Category

family

The importance of learning to share

By | Education, family
by Stephanie Hope
Author of “I Don’t Have to Share”

Commonly used phrases in any childhood social setting are ‘Can you share?’ or ‘Sharing is caring’. Sharing is seen as an obligatory attribute that our children must implement from a very young age.

The pressure within society to raise kind, generous children that always share can result in caregivers forcing children to share before they’ve learnt empathy or self-regulation.

If sharing is forced it can feel like a punishment, consequently, the word share is no longer understood as an act of kindness and generosity, rather something unenjoyable.

Sharing is an important part of friendship forming; learning this skill allows children to play co-operatively by taking turns, developing patience and managing disappointment. Allowing children to experiment with sharing and not sharing will contribute to understanding compromise, fairness, and conflict resolution.

It is crucial we recognise and accept that sharing is difficult, even for adults and especially for young children. Some children will be more likely to want to share than others and all children develop at different stages. Ergo, a child who is more possessive is not being bad or unkind.

So, what can we implement as caregivers to organically instil sharing?
1. Keep sharing optional
Adults can decide which of their belongings to share and with whom. When an adult is using something, another person waits until they are finished, children should be taught and given the same respect.

If we force children to share, they will leave the encounter feeling aggrieved, not generous. Unsurprisingly, they’re less likely to share after that.

2. Model generosity
Copycat behaviour in children is universal, so when sharing it’s important to label it. If we model frequent generosity and sharing it is likely our children will implement the same.

3. Encourage
Give plenty of specific praise when you observe your child sharing with their peers, “That was really kind of you to share your snack with Toby, did you see how happy it made him?”

Specific praise will encourage repetition of the behaviour and help identify how sharing made them and others feel. Eventually children will take the initiative to share without influence to reap its positive rewards.

4. Make exceptions
There are many scenarios a child not sharing should be accepted and respected. Some examples include; if a certain toy is special to them, if they are still focused on an activity, or if they have set up their own imaginative game.

5. Guide children to come up with solutions
When we intervene in a social interaction by insisting that a child shares, we are also interrupting a learning experience. If children are refusing to share, rather than insisting that they take turns or give up a toy, instead, guide them to finding their own solution or compromise. “There’s only one car and you both want to play with it, what could we do?”

6. Teach assertive responses
It would be beneficial for children to learn a handful of phrases they can use repeatedly in social situations where they don’t have to share and have decided not to. Pairing positive assertiveness with kindness will help them develop respect for themselves and for others.

To summarise, learning to share with grace is progressive. With plenty of opportunities to practice, conflicts included, children will discover the importance of sharing and respectively when it is okay NOT to share.

To help children identify some situations in which they shouldn’t have to share, award-winning authors Toni McAree & Stephanie Hope have released a bright, rhyming book controversially titled ‘I Don’t Have to Share’. Readers follow a fun character, Haz the Monster, through different scenarios where he is asked to share. How Haz the Monster responds to his peers teaches children assertiveness, confidence, and respect in regards to sharing.

“My Mum says I don’t have to share this toy, it’s my special one you see, I’ve had it all my life and don’t want anyone touching it but me.”

‘I Don’t Have to Share’ is available now on Amazon. £5.27

pets and children

Five great pets for small children

By | family
by Dr Margit Gabriele Muller
Leading vet and award winning author

It is wonderful for small children to grow up with pets. It not only provides them with a companion and friend but also teaches them responsibility and life skills, enhances their self-confidence, and keeps them happy and healthy.

However, parents might find it hard to choose which pet is the most suitable one for their child. The right choice depends on the child’s age and character – introvert or extrovert – and also on the family’s financial situation and how much time and space they have. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and parents should carefully consider their own personal circumstances and then decide which pet to have. It should never be a spontaneous decision as having a pet is a big responsibility.

To help with decision making, let’s look at some suitable pets for small children.

Dogs
Dogs are definitely one of the most preferred pets for children. They can become a child’s best friend, trusted confidante and loving companion that will accompany them through their childhood. Although lots of parents favour a puppy, an older well-trained and well-behaved dog is more suitable for small children. They are much more relaxed and forgiving with children and also have a greater protector instinct.

Having a dog gives a child self-confidence and self-esteem and also develops their nurturing skills. In studies, dog ownership has also been linked to improving children’s immune systems and overall physical and mental health. The life expectancy of dogs is between 10 to 16 years making them ideal pets for childhood. This, however, does come with a long-term responsibility and financial implications.

Rabbits
Rabbits are a real favourite pet for kids. They are adorable and have a gentle, sweet personality. Small kids love their fluffy fur and enjoy cuddling and playing with them. As rabbits need care when handling, they are an ideal pet for kids to learn how to be careful and considerate with other living beings.

Rabbits can become very tame. With time, they can learn to come when you call their name and jump up on your lap on command. They are perfect for feeding by hand, for example with carrots or lettuce which is great fun for small children to do. Rabbits can also be toilet trained so that there is not much mess when they run around. If your kids would have loved a dog but that’s not possible, then an added bonus is that rabbits can be trained to walk outside on a leash. Their life span is eight to 12 years which makes them ideal long-term companions.

Guinea pigs
Guinea pigs are much loved by children as they are very funny pets. It’s best to keep them in pairs as they need company and should not be kept alone. Guinea pigs are usually good natured and friendly pets that can become very tame.

Guinea pigs require a lot of ongoing attention and want to be entertained and stimulated. Therefore, they’re an attractive pet for small kids as they can play with them a lot and give them their love and affection. Guinea pigs can be easily carried around or held which is enriching for children. Their life span of around five to seven years makes them great pets for small children.

Budgies
Birds, and especially budgies, are among the most favorite pets for children. They are ranked directly behind dogs and cats in worldwide popularity. Budgies are really suitable birds as they become very friendly, tame and affectionate. They are very docile and can become
great companions.

As they are very sociable birds, budgies should be kept in pairs or larger groups. Children enjoy observing how they play with each other because it provides great entertainment and fun. In addition, it’s a real delight to hear them chirping from morning till night. With attention and training, some budgies even try to mimic human voices.

They are inexpensive and low maintenance to keep. Their life expectancy ranges between five to eight years, but with good care they can live even longer.

Fish
Fish are not on the list of ideal pets for many parents. They are often thought as being a bit boring for children, but fish are actually ideal pets for children in general and particularly for children with allergies. A beautiful aquarium with multiple fish of different colours relaxes nervous children and can considerably calm them down. The same applies to children with attention deficit disorder as it helps them to concentrate and focus more.
Fish can even have a beneficial impact on diabetic children!

Fish in aquariums require proper, constant care which can be a good task for children as they learn responsibility and how to take care of an animal. Their life span ranges from three to seven years depending on the fish species and proper care.

Parents should try to find the most suitable pet for their child – there are many options, and they shouldn’t just go for the most obvious pet without considering all the factors. Finding the right pet can lead to a wonderful relationship that brings great benefits for both the pet and the child.

Dr Margit Gabriele Muller, leading vet and award winning author of Your Pet, Your Pill: 101 Inspirational Stories About How Pets Lead You to A Happy, Healthy and Successful Life
out now, available on Amazon.

 

nuggets and chips

Five ways to help your children develop a positive relationship with food

By | children's health, family, Food & Eating

If dinnertime has become a battle, try these tips from Denby’s Hayley Baddiley to encourage your children to eat better.

One in five children in the UK consume 78% of their calories from ultra-processed foods, according to research from Imperial College London. Unhealthy eating habits such as these can lead to various health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. It’s also possible that picky eating could be a symptom of, and may worsen, some mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety (Healthline), so it’s important that your children maintain a positive relationship with their food.

As a parent, you’ll know all too well how fussy some children can be when it comes to mealtimes. It’s entirely normal for children to go through a phase of picky eating, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. Luckily, there are a few simple tricks you can try to get them to eat more of the good stuff.

Get children involved in the kitchen

pizza kidsKids love being involved with grown-up tasks, so one of the best ways to encourage a healthy relationship with food is by asking them to help out in the kitchen. Allowing them to handle the ingredients at each stage of cooking a meal helps them become more familiar with the food they’re eating, and is a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety at mealtimes.

There are a whole range of different tasks for your children to do, no matter their age. Little ones can help wash vegetables and measure out ingredients, while older children can help with chopping, peeling, and stirring. Just choose child-friendly recipes and consider making dishes they can put together themselves. For example, you could create your own pizzas or fajitas, and your children can choose whatever toppings of fillings they want.

Grow your own produce

grow vegeisIf you’ve got the outdoor space, why not grow your own fruits and vegetables? Not only is this a fun way to teach your family about where their food comes from, but your little ones are also more likely to eat the food if they’ve grown it themselves. By the time a new ingredient is ready to plate up, your child will already be familiar with the shape and smell – all that will remain is to taste it!

If this will be your first time gardening, then it’s best to start with something small and simple, such as a few lettuces or a tomato plant. But, as you practise and your children become more confident trying new things, you can start to expand your garden to even more varieties of fruit and vegetables. Try growing courgettes, carrots, potatoes or strawberries, depending on what your children like to eat, and what you’d like to encourage them to try.

Make mealtimes fun

Turning mealtimes into a game is another great way to encourage your children to have a healthy relationship with food. Consider creating a rewards chart and give everyone a star for each fruit or vegetable they eat. Why not add an extra element of competition by offering a prize to whoever has the most stars by the end of
the week?

Making mealtimes more of an occasion can also help reduce stress and encourage your little ones to eat better. Prepare healthy snacks for a family picnic or serve up a tasty summer salad outdoors. You could also host weekly themed nights, complete with decorations and a menu to match. This is a great way to encourage children to try something new, while also making it a fun experience for the whole family.

Get creative with presentation

pretty platesSometimes, all it takes it a little creativity to get your little ones to eat their meals, so it’s worth taking some extra time to present their dishes nicely. For example, experimenting with colour and choosing a vibrant array of vegetables served on matching tableware is a great way to make your dishes look more appetising. Add an extra touch of artistic flair by making fun faces out of the ingredients.

You could also encourage children to become more independent when it comes to mealtimes. By plating up each element in serving bowls and urging everyone to help themselves, you can ease the pressure of trying new things. Giving your children their own set of tableware can also help them feel more independent at mealtimes, and they’ll be more likely to engage with the food you serve up.

Hide your fruit and veg

In some cases, it’s the taste and texture of vegetables that can put your little ones off eating them. So, one of the easiest ways to get your children to eat their vegetables is when they don’t know they’re there at all! This is a great way to up your family’s vitamin intake, especially if the children haven’t been swayed by your previous tactics.

Hide vegetables in pasta sauces, pies, and tarts. Disguise puréed carrots in some mashed potato. Make rice from cauliflower. Or use a spiraliser to create pasta from carrots or courgette. If you mix it in with a small portion of normal rice or pasta, your little ones might never know the difference.

Fussy eating in children is very common, but by trying these tips and tricks, you can encourage them to develop a healthier relationship with food, and they’re much more likely to keep up these positive habits as they get older.
Images ©Denby.  www.denbypottery.com

Is open conversation the key to online safety?

By | Education, family
by Jennifer Grey and Hasna Haidar
Freelance writers

When we all retreated into our homes last year, many of us relied on social media and the internet to connect with the outside world. From using apps to catch up with the grandparents to finding ways to keep entertained without going out, the internet was a lifeline enabling us to have fruitful days at home. It also allowed our children to continue to study remotely, to keep in touch with their friends or to stay occupied while stuck indoors.

But, while all these positives about the online world may hold true, it’s an unfortunate fact that lurking within the digital space are predatory individuals and problematic behaviours. With research finding that abusive online behaviour towards children increased during lockdown, it’s important that we educate ourselves – and our children – on online safety. After all, the digital world will likely continue to be a presence in our lives long after lockdown. Below is a list of some of the potential dangers your children might face as they navigate the web – and how you can help.

Cyberbullying, and why empowerment, trust and honesty are needed to tackle it.
Cyberbullying refers to harassing or intimidating behaviour, or behaviour intended to embarrass someone, that takes place over the internet. The Office of National Statistics found that one in five children in the UK experience cyberbullying, while two in five experience bullying in person. Over the course of the pandemic-related lockdowns, it’s possible that this has shifted further towards the former.

If your child is experiencing cyberbullying, they may be feeling ashamed, worried, uncomfortable, scared or confused. What’s more, they’ll likely be reluctant to tell you what’s going on. Fostering an open and welcoming environment that starts when your child begins to use internet-connected devices can help your child feel comfortable coming to you for help when things go wrong.

Three major aspects that’ll help you do so are empowerment, trust, and openness.
• Empowerment
While your first instinct may be to monitor your child’s social media usage to help you spot warning signs, it can be more effective in the long run to ensure your child has the tools and knowledge to navigate the digital world safely. This includes learning how to block or report people online, using and coping with comments on social media.
• Trust
When discussing cyberbullying or any other online safety topic, keep your comments positive and non-accusatory so your child feels trusted instead of defensive. Your child needs to know you appreciate how they might be feeling, and that you’re on their side.
• Openness
Make sure your child knows your door is always open for further discussion, approach conversations with an open mind, and reassure them that they don’t need to hide what they’re experiencing online.

Issues with inappropriate content
Another unfortunate reality of using the internet is exposure to inappropriate content. Your child could watch poor-quality shows that aren’t created with the proper educational milestones in mind, play games that are unsuitable for their age, or even stumble across age-inappropriate content. A phenomenon that’s been recorded recently is content that appears child-friendly, but has been created by shady individuals specifically to trick children and their parents.

Inappropriate content could also take the form of your child receiving – or indeed sending – nude or sexually suggestive imagery online. This may happen due to predators coaxing, tricking or threatening underage children to send inappropriate photos, or could take place on a peer-to-peer level with children sending and requesting nude photos to and of their friends. A recent survey found that 17% of those aged 15 or over had shared a nude photo of themselves online. Yet, it may not be commonly known that being in possession of a nude photo of an underage person – even if that person is yourself – is a crime in the UK.

How to broach the issue of inappropriate online behaviour with your child
It’s important that your child understands the principles of safe internet usage. You may want to have a conversation about online safety – tailored to their age group – as soon as your child begins to use internet-connected devices. When doing so, keep in mind that, for many children, the line between their online world and their offline world is often blurred, with both worlds being equally real. In order to have a true conversation about online safety, it’s important to take into account how your child views the online world.

It’s also worth approaching your conversation as a general one about your child’s life – both online and offline. If you take a relaxed and gentle approach, it’ll help your child feel more relaxed too, and more willing to come to you if they do have issues. Some of the things you may want to talk about include:
• What they enjoy doing online.
• What apps they’re currently using.
• Who their online friends are.
• How being online makes them feel.
• If they’re worried about anything in particular.
• Whether they can trust what they see online.
• What they should do if they saw or heard something they didn’t like online.
• How to identify when they’re overusing apps.
• How they can stay safe online, any tips they have for you, and any tips you can give them.
• How to maintain a healthy balance between the offline and online worlds.
• Where the privacy settings are, and how to report or block users.
• What types of content are appropriate for them to view.
• What types of content are okay for them to share, and what is not okay.

Switching to appropriate social networks
While some social networks are aimed at a younger age demographic than others, all social networks have the potential to allow children access to inappropriate content. It may be worth ensuring your child only uses social networks designed – and exclusive to – their age group, such as Spotlite and GoBubble. These can be safer spaces for younger internet users; allowing them to gain an insight into social media use without the added risk of encountering inappropriate content or questionable users.

Through helping them find safe ways to navigate the internet, fostering an open dialogue with your child, and demonstrating to them that you understand and are supportive of their online world, it’ll be easier for you to ensure your child has a happier experience online. Having honest conversations about online safety while celebrating all the good that the internet can bring can help ensure you’re taking a positive and productive approach to this aspect of your child’s life.

Hasna Haidar is a freelance copywriter and data researcher, covering topics in technology, education, and parenting. Jennifer Grey is a freelance writer, covering the internet, social justice and lifestyle.

dad la soul

The importance of looking out for dads

By | family
by Jim Coulson
Dad la Soul

If you only ever watched sitcoms from the 1970s, you would not only be disappointed by the lack of oranges and browns in 21st century home decor, but you would also have a very particular view of dads.

You know the sort – straight home from work, slouched in an armchair, pipe on the go, paper in hand, ignoring the kids and demanding his dinner on the table from the wife. Of course, sitcoms shouldn’t really be our yardstick for historical accuracy, but this is a stereotype of dads that, in some minds, still sticks.

Dads are still edged out of parenting in the eyes of society. Whether it is the range of food that has been ‘approved by mums,’ as if that gives it some higher authority than anything dads would give the green light to, the advert for cream cheese that shows incompetant fathers unable to keep track of their own babies or poor old Daddy Pig from Peppa Pig who seems incapable of performing even the most basic of domestic functions. So often popular culture falls back on the idea that fathers are useless in the home and only fit to be the breadwinner.

You see it in comments from strangers to dads out with their children, congratulating them for “giving mum a day off,” or those Facebook videos entitled ‘when dad is left alone with the kids’ followed by tedious, sub-You’ve Been Framed-standard footage of children falling over.

Just consider the idea that dads shouldn’t be left alone with their own kids. Just think about what that message says to others about the status of dads.

Of course, this isn’t the reality with most dads. You will probably know a whole host of dads who are interested, engaged and fully involved with their children. So why doesn’t this factor into our thinking more often? Why do we still advertise ‘mum and baby groups’ when they are actually open to anyone with an infant? Why do some establishments still only have changing tables in the ladies’ toilets? Why are men still eyed with suspicion when they hang out by a park on a Saturday morning, as if they couldn’t possibly be there with their own children?

There are around six million dads in the UK with dependent children, according to the Office of National Statistics, and research by Dad la Soul found that 73% of them admitted to being lonely. In addition, 76.2% say they felt left out of family life. With 96 men under the age of 45 lost to suicide every week, it is time we addressed these issues. It is time to talk.

Talking is not something men traditionally do. Well, talking about mental health, that is. Because the real damage of these ‘hilarious’ silly dad characters you see everywhere is that they compound the prejudices that society already has. Men are seen as having no emotional depth; they are told to be strong, to not be emotional, to hold in their feelings, to be stoic, to not complain. But that is not healthy.

Dads need to be seen as equal partners, they need to be respected as parents, they need places to meet other dads and talk about feelings, not football. Well, okay, feelings and football, if they wish.

Facebook video makers, advertising executives and television producers have a duty to represent fatherhood as it is, not how it was in the 1970s. Although, those browns and oranges are surely due a comeback.

Do it for dads. Do it for the good of families. Do it for Daddy Pig.

Dad la Soul battles social isolation using play, music, craft and the arts, with playdates for dads and their children in Worthing, Chichester and online.
Find out more at www.dadlasoul.com

It’s all in the balance…

By | Education, family
by Russell James
Glide Balance Bike Classes

Most children learn to crawl before they walk and to run before they bike. So it is therefore surprising that some people expect children to progress from tricycles and bicycles with stabilisers to bicycles, without having had the opportunity to master all aspects of static and dynamic balance.

Why is balance so important?
Physical inactivity in children can not only lead to health risks such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary artery disease, but can also lend to poor motor skills, having a detrimental effect on cognitive function and academic performance.(1)

Without effective transition from basic balance and sensory integration, learning and reading development can be significantly delayed.

Although balance maturation is not generally achieved in children until the age of 12, improving balance and sensory processing skills early in life will help children to excel – those with challenges like dyslexia, Down Syndrome, ADD and ADHD, improve dramatically.

What is balance?
Balance is the ability to maintain control of a particular body position whilst performing a given task with minimal postural sway. This could be achieved simply by sitting at a table, standing on one leg or riding a bike. Maintaining control of body positioning requires good static and dynamic balance reducing the energy required to perform a host of tasks and activities whilst minimising fatigue.

Static balance is the ability to maintain control of a position whilst remaining stationary – for example, balancing on one leg or holding a headstand.

Dynamic balance is the ability to maintain balance and control of the body whilst moving, such as hoping, jumping, riding a bike or snowboarding.

Developing skills
Fundamental motor skills are the building blocks for engagement in physical activity and aid all aspects of the learning process. If these skills are underdeveloped in childhood, a child’s ability to participate in and enjoy physical activity can be greatly diminished. In practicing gross and fine motor skills, children not only gain intellectually, but also grow in strength, develop new skills and enjoy increased confidence levels in the face of new challenges.

Balance bikes promote symmetry, particularly with the upper body being encouraged to hold the handle bars steady whilst the lower part of the body is able to move freely and evenly. Balance, postural control and symmetry all help children develop the basic skills for any future physical activity.

Balance is vital to achieving success in almost every sport or physical activity and is fundamental in the process of learning to ride a bike. Through practice with balance equipment and balance bikes, children gain the ability and confidence needed to ride a pedal bike with confidence.

A recent study by the Child Growth Foundation concluded that 1 in 10 children never learnt to ride a bike.

Balance bike classes provide a safe introduction to address the need to get children at a young age exposed to cycling for fun, to encourage active lifestyles and to adopt alternative transport methods in the future.

Glide Balance bike classes are based on the Balanceability programme which has been specially designed by child development experts and cycling professionals. Classes are aimed at 2-4 year olds and last for 45 minutes. Led by a qualified instructor, children will learn the fundamental skills of cycling through play and adventure.

1. Medical Daily Oct 28 2014 Source: Balanceability course training and delivery manual.

Fathers matter too

By | family, Relationships
by Karen Emery
Founder of Haven & Base, Perinatal Practitioner, Parent Coach & Children’s Sleep Advisor

Becoming a parent is an incredibly exciting time for many new fathers but it is also a time of huge change and responsibility. It’s not uncommon for fathers to feel overwhelmed or daunted by the prospect of caring for a tiny baby.

Some new fathers may even feel excluded or ‘unneeded’ during the immediate time following birth and may feel they have no specific role (especially if their partner is breastfeeding), viewing mothers as the most important caregiver and preferring to take a more passive or secondary role themselves. But fathers are just as important to their new baby as mothers are. When fathers get involved in caring for a new baby right from birth, they can make a vital contribution to their children’s development. Babies need their fathers, just as they need their mothers, to love them, to be interested in them and to respond to their needs, making them feel valued and loved.

Fathers interact with infants in different ways to that of mothers. Fathers tend to be more playful and exploratory with their babies than mothers whose interactions are often more protective and nurturing. These early interactions between both a father and mother directly impact the way in which the baby’s brain will grow and develop but in slightly different ways. Research has shown us that sensitive, supportive and involved fathering, from birth, has been linked to a range of positive outcomes in babies, toddlers and children and in particular on a child’s language development, school readiness and positive self-esteem.

The important thing for fathers is to get involved and it doesn’t matter in what way. It can take time for new fathers to feel closely involved with their baby and that’s OK but daily ‘hands on’ experience together will help to forge a strong healthy relationship. It’s not about the time you spend together each day but the quality of the interactions that you share. It could be as simple as talking with your baby at a nappy change, taking your baby outside in a sling to explore the world, trying an hour of skin-to-skin (lying with your baby chest to chest) or singing your favourite song while gently rocking the baby.

Infant massage is a particularly beautiful one-to-one experience for new fathers to try with their babies and can be especially useful in promoting bonding where fathers are separated from their baby for extended periods due to work or relationship breakdown. Massaging a baby has great benefits for both fathers and babies as massage helps with calming and relaxing the infant, enhancing growth, improving infant sleep and for father’s massage helps to develop sensitivity to the baby and understand their needs better, helps to build a father’s confidence in handling and caring for their baby, and can even help lower a fathers own stress levels.

There are lots of infant massage courses for fathers to try in person or online. For more information about how to get started and the many benefits of infant massage, try The International Association of Infant Massage www.iaim.org.uk or you can book a father-baby massage course with Haven & Base www.havenandbase.com

‘Father’s matter too’ is the first of three articles in my series exploring early parenting. My next editorial: ‘Understanding the communication and capabilities of a new baby’ will feature in the spring 2022 edition, and will explore the ways in which a parent can understand and communicate with their baby right from birth.

Karen Emery has been supporting expectant parents and families for over 20 years as a midwife, health visitor, perinatal practitioner, and children’s sleep advisor.
Karen has a special interest and experience in infant mental health and early parenting.
For more information or to contact Karen you can email her directly at hello@havenandbase.com.

For more information about Haven & Base visit: www.havenandbase.com

The benefits of yoga for children

By | children's health, family, fun for children
by Iona Naylon
Kids’ Yoga with Iona

The benefits of yoga for children are wide reaching and long lasting. The foundations of physical practise, breathing techniques, meditation and yogic philosophy can be introduced in a fun way from a very young age and can provide solid ground for the healthy, happy development of individuals throughout childhood, into adolescence and beyond. When experienced with a grown-up, yoga can help strengthen emotional bonds and deepen the relationship you have with your little one.

Asana – physical practise
At the most basic level, it’s exercise! Moving your body, making shapes and exploring your physical capacity. Children can have immense fun with the physical aspect of yoga; mimicking things found in nature and exploring how to express feelings and moods with their bodies. From tree pose and dog pose, to happy baby and more. Physical practise can be immensely liberating for children and their grown-ups. Moreover, when poses are practiced together (partner yoga), asana practise not only becomes more fun, but trust is enhanced and loving relationships greatly enriched.

Pranayama – breathing practise
The breath is the backbone of all yogic practise. By teaching children belly breathing from a young age, we can equip them with a vital tool to take charge of their own emotions. Belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, allows our body to tune into its parasympathetic nervous system; our natural rest and digest response (the antithesis of the fight or flight stress response), that allows physical and emotional reactions to calm down. When paired with a visualisation, such as a spiky monster in their tummy that can be breathed into a fluffy kitten, children can really grab hold of and run with this. Pranayama allows children a space to explore feelings they might not be able to articulate, but can take charge of, with self-awareness, by simply putting their hands on their tummy and breathing.

Sankalpa – intention setting
A sankalpa is a positive statement in the present tense. It may not be something that is true right now, but is something that the heart desires. A sankalpa can be very powerful for adults as well as children. Some examples are: I am brave, I am loved, I am good enough, I am strong inside and out, I am calm and peaceful. A sankalpa can be used like a personal mantra to foster those feelings your child really wants to feel, and to squash self-doubt. A sankalpa is a great tool for growing confidence in a shy or anxious child, as well as building long-lasting emotional resilience and inner strength in all children.

Mudra and Mantra – hand seals and chanting
Children love exploring mudra and mantra, and these two make a perfect pair. Making shapes with their hands and singing in a strange language is not only fun, but also quite mystical and wondrous. When sat on their grown-up’s lap, children can feel the vibrations of the mantra resonating in their own body and this can be very comforting; akin to being back in the womb.

Shavasana – lying still
Most children can wrap their feet around their head and touch their toes without any effort. Lying still in shavasana is the most difficult thing any yoga teacher can ask them to do. However, even a minute lying in shavasana at the end of a yoga session is immensely valuable. Shavasana helps the body and mind totally relax. It allows the effects of the yoga practise to settle, and it allows the child time to reconnect with their belly breathing. With slightly older children, it is a good opportunity to introduce more sophisticated yogic practices: rotation of consciousness (relaxing individual body parts), visualisation, pratyahara (sense withdrawal, where you are aware of but not distracted by your senses: sounds, physical feelings etc). I find it immensely interesting to watch children grow used to lying in shavasana. It is a real skill. For some, it strikes a chord quite quickly. For others, it may take some time. But when, as a teacher, I see children week-by-week becoming more comfortable in shavasana, then I know that their yogic practise is really sinking in. And that is the best feeling.

For further details please see www.facebook.com/kidsyogawithiona or email iona.yogaga@gmail.com

first-aid

First aid for parents

By | Education, family, Health, Safety
by Feola McCandlish
Daisy First Aid

Would you know what to do if your child choked, swallowed something they shouldn’t have, hit their head, was burned, had a seizure or fell unconscious? Would you know how to recognise the early stages of meningitis or a severe allergic reaction?

No parent wants to think about their child being harmed; but unfortunately accidents do happen and learning essential first aid skills can make all the difference in an emergency situation.

What is first aid?
First aid is the immediate treatment given to a person before medical help arrives. Your first actions while you wait for an ambulance can make all the difference and can sometimes even mean the difference between life and death.

There is so much to think about when you have a baby and it’s understandable that first aid might not be at the top of your list – especially when you are sleep-deprived and trying to figure out how to keep your tiny human alive.

Learning first aid can be scary, particularly when it is our own children we are talking about, but it doesn’t have to be. Learning first aid with like-minded people in a relaxed and informal environment can actually be a lot of fun.

Perfect for pregnancy
Did you know you can do a first aid class when you are expecting? It’s safe to do during pregnancy and it’s something you can tick off that ever-growing list of things to do! Learn with your antenatal group, friends and family.

Choking
Lots of parents, understandably, worry about choking when they are beginning to wean their baby. Did you know that babies have extremely sensitive gag reflexes, which are there to help keep your baby safe from choking?

When a baby is weaning it’s completely normal to experience a lot of coughing, gagging and going red in the face. A common misconception is that you will hear a person choking but you won’t; severe choking is usually completely silent. Knowing the difference between gagging and severe choking is really important, particularly when you are about to wean your baby. If they’re coughing and going red in the face that’s a great sign, we can usually let them work it out themselves; if they’re silent and turning blue they need our help.

Doing a first aid class can put your mind at ease when it comes to weaning your baby so you can relax and enjoy the process (and focus on cleaning the mess!) and feel confident that you know what steps to take if your baby does choke.

Not just for babies
It’s not just babies who sometimes require first aid. Once your child is mobile, a whole new world will open up to them; it’s an exciting time for them and you! Young children love putting things in their mouths. Did you know this is for sensory reasons? They have more nerve endings in their mouths than they do in their fingers so they find out more about an object if they put it in their mouth! But this obviously poses a choking risk.

Once your child is walking, running and climbing it’s normal for blows to the head to become a fairly regular occurrence (at least, they are in our house!) Would you know how to treat a head injury? And would you know what signs to look out for in a serious head injury?

Learning vital first aid skills gives confidence to parents and other child carers so that they would know what to do in an emergency involving their baby or child. All it takes is two hours.

Daisy First Aid teaches award-winning courses to parents, expectant parents and children all over Sussex in homes and public venues. They also provide OFSTED compliant courses for teachers and childcare professionals in local venues and private settings.

For more information visit www.daisyfirstaid.com

breastfeeding

Breastfeeding help for all new mums

By | baby health, family, Health, prenancy, Relationships
by Clare Castell
www.blossomantenatal.com

Many mums-to-be are worried about breastfeeding and they feel apprehensive about whether they’ll be able to do it. Although breastfeeding is completely natural it’s also a skill that needs to be learned – by mum and baby together – a bit like dancing together or riding a tandem.

Clare Castell, founder of Blossom Antenatal, an online antenatal education platform for parents insists there should never be any judgement about feeding choices. She encourages mums to do whatever works for them. “A mother should never feel pressured into breastfeeding or any guilt for the way she chooses to feed. The most important thing for us is that all mothers are supported in their choices.”

Clare shares her insider secrets to help avoid the most common pitfalls.

• The one thing we always recommend to our new parents is to lower all your expectations. You need time to adjust to your new life. The first couple of months are often the hardest as tiny babies need frequent feeding. But, as your baby grows, you should find that this intensity is reduced.

• One of the most beneficial things expectant mums can do to support themselves is attend a breastfeeding class. Blossom runs these for free and our experience is that this helps women to understand how breastfeeding works which really does help them know what they need to do when baby is born.

• Don’t expect your baby to follow the clock. We advise you to watch your baby for feeding cues and respond to their needs. The more time you spend with your baby the quicker you will be at working out what they want. Keep baby physically close to you so that as they stir from sleep you are able to quickly offer them the breast before they start to cry or get agitated.

• Get as much skin to skin contact with your baby as possible. The first hour after birth is often called ‘the golden hour’. But, it’s never too late to start skin to skin. You can do this to calm a baby at any time. Skin to skin is great for bonding and increasing milk supply.

• Another concern new parents have is whether baby is getting enough milk. It’s normal for babies to lose some birthweight in the first couple of weeks, but after this your baby should gain weight steadily. One of the most important indicators is nappy output – what goes in must come out! From day four or five onwards baby should have two soft yellow poos and at least six heavy wet nappies every 24 hours. We know some parents find it hard to tell if a tiny newborn disposable nappy is wet. Our top tip to give you an idea of what to look and feel for is to add two to four tablespoons of water onto an unused nappy and see how heavy that feels.

It’s crucial to locate local sources of support in advance in case things get difficult. If you’re having your baby in hospital there is a lot of support available while you’re there – so make the most of it and ask for help. Search online for local meetups or Facebook groups. We also advise our mums to get the phone number of the Community Infant Feeding Team. Write it on a piece of paper and stick it to your fridge. Every area has a community feeding team and they usually run drop in groups for mums and new babies.

The Blossom Antenatal team consists of midwives, lactation consultants and NCT trained teachers. All classes are taught by these qualified instructors who have years of experience of working with expectant parents. Many currently work in the NHS and are volunteering their time to help teach parents. www.blossomantenatal.com