Category

fun for children

Not the only boy in ballet class

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

boy ballerina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is your child falling behind at school?

By | children's health, Education, fun for children, play, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Polly Warren
Centre Manager at First Class Learning – Brighton

Could tutoring be the answer?

With children facing tougher exams and tests such as the new style GCSEs and the more challenging SATS tests for seven and 11 years olds, the tutoring industry is continuing to boom for children across the board, with a quarter of all school children receiving some form of tuition in 2018.

However, concerned parents are hiring tutors for their children not only for exam preparation, but for a whole number of reasons from helping give their children’s self-confidence a boost to giving them an extra challenge in their strongest areas. Some use tutors to help catch up with school work after absence, others to help their children grasp key concepts in maths or English if they’ve been struggling.

Whatever the reasons, tutoring has been shown to improve school performance, confidence and self-esteem, as well as help children develop independent study skills and learn at their own pace.

Maths is the most popular subject for tuition (77%), followed by English (55%) and then science (30%).

How to choose the right tuition for your child
In the past, choosing a tutor was largely based on personal recommendation, but nowadays the industry is far more professional and there are many different tutoring services to choose from.

One-to-one tutoring at home
These lessons usually take place in the student’s or tutor’s home and involve just the pupil and tutor. One-to-one attention may be required if a child is really struggling in a subject or if they have a complicated learning style, but this traditional option is by far the most expensive. One-to-one tutors charge on average between £25 and £40 per hour, working out between £100 and £160 per month.

One-to-one and small group tutoring at a study centre
During these sessions, an expert tutor will be responsible for no more than six children at a time. The tutor not only works with each child on their own individualised learning programme by providing expert support and guidance, but they also encourage independent learning.

When children study alongside other children in this sort of small, focused group, the pressure of sole one-on-one attention is taken off individual children, whilst allowing for one-to-one help from the tutor when needed.

This type of tutoring is typically cheaper than private one-to-one tutoring but can still be highly effective. Many children prefer it as it is not as intense as one-to-one home tuition and helps keep learning fun. Study centres charge between £60-£70 a month.

Parents of Evie, who attended Brighton’s First Class Learning’ study centre say:“We were really impressed with how much the support helped Evie. She has a much more positive attitude to learning and we can see a huge improvement in her confidence, ability and approach to her
maths work.”

Online tutoring
Online tuition is tutoring that takes place over the Internet using a communications programme such as Skype or Google+. Private online tutors are often more affordable (£20-£30 per hour) as they will not be required to travel and may choose to tutor more than one student at once, but many parents feel uneasy that tutors will not be in direct contact with the student.

It really makes a difference!
Extra tuition really can make a huge difference, and it’s more affordable and accessible than ever. Once a child starts understanding the material, the frustration, anxiety and apprehension they felt about schoolwork will disappear, and they will carry this new found confidence with them back to the classroom, allowing them to blossom and genuinely start to enjoy learning again.

Polly Warren is a teacher with many
years of experience across a range of educational settings, and Centre Manager of First Class Learning’s (FCL)
study centre in Brighton.
Please contact Polly on 01273 730873
www.firstclasslearning.co.uk/
brighton-withdean
brighton@firstclasslearning.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

Encouraging play

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, play, Relationships, Sport, Theatre, Uncategorized
by Claire Russell
founder of PlayHOORAY!

Have you ever thought about how you can better encourage your child to play more effectively? Now, we don’t all live in an ideal world, our homes have to work for many different things, as well as look nice, but there are a few simple tricks we can apply to create a more playful home.

• Turn off the TV and keep distractions to a minimum when your child is playing.

• Keep resources to hand and ensure your child knows where they are, helping them to become independent and not rely on you to find the answers.

• Teach your child how to do an activity first. Don’t assume they know how to take on the role of a shopkeeper despite the numerous times they’ve been to the supermarket with you!

• Go with the flow. If you set up an activity for your little one, but they do something totally different to what you’d intended, that is absolutely fine. Support them and encourage them to follow
their own initiative!

• If they have enjoyed playing with a particular activity try leaving it out for them to access when they want for at least a week. If you don’t like the mess, perhaps you can throw a tea towel over it?

• Praise your child for their play, the way they play and what they are doing, reassuring your child and showing them how much you value their play. After all, it is supporting their development!

• Try not to interrupt your child when they are focusing, if it can wait then let it. Young children can only concentrate for small amounts of time, so you’ll probably only be waiting for a few minutes anyway!

But what exactly should you be doing when your child is playing?
In reality, there are some days when you want your little one to play to occupy themselves so that you can take a breather because, let’s face it, it’s exhausting being a parent and its important to prioritise looking after yourself! And there are those days when you have a list as long as your arm and you just need five minutes to get jobs done or make dinner. And that’s fine too, honestly it is. We all do it! But then there are days when you do have time, you do have a flicker of energy and you have the headspace to support your child as they play – great! When that occurs, there are many things you can do that will support their development:

• Sit by your child, giving them a sense of security, reassuring them that you’re in sight while showing them that you value their play.

• If they invite you to play with them, copy them. Don’t take charge, just do what they do and let them take the lead.They will love it!

• When you feel you can, talk about what you are doing. You might feel a bit silly doing it but you are teaching your child how to play. Use words they may recognise but introduce new vocabulary too. Tell them what you like, dislike, your favourites and give reasons. Your child may offer their opinion or they may not. There’s no pressure!

• As your child plays, as long as you don’t think it will break their concentration, comment on what they’re doing. Suggest a few things you like about their playing, for example: “I like the way you are stacking the bricks to make a tall tower. I like the way you are trying to get that to stick. I can see you are persevering.”

These show your child that you value what they are doing. Your child may choose to tell you about their play and may begin running their own commentary.

These are just a few ideas you can implement to encourage play. You don’t have to do them all, try a few and see if it makes a difference.

Happy playing!

Mum to one and Early Years Specialist, Claire Russell is founder of playHOORAY! and the designer of playPROMPTS activity cards designed to equip parents with realistic, fuss-free play ideas. For further information please visit www.playhooray.co.uk

Encourage learning at home talk to your child!

By | children's health, Education, family, fun for children, Health, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Claire Russell
Early Years Specialist

Research released by the Department of Education suggests that 100,000 under fives are not learning at home but according to Early Years Specialist and mum to one, Claire Russell, who is a huge advocate of learning via play, it’s all about talking to your child and spotting opportunities for them to learn as you go about your everyday routine.

Claire told us: “Talking and singing to your child is the best thing you could do. From day one provide a running commentary telling them about what you’re doing. Even though they may not be responding or talking back, the words will be going in. It will provide children with a wide range of vocabulary! And don’t be scared to use big words either!”

She continues: “Learning doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down with a pen on paper, particularly when it comes to pre-schoolers. It can be counting steps as you climb, spotting letters in road signs or taking turns in a game.”

In particular, the survey found that over half of parents do not spend time teaching children their alphabet but Claire believes learning through play is important in so many other ways.

“Learning is not just the ABCs and 123s, it’s about so much more. We need to teach our children life skills such as social skills, kindness and empathy, how to share, take turns how to look after ourselves and our bodies, how to think of others and the world around us. And who better to teach them? Us! Their parents and carers are their first teachers. We all know children watch, observe and copy. So it’s important we model the skills and characteristics we hope to see in our children.”

Here Claire provides her tips for encouraging play at home:
• Turn off the TV and keep distractions to a minimum when your child is playing.

• Keep resources to hand and ensure your child knows where they are, helping them to become independent and not rely on you to find the answers.

• Teach your child how to do an activity first. Don’t assume they know how to take on the role of a shopkeeper despite the numerous times they’ve been to the supermarket with you!

• Go with the flow. If you set up an activity for your little one, but they do something totally different to what you’d intended, that is absolutely
fine. Support them and encourage them to follow their own initiative!

• If they have enjoyed playing with a particular activity try leaving it out for them to access when they want for at least a week. If you don’t like the mess, perhaps you can throw a tea towel over it?

• Praise your child for their play, the way they play and what they are doing, reassuring your child and showing them how much you value their play, after all, it is supporting their development!

• Try not to interrupt your child when they are focusing, if it can wait then let it. Young children can only concentrate for small amounts of time, so you’ll probably only be waiting for a few minutes anyway!

• Sit by your child, giving them a sense of security, reassuring them that you’re in sight while showing them that you value their play.

• If they invite you to play with them, copy them. Don’t take charge, just do what they do and let them take the lead. They will love it!

• When you feel you can, talk about what you are doing. You might feel a bit silly doing it but you are teaching your child how to play. Use words they may recognise but introduce new vocabulary too. Tell them what you like, dislike, your favourites and give reasons. Your child may offer their opinion or they may not. There’s no pressure!

• As your child plays, as long as you don’t think it will break their concentration, comment on what they’re doing. Suggest
a few things you like about their playing, for example, “I like the way you are stacking the bricks to make a tall tower.” ” I like the way you are trying to get that to stick.” or “I can see you are persevering.” These show your child that you value what they are doing. Your child may choose to tell you about their play and may begin running their own commentary.

Claire Russsell is currently working with the Department of Education on their Chat, Play and Read campaign. Claire is founder of playHOORAY! and designer of the playPROMPT activity cards providing realistic play ideas for preschoolers.

For further information about playHOORAY! and to download the please visit www.playhooray.co.uk.

Why do children love to play so much?

By | Education, environment, fun for children, Green, Playing, Summer, Toys
by Tanya Petherick
Class Of Their Own

Children love to play. We know that, but just what is it about play that children love? At this point in an article, you might expect to see a definition of play. As people who study play are fond of saying; play is easy to see, but hard to define. The desire to play is innate. Innate is a word we can define. It means natural, in built, instinctive – in other words, no one needs to, or indeed, can, tell a child how to play. Play can be facilitated by adults, yet it is essentially child-led; children doing what they want with the resources they have available. Think about all the times a young child has been more interested in the cardboard box than the gift inside. Yet, play is not just for toddlers. Children of all ages learn through play. This might be something pragmatic, such as young children playing shops and counting out one apple and two pears, through to older primary-aged children playing card games using more advanced numerical skills.

Children receive a natural satisfaction from play. In academic circles, this is termed intrinsic motivation; a behaviour which is driven by an internal reward – put simply, play is something children want to do. A lot of the time, play is fun. Playing with friends, playing outside, getting wet, staying dry, playing in pairs, playing in groups, playing alone, imagining, making, cutting, sticking, creating, cooking, discovering, exploring – they all sound like great fun. Undoubtedly, one reason children might love play is it can be enormous fun – but it isn’t always. Sometimes play is sad, unfair or physically painful; think about children role-playing sad events, not being included in a group game and that childhood staple of grazed knees.

These three examples alone show how play can prepare children for life as an adult, sad things do happen and developing skills to process these emotions help us makes sense of life, understanding unfairness helps us to process information, and those grazed knees? Well, they teach us to tie up our shoelaces or the need to take more care on the scooter.

Can you remember being bored as a child? Getting part way through the long school holiday and declaring the dreaded “I’m bored” phrase? Being bored, or more importantly, being allowed to be bored, is an important part of a child’s development. It is when children are bored that they make creative use of the resources around them. I can remember ‘ruining,’ in my mum’s words, and ‘making more fun’ in mine, a game of Connect 4 by painting the inside of all the red and yellow circles with different coloured paint and using my new pieces to create a more complex version of the game. Had I not been bored with the original version of the game, I would never have developed my own, more engaging version of the game (I have to confess that this happened years ago, and I am still waiting for Connect 4 to pick up my great idea!). It is the necessity of creativity that results from being bored that can create fantastic fun.

Children have an innate desire to play, are intrinsically motivated to do so, and are creative about it, but does that answer our question about why children love to play? In a way it does. But let’s look at the question from a different angle. Maybe it is less about a child’s desire to play, and more about the associated benefits of play that have kept play at the evolutionary forefront of a child’s development. It is through play that children develop confidence, self-esteem, independence, emotional resilience, physical skills, concentration and creative thinking. Or, put another way, the skills that follow children into adulthood. At a time when children face criticism for being too attached to electronic devices, not doing enough exercise and being ‘over-scheduled’ the benefits of play may seem an overly simplistic response, yet as we have seen, it is through play that children find out who they are, and how the world around them works.

It can be easy to overlook the benefits of your child ‘just’ playing when planning the summer holidays. Allowing a child to follow their individual interests reduces guilt when planning holiday childcare, however, do not feel the need to overschedule children. As a parent or carer in today’s busy world, giving children the time and space to play is one of the best things a parent can do to help their child develop the skills they will need growing up and into adulthood. So, turn off the tablet and let children play in the way you did: on their own, with friends, at a holiday club and don’t forget, you can join in too! Let yourself be led by your child and don’t worry if you can’t remember how to play. It is what children do, so give them 30 minutes of your time and encourage them to choose what you do together – it is invaluable time together, and your child (and you!) will love it, but, also allow them to get bored and get creative – you never know where it will take them!

Class Of Their Own offer high quality, affordable and secure out of school clubs for primary school children aged 4-11. www.classoftheirown.com

Gifted and talented?

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, Uncategorized
by Helen Abbott, Banstead Prep School

If Einstein could not talk until he was four or read until he was seven (which is apparently the case) and Didier Drogba studied accountancy before finding himself playing for Chelsea at the mature age of 26, how can we hope to spot the gifted and talented amongst the cherished progeny that walk through our gates? What does ‘gifted and talented’ actually mean and how should we be supporting them?

Gifted and talented is a term generally used to describe children who are beyond their peers either in academic ability or in a specific skill. ‘Gifted’ tends to refer to those who have a high academic ability, while ‘talented’ relates more to those who are adept in a practical subject, such as sport, music or art. The general assumption in the past was that these children would thrive no matter what. This is most definitely not the case.

Children who are inquisitive, read early, have an excellent memory, are good at problem solving and learn to speak very young (although clearly not the Einsteins of this world) are possibly gifted. I say ‘possibly’ because anything to do with children is an inaccurate art and I tremble at the idea of putting a child in a box with a label on it – and with many people being late developers, there is often nothing evident at an early stage anyway.

When I set about writing this article, I had in mind the plethora of extra activities that we offer our gifted and talented at our school. From maths challenges to gifted writers’ workshops, from refereeing matches to representing the school in a given sport, from workshops at senior schools for instrumentalists and drama prodigies to being mentored in advanced art club. Every opportunity exists to go above and beyond.

However, as I continued to write, I thought back to the days when I attended toddler groups with my own children, where a host of affirmations from adoring parents who were keen to describe their infant’s latest achievement greeted me. Whether it is taking their first steps holding someone’s hand or doing a backward flip, murmuring their first word or reciting the alphabet backwards, proud parents coo over their newfound talent. When do these talents stop being counted as significant? When do we stop noticing every advance and consider it just ‘average’?

Banstead pupil Georgie Forster, age 10

Many high fliers struggle when they are younger because they have learning disabilities, which they are able to hide well. These children are frequently overlooked. Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that his brain was ‘addled’ but he went on to become one of America’s greatest inventors. Every child in the class needs access to a higher level of learning and at our school, we offer challenges to encourage our children to be courageous and tenacious.

Children need freedom to extend themselves but freedom within boundaries. I have to return to languages to give an example because it’s what I know best: it is not enough to simply say, “Now write your own question in French”. Rather say, “Write a question to your best friend/to the prime minister/to a unicorn!” Allow them to use their imagination but frame what they need to do.

Extension activities should provide greater depth on the subject. Research materials should be readily available, but children shouldn’t just be left to work on their own projects. Even as adults, we need support, a second opinion and a good sprinkling of praise!

Classwork should challenge from the beginning. Children should have different amounts of information, as much or as little as is needed to challenge them, but they should all complete the same task so that the outcome is the same. Teach to the top of the class and support those who need it. Aim high and inspire excellence!

At home, children need fewer boundaries for their passions. Days out exposing children to new experiences; encouraging them to read widely, whether it’s a literary tome or a football magazine; and having open conversations are all essential. And, when needed, have an open dialogue with your child’s teacher about their strengths.

I do wonder, although my fingers are almost sticking to the keys in my reluctance to type this, but maybe the geniuses of the future will be YouTubers or game makers. The geniuses of the past certainly faced criticism for their passions! However, unless you are prepared for your YouTubing offspring to burn out at the age of 21, I suggest you make sure they have exposure to other experiences as well!

In my years of teaching, I have never met one of those students who sits their GCSEs at nine or goes to university aged 11. They are few and far between. Every child is gifted and talented in some special way, whether it is in leadership skills, having a way with the spoken word or playing Mozart. Our school ethos of Education with Character, offers a variety of ways of learning, ensuring that we, as teachers, spot unique talents and cultivate them, and parents are encouraged to do the same. We need to push our children as far as possible in their ability – and then another little nudge beyond. Let’s make sure we don’t fail to spot any Thomas Edisons or Albert Einsteins of the future.

Banstead Prep School is a co-educational prep school and nursery for girls and boys aged 2-11 where there’s more to a good education than learning.
www.bansteadprep.com

Outdoor learning

By | Education, environment, fun for children, Gardening
by Sian Cattaneo
Head of Brighton Girls

Increasingly, schools are recognising that their curriculum needs to be more relevant to real life experiences and help pupils develop skills that will be helpful beyond their classroom experience. In nurseries and primary schools, this is incredibly important as teachers and nursery leaders endeavour to engage pupils in learning and make it enjoyable and relevant. In recent years the development of the Forest School curriculum has shown that these additional experiences significantly enrich the curriculum and helps many pupils to be more engaged in their learning. At our school we have seen the introduction of Wild Beach School as another ‘local’ resource which is proving to be a great opportunity to venture beyond the classroom.

So, why is outdoor learning valuable in an increasingly busy and over-stretched curriculum? Cynics might say that it is just a ‘gimmick’ that doesn’t really have any educational value apart from children getting some ‘more fresh air’. With such a pressure on schools to create a rounded and relevant curriculum, teachers are acutely aware that time and relevance is precious and are focussed on priorities in terms of educational outcomes. These sessions are about making the most of natural resources, offering a range of new and potentially challenging experiences and developing personal skills and qualities.

Schools are recognising that while the content of the curriculum is essential, an information based approach is less relevant and that pupils needs to be able to problem solve, respond to change and be flexible and adaptable. Technology, particularly in a mobile form, allows us to have information at our fingertips, the key question is how you use that knowledge to manage the challenges you face.

Many of us acknowledge that much of what we learnt at school didn’t really have any relevance to real life situations and that it seemed purely about information gathering. Outdoor learning takes this a step further in pupils getting more ‘hands on’ in a real life context (harder to replicate in a classroom!) and focuses on the learning outcomes and applying them rather than just gaining knowledge.

It could be argued that as a society we have become much more risk adverse and this is having a significant impact on future generations. Many schools use outdoor learning as a way of introducing risk taking in a managed way and in doing so, help pupils to build independence, resilience and problem solving. Roald Dahl once observed “the more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves”. This is undoubtedly what adults would want for any young person; the ability to take more personal responsibility and show initiative and self-sufficiency.

High quality outdoor learning experiences allow children to identify and assess risks more independently. Whether it be using a hammer for building a shelter in all types of weather or learning how to start a fire from scratch, these allow pupils to learn how to respond and negotiate their way around real life situations. We have frequently observed that often pupils are far more resilient than adults in the face of bad weather and will have more of a ‘can do’ attitude. We certainly all recognise that opportunities to get in the ‘great outdoors’ must be an important part of a children education. Not only will it give them a better understanding and appreciation of nature but also help them to understand the environmental challenges facing their generation. The process must begin from a young age if we are to change the culture of our society and to understand the human responsibility for nature.

At a time when children’s inactivity and time inside is causing real concerns, an element of the curriculum that runs alongside the physical education programme is being seen as invaluable. Outdoor learning, by the very nature of the tasks is often collaborative learning and is focussed on problem solving, showing initiative and teamwork. Open ended tasks enable children to lead their own learning and not always be directed by adults. It is also our observation that children who may sometimes find the classroom environment somewhat challenging respond well to the ‘freedom’ of the outdoor setting and often find success and receive positive feedback. Outdoor learning often develops different skills and consequently different children may take the lead, which can have huge benefits for self-esteem. Outdoor learning also lends itself to developing children’s natural curiosity and patience, as well as gross and fine motor skills. There is increasing evidence that working outside also has a huge benefit for physical and mental health.

We strongly believe that we increasingly need to look at the curriculum in a different way, to make it more about open ended learning and help children develop the skills that will be valuable in the future, rather than always be concerned about subject content. We are fortunate to have so many wonderful resources locally that we are able to make the learning experience so rich and vibrant and something we hope will make a positive lasting impression on children.

Sian Cattaneo is the Head of Brighton Girls, the only girls Prep in the heart of Brighton & Hove.
For any enquiries please contact 01273 280200 www.brightongirls.gdst.net, admissions@brightongirls.gdst.net

Choosing a first instrument

By | dance & Art, fun for children, Music and singing

by Oliver Roberts
Penguin Instrumentors

As a parent the topic of music lessons will likely crop up at some point and knowing how to help your child with lessons can feel like a total mystery: “Which instrument should I choose?” “Are group or private lessons best?” “What should I look for in a teacher?” These are just a few of the questions parents can face before starting lessons. However, supporting your child in their musical pursuits doesn’t have to be a challenge and we have put together a few tips to help you and your child answer that all-important first question of which instrument to choose!

Before we get started
As obvious as it may seem, the first questions you should be asking yourself when choosing an instrument are “Will my child find this fun and enjoy the experience?” and “Does my child have any preference?” After all, enjoyment leads to enthusiasm, enthusiasm leads to engagement and engagement leads to – reward!

So which instrument?
The biggest decision when starting music lessons is deciding on the instrument your child should learn. But luckily this isn’t something you need to fret over because there is no wrong answer. The transferable skills learnt from being musical in general are just as important as the specific instrument being learnt. Besides, there are always opportunities to press pause if your child isn’t enjoying lessons and try something different.

So, assuming that you don’t already have an instrument in mind, the first step in choosing an instrument is to find out which instruments are easily available to you. This may mean researching what the local teachers in your area can offer or which instruments are taught at your child’s school. The size of the instrument may also be worth considering. Pianos for example are a fab first instrument, however, they are also pretty large pieces of furniture and not all of us have the space to house them (although a digital piano or keyboard are good alternatives if a piano won’t fit). Other instruments like cellos, saxophones and some of the larger brass instruments can also be heavy and tricky for younger hands to grip properly.

Age
Your child’s age is a big factor in choosing an instrument. The earliest recommended ages for most musical instruments is generally about seven or eight years old, with the ukulele and recorder being a bit younger, and guitars, big brass and drums being a little older. This is largely due to the development of a child’s fine motor skills. However, if your child is showing an interest in music before this age then activities like singing around the house, group music sessions for infants or even having fun with rhythms during impromptu drumming sessions (using household items) can all make for great introductions to music.

Cost
Budget is another important consideration when picking out an instrument. There are instruments to fit all budgets and prices can range from just a few pounds to tens of thousands. However, some music shops may offer financing options for pricier instruments and some schools and music schemes offer to loan instruments to their pupils. It may also be worth noting that not all instruments are always treated equal when it comes to lesson prices with orchestral, piano and singing lessons typically priced higher than guitar, ukulele and drums which may become significant over the long-term.

Motivations
The last thing to think about when weighing up your options is the reason for learning. Almost any instrument can fit any musical aspiration, however, there are a couple of points to be aware of. If you think a casual approach to music would work best for your child then maybe the guitar, drums or piano would be your best choice because of their relative ease when starting out. On the other hand, orchestral instruments may take a little longer before the practice starts yielding the same results but they are fantastic for providing unique social experiences with opportunities to perform in orchestras, chamber groups and other ensembles as well as large repertoires of truly beautiful solo pieces to enjoy. It is also fairly common for children to start learning an instrument like the piano and after a year or two switch onto something else

Size
Once you’ve decided which instrument is right for you and your child, the next question will be, what size? Most instruments come in varying sizes which are suitable for the different ages of children and many music shops will have someone who can help you find the correctly proportioned instrument to suit your child.

Still undecided?
At the end of the day, there are always ‘the big three’. Piano, violin and guitar and if in doubt you can always plump for one of these. There is a wide range of instruments available to buy, many teachers to choose from and a variety of directions that lessons can be taken from classical grades to pop, jazz and folk. And if that doesn’t work out, you can always change your mind and try something else!

Instrumentors is a music lessons service established in Brighton & Hove specialising in private one-to-one tuition and online lesson management.
www.instrumentors.co.uk

 

Live is best

By | dance & Art, fun for children, Music and singing, Theatre

With the summer holidays around the corner, there is a bit more time to treat children to a trip to see a live performance at your local theatre. Younger children will enjoy a show during the day, and you can take older children in the evening without worrying so much about getting them to bed on time.

Many theatres have more shows on for children during the school holidays and may also run workshops for those who want to get more involved.

Live theatre can be a magical and memorable experience but recent research by Birbeck, University of London, has also shown that taking youngsters to watch a theatre performance could provide a host of developmental benefits, including improved emotional intelligence and opportunities to discuss difficult subjects.

It is now widely accepted that play-acting and role-play is a fundamental part of development, allowing children to engage in different personalities, work their way through complex social relationships and navigate emotional issues. Watching a live performance can offer some of the same benefits. Many of the shows aimed at children have an under-lying moral message and subjects such as love, friendship and bullying are often explored in a fun and safe environment, which can bring about unexpected but important conversations once the show has finished.

Going to the theatre as a family is also a great bonding experience. Parents don’t have to worry about entertaining their children (it’s being done for them on the stage) and everyone can relax, sit back and enjoy the show together. There are all sorts of shows on at local theatres during the summer. Some shows are for the very young and are short and interactive to keep little ones engaged, while others are full length plays aimed at older children. Many shows are now based on children’s favourite books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar or books by David Walliams or Jacqueline Wilson. There are also live performances and sing-a-longs of films such as Frozen or children’s favourite television shows. These can be a good first introduction to the theatre for young children as they will be very familiar with the story and characters.

In order to get the most out of any show, get children excited and looking forward to the show in advance. If the show you are going to has a soundtrack, you could listen to it in advance. This is a great way to get children familiar with the show without overloading them with too much information. If you know the basics of the story, you could tell it at bedtime the night before so children will know what to expect, but family-friendly shows are normally easy to understand.

Going to see a live performance is a truly memorable experience and it is a wonderful way to spark a child’s imagination – you never know where it may lead them!

Kids Week in the West End

Kids Week in London is a wonderful opportunity to see a West End show.
The price of West End theatre shows puts it out of reach for many people, but Kids Week makes it far more affordable and is a way of encouraging families to go to the theatre.

A child aged 16 or under can go free to any participating show when accompanied by an adult paying full price, and you can buy up to two extra children’s tickets at half price. And there are no booking or postage fees to pay! It has proved so popular that it is no longer just on for a week, but for the whole of August.

Tickets are now on sale. The top shows sell out very quickly, but you can normally pick up tickets for the lesser known shows fairly easily and perhaps see something that you may not normally go to.

For further details go to www.officiallondontheatre.com/kids-week