions, as it might sometimes seem to those who lack imagination, with no hope of escape or reprieve. More than that, by imagination we are able to complete the world, or our world, by conjuring up the missing parts, and even to inhabit entirely other worlds such as Middle-earth or the Seven Kingdoms.

If imagination lets us feel at home in the world, it also enables us to get things done in the world. Science advances by hypothesis, which is a function of imagination, and philosophy makes frequent use of thought experiments such as the brain in the vat, the trolley problem, and Plato’s Republic. More than that, imagination enables us to form associations and connections, and thereby to apply our knowledge to real life situations. It opens up alternatives and possibilities and guides our decision-making by playing them out in our mind. So many of our failures are in fact failures of the imagination.

Imagination is the highest form of thought, and almost divine in its reach. With enough imagination, we could identify and solve all of our problems. With enough imagination, we would never have to work again – or, at least, not for money. With enough imagination, we could win over, or defeat, anyone we wanted to. But our imagination is so poor that we haven’t even imagined what it would be like to have that much imagination.

I’m lucky to have received a decent education, but one thing it certainly didn’t do for me is cultivate my imagination. In fact, medical school in particular did everything it could to destroy it. In recent years, I’ve been trying to recover the bright and vivid imagination that I left behind in primary school. For that, I’ve been doing just three things, all of them very simple – or, at least, very simple to explain:
• Being more aware of the importance of imagination.
• Making time for sleep and idleness.
• Taking inspiration from the natural world.

Our schools and universities privilege knowing over thinking, and equate thinking with reasoning, and reasoning with logic. This has done, and continues to do, untold harm. Instead of digging ourselves in deeper, we need to make more time and space for thinking. And we need to rehabilitate alternative forms of cognition, such as emotion and imagination, that can support, supplement, or supplant reason and return
us to wholeness.

Neel Burton is a leading psychiatrist and author of Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking priced £12.99.
To find out more visit www.neelburton.com

Not the only boy in ballet class

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, play
by Stephen McCullough
Regency Ballet School for Boys

boy ballerina

For decades girls have far out-numbered boys in dance while classical ballet, in particular, has long been considered a pursuit for girls and has therefore typically been seen as ‘feminine’. This is, of course, far from the truth because male dancers have always been an important part of any professional ballet company. Overcoming the stereotype that ‘boys don’t dance’ is a real hurdle however, there has recently been considerable progress in challenging this concept.

The ‘Billy Elliot effect’ has had a massive positive effect on boys, inspiring many to pursue the study of ballet in greater numbers than ever before while dancers such as Carlos Acosta and Sergei Polunin, along with increased media attention focused on male stars performing on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, have given dance even greater recognition. With this exposure more boys are realising that dancing can actually be ‘pretty cool’. However, there are many others who would love to dance but still don’t have the confidence to try.

So why should a boy choose to study ballet, especially when there are so many other ‘masculine’ sporting activities available to them? Generally speaking, ballet dancers are a lot stronger and more flexible than other sports athletes. As a highly physical artistic sport classical ballet not only nurtures physical conditioning that promotes muscular strength and agility but also improves flexibility and range of motion which encourages good posture and in turn helps in preventing injuries. The physical demands of classical ballet is particularly beneficial for boys who are
very active as it allows them to focus excess energy productively through learning and performing.

Requiring a discipline of the mind, classical ballet also provides a mental workout, enhancing cognitive skills and concentration. Due to the intense mental processing required during class both hemispheres of the brain are engaged which helps to increase neural connectivity. Because several brain functions are integrated at once this multi-tasking activity improves and sharpens co-ordinated learning.

Whatever their age, studying ballet is beneficial for all boys and over time the combination of physical and mental skills can cross-over into other aspects of life. The physical intensity required during class helps to improve physical performance in other sports while increased cognitive function, concentration, discipline and perseverance often helps during school and throughout life. Alongside the knowledge and skills required to perform, ballet also helps dancers to develop an understanding of movement as a means of artistic communication, which in turn teaches them to show emotions through their body language.

Choosing to be a dancer may be an unusual career choice but is a brave decision for any boy as it requires energy, focus, perseverance and above all, a passion and a drive to succeed. With encouragement, hopefully a new generation of boys will ‘get into ballet’, because we need more male dancers. The lack of male dance teachers, however, often means many boys participating in a ballet programme are rarely taught by one. It is good for boys to work with a variety of teachers during their training, and although not essential it is certainly an advantage for boys to have a male dance teacher not only in terms of technique but as a strong, positive role model to emulate and inspire them.

Ballet may look very graceful and easy on stage, but the amount of skill required to perform is huge and at times can be mentally demanding. However, with a supportive network of family and friends a boy is far more likely to succeed. We want boys to enjoy dancing, surrounded by other like-minded males who have the same interest in dance and even if a boy isn’t destined for a career in dance studying ballet is not only fun but an enjoyable, challenging activity that offers a superb all round education that teaches many useful life skills.

Regency Ballet School for Boys offers classical ballet classes for boys aged 8 -16 and follows the BBO dance syllabus. The school has opened as a response from parents looking for an opportunity for their boys to dance in an environment where they don’t feel like the odd ones out.
www.regencyballetschool.com

A guide to your baby’s visual development

By | children's health, Education, Safety, Vision

Once a baby is born they face a number of milestones, for example smiling for the first time and rolling over. We are told when their first tooth will appear and when they will have health visitor appointments but little is said about how their eyes develop and what their vision is like. At birth babies do not see as well as older children or adults. Their eyes and visual system aren’t fully developed, significant improvement occurs during the first few months of life.

There are some milestones to watch out for in your child’s visual development. It is important to remember that not every child is the same and some may reach certain milestones at different ages. Babies born prematurely or with low birth weights are more likely to have vision problems. This is because their eyes miss out on the final stages of development towards the end of pregnancy.

Birth – 3 months:
Their vision is just starting to develop.
What to expect:
• Anything more than 20-30cm away from their face will just be a blur.
• Their world is black and white with shades of grey, as colour vision has not yet developed.
• They will only see large shapes, high contrast (big differences between light and dark) objects, bright lights and movement.
• They may only hold their gaze for a couple of seconds and will not be able to fixate with both eyes. It will be normal for their eyes to ‘wander’ at this age.

Things you can do:
• Develop that visual bond with them by trying to stay within 20-30cm when interacting with them – by
2 weeks they may start to recognise you. (Help them with this by not changing your appearance)
• Alternate sides when feeding to encourage equal visual development of both eyes.
• Use movements and bright contrasting colours (black, white and primary colours – reds, blues and yellows) in their room and with their toys to help stimulate their vision

3 – 6 months:
Depth and colour perception start to develop.
What to expect:
• They should start to watch and study their own hands as well as toys.
• They should begin to follow moving objects with their eyes and start to reach for things around them.
• Eye movement control and eye/body co-ordination skills steadily continue to improve – soon they can move their eyes without turning their head.

Things you can do:
• Help develop their eye tracking by talking to them as you walk around the room.
• Encourage visual development by frequently adding or changing and moving objects around their cot and room.
• Start to develop their visual memory by playing ‘peek-a-boo’ and similar games.
• Book their first eye examination at 6 months.

6 – 9 months:
What to expect:
• Their ability to hold attention increases.
• They should start to show interest in pictures, and recognise partially hidden objects.

Things you can do:
• Now is the time to start showing and reading simple books to them.
• Encourage the crawling phase – it helps develop better eye/hand co-ordination.
• Further develop their visual memory by playing ‘hide and seek’ with toys under a blanket then revealing them to them.

9-12 months:
What to expect:
• By 10 months of age, babies should be able to grasp objects with thumb and forefinger.
• They should be able to judge distances fairly well and throw things with some precision.

Things you can do:
• Play simple games like building blocks and rolling a ball back and forth. These help develop their grasp and also improves eye movement co-ordination and hand/eye co-ordination.

2 years onwards:
What to expect:
• Their eye/hand co-ordination and depth perception should be well-developed and their vision almost at adult levels.

Things you can do:
• We recommend that children should have their eyes examined annually.

NHS sight tests are FREE for children under 16

At all ages:
If you notice any of the following you should take your child to see a health professional as an evaluation is warranted as soon as possible.

• An opaque, white glow or white reflection in the pupil of an eye (the dark area in the centre of the eye.)
• A missing or altered ‘red eye’ reflection in photographs.
• Instances where the eyes do not appear to look in the same direction (a squint.)
• Watering, red,
sore or swollen eyes for no obvious reason.
• Drooping eyelids.
• A change in the colour of the iris (the coloured part of the eye) especially if only one area.
• Increasing sensitivity to light.
• You suspect that may be a deterioration in sight.

Please contact us if you have any concerns or questions. A PDF version of this is available upon request that can be added to your child’s
red book.

Barnard Associates is an established independent, Optometric providing clinical eye care, contact lenses and spectacle dispensing for over 30 years.
We recommend eye examinations for
all children from 6 months of age
or sooner if you have any concerns.
Our Optometrists specialise in
paediatric eye care ad have additional qualifications to provide visual assessments associated with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and learning difficulties – we welcome
any questions you may have
regarding your eye health.
Phone: 01273 77238
Email: reception@barnard-associates.co.uk

 

NHS sight tests are FREE for children under 16

The gender clutter gap

By | Education, Health, Mental health

In a recent survey to understand the effects of clutter on mental health, it was found that women are more affected by clutter in the home with four in five (79%) admitting that clutter makes them feel stressed, compared to just 59% of men.
It’s no surprise that we are feeling the effects of clutter building up at home with almost three-quarters (74%) wishing they had more storage space at home. Furthermore, over two-thirds (69%) of respondents agreed they could spend less time tidying their homes if they had a declutter – considering the 20% differentiation between stress levels, some might say that cleaning and tidying is still seen, by many, as ‘women’s work’.

However, we are taking action with our clutter, but only usually brought on by significant changes in life, with the main reasons people would choose to have a declutter being moving house (60%), decorating (54%) and downsizing (44%). Around a third said they would consider a declutter to relieve stress (37%) and improve their mental health (31%).

Though the KonMari Method of decluttering, created by Marie Kondo, has increased in popularity, Caboodle’s survey shows that people are still reluctant to declutter – ironically because of what they might throw away.

Though we know that clutter often causes us stress, more than half are not willing to declutter as they worry they might throw away something that they would need again (50%) or that they’d get rid of something that they have an emotional attachment to (55%).

Commenting on the emotional decluttering effects of a clear-out, Leone Ashby from Cluttercation, one of Caboodle’s decluttering experts, said: “Decluttering is a cathartic experience and brings peace and zen into your home. The initial fantastic feeling when you see your treasured room, wardrobe or pantry transformed is euphoric.
However, there is an art to decluttering that ensures this feeling prolongs without any regret for items you could have used in the future or you had great attachment to but may not have a need for today”.

Introducing the ‘Caboodle’ Method
– keep, save, throw
Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering encourages us to “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy”.

The Caboodle Method is all about how and, if so, when items bring a benefit to you and your life.

There are three key steps:
Keep items that you need and use now, consider if you have an emotional attachment to them, do they inspire you or do they bring a benefit to your life right now?

Save items that you cherish, inspire you and bring a benefit to your life but you don’t need right now by storing in a safe and organised place outside the home making more space!

Throw away (or donate to charity) items that you haven’t used or considered for six months and have no emotional attachment to.

Why save?
It avoids that feeling of regret and is a more sustainable option. Saving these items outside the home will save on space but the items are at your fingertips whenever you need them again.

Examples of items include:
• Winter wardrobe in the summer and vice versa.
• Children’s toys and clothing – for your next child/a friend.
• Holiday items you only use once a year.

Top tips for decluttering:
1. Start decluttering one room at a time, starting in one corner so to not overwhelm you, take items and sort them into the three categories keep, save and throw. Bonus tip: Always leave the room and take a short
break before you finally make your decisions.
2. Always use big crates or bin bags to sort items into piles – it makes the clean up so much easier.
3. Have cleaning products to hand as you declutter so you can clean as you go.
4. Never feel regret. If you can’t disassociate yourself from treasured possessions that you just can’t use at the moment then ‘save’ them by using a storage solution that will keep everything organised.
5. Always check with other members of your family on the key items you are ‘throwing’, to make sure everyone is happy and no one else wants the items.

Caboodle storage is all arranged online at and they will deliver free boxes, then collect and protect your belongings from as little as £1.40 per week.