Category

family

How hard can it be to fit a pair of shoes?

By | children's health, family, footwear and feet
by Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
Klodhoppers Ltd Haywards Heath

Generally speaking, we only get one pair of feet, and considering the amount of work we ask them to do we really need to take good care of them. Staff at our shop are qualified as members of the Society of Shoe Fitters. They are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues, thereby ensuring that everyone at the shop should be able to tell how well (or badly) a shoe fits initially by the way the shoe slides onto the customer’s foot (or not!) This is one of the main reasons why we will put the shoes on our customers’ feet ourselves.

The amount of ease on the areas of resistance can be felt as the shoe slides onto the foot and indicates to the experienced fitter how the shoe is going to fit. The customer may not like the style or the design of the shoe once it’s on, but at least the fitter can be honest about the fit. Remember that the size on the box is just a number and merely a starting point for the fitter. As qualified fitters we will always tell you if we think the fit can be tweaked and improved.

Once the shoes are on the feet we will ask the child to walk around so that we can check the fit. We are looking to see not only if the gait appears ‘normal’ (unless of course, that is a separate health issue), but also whether the shoes look as though they are ‘behaving normally’ when worn.

So we are checking primarily that the shoe is not slipping up and down at the back of the heel and there are no big gaps around the ankle. We are also looking to see if the topline of the shoe is comfortably clear of the anklebone – if not it may rub, especially if there is no padded heel collar. In addition we are checking that the vamp of the shoe (where the shoe ends at the top or front of your foot) is not gaping or creasing abnormally, which would prompt us to think that the shoe might be too wide or too deep.

We will also be considering the shape and height of the heel collar – is it complementing the natural contour of your child’s foot? What is the extent of any gaping? A certain amount of space is to be expected, but if the gape is too wide then the foot will not be held in place securely. A style with a higher or tighter topline may need to be selected instead. Also, if there is too much slipping going on at the heel, we may need to play around with a different, possibly narrower brand, or even a different size.

Having over 30 years combined shoe-fitting experience, we could line up at least 10 pairs of the same size shoe, but if they are all 10 different brands, even if they are similar styles, we can guarantee that they will all fit slightly differently on one child’s feet! Some of those fits will be better than others – this is where our guidance, advice, knowledge and expertise comes into play.

A fitter’s hands and eyes are their chief fitting tools, with the measuring gauge being the starting point. Practice improves their precision in dealing with each individual customer, alongside a thorough knowledge of all of the brands stocked. There is absolutely no point in fitting a pair of shoes unless it is known how each particular brand or style fits.

For example, if we are fitting a pair of Dr Martens boots or school shoes we know that this brand is quite true to UK sizing lengthwise, but the shoes more often than not tend to suit a wide, deep foot. There is very little point in bringing this brand out for a slim narrow foot, unless the customer is intent on having them, and is happy to have lots of space taken out with insoles – but that is the customer’s choice and it is likely to be pointed out by the fitter as probably ‘not the best fit’ on offer.

However, if I brought out a specific style of Superfit trainers for a very wide, deep foot, it would more often than not be a complete waste of time, as that style tends to fit slim ankles and narrow feet. A wide foot is going to feel completely squashed and restricted.

Most parents will expect a certain amount of growing room in their child’s shoes, depending on growth spurts, but most fitters will try to allow for at least a three month growth period. Most children’s growth spurts are erratic and do not happen at regular, predictable intervals. Smaller children can grow up to two and a half sizes in one year, so that is why it is very important that for their foot health’s sake they are measured and checked frequently by qualified fitters.

It doesn’t cost anything to pop in and have your child’s shoes checked and to be re-measured on a regular basis. All shoe shops that offer a measuring and fitting service and have qualified fitters will do size checks for you for free, but it is essential to remember that different shops use different gauges – as mentioned previously, the size gauge is merely an indication of the approximate size for the shoe fitter to start with.

It is wise to regularly check the fit of your child’s shoes every four to six weeks for infants (up to three years), every six to eight weeks for toddlers (three to four years), and every 10 – 12 weeks thereafter. It’s likely that a child will need at least four pairs of shoes each year in the formative years while the growth spurts are quite rapid. Any damage done to your child’s feet during these early years can be long-lasting and often irreversible. Most girls will start to slow down foot growth-wise by approximately age 13-14 years old, but boys’ feet can keep growing up to around 18 years old.

An infant requires a style which holds firmly onto the foot and which is easy to put on by the parent. It also needs to allow the foot to develop naturally and which does not restrict the freedom of the ankle.

In a first walker or a pre-walker the most important factor should be that the uppers and soles are soft, lightweight and very flexible which allows the foot to move naturally and enables the child’s foot arch muscles to develop correctly.

There must be adequate toe room in a child’s shoe not only for growth but also for the elongation of the foot when walking.

If there is sufficient room the vamps of the shoe will not become distorted and if there is sufficient depth it will prevent any downward pressure on the toes too.

If the shoes are too shallow there will be no ‘wiggle’ room for toes, and if the shoes are too short then the longest toe(s) will hit the end of the shoes and potentially do damage to the nails and nail beds, as well as cause the formation of a ‘hammer’ or ‘claw’ toes.

Once children start school the bones have started to form and their muscles and arches are developing and being exercised, therefore a child needs a shoe with more protection and support. Their school shoes must be able to withstand the rigours an active lifestyle at school will require, otherwise parents will need to be prepared to replace them more frequently.

On average a school-age child will need a minimum of two pairs of shoe shoes per academic year – if their shoes ‘last a whole year’, it’s more than likely that they are wearing a pair that are much too small for them!

As a parent the most important thing to remember is to get your child’s feet checked. If you take them to a qualified dentist for their dental check ups, and a qualified GP for any health issues, so why wouldn’t you protect your child’s foot health by taking them to a qualified shoe fitter for a shoe check and a re-measure on a regular basis?

Kim Jackson M.S.S.F (Member of the Society of Shoe Fitters & Children’s Foot Health Register accredited) Klodhoppers, Haywards Heath www.klodhoppers.com

money and kids

Playful ways to introduce money

By | Education, family, Finance, numeracy skills
Source: F&C Investment Trust

Children are seeing less actual ‘money’ nowadays with many adults using cards or apps to pay, so they can grow up far less aware of how to use actual notes and coins. Here are some ways to ensure that children still learn about ‘real money’.

1 Make a pretend shop with a pot of coins and sticky note price tags to encourage little ones to play with money.

2 Next time you’re at the shops, point out some of the prices on the items and talk about what the symbols mean.

3 Write a shopping list for making fruit smoothies and take it with you to the shops to buy your ingredients.

4 Turn an old cardboard box into a cash machine with buttons and pretend screen for lots of pretend play with money.

5 Place coins under paper and rub with a crayon on its side, what numbers can your child see?

6 Encourage older children to explore ways to make the value of five or 10 using small coins in lots of different ways.

7 Bury coins in sand or mud for little ones to discover and play with, perhaps matching numbers or values.

8 Set up a pretend bank with money, till and paper slips. Why not visit a bank to show your little one where money comes from?

9 Press coins into lumps of play dough to see the impressions and numbers.

10 Turn an old box or tube into a money box for your child’s savings.

 

couple

Unsolicited advice parenting your own way

By | family, Mental health, Relationships

Somehow, having a baby seems to grant everyone around you a green card in telling you what you should and shouldn’t do with your child. From breastfeeding, to sleeping, playing, dressing, cleaning, and even speaking to your baby, there isn’t one aspect that goes unnoticed by self-proclaimed parenting experts.
Whether you’re a first or fourth time parent, having a new baby can be both the most wonderful time of your life, and the most emotionally draining. The last thing you need is other people – family members, strangers, parents and non-parents alike – adding to that stress and affecting you.

Nelsons Teetha®, the homeopathic teething relief brand has put together a list of conflict-free ways to help you deal with different scenarios in order to help you keep your cool in frustrating situations.

Parents – “That’s not how we did it with you”
Dealing with advice from your parents can be difficult to manoeuvre, especially if you disagree. After all, they are the ones who raised you, and the advice will come from a place of love. Not only that, but they’ve probably grown used to you turning to them for advice. However, there is a fine line between offering suggestions because they want to help and offering comments because they disapprove of what you have chosen to do with your baby. Though you might not want to dismiss their knowledge entirely, being related can offer the chance to explain yourself clearly without causing too much offense. You might want to explain that you appreciate all the help they have provided but that you will be the one to turn to them if you need advice. Be honest with them, they are your parents and putting off telling them how you feel might make you grow to resent them.

In-laws – “I think it would be best if…”
The in-laws situation is arguably trickier than dealing with your own parents. They will have a whole range of things to say about how they raised their children that obviously have nothing to do with you. Instead of snapping back at them and causing an uncomfortable family situation, you could turn the situation around and ask them some questions. Switch the focus to them and then change the conversation. If all else fails, talk to your partner about presenting a united front. Just as you might be more comfortable telling your own parents not to give unsolicited advice, so might your partner be to their parents.

Parent-friends – “Are you really going to do that?”
Friends who are parents themselves might also be prone to chiming in with comments about your parenting skills. Like your in-laws, they will have their own set of views that might differ completely to yours. Agreeing to disagree might be the best option here. Handle it in a way you might other topics, such as religion or politics. Simply tell them that you have decided to do something in one way, that you are totally fine with them doing it in another and that you should leave it at that.

Non-parent-friends – “I’ve heard that you should…”
It can be frustrating when someone who does not have children decides to tell you how you should raise yours, however try not to take it personally. Know your facts, trust your instincts and maybe try to educate your friend. Clarify the point they have made a comment about with an expert’s view, or knowledge you have received from a doctor. The more they know, the less likely they will be to make a comment again.

Strangers – “You’re putting your child at risk!”
There are quite a few online threads where parents post the craziest things that strangers have told them and it’s hard to imagine what you would do in those situations. Though getting defensive might be your initial response, there are a few things you can do to dismiss the stranger without causing a scene. The first would be to ignore them and keep walking, after all, you don’t owe them anything. If they persist, you could politely thank them but tell them you know what you are doing. If this doesn’t work, then you have every right to kindly tell them to mind their own business.

Ultimately, your life as a parent will be filled with a vast array of conflicting advice and information. Whether it’s through books, doctors, friends, family or strangers, everybody will have their own way of doing things. The best thing to do is to educate yourself, learn how to deal with different situations, and most importantly, to trust your own instincts as a parent. As long as you know that you are making the best decisions for your child, you are doing the right thing!

happy child

Protecting your precious little one’s palate

By | baby health, Education, family, Food & Eating, fun for children, Playing

How getting early feeding right can benefit your child’s future health and wellbeing.

Emily Day is Head of Food Development at Organix Brands Ltd, a purpose driven children’s food brand, founded in 1992, with a clear mission to ensure healthy nutritious food is a real choice for everyone. Emily recognises the importance and challenges of providing the appropriate early foods which will set babies on the right path for a lifetime of healthy eating.

“Eat your greens!” is a parental mantra that has persisted through countless generations of vegetable shy youngsters – with Popeye style threats if you don’t!

Start as you mean to go on! Introducing what is an essential part of all our diets, vital for the health of our bodies, should start from those first wonderful weaning moments. Like anything new or unfamiliar, this may not always elicit a thumbs up or gurgle from our little ones. So be patient – persist, because if you crack it early, you’ll avoid mentioning our favourite cartoon sailor.

How can you future proof your tiny tots’ precious palates, and help them be appreciative of the flavours, textures, shapes and tastes of fruits and vegetables so they have a lifelong loving relationship?

For starters, did you know that children learn about their likes and dislikes by being in direct contact with foods; through tasting smelling, touching, holding and also observing others and the way they eat. In fact, even before they start on solids, your baby’s taste buds will be responding to what they’re being fed on, even from inside the womb and if breastfed through the milk.

And don’t forget it’s not just about taste, meal time is also a key development time for children, so should be fun and engaging. To support parents, at what we know can often be a tricky time, we’ve put together some top tips to help:
• After six months of nothing but breast milk or formula, it’s understandable that new tastes come as a surprise to babies, especially when more challenging flavours such as vegetables are introduced. And after all, it’s natural for them to be somewhat suspicious, after only being accustomed to the sweet taste of milk. Our bodies, especially in childhood, do not need or want added salt, sugar or additives, which is why Organix only develop foods with our ‘No Junk Promise’, so parents can trust what they are giving to their children.

• Exposing babies to vegetables in the early weaning stage is a known means of gaining their early acceptance – but not for all! The taste and smell can lead to food refusal. But don’t give up! It might take up to 15 attempts on a regular basis to introduce a baby to a new taste, but research shows that repeated and frequent exposure to them is the most successful route to familiarity and their ultimate acceptance.

• Familiarising babies and toddlers with fruit and vegetables through listening, seeing, touching and smelling them can be a very effective way to win over little taste buds. Try the wonderful aromas of a banana or strawberry, or create a fun to make visual feast by making a fun food plate together.

• Don’t forget fruit and vegetables make wonderful baby finger foods or toddler snacks. Once your baby is past the 12 months stage, two to three snacks are recommended daily. This makes for an excellent opportunity to squeeze in a little extra, so why not choose a fruit or vegetable that is in season for two? Then if required for a third, give yourself a break and why not try Organix Melty Veggie Sticks made with organic corn and pea and flavoured with vegetables? These are baked into a chunky shape, making them easy to hold.

Organix weaning and finger foods help babies discover new shapes, tastes and textures, and our wide range of toddler snacks provide parents with healthier snacking options to fuel happy days.You can find heaps of further information in the Organix Baby & Toddler Cookbook which has over 70 quick and easy recipes from weaning purees to dinner time faves for the whole family to enjoy!

A kid’s guide to moving house

By | family, houses and property, Relationships
by Emma Kenny
Psychologist

Moving to a new house is considered one of the most stressful experiences that a family can go through, and whilst to some degree even the smoothest of moves can pose a fair few challenges, the experience can be made easier when all family members feel involved.
Children, just like adults, feel a whole host of emotions when they contemplate what a move of home and area can bring. These range from elation and excitement to absolute terror, so it is absolutely paramount to understand how your kids feel throughout the relocation process.

Let’s face it, moving home is a big deal, and the more that you can prepare your kids emotionally, psychologically, socially and physically, the better it will be for the family.

Top tips for parents to help children through the moving process:

Communicate and help children verbalise fears
As soon as you firmly decide to move home it is time to begin communicating your decision to your children. Before you sit down with them to discuss the move, make sure that you have created a list of reasons as to why you have decided that moving to a new house will be brilliant. Remember, the more positive and prepared you are, the more convincing you will be, and this will help to reduce any anxiety that your children may have.

Get children to openly discuss and explain any fears or worries that are concerning them regarding the house move. Explain that it is totally normal to feel a bit scared when facing a big change.

Provide children with a sense of control
Children like thinking that they are in charge! It feels good for them to perceive that they have a say, and a certain amount of sway when it comes to what is happening in their life. Get them to sit down with you and list all the fantastic things about moving house. Making new friends, learning new activities or starting a completely new life can be hugely exciting. The most positive you think the most positive they’ll feel. Also take them along with you when doing viewings – this really helps them feel a sense of authority and that they have
a say in the process.

Be prepared for any questions that they have and above all, take their concerns seriously.

Use their imagination
Children love using their imagination to conjure all sorts of fantastical eventualities.
Get them to draw a picture
of their ‘Dream Home’. This could be totally wacky, princess-style castle or a country cottage – whatever they bring to life, will help them understand the concept of moving into a new home and living in a new place.

Do a trial run
As with many things – try before you buy! It can be really helpful for the whole family to spend some fun, laid-back days in the new area before you make the big move there. Knowing where the fun places are will make it seem all the more appealing. A nice welcoming cafe, a park, a library or museum are all good places to draw their attention to and get them looking forward to experiencing more time together in the new area.

Plan how to keep in touch with friends
Leaving friends behind is understandably one of the most upsetting aspects of moving to a new house and area. Don’t minimise your child’s feelings no matter how young they are, as whilst they will make new friends, it doesn’t stop saying goodbye being difficult or leave them feeling sad. Instead, acknowledge that it is tough to leave their friends behind, and discuss strategies that will make keeping in contact with friends really easy.

Encourage them to take a few mementos from your existing home which will remind them of all the happy times they spent there. These can be a few rocks from the garden, or a plant that they can dig up and replant at their new property. This helps your child feel that they still have connections to the home that they have left behind.

Bury a time capsule
Before you move to your new house, create a time capsule in a box filled with memories of how you lived your life in your old home. Many years later you could always return to the spot and open the capsule with your family and share your memories. Have the children write down their favourite memories of their old house and the item they’ve put in the capsule to represent that memory. Just make sure you bury it in an accessible and memorable place!

Make a wish list and give them ownership
Start getting the whole family excited about all the fantastic plans you have for everyone once the move is complete. This can include new activities that your kids can try, such as enrolling in a gymnastics club, or starting with a local theatre group, and you can bring these ideas to life by getting them to research them online. Even better, get them to create a physical wish list of things that they would love to do once they are settled to the new place and then help them set some goals so that they can achieve these wishes.

As you settle into your new house, ensure you allow your child some ownership over the design of their new room. Whilst you may think that letting your little ones go crazy with their imagination could lead to some questionable choices in home décor, it enables them to emotionally bond with their new environment and also provides a focus whilst they settle in.

Creative writing
Work with your child to write a moving home story with a main character that moves with their family. Encourage them to use their imagination and have the main character go through the experience of moving homes with their families and settling into a new place, making new friends and joining new clubs and groups in the new area. This will help them envisage what the new environment will be like and familiarise themselves with the concept of moving home.

Check in with them regularly
It is really important to check in regularly with your children to ensure that they can confide in you any troubling feelings that they may be experiencing. Take 10 minutes each night before they go to bed to discuss their feelings about moving home. This allows them to feel supported and also unpack their feelings so that they don’t lie worrying in bed, because tired kids find the world a great deal more challenging.

There are lots of books available which feature stories about children moving house including Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Wrecking Ball or Jenny Eclair’s Moving.

Visit www.purplebricks.co.uk/blog/post/diary-of-a-wimpy-kid for further details and to download ‘A Kids Guide to Moving House’, created by Emma Kenny with Purplebricks, to help families through the moving process.

couple

Marriage, civil partnership or living together?

By | family, Legal, Uncategorized

Here Rachael House, Senior Associate Solicitor in Family Law at Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in Woking answers questions to explain the different options so you can work out what’s best for your own relationship.

Can couples of the opposite sex enter into a civil partnership?
Yes. Since the end of 2019, couples of the opposite sex have been able to enter into a civil partnership to cement their relationship in law. This is something that was previously only allowed for same sex couples.

Why not just get married?
People have their own personal reasons for not wanting to get married but they may still want to have the same legal rights afforded to them as married couples. Allowing opposite sex couples to enter into a civil partnership enables them to benefit from the same legal rights as though they were married. This applies to money matters such as tax benefits, pensions and inheritance.

I am happy living with my partner, why bother with either?
Bear in mind that there is no such thing as a ‘common law’ husband or wife. This means that just because you have lived together for a number of years, you do not have the same legal rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership. This can create financial hardship in the event of death or separation if careful planning is not taken at the outset or during the relationship. There are important matters to consider to protect your legal rights for example, if you own your own home or are going to invest unequal amounts into a property. With legal advice, a co-habitation agreement can be prepared setting out how money will be treated in the event of the relationship ending but it can also include provision about the day-to-day running of the household during the relationship. However, as the law currently stands, you will not have the same automatic benefits as married couples or those in a civil partnership.

What do I need to consider before getting married or entering into a civil partnership?
Whether you are getting married or entering into a civil partnership, it is sensible to consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, particularly if this is a second marriage or partnership for you – as you may have assets from a previous relationship you wish to protect should this current relationship break down.

Can I convert my civil partnership into a marriage in the future?
Currently only same sex couples can convert their civil partnership into a marriage. Conversion for opposite sex civil partnerships is not yet available, but it is likely to become law in the future.

What if my marriage or civil partnership breaks down?
You must have been separated for a year or more before commencing divorce or (in the case of a civil partnership) dissolution proceedings. Upon the ending of a civil partnership, you are entitled to the same financial provisions as those available in a divorce. The provisions deal with selling or transferring property, payment of a lump sum of money from one party to the other, ongoing payments to support one party to help them live day-to-day, and entitlement to receive a share of the other party’s pension. These may sound like simple matters but the practicality of applying them to the assets is often complicated, and so legal advice is beneficial. Taking early legal advice can often avoid costly court proceedings.

What if I do not want to go to court?
There are different routes to achieve financial settlement without attending court. Many couples go through mediation (legal aid is still available in some circumstances to cover the cost). Another option is the collaborative route where parties meet in the same room with their respective legal teams and pledge not to go to court. Arbitration can be entered into where couples require a court-like decision without actually going to court. It is also possible to arrange private court-like meetings to obtain the expert view of a person acting as a judge. The ‘judgement’ is then used to guide the parties towards reaching agreement swiftly. Your legal advisor can discuss which route is most appropriate for you.

Rachael House is a specialist family solicitor at Mackrell Turner Garrett, an established firm of experienced Solicitors based in Woking. www.mtgsurrey.co.uk

wooden toys

Wooden toys

By | family, fun for children, Party, play, Playing, Toys
by Susan Luxford
Timeless Toys

Wooden toys- the freedom to explore, create and grow

It might be surprising to know that wooden toy brands have been around for a long time. Leicester based Lanka Kade and Surrey based Le Toy Van both celebrated 25 years in 2019 whist German brands like Goki and Heimess have been making wooden toys since the early 1970s. Despite their longevity, it is only in the most recent years that wooden toys have seen a revival and are experiencing an ever-growing popularity. But why?

There has been growing awareness of the value of unstructured open-ended play and wooden toys have often been designed with this in mind, enabling children’s imaginations and creativity to be boundless. These toys don’t have an obvious single use, instructions or rules giving children the ability to be in control of how they play, keeping their minds clear as they think through different scenarios or solve problems. By encouraging open-ended play, wooden toys can help develop a child’s reasoning and problem solving skills, social interactions, improve their hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills and aid speech development.

There’s been increasing health concerns about the chemicals used within plastic toys to make them pliable and colourful, that children then absorb through their mouths and skin. Despite regulations in place, toys made to unsafe levels are still commonly finding their way into homes. In 2018, 31% of toys sold in the EU were recalled over safety concerns with 25% of these having unsafe chemical levels1 – whilst 722,000 toys were seized and impounded by the EU in 20182. Wooden toys do not contain PVC or phthalates that cause endocrine (hormone) disruption, they are free of preservatives and formaldehyde, respiratory irritants linked to asthma and allergies and free
of Naphthalene and its chemical cousins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are strongly suspected to cause cancer.

Parents are questioning whether previously popular electronic toys marketed as educational and interactively beneficial, are either. Noises and electronic features can interrupt a child’s thinking process and limit how far a child’s imagination can go. Overstimulation can make it difficult for the brain to think critically. Additionally, with parents now spending twice as much time with their children as 50 years ago and more time at home than playing outside, parents are seeking toys that foster a calmer home environment.

The issues of plastic pollution, waste and environmental damage are big issues we are all concerned about. 8.5 million3 new, perfectly good toys are thrown away every year in the UK, which then end up in landfills, incinerators or in the ocean. Wooden toys are robust, durable and repairable, will hold a child’s interest for longer and can become family heirlooms, yielding less waste. They can be recycled easily and will fully biodegrade harmlessly within 13 years. Wooden toys use minimal fossil fuels to create them and quality brands only use FSC woods, a global forest certification system that means the wood is not only renewably sourced but comes from responsibly managed forests that protect fragile ecosystems and respects local indigenous populations.

Last but not least, there is a growing interest in the impact our buying power has on the communities and workforces where manufacturing is taking place. Many wooden toy brands are already ahead in the toy industry for their sustainability and ethos to ethical practices. The majority are still family-owned independent companies and run charitable education foundations and reforestation programmes.

With spring now here, it’s the perfect time to declutter those shelves of unloved toys and the noisy ones that irritate you. Consider making your next purchase a wooden one, with no right or wrong, no levels, no batteries, no flashing lights or sound. Just the freedom to explore, create and grow.

1 https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumers_safety/safety_products/rapex/alerts/repository/content/pages/rapex/reports/docs/RAPEX.2018.Factsheet.EN.pdf

2 https://eeb.org/more-banned-chemicals-in-toys-than-any-other-product-type/

3https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/rubbishandrecycling/factsandfigures/

Timeless Toys specialises in wooden toys and is at 103 Portland Road, Hove BN3 5DP – open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday. For more information see Timeless Toys UK on Facebook.

 

Children of all ages

By | family, fun for children, Mental health, Relationships
by Marsha Dann
Lead Teacher, Play B C Preschool

Who was not enamoured when Channel 4 first brought preschoolers together with residents in a retirement village in 2017 for ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’? While there had already been much to indicate that intergenerational interaction was positive, this six week experiment showed that afterwards 80% of the older people scored better on tests of cognition, mood and depression than they had at the outset. There were improvements in physical skills such as balance and mobility and beautiful relationships blossomed between the old and the young too. When the series returned to our screens in 2018 for a 10 week study, this time, the outcomes were measured for the children as well. Child expert Alistair Bryce Clegg found that the children made unexpected progress in areas of empathy, language, independence and imagination.

Sadly, Britain which has a steadily ageing population has become one of the most age segregated countries in the world, according to research, by United for All Ages and the Intergenerational Foundation. As our society develops the old and the young are becoming more separated with fewer opportunities for them to interact. Statistics from a recent Intergenerational Foundation report, suggest that children living in urban areas have only a 5% chance of having someone aged over 65 living in their area. Living apart damages intergenerational relations and makes it harder for the old and the young to understand one another. Additionally it can lead to marginalisation and exclusion.

Age UK says that more than a million of our older people feel lonely. International research project Together Old and Young (TOY) demonstrates that social engagement between generations is important for us all. Intergenerational learning can help to bridge the gaps between different social groups. Older people have wisdom, heritage and experience to pass on and young children are creative and have original ways of thinking. Both age groups have much to learn from each other and their interaction appears to offer benefits including enhanced health wellbeing and the fostering of social cohesion, acceptance and appreciation of diversity. Older people can experience enhanced feelings of purpose and self-esteem and younger people can view old age more positively.

Putting it into practice
My mum is 80 years old and regularly volunteers in our preschool. Although her way of interacting with the children may not be as tactful as the practitioners, particularly when it comes to matters of discipline, the children value her no nonsense approach and enjoy her company as much as she enjoys theirs. Seeing them together fuelled my desire to get an intergenerational project off the ground, something I had been keen to do since learning about co-located early years and elder care facilities such as Mount Pleasant in America and watching the ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’. Eager to discover more, I undertook an online course delivered by TOY aimed at bringing under eights and over 65s together. The course materials explored intergenerational learning and how it could be applied in a meaningful way, in a range of contexts. I learned that the sharing of experiences and relationship building was one of a number of effective approaches to intergenerational interaction.

With this in mind, I got in contact with a local Afro-Caribbean heritage association and invited some members to participate in a short programme of African drumming alongside some of our children. Old and young enjoyed the sessions and although we were not able to sustain it on a longer term basis, it is definitely something we would repeat. Our next opportunity came when we were invited by a local drama group to join in a project with a local care home that involved monthly visits to participate in dramatic story telling and play activities with the residents. After a term’s worth of visits it can be seen already that they have had a huge impact. The children, including one who has a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder and another who is a selective talker, really enjoy seeing their ‘grandfriends’. They have steadily gained confidence and have become much more interactive with the residents. The residents themselves are always thrilled to see the children. The number of them becoming involved has grown and one of the highlights has been witnessing one lady who is reported as being uncommunicative, smile when a child handed her a scarf so that she could join in the fun.

Engaging with the residents at the care home has supported the children’s personal and social development and broadened their experiences. They view their ‘grandfriends’ as capable, fun and very special. If you can find an opportunity for your child to engage with an older person, grab it with both hands, you will be glad you did.

Emotional resilience

By | Education, family, Mental health
by Chloe Webster and Bridgit Brown
Pebbles Childcare

As practitioners, we know only too well how important supporting children’s personal, social and emotional development is, particularly in today’s society where children’s mental health (and mental health in general) is so prevalent. There are staggering statistics from the Mental Health Foundation that say at least one in 10 children (aged five to16 years) experience some form of mental illness (including anxiety and depression) as a direct response of things they have experienced, yet as many as 70% of these children will not have received sufficient interventions within their early years. (www.mentalhealth.org.uk)
So what can we do as practitioners to reduce these staggering statistics and equip our children’s emotional arsenal adequately enough to deal with the trials and tribulations the modern world puts upon them as they grow up?

sad little girlAs settings, we should place the children’s emotional development, resilience and intelligence at the forefront of everything we do, because how can we expect children to learn literacy, maths and problem solving skills when they aren’t emotionally ready to learn? As practitioners we need to support the emotional wellbeing of the children we care for, ensuring that they are aware of their emotions, what they mean and how to manage them. Then children can develop their understanding of the emotional needs of others and how we can be mindful and supportive of each other in order to develop friendships and relationships.

Encouraging children to be emotionally intelligent and resilient doesn’t have to be difficult; the earlier we introduce children to becoming aware of and feeling their emotions, the more likely they will be to grow into emotionally balanced and intelligent young people.

The behaviours children display is an outwards response of the emotions they are feeling and trying to process, and it is our job to not only support them with processing these emotions but also to allow them to truly ‘feel’ their emotions before understanding why they are feeling them and how to deal with them and process them adequately. Children need the opportunities to experience a wide range of emotions in order to develop the appropriate skills to recognise, identify and manage each emotion; if we try to ‘protect’ children from ‘negative’ feelings (anger, sadness, fear) then how will they ever possess the emotional tools to process these emotions constructively.

For children, understanding and ‘owning’ their emotions is supported by their developing language and their understanding of the words and phrases we, as practitioners, use in relation to their emotions.

The words we use to identify, recognise, discuss and process emotions and behaviours has a significant impact on how children will react, respond and understand the varying emotions they feel. For example; instead of saying “Don’t be scared” when a child is feeling fearful, we could ask them “What are you scared of?”, “Why are you feeling scared?”, “What scares you about this?” This way, the child begins to mentally process the emotion and feelings they are experiencing, and dissect it to begin to understand ‘why’ they feel this type of emotion and how to overcome it with the support of a familiar adult. Similarly, simply telling a child “Stop crying”, “You don’t need to cry”, doesn’t support their emotional intelligence and enable them to investigate why they are crying or what it is that is causing them to feel upset.

It is our job as childcare providers to support the children in our care in understanding and dealing with their emotions, in addition to supporting them in understanding and being empathic towards the feelings and emotions of other children in the setting too.

As adults, we know that emotionally we all have different triggers, different ways of dealing with the emotions we experience; children are exactly the same and will all process and react to a range of emotions with varying levels of behaviour. It is our duty as their key people to determine, understand and support each child’s individual emotional range, find tools to support them in processing and understanding each emotion, before encouraging them to identify and support the emotions of their peers.

In order to meet children’s emotional needs, they will need a number of things. Firstly, an emotionally rich environment supported by emotionally intelligent adults, in addition to resources that provide children with the opportunity to explore different emotions of different people, opportunities to practise and identify various emotions as well as the opportunity to practice how to support and process the emotions of others.

Providing children with various resources to support them in exploring these things through their play and in their own time, is fundamental to cementing their learning and understanding of emotions.

We need to provide children with a wide variety of stories and books that discuss and explore different real-life scenarios that can unleash different emotions (parental separation, moving house, the transition to school or to a new setting, a new baby, to name but a few) and explore how these are addressed and managed through stories as well as a vast array of imaginative play experiences to practise and develop the skills needed to identify and support the emotions of others.

Where developmentally appropriate, introducing simple mindfulness activities and techniques to provide the children with the time and space to think about, feel and process their feelings in a constructive and calm way is conducive to the resilience of the children’s emotional wellbeing as well as their emotional intelligence.

Yoga is a wonderful activity for focusing on movements that enable children to breathe, take control of their body and mind and focus on each movement and breath they are taking which instils a feeling of calm amongst the children. For our older children, making their own ‘Worry jars’ is a great activity and resource to have within your setting; a small jar that the children can create freely by combining coloured water and glitter/sequins/buttons. The message behind these jars is that when the child feels angry/sad/anxious they can physically express these feelings by shaking the jar vigorously and calm themselves by focusing on watching the glitter/sequins/buttons settle; therefore allowing the child time to mindfully focus on their feelings and the process of watching the materials settle allows the child’s feelings to settle and calm too. These jars not only support the child in managing their emotions productively but also provide the child with ownership of their own emotions and behaviour management.

We all have a role to play as professionals and parents to ensure that we know how to adequately support the mental health and emotional intelligence of our young children, in order to support and help them in growing into emotionally balanced and strong young adults.