Category

environment

kids in a line

The importance of problem solving and taking risk in the early years

By | Education, environment, Safety, Sport, Sprintime
by Hannah Simpson, Footsteps Day Nurseries

Problem solving is an integral part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and is embedded throughout the environment. The children are encouraged to engage in activities that involve them extending and developing their knowledge and understanding.

Children start to problem solve from birth through learning to communicate and learning to move. They use trial and error to explore new concepts and develop their knowledge of existing ones. For example, learning how to crawl they may move backwards at first but this learning informs them on what to do next time. The continual process helps the children explore and be able to achieve their goal. As children grow they problem solve a wide range of things, at our nursery we encourage all children to problem solve by encouraging activities which allow children to develop and explore different ideas. For example, setting out drain pipes for the children to work together to create a course for water to flow through. During this activity the children have to problem solve how to make the water flow to the end. It is interesting to see how the children decide on different strategies to try and whether they can or can’t work. They strategically work through their ideas, successfully finding a way of making the water flow. The activity has many benefits for the children; they develop their teamwork skills, find a solution to a problem and learn through trial and error.

During activities that the children engage in within the nursery environment there is an element of risk. It is important for children to be able to take risk but the risks have to be managed to ensure the children are not put in serious harm. Children taking a risk and having a bump or bruise is part of the growing process and how they learn to manage in different situations and learn what they are able and unable to do. It allows children to recognise their own abilities and be able to develop and learn new strategies to tackle risk. For example, encouraging the children to use a climbing frame in different ways allows them to try and explore it in different ways. They may not be able to climb efficiently the first time they try but continuing to try and develop different strategies will enhance their learning, enabling them to achieve what they wanted to do. Encouraging children to take risk will enhance their confidence that they are able to try and find new ways to complete tasks. The confidence will also allow them to tackle challenges and overcome fears, learning what their body is able and unable to do. This provides them with essential knowledge about their own abilities as they grow. The children learn about their own ability to learn and how they can manage risk to develop and extend their existing abilities. It is important for adults around the children to support this process of allowing the children to manage their own risk and allowing them to challenge their own ability and prior learning.

At our nursery we recognise the importance of encouraging children to problem solve and take risk and this is integrated into everyday activities that the children explore. It creates confident and happy children who have a willingness to learn.

Footsteps now have three day nurseries across the city offering flexible hours and funding for two, three and four year olds. Go to www.footstepsdaynursery.com to find out more.

Outdoor learning and Forest School – a breath of fresh air!

By | Education, environment, fun for children, Gardening, Playing, Uncategorized
by Kirsty Keep
Head Mistress, Lancing College Preparatory School at Hove

Schools and nurseries are increasingly taking learning outside, whether by using their own outdoor space as an open-air classroom or by tackling traditional ‘woodland activities’ in natural areas or ones specifically designed for the purpose. But where do the origins of Forest School lie and how do our schools and nurseries embrace that philosophy in 2020?

The longstanding Scandinavian passion for nature is known as friluftsliv which translates as ‘open-air living’. As far back as the mid-nineteenth century, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen described friluftsliv as the value to spiritual and physical wellbeing achieved by spending time outside in remote locations. So-called ‘nature schools’ began to appear in Denmark as early as the 1950s and grew in number in the 1970s when the demand for childcare rose dramatically to meet the needs of mothers returning to work while their children were very young. These early schools developed a kindergarten system that provided children with the opportunities to learn and develop in natural environments and outdoor settings. They were modelled on the work of Friedrich Fröbel, a 19th century German pedagogue and a student of Pestalozzi. Fröbel recognised that each child has unique needs and capabilities and it is no surprise that this has laid the foundation for modern early years education offered today.

These days, for our youngest children, outdoor locations tend, generally speaking, not to be particularly remote but they offer experiences that are a world away from lessons within the walls of a classroom or learning through play indoors.

School trips and visits have always given children a taste of the world beyond school but outdoor learning at school is a way of using natural resources to learn about nature. It also offers some welcome respite from the plethora of electronic resources for recreation and learning that immerse today’s children, who are born ‘digital natives’ unlike their parents, grandparents and teachers who have had to acquire digital awareness or in some cases had digital awareness thrust upon them!

Many schools and nurseries have their own garden areas where children can literally get ‘hands-on’ experience, planting seeds, watering and weeding and seeing the fruits of their endeavours grow as the seasons change. Ponds and science gardens give a myriad of opportunities for children of all ages to try their hand at pond-dipping, recording the diversity of insects and bugs visiting the gardens and operating weather stations.

However, whatever fabulous facilities a school or nursery may have on site, the possibilities for taking learning outdoors at school are endless, only limited by imagination! They can range from outdoor maths, for example counting the right angles around the school buildings and campus, creating art from nature, using twigs and leaves to make temporary pieces of art that are not only cost-free but also recyclable. Young children studying history, for example, can see for themselves just how rapidly the Great Fire of London spread by creating their own model Tudor houses from cardboard boxes, packing them into a fire pit and watching them burn. Carefully supervised by staff armed with fire extinguishers, this activity can also act as a Health & Safety lesson as to what to do in the event of a fire!

Forest School is a more sustained, long-term process which aims through positive outdoor experiences to encourage and inspire children to love the world around them. For preschool children, Forest School nurtures their sense of wonder and their curiosity about the world outside, closely entwined with the ideals of free-flow play and learning from play that underpin the child-centred learning ethos and areas that lie at the heart of the Early Years Foundation Stage which runs from birth to five years of age. Away from their school or nursery, they have adventures in natural habitats such as woods, rivers and streams, ponds and beaches. Supervised with the lightest of touches by staff, the children have the freedom to discover what fascinates them in nature and to respond spontaneously to the environment they are exploring.

Forest School is for young children of all ages; it helps babies to expand their sensory awareness, for example by feeling plants and mosses in woodland or digging up shells and pebbles on a beach. Toddlers try their hands at making camps out of logs and branches and have their first go at climbing trees or making a tyre swing. Three year olds build on their problem-solving skills by arranging logs to form a bridge to get over a stream.

For older children, there is a huge range of practical activities including bushcraft, fire-lighting, knifecraft, such as whittling and carving, how to tie knots and build shelters. Naturalist skills such as identifying plants, animal tracks and signs are eagerly embraced and children enjoy learning how to forage safely and sustainably and how to prepare and cook wild food. Who would have thought under eights would get excited by the prospect of nettle tea?

Outdoor explorers learn soft skills too that nurture critical thinking skills and teamwork. They develop empathy and sympathy with their peers and learn how to work as a team to solve problems, honing their communication and negotiation skills. The children learn to recognise and assess risks for themselves and to make choices to ensure their group’s safety. They grow in confidence and self-esteem through these hands-on experiences.

It is also an excellent way to introduce conservation activities and the ‘leave no trace’ philosophy that we should preserve wild places and leave nature as unchanged by our presence as possible, so that future generations can enjoy it too.

Above all, it’s fun – children can get messy, get wet, climb higher and develop a love of outdoor life. They explore the natural world around them using magnifying glasses, saws, spades and buckets. This brings their learning to life and helps to create an understanding of the balance of nature and resources.

The Lancing College family includes its two Prep Schools located in Hove and Worthing, and located on the edge of the College’s 550 acre estate, a Day Nursery which opened in September 2019 and offers day care all-year round for children aged two months and over. All three provide wonderful opportunities for children to take their learning outdoors and are prime examples of nursery school pioneer Margaret McMillan’s assertion made in the mid-1920s “The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky!”

Spending time with your children

By | environment, family, fun for children, Playing, Relationships, Sprintime, Uncategorized

According to a study from children’s brand, Stokke, one in four (23%) parents say that their child complains ‘all of the time’ that they can’t spend enough time together. Overall, nearly two-thirds (60%) of children wish they could spend more time with their parents – with the main culprits being work, chores and lack of money to do things.
The most popular quality time activities that parents said their children enjoyed doing the most as a family were:
1. Eating out (41%)
2. Going to the park (41%)
3. Going for walks (40%)
4. Going to the movies (37%)
5. Visiting family and friends (31%)
6. Playing board games (30%)
7. Reading (27%)
8. Swimming (27%)
9. Cooking (26%)
10. Playing games consoles (25%)

Stine Brogaard from Stokke’s offers five top tips on becoming closer to your child and ensuring you spend quality time together.

1.Don’t take time for granted
Instead of booking playdates for your child when you have the day off, make it quality mother/daughter or father/son time, doing something together that you both want to do.

2. Ask your child questions
Find out what their favourite things to do are. A child’s taste changes so much over time so it’s important to keep on track and do things that reflect this.

3. Share passions
Find something that you are passionate about and encourage your child to get into it too. Even better if it’s something you can do together, whether that’s reading, walking, or playing a sport such as football or tennis. This will make it much easier to find time for each other that you’ll enjoy. Though read the signs if they don’t enjoy it, you can’t force these things!

4. Cook together
Eating is something we do every day, so cooking together is a fantastic way to have fun together, give your child responsibility and educate them about food. Give them set tasks, let them choose what they’d like to cook and encourage them. Seeing the family appreciate the food you’ve created together will be something very special to them and give them confidence.

5. Make the most of the shorter windows of time
We all have very busy lives, always going from A to B whether that’s school, work, extra-curricular classes or friends’ houses. If you’re travelling together, make sure you pay your child your full attention and make an effort to understand what’s gone on in their day and share snapshots of your own. The most important thing is to laugh together, and find ways to have fun, wherever you are – no matter how little time you have.

Research has revealed, 87% of parents wished they could spend more time with their children while parents say that less than half (45%) of the time they spend with their child is quality time.

Research of 2,000 parents of children aged under 14 also revealed that when it comes to making key decisions in the household, it appears that the child has more control over what happens today than years gone by. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of people said their child had more control in their home than when they were young, and one in four (27%) admit that their child completely rules the roost! In fact, over half (53%) of British parents said that their child is the bossiest person in the household.

How to raise earth-friendly children

By | Education, environment, Uncategorized

Children are increasingly aware of the need to help the planet. Westbourne House School’s Head of Nursery and Pre-Prep Caroline Oglethorpe thinks that to raise earth-friendly children we need to show we care and respect the environment both at school and at home.

“You wouldn’t think a 15 year old could change the world and she literally has”, Honor (aged 11) told me when she heard the news that Greta Thunberg had won Time’s Person of the Year.

Honor is a keen environmentalist in Year 7 at Westbourne House School, Chichester, and she sits on the Environment Committee, an initiative involving Years 1 to 8. She is supported by the school to take positive action, which helps her and her fellow committee feel positive and empowered. And as we’ve witnessed, children’s enthusiasm, passion and understanding can have a huge impact and help change attitudes and behaviour.

I believe that when we practice what we preach, when we show we care too – either as a school or as parents at home – the impact on young minds is stronger and our children learn better how to make a difference to the environment. As Benjamin Franklin is famously quoted, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. Nothing could be truer when it comes to educating and as a school we are working to create many opportunities for children to be involved. Recently our children from Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and 2 – and their parents – enthusiastically planted 100 trees to create a new wildlife woodland. With the children, we discussed the carbon cycle and the importance of trees and how trees make homes for wildlife. The children in Year 2 wrote a letter to the trees thanking them for the air that we breathe and for absorbing CO2, helping our planet to breathe too.

Speaking at the tree planting event, Sarah Cunliffe, wildlife filmmaker at Sussex-based Big Wave Productions, said: “I am so proud of all the children. What is happening is a fantastic example of how we can all make change and reduce our carbon footprint. We all need to do more.”

“We all need to do more” this is the reason to empower children and help them to realise that they can make a positive impact if they choose. The Environmental Committee members at our school are tasked with looking around the school, deciding where they can make a difference and driving changes. It is about getting back to basics as well – gardening and growing vegetables, thinking about eating seasonally, reducing food waste, being outside, appreciating what we have and mindfulness.

The school of course will continue to encourage green behaviour with visits from outside organisations such as Solar Education, who visited Years 3 and 4 recently and helped them work out their carbon footprints. Plus visits from inspirational people such as author and passionate conservationist Laurent St John, who reminded the children during her visit that they can be their parents’ conscience. In the spring, pupils will be planting wild flowers adjacent to the new woodland site as part of a pan-European pollination project, which aims to create even more opportunities for wildlife to flourish.

I’ve collected together a few ideas that you might want to do with your child/ren to help develop their environmental awareness and to remind us all that every little action helps:

1 It is always good to remind ourselves how incredible our planet is. If you haven’t watched Seven Worlds One Planet on BBC1 with your children, you can catch it on iPlayer.

2 If you want to learn together, there are sites that explain climate change in a factual way for children such as National Geographic Kids.

3 Create a challenge to catch each other when not making sustainable choices. For example, a child might not think about the impact of leaving the lid off a glue stick, which means that the whole stick, including plastic casing, has to be thrown away. You might forget to turn off your engine at the level crossing. Your child might struggle to resist the ice cream with the biggest plastic packaging.

4 There are so many fun initiatives you can join in with as a family for example:
• No Mow May: Plantlife, a British conservation charity, urges you not to mow your lawn (or part of it) in May. By the end, your garden will be buzzing with happy pollinators and your family can join in the flower count.
• Your family could join up to Hedgehog Street (www.hedgehogstreet.org). Aimed at gardens with fences, you can ensure that there is a hedgehog highway and put yourself down as a Hedgehog Champion in your street and encourage others to do the same.

Westbourne House School: for boys and girls aged 2½ – 13. www.westbournehouse.org

The winter staycation

By | Education, environment, family, Family Farms, fun for children, Party, Playing

If it’s not possible to escape the colder months here in the UK and jet off to sunnier climes this year, then we might all just need to be a bit more creative in order to make sure we can still enjoy the great outdoors.

Summer staycations have been pretty popular this year, and no doubt some people were probably found moaning about it being too hot, but soon enough we will be longing for warm weather and sunshine again.

“There’s no need to wait for a warm, or even dry day to plan a family trip out” says Nicola Henderson, who is a mother of three and runs family farm, Godstone Farm, in Surrey.

Here are her top tips for day trips to help get you outdoors whatever the weather:
Book online
With reduced capacities to ensure social distancing most venues will ask you to book in advance, and why risk not getting in with excited children in the back seat? Many attractions may offer their best price if you book in advance via their website and often more savings can be made the further ahead you book. That all important booking confirmation is also a valuable chance for the attraction you are visiting to communicate important information to you; in uncertain times its best to get the low-down before you arrive.

Use the website for all important information
Most venues will now have information on their site about their ‘Covid Secure’ measures and any information you need to know. But, let’s not forget the fun stuff – the website will give you all the details of what’s open and what’s on, plus check out the blog and any latest posts on social media. This day out might be a special treat, so show the children pictures and read content to them, even play a quiz in the car about what they think they might see and do. You might not be going on holiday, but you can still escape for a bit!

Arrive early
Let’s face it, the children aren’t likely to give you a lie in on your staycation so make the most of the day. Arriving early means getting the car parking space closer to the entrance (important in bad weather!) and also being first in line for things that might get busier during the day. Whether it’s the front of the queue for a ride, or the first to cuddle a cute bunny it’s always good to beat the crowds, especially on weekends and holidays. Check out opening times before you visit – some attractions have started opening earlier than usual – this seems a popular idea, especially when toddlers get tired and need an afternoon snooze.

Leave the picnic at home
There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, hear the cries of parents up and down the land who are plain bored of making a picnic. All those lockdown walks where daily exercise meant packing up a hamper, going to the green space close by and trying to entertain the children while keeping in line with government guidance. Nicola adds “Certainly with my family, when lots of places were still closed there was an endless snack-packing exercise to go out to the local park.” Secondly, if you are able to support your local business, or small attraction in the area by making a purchase when you are there, then do. Of course, picnics are still fine if that’s what you prefer.

We love wellies!
It’s a fact! Remember that blistering heatwave? Yep, there were still those children that want to wear wellies, and hey, you’re only a child once so why not. If it is raining however, why not make extra fun on your day and do a bit of puddle jumping? If the children are dressed for it, then it makes bad weather into a real positive and provides endless fun. There’s puddle jumping competitions wherever you go in the rain, because you just make them yourself, or even try the puddle jumping Olympics! The only rule is that parents must join in too.

Wherever you go, whether it’s a staycation away from home or day trips out nothing beats the outdoors and the benefits we all know it can bring.

Godstone Farm will continue to provide fun whatever the weather, but it’s always worth checking the website for up to date opening days and times. They have some exciting plans for 2021 including a Day Nursery and Pre-School planned to open in early 2021. www.godstonefarm.co.uk

Hothouse or greenhouse? Surviving or thriving?

By | Education, environment, family, fun for children, Mental health, play, Relationships, Safety
by Tamara Pearson
Senior Teacher (Curriculum), Our Lady of Sion Junior School

One cannot foresee the pressure you put on yourself as a parent when the midwife first hands your newborn to you. Which nappies are best? Will this car seat save my child’s life? What does my pram say about us as parents? These soon turn to comparisons over when children learn to crawl, walk and talk. Once at school age, we cannot help but wonder “where is my child in the class?”, “are they happy?”, “does the school of our choice match the needs of our child(ren)?”

We all want the best for our children. So what do we go for? The ‘hothouse’ or the ‘greenhouse’? Are our children just ‘surviving’ or truly ‘thriving’?

To even begin to answer these questions, we must consider what the true purpose of education and the role of schools is. What are our children learning and why? How are they learning? How is failure perceived? How are children assessed and how is that communicated? Is learning/attainment ‘fixed’ or is there genuine room for growth and development of the mind?

Research shows that childhood anxiety is the highest it has ever been. Circumstances, finances, relationships, expectations, social media, diet and exercise all play their part. What are schools doing to address these challenges? Fostering an authentic mindset in students is crucial; the jobs they will have in the future may not yet exist today.

Much has been made of Growth Mindset in the world of work and education, but, in reality, this is not enough. In order to prepare children for life’s challenges, they need a full toolbox of skills. Having a proactive/positive approach needs to be underpinned by social, emotional, and academic tools in order to fully educate the whole child. It is not about just working hard, it is about working smart.

As professional educators, it is our responsibility to prepare children in moving beyond being passive consumers of information and toward becoming active innovators. We must actively inspire and provide genuine opportunities to develop children’s passions.

At our school, our children are driven by our ethos ‘Consideration Always’. As role models to the school community and beyond, we entrust them to develop and demonstrate the best version of themselves. Children develop when they are given the opportunity to do so. Mary Myatt’s philosophy of ‘high challenge, low threat’ leadsthe way.

Expecting consistent productivity and positivity is not realistic, attainable, or even desirable; we may flit between fixed and growth mindsets. This is okay. The clincher is to remember that whatever setbacks we face, we can reflect/process our thoughts, then jump back in the saddle and continue the ride to our intended destination.

Equipped with a well-developed toolkit of social, emotional, and academic skills, every child can take on inevitable setbacks (and pressures of success) with integrity, resolve and good humour.

Tamara Pearson is a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Our Lady of Sion Junior School in Worthing.
She is also mother to a six year old who attends Sion and is passionate about helping the Juniors embrace every enrichment opportunity available.
She is a UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador and in the last three years has seen Sion Juniors rewrite its Curriculum, assessment approach, create an Intergenerational Project, achieve Beach School status, Eco Schools Silver Award and make meaningful links with the community.
www.sionschool.org.uk

The Festival of Winter Walks

By | environment, family, Relationships, Sport

More and more of us are facing the impact of stress, overworking and the demands of everyday life. For example, in a 2018 poll by YouGov for the Mental Health Foundation 74% of UK adults reported having been so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. For many people, lack of exercise, being stuck indoors due to desk-bound jobs or being disconnected from green spaces can be big factors. Such feelings often come into sharper focus during the festive season, when staying on top of all the preparations, and pressures to party and be sociable can also pile in and stress us out.
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, then here’s the ideal festive uplift gift – the Festival Of Winter Walks, which will run from 20th December 2019 to 5th January 2020. It’s organised by the Ramblers, the charity which helps everyone, everywhere, enjoy walking and protects the places we all love to walk.

Ramblers groups across the UK will offer a warm welcome on hundreds of free festive walks. No matter where you live, and whether or not you’ve walked before, they’ll offer the chance to enjoy the wonderful winter landscape in good company; to relax, unwind and stress-bust, and to make new friends at a time of year when many people can feel anxious, stressed or
even isolated.

There will be fun winter-themed walks that the little ones will love; leisurely strolls under five miles for people new to walking; and longer walks for those that want more of a challenge. For those of you who may be short on time or want a gentler stroll, there will be Ramblers’ health walks.

Top tips for getting into winter walking
• Don’t worry if you’re not a seasoned walker, the Ramblers Festival Of Winter Walks includes lots of short group walks to get you started.
• Enjoy connecting with winter scenery and sounds. Have a mindful walk; slow down from the everyday rush and really take in your surroundings – the whistling wind, or starlings migrating to the UK for winter. Why not take some photos on your phone, and share them at #winterwalks and don’t forget to tag The Ramblers@RamblersGB
• Take a flask of warming tea, coffee or festive, hot spiced apple juice with you. Cinnamon sticks, ginger and mulling sachets are readily available from most supermarkets.
• For younger walkers: challenge them to find an interesting stick and become a wizard with a staff. Or find the crunchiest winter leaf, or gather pinecones, which they could paint back at home. There are lots more ideas for winter walking fun in the Festival of Winter Walks guide: www.ramblers.org.uk/foww
• If you enjoy joining a Festival Of Winter Walks event, why not join your nearest Ramblers group on their next walk?

Ramblers have 484 walking groups across the UK, including a growing number for young walkers.

You can find your nearest Ramblers group online at www.ramblers.org.uk

There’s no such thing as bad weather…

By | Education, environment, family, Family Farms, Playing, Uncategorized

There’s no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothes, or so the saying goes…

It also helps to be well planned when you have little ones still needing to burn off steam and be kept occupied. So it’s no wonder that farm parks across the UK are growing in popularity with over 250 members of the National Farm Attractions Network (NFAN) setting the standard in good quality places for families to visit.

Nicola Henderson, CEO of the popular children’s attraction Godstone Farm in Surrey agrees the winter months can be a challenge. But with nearly 20 years of experience in running family attractions and as a mum of three herself, she shares her three nifty tips with ABC Magazine on innovative ways to get outdoors in the winter.

1 Seek out the animals who love the cold weather! You’ll find many types of animals in a farm park, especially those who just love the winter months. Highland cows are a great example of a hardy breed and they look pretty impressive even if a bit wet and bedraggled! Many of the farm attractions now have interesting ways to feed some of the animals yourselves, plus opportunities to book in for exclusive experiences – we have introduced a Mini Farmer experience and it has been a huge hit.

2 Soft play is not just somewhere to dry off, it helps little ones learn through imaginative role-play. The brightly coloured and physically challenging play areas at many children’s attractions are a familiar feature today thanks to the understanding we have for learning through play within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Many soft play areas offer further stimulation for little one’s imaginations with indoor play areas where they can pretend to be a vet, work in a café or as part of a construction team. It’s a delight to see parents getting involved in the role-play too – encouraging bonding and learning even further.

3 Get hands-on with the animals. Being part of NFAN means that farms adhere to a strict code of practice for cleanliness and hygiene; parents can be reassured that they will find excellent hand washing facilities and protocols in place at farms with this accreditation. It brings absolute delight to their little faces when children get the chance to hold a rabbit, groom a guinea pig or see a newly hatched chick. These sensory experiences are so important and provide the perfect balance of fun and education and many farm parks have dedicated spaces, allowing these activities to carry on all year round.

Nicola adds: “Our farm is home to over 500 animals so there’s so much to do in the winter for families. I love having the chance to chat to the visiting children about the sheep in their woolly coats or encouraging them to pretend to be goats who keep active by climbing and jumping! As part of our 40th birthday celebrations we’ve been living by our moto of: Explore, Discover. Play. We have a large indoor playbarn with a dedicated toddler area, plus Wiglet’s Play Village – an indoor role-play centre with a ball play zone and a baby area. Meaning there’s wholesome farm fun to be had all year round.”

Godstone Farm is open all year round, and a NEW Winter Pass has just been launched! Engineer your own fun this winter with our new pass, perfect for keeping the family entertained come rain or shine – and even snow!
www.godstonefarm.co.uk