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fun for children

Dads and family life

The essential role dads play in family life today

By family, fun for children, Mental health, play, Relationships

by Giles Alexander
Fatherhood Expert


Throughout history, for literally thousands of years, the principal role of a father has been to provide. But times have well and truly changed. Dads today are more actively involved in every element of raising our children and supporting our partners through pregnancy, birth and parenthood than any generation that’s come before.

Long gone are the days when expectant fathers would spend the whole birth sitting in the waiting room smoking cigars. No longer do we stroll through the front door at the end of the working day expecting the kids in bed and dinner on the table. Providing for your family in this day and age means so much more than merely bringing home the bacon.

As any working dad will tell you, being a father has never been more of a full-time job, and one that extends well beyond the traditional 9-5. Our job doesn’t stop once the monthly rent/mortgage/gas bills have been paid. Our working day doesn’t end when our paid employment finishes and we head home. Bath time, nappy changing, weaning, potty training, cooking, cleaning and emotional support are all fundamental parts of the job description.

More than ever, men today appreciate that being a dad is one of the most important jobs there is. An opportunity to build a family and shape a whole new life. To pass on our values and everything we’ve learnt to another human being, to change misconceptions and outdated stereotypes. And, ultimately, we all hope, leave a positive mark on the world. Because, beyond gestation and lactation, there really are no limits to what modern dads can do.

But this is only part of the story. To be really good parents, we need to be supportive partners too.

Because modern parenting is hard work. It used to be said that it takes a village to raise a child. And back in the day, that’s exactly how it was. New parents had so much more child rearing support from family, neighbours and the wider community than we do now. It was also much more feasible to live off one salary and still afford regular childcare, buy a house, pay the bills and buy groceries.

But the reality is that incomes today don’t cover what they used to, while societal expectations on new parents (especially new mums) are greater than they’ve ever been. Not only is the parenting role itself bigger, but more of the invisible, unpaid tasks associated with raising a family and modern life fall on new parents to complete themselves, with the so-called ‘village’ nowhere to be seen.

Given that gender inequality at work is still commonplace, this still too often leads to the bulk of the parenting and domestic load being heavily biased against women, who end up taking on the lion’s share. As modern fathers, we shouldn’t just accept this as the status quo.

It’s unreasonable to expect the weight of parental responsibility to land solely on a mother’s shoulders. Add to this all the other daily tasks we all need to complete just to get through the day – the laundry, shopping, cleaning, cooking and general life admin – and it’s even more unrealistic to expect one person to do it all alone. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

Of course, we all come into fatherhood with different life experiences, jobs, financial situations and support networks, which each have a massive impact on how well we can fulfil our new parenting role. And there is no such thing as the perfect dad, with each of us doing it the best we can, in our own unique way.

But no matter our personal situation, every one of us can choose to be a hands-on dad. A man who knows his stuff, rolls up his sleeves, does his fair share at home, and never shies away from his fatherly duties. Who appreciates his partner and the sacrifices they make. Who chooses to see parenting as a 50:50 partnership between two equals. And sets a positive example, both for his kids and for every new dad that comes after him, by showing them what’s possible.

It isn’t easy. Anything worth doing rarely is. The hours are long, the pay is terrible, and you spend most of your time working with someone who doesn’t speak your language, needs feeding 8-15 times a day, and relies on you to wipe their bum! But, like all jobs, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. And the rewards – well, they really are huge and will last a lifetime.

Giles Alexander is a hands-on dad of three and author of new parenting book You the Daddy: The Hands-On Dad’s Guide to Fatherhood. Find out more at

you the daddy
active fun for kids

The importance of children being active and socialising throughout the school holidays

By Education, environment, Exercise, fun for children, Green, Mental health, Playing, Relationships, Sport
by Debbie Webb
Founder of Activ8 For Kids

The school holidays can be a time for fun and relaxation, but it’s also important to keep children engaged and active during this time. School holidays are always an exciting time for children, but it can be a challenging time for parents who still need to work. This is where holiday clubs often come in, providing children with a safe, fun environment. There are a wide range of holiday clubs available depending on the interests of the children, but with the rising cost of living, parents may wonder whether the cost of the holiday clubs are worth it and whether trying to entertain them at home is a better option. So what do we want our children to be doing during the school holidays, what will help them to develop and grow as individuals and help them later in life?

As much as your child may push against routines, children actually thrive in a routine. It gives them a sense of purpose, clear expectations and a structure to their day. Routines can help their self-esteem and ensure they feel less anxious and more comfortable. Lie-ins, chilled time in front of the TV, playing computer games and having days out are all great and bring a range of benefits, but it is also important to build in time to be active and have opportunities to socialise with others regularly.

Current recommendations from the government are for children to take part in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day. This means their heart rate should increase, they should be out of breath and feel hot after the activity. Physical activity is essential for maintaining good health, strengthening muscles and bones, enhancing motor skills and can prevent obesity and related health problems. Ensuring your child is active every day and recognises the benefits it brings (both physically and mentally), can cultivate a lifelong habit of exercise and a healthy lifestyle. As well as keeping them healthy, being active brings so many more benefits:
• Allows children to burn off excess energy; remember school is very tiring and during the holidays they need alternative ways to channel that energy.
• Boosts confidence and promotes social skills.
• Develops and improves their fundamental movement skills of balance, co-ordination and agility.
• Improves mental wellbeing and makes them feel good about themselves. Exercise can improve their mood, enable them to experience a sense of accomplishment and can also stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.
• Contributes to better sleep.
• Increases self-esteem and helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
• Physical activity stimulates brain function and enhances cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that active children perform better academically and have improved attention spans. During school holidays, engaging in physical activities like sports, outdoor games or even activities that involve problem solving and critical thinking can contribute to their cognitive development.
• Engaging in different activities and exploring new places fosters creativity, stimulates imagination and curiosity and also problem solving skills.

Children who get to be active everyday alongside other children will also benefit in all the following ways:
• Develop new skills.
• Develop team work and leadership skills.
• Make new friends.
• Develop independence.
• Develop their social interaction skills.
• Learn how to transfer skills across activities.

Socialising with others during school holidays is crucial for children’s social development. It provides opportunities for them to practise communication, co-operation, teamwork and conflict resolution. Participating in group activities and interacting with others helps children build friendships, develop empathy and understand diverse perspectives.

Overall, children being active and socialising during school holidays is essential for their physical health, mental wellbeing, cognitive development, social skills and creativity. Parents, carers and communities should provide opportunities and support for children to engage in a variety of activities that promote physical activity.

Debbie Webb is a qualified teacher and sports coach. She runs Activ8 For Kids and has developed programmes of activity for the different ages and stages between two and sixteen years old based on the fundamental movement skills. Visit for more information.



adventurous play

Adventurous play

By environment, Exercise, Forest School, Green, Holiday camps, Mental health, Nature, Playing, Relationships, Wellbeing
by Dr John Allan
Head of Education at Inspiring Learning, Camp Beaumont

Adventurous play helps children adapt to the challenges of today and to face up to the demands of tomorrow

Learning new skills is fundamental to healthy, human development. Skills come in many forms – from physical movement to reading, writing and listening. Although we all recognise the power of acquiring knowledge, cultivating a child’s sense of purpose and passion must be equal to the importance we place upon their retention of information.

Nurturing an optimum blend of physical, social, cognitive and emotional literacy is most important in childhood. This is where brain growth is most prolific, and a toolkit of skill sets, such as self-awareness, creativity, trust and empathy can be fostered to help children to adapt to the challenges of today and to face up to the demands of tomorrow. We know that youngsters who score high on a combination of psychosocial skills at an early age report better adult outcomes in education, employment, and mental health.

The unpredictable and dynamic nature of adventure-based play makes it an ideal process for the cultivation of skills children require to thrive in an ever-changing world. Outdoor play combines the revitalising, mood-enhancing impact of nature with the adventurous uncertainty of youngsters interacting with each other in non-uniform playful settings without rules and restrictions. Here, children can enjoy exploring their emerging physical capabilities, take turns, co-operate and socialise; finding solutions to new problems in novel ways rather than just sticking to the tried and tested.

Adventure Education is about empowering children to take control of their own learning. This involves educators and parents being responsible without being over-protective so that youngsters are never allowed to wobble, trip, stumble or fall and as a result, miss out on the experience to know what it like to get back up again. Activities which offer some negative emotion, such as feeling unstable in the moment, counterbalanced by positive emotions such as joy, pride and attentiveness underpins a ‘steeling effect’. This helps to inoculate young people to handle more significant risks in the future.

This authentic, experiential approach of ‘learning by doing’ is the foremost guiding principle for facilitating adventurous play. This can take place in school grounds or within an out-of-school adventure camp setting, where a particular focus on specific skill sets can be achieved.

Constructing opportunities for children to be willing to take a path less travelled will make them resilient. Resilience is the learned ability of individuals to ‘bounce-back’ from adversity and ‘bounce-beyond’ their original position to face future testing circumstances with greater capacity. Resilience is recognised in school-based education as an effective policy for developing learners’ wellbeing and academic success.

Having the capacity to share positive resilient experiences with others also suggests resilience may be catching and may be a first step in helping it grow in others.

At a time where children have faced unprecedented upheaval and threats to their wellbeing, it has never been more important to create daily opportunities for them to build their resilience. But how is resilience built through adventurous play which can positively impact other avenues of learning? The following ten tips, which collectively spell the word resilience, outline out-of-school camp practices which help build the adaptive capabilities of learners.

R – Rebound and re-invent
A child’s setback in camp can be framed as a lesson to learn and not a failure. This signifies that achievement comes because of stretching oneself by applying continued effort. This allows young people to self-correct and adjust their responses to produce gains from losses. As a result, learners will attribute their learning to themselves, and take pride in their achievements.

E – Energise
Playful experiences without obvious outcomes help to create a resilient ‘growth mindset’, where a fixed, perspective of ‘can’t do’ is replaced by flexible, task-focused ‘can-do’ persistence. This process is strengthened by camp facilitators stressing the importance of children taking small risks in new situations and not predicting negative outcomes.

S – Share
Adventure education often generates group situations that depend on social integration and collective responsibility. Such mutual reliance in testing circumstances necessitate that children balance their own needs with that of their groups.

I – Inquisitiveness
A combination of unfamiliar camp environments with unknown outcomes, provides an ideal breeding ground for children to set their imagination free and develop the fundamental skills of questioning how, what, who, when and why. This search for understanding may be further enhanced with less reliance on mobile technology which has been associated with youngsters vocalising and sharing less, limiting their questioning and failing to recognise the real-life implications of decision-making.

L – Life-enhancing
First-hand experiences combined with reflective practice consolidate children’s learning within and beyond camps. To promote lasting impact, camps should deliver activities with ‘transfer in mind’. Varied events which are responsive to enquiring minds and trigger emotions, such as laughter, incredulity and even mild apprehension, generate learning that can be recalled upon later using diaries, or creative writing.

I – Inclusion
Playful activities which provoke unwanted risk for one child may be seen as an opportunity for growth in another. Supporting learners to make personalised judgements of risk-taking based upon their perception of their abilities enables the growth of self-directed behaviour.

E – Environment
Just five minutes of exercise undertaken in an urban green space may be sufficient to boost a child’s physical and mental wellbeing. Therefore, a combination of active and restorative play in nature (like mindfulness exercises or forest bathing) meet health and wellbeing needs not able to be provided by similar activities (like traditional sports) and become even more powerful when deliberately designed for such purposes.

N – Natural
The authenticity of adventure-based play offers realistic consequences for success and failure. Allowing learners to own their responses to unfolding circumstances, helps them to see the bigger picture, take stock of facts and acknowledge others’ perspectives in becoming prepared for whatever challenges come along.

C – Control
Giving children choices and the autonomy to play and explore in a natural space is a primary mechanism through which they become freely acquainted with their environment, develop natural mapping skills and learn how to distinguish between themselves and others.

E – Emotional intelligence
The ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of others is a distinct feature of resilience learned through direct exposure to adventurous camp-based learning.

With over 44 years’ experience caring for children, Camp Beaumont run award-winning day camps in over 50 locations across London and the South-East for children aged between 3 and 14 years old. Book our multi-activity day programmes to ensure your child learns new skills, makes new friends and enjoys their most exciting school holiday yet.

girls' ballet class

Studio to stage

By dance & Art, Exercise, fun for children, Mental health, Music and singing, play, Relationships, Sport, Wellbeing
by Lynda Forster
Dance Art Studio

Preparing to perform a dance on stage is a journey of commitment and dedication, bringing hours of practise to life, bringing sheer joy to the audience and an experience like no other for the dancer.

Lots of little girls and boys express an interest to start dance classes. They have no inhibitions, a natural sense of rhythm and love to dance ‘like no one is watching’ when they hear a tune. Many skip into their first class without ever looking back to their parents, whilst others, with the help of their teacher, need a few lessons to gently ease into it building their confidence with each lesson.

Dance classes have many benefits at all ages which can really help set children up for life. Children can be faced with lots of worries and upsets during their school life so having a hobby they love and a safe place to go is, at times, a huge relief.

For preschoolers a dance class will open up a whole new world – they will soon be able to isolate different parts of their bodies to move separately (a huge plus for co-ordination) and develop better overall concentration. Infant children will develop these skills in more depth, and will soon be able to raise their hand and be more involved in their school lessons because they’ve learnt participation within a dance class. Once assemblies and seasonal performances at school come round they’ll be happily volunteering for the lead parts!

At junior school, being a dancer will teach them to be physically and mentally stronger, gain more flexibility through their bodies and learn ‘time management’ to help manage academia and extra circular activities more easily which in turn will help with their all important and busy social life, with their school and dance friends – lots of parties to go to!

Starting senior school can be overwhelming for many children but most schools have a dance department where they can share their interests, make new friends and start showcasing their dance and creative skills in performances. Overall they will be confident, happier and more active teenagers. If their dance school has an exam option, they would have taken plenty of them since they were young, so again they will have learnt essential life skills; the purpose of working towards something to the best of their personal ability, revision skills, commitment skills and the experience of actually taking an exam, so hopefully the GCSE exam room will not feel as daunting.

Performing in their first dance show is where all the skills mentioned above unfold. They’ve had to work hard and wait patiently for their moment. Seeing the excitement build in the lead up to a dance school show makes all the months of hard work and effort by the teacher and the performers so worthwhile.

When practise starts for their first performance it is impossible for young children to visualise the finished piece and understand why repetition is so vital. By the time they reach dress rehearsal day, when it all comes together and the buzz is palpable, they completely understand and in fact start asking for more rehearsals so that they can work on their performance skills. At this stage they really understand it’s a team effort and they all become such close friends. Reassurance about having nerves is spoken about in a positive way by explaining about the fight or fight mode our bodies go into. It is a journey from start to finish, with them seeing how choreographers create their work from a starting point through to the finished piece. Their eyes are opened to new styles, techniques and interpretations to various music style. If the show has a theme, they have gained knowledge on the narrative and learnt how the whole production blends together.

The costumes are an extension of the dance and compliment choreography – after a couple of shows even the youngest dancers start to develop an eye for detail and will soon say if a costume isn’t quite looking right or needs an accessory added! It’s an opportunity for all the various ages to come together to inspire and support each other.

So many emotions are experienced during performance day, the excitement and happiness on their faces when they are waiting in the wings to go on stage is joyful. The nervous excitement transforms into electric energy and then the thrill of the applause which of course they love embracing!

Confident children leave the theatre feeling very proud of themselves and will hopefully remember the whole experience for many years. When they return to regular grade lessons they have a positive approach, more motivation and an understanding that you gain more from things by giving your best. A truly valuable life lesson.

Dance Art Studio is located in the Fiveways and Preston Park area of Brighton offering pre-school ballet and dance for 3-4 year olds and graded ballet, tap, modern theatre dance and street as well as boys only tap and jazz. Exams and performance opportunities. We also hold holiday workshops.

party planning for kids

Stress-bust your party planning

By fun for children, parties, Party
by Sasha Priest
Co-Director of Big Lion Events

You no doubt want to plan the perfect children’s party that will create a lifetime of happy memories and be talked about fondly for years. Arranging this spectacular event will take diligent organisation – we hope these handy tips and convenient checklist will help guide you through.

Tip 1 – Make a budget early and maybe split the costs
The average cost of a children’s party in 2023 was £298, according to Go.Compare*. Financially plan out everything you need in advance; invitations, party favours, entertainment, hall hire, food and decorations. We have recently found that some parents are choosing to combine their children’s parties to split the costs, which offers a fun way to reduce the costs.

Tip 2 – Choose a date, but be flexible
Selecting a date which the venue, the entertainer and your guests can all make can be tricky, so try not to pin yourself down to just one day. You will want all your loved ones and your little one’s friends to be able to come and celebrate with you, so making sure key people can make the choosen date is important.

Tip 3 – Things to consider when booking a venue
Save yourself the panic of trying to find a last-minute venue and make sure it is the first thing you check off your list. You need to consider things like:
• Can the venue cater for the number of people you want to invite?
• Is there parking either on site or nearby?
• Do they allow a bouncy castle?
• What time do they allow before and after the party for set-up and pack-down?
• Does it have a kitchen if you want to self-cater?
• What are the venues sound level limits and clean-up requirements.

We have found on average in Sussex venues to be £15-£25 an hour – maybe consider a community space or hall, that can be more reasonably priced and still provide the facilities you need.

Tip 4 – Theming and entertainment
Your little one probably has a current obsession with the most popular cartoon or game of the moment, so deciding the theme and matching decorations and entertainment is important. Picking a theme early on and making sure you secure the matching entertainment, is a must.

You can never go wrong with the ever-popular soft play and bouncy castle. Themes like princesses and Roblox get booked up quickly, so book early. Consider when you are booking your soft play or bouncy castle, if the company has the correct Public Liability Insurance, meets legal British Standards and also if they are a reputable company with great reviews.

Tip 5 – Bespoke cakes
If you are looking to get that personalised themed cake, you will need to book at least three months in advance as the coveted cake-makers book up quickly. If you want to economise on the cake many of the supermarkets, with a little notice, can often create a bespoke cake for you or some have great and affordable cake options on the shelves.

Tip 6 – The invitations
OK, so you have a venue, a theme with matching cake and entertainment and now you need to get your guests excited about the party! You can find some great personalised invitations on Etsy, or have you considered creating a special event Facebook page for the party as a free way of inviting guests? Don’t forget the important information: date and time, venue address, theme for dressing up and RSVP information.

Tip 7 – The decorations and party favours
Balloons are a must for tying in a theme and adding that wow factor! If you are looking to book a balloon artist who will take away the hassle of fighting with balloons, securing a professional who can provide that perfect balloon garland or themed balloon bouquets is essential! There are also DIY options available online but they can be low quality and time consuming.

Once the balloons have been sorted, you have to think party hats, table cloths, cups, plates, napkins, cutlery and banners. There are some suppliers out there if you can splurge a bit, who provide this all in a one handy box, alternatively online can be a great place to look for those themed decorations but again be wary of the quality.

Tip 8 – Your catering options
If you have the funds and want to splash out, there are some lovely grazing table companies who can cater for your every desire, but you need to be very organised and book at least six months ahead. Supermarkets often have brilliant frozen food choices, which can be cooked on the day, and this is a great cost-saving solution. If you want a totally stress-free affordable option, try party platters which offer good value for money, and are both child-friendly and timesaving, with large savoury grazing boxes costing around £16 and 20 piece sandwich platters around £12.

Party planning can be stressful and there are companies out there who can do all the legwork for you, so all you need to do is turn up and have a great time, knowing it is all in-hand! But, whatever your vision for the dream party and however big or small the budget is, with this checklist and tips, you can make your vision into a reality whilst making a lifetime of heart-warming and fun memories!

Sasha Priest, B.A (Hons) Business and Management, is a Co-Director of Big Lion Events and a qualified balloon artist. Sasha’s passion has been to help families across Sussex create special memories, by being an all-encompassing soft play hire and party supplier for children’s parties, weddings, baby showers and large-scale events. More information can be found at

* Go.Compare – (


Party planning checklist

3 – 4 months before
o Make a budget
o Pick a date and time
o Choose a theme
o Book a venue
o Book the entertainment
o Book the cake maker
o Book a sound system supplier (if the venue does not have one)

6 – 8 weeks before
o Order personalised invitations
o Book balloon artist
o Order party favours and personalised party boxes
o Order food from caterer (if choosing this option)
o Send out invitations
o Set up a social media event page/send virtual invitations
o Order themed decorations

4 -5 weeks before
o Chase the RSVPs
o Plan a party playlist
o Sort the the favours and party boxes
o If self-catering, write a list of food and drink items needed
o Order supermarket cake and platters (if choosing this route)
o Confirm venue
o Confirm entertainment
o Confirm catering
o Confirm cake

1 – 2 weeks before
o Purchase food and drink if self-catering
o Collect cake

Day of Party
o Cook the food if self-catering
o Decorate the venue
o Inflate balloons, if DIY balloons
o Set up the table decorations
o Lay out the food and cake display (don’t forget the matches!)
o Set up a gift table
o Set up the sound and playlist

outdoor learning

Screen time to green time – the positive benefits of outdoor play

By Digital, Early Years, environment, Family Farms, Forest School, fun for children, Green, Mental health, Nature, Playing, Summer
by Marsha Dann
Lead Teacher, Play B C Preschool

Our very young children spend an increasing amount of time on screens and statistics suggest they typically spend less time outdoors than prisoners. In his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, Richard Louv coins the concept of Nature Deficit Disorder and brings together research which indicates that reduced exposure to the outdoors is actually harmful to children. This can be mitigated by prioritising outdoor play which has a number of benefits for our preschoolers.

Physical health
Natural light and fresh air contribute to overall wellbeing, strong immune systems and healthy growth. Active outdoor play offers a wealth of opportunities for movement and exercise, promoting the development of co-ordination, fitness and motor development. It will also help children later down the line at school because cross crawl activities such as climbing or skipping get both sides of the brain working which helps mastery of bilateral tasks such as using a knife and fork, writing or using scissors. Furthermore, motor control develops from the core of the body outwards so sufficient upper body strength will be critical in developing manual dexterity.

Sensory development
The great outdoors is a sensory playground for stimulating children’s senses in ways that are just not the same indoors. From the feel of grass underfoot to the sound of birds chirping overhead, outdoor exploration engages all five outer senses, and the inner senses too, fostering development crucial for learning and perception. Children learn to observe, feel, smell, and listen, enhancing their understanding of the world around them and enriching their cognitive abilities.

Social skills
Outdoor play provides invaluable opportunities for children to interact with their peers in unstructured environments. Whether they’re building sandcastles at the beach, playing tag in the park, or working together to collect items on a nature scavenger hunt, outdoor activities encourage teamwork, communication, and co-operation. Through shared experiences and spontaneous play, children learn important social skills such as empathy, negotiation, and conflict resolution, laying the foundation for healthy relationships and social development.

Cognitive benefits
The outdoor environment is constantly changing and this supports learning and discovery through exploration, experimentation, and problem-solving. Whether it’s observing insects in the garden, identifying different plant species, or finding out what happens when you mix mud and water, outdoor play stimulates curiosity and creativity. Studies show that time spent in nature enhances cognitive function, improves attention span, and promotes mental wellbeing.

Appreciation for nature
Outdoor play fosters a sense of wonder and awe in children, and instils a deep appreciation for the natural world. Nurturing a connection to nature from an early age will teach children to understand cycles of growth and decay. Respecting and caring for the Earth and its plants, animals, and ecosystems will encourage them to embody principles of conservation and sustainability.

Whatever the weather, outdoor play will bring benefits all year round, and combat Nature Deficit Disorder. However, as the days are now starting to brighten and lengthen, there is no better time to get head out, soak up some Vitamin D and the other many benefits that only the great outdoors can offer.

Marsha Dann, lead teacher, Play B C Preschools. Play B C offers teacher-led provision, which prioritises relationships, sensitive interaction, and fun but challenging learning through developmentally appropriate activities for a wonderfully diverse cohort. More than just a place, at Play B C every day is a learning adventure.


dancing girl

Dance for everyone

By dance & Art, fun for children

Dancing is an activity that has been enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures for centuries. It is not only a form of artistic expression, but also a great way to stay physically fit and healthy. For children, dancing is particularly beneficial as it promotes physical, emotional and social development. In today’s fast-paced world, where technology and sedentary lifestyles are becoming the norm, it is more important than ever to encourage children to engage in physical activities and keep active.

Firstly, dancing is a great form of exercise for children because it involves the whole body. It is a full-body workout that engages all major muscle groups, including the legs, arms, core and back. Dancing also improves flexibility, co-ordination and balance. As children learn and practise different dance moves and routines, their bodies become more flexible and their range of motion increases. This not only improves their physical performance but also helps to prevent injuries.

By learning and mastering different dance steps and routines, children improve their ability to control their body movements and maintain balance, which is important for their overall physical development.

Secondly, dancing is an enjoyable form of exercise for children. Unlike traditional forms of exercise, such as running, dancing allows children to express themselves creatively and have fun while staying active. This makes it more likely for them to engage in physical activity on a regular basis. Dancing also has a social aspect to it, as it is often done in groups or pairs. This can help children develop social skills, build friendships, and boost their self-confidence. In a dance class or performance, children learn to work together as a team, communicate effectively, and support each other. This not only benefits their physical health but also their emotional and social wellbeing.

Dancing is a low-impact exercise that is suitable for children of all ages and abilities. Unlike high-impact activities, such as running or jumping, dancing puts less strain on the joints and muscles, making it a safe form of exercise for children. This is particularly important for young children who are still developing physically. Dancing can also be modified to suit the individual needs and abilities of each child. For example, children with disabilities or physical limitations can still participate in dancing by adapting the movements and routines to their abilities. This inclusivity makes dancing an accessible form of exercise for all children.

In addition to its physical benefits, dancing also has a positive impact on children’s mental health. Regular physical activity, such as dancing, has been linked to improved mood, reduced stress and anxiety and increased self-esteem. Dancing releases endorphins, also known as the ‘feel-good’ hormones, which can help them feel happier and more relaxed. It also provides a healthy outlet for children to express their emotions and relieve any tension or stress they may be experiencing. As children learn to control their body movements and improve their skills, they also gain a sense of accomplishment and boost their self-confidence. This can have a positive impact on their overall wellbeing and help them develop a positive body image.

The importance of keeping active for children goes beyond physical and mental health benefits. Regular physical activity is essential for children’s overall development and long-term health. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is one of the leading risk factors for global mortality, with about 3.2 million deaths per year attributed to insufficient physical activity. Childhood obesity is also a growing concern, and keeping active is crucial in preventing and managing it. Dancing, being a fun and enjoyable form of exercise, can help children develop healthy habits and maintain an active lifestyle as they grow older.

Dancing is therefore a fantastic form of exercise for children that offers numerous benefits for their physical, emotional and social wellbeing. It engages the whole body, promotes flexibility, co-ordination and balance, and is suitable for children of all ages and abilities.

Dancing is also enjoyable and has a positive impact on children’s mental health, boosting their self-esteem and promoting a sense of inclusivity and acceptance. In today’s world, where technology and sedentary lifestyles are becoming more prevalent, it is crucial to encourage children to stay active and engage in physical activities like dancing. By doing so, we can help children develop healthy habits, prevent health issues and promote their overall development.

Young boy in field

The Great Outdoors

By Education, environment, Forest School, fun for children, Green, Mental health, Nature
by Chris Gunn
Headmaster, Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School

At a time when children’s wellbeing is seemingly so constantly under attack, it has never been so important to seek the advantages of ‘The Great Outdoors’! Some of my fondest memories are of adventuring, exploring, and challenging myself in nature – I was never happier than when climbing trees, playing hide-and-seek with friends, soaking up picturesque views or exercising. I vividly remember the sense of accomplishment, motivation, and sheer joy at these times. I can still recall the slip and slide of mud and grass underfoot of past games of football, and feel the warmth of the sun on my back during picnics with family and friends.

In an ever-changing world burdened with social pressures and geo-political issues, the outdoors is a solace. A peaceful calm. It is both an outlet for anxiety and stress as well as one of the greatest resources we have access to for maintaining our positive mental wellbeing. We teach children strategies to improve their mental wellbeing, strategies which children can access and employ to cope with the many challenges and changes they will meet throughout their lives. In my opinion, visiting ‘The Great Outdoors’ is the most effective way to improve mental wellbeing, bar none. It is essential that we provide our children with plentiful opportunities to learn outside of the classroom so that they too have access to this wonderful, naturally healing resource.

I was reminded of the impact of the outdoors recently after a busy exam week. A group of children spent their Friday Activities playing a giant game of ‘capture the flag’ and team ‘hide-and-seek’. For many, the anxiety which the week had induced seemed to be lost and forgotten about in a heartbeat. The excitement of charging into space, to find a quiet spot out of view and the eyes of the opposing team; the anticipation of whether they would be found by a determined seeker; the sprint back to ‘base’ after the time was up. Children were children again. Laughing, panting, smiling. A sense of freedom and enthusiasm. A sense of relief.

The benefits of outdoor activities, such as orienteering, shelter-building, scavenger hunts, and wood whittling on children are unquantifiable. Not only do such activities teach valuable life-skills but they also highlight personal qualities and characteristics, which in turn will lead to better understanding of self and a greater likelihood of successes in the future. Direct links can clearly be drawn between those days outdoors, the skills we learn, and the people we become.

Resilience. Resilience to climb that tree a little higher, or to remain calm when getting back down again. Aspiration. Pushing for a personal best when running a race or vying for the win in a team sport. Self-esteem. To be successful when trying something new, or when involved in informal competition, can make such a difference to a pupil’s self-worth. Courage. Courage to explore, to try new things, or to stand up for and to protect the environment. To know and understand their own physical capabilities and boundaries and to push these a little further each time. Respect. Respect for the habitats, keeping ‘The Great Outdoors’ clean and tidy. Not having to be prompted to pick up a crisp packet, or litter. To protect wildlife and ecosystems, so that plants and animals can thrive. Compassion. Compassion for those who share the space. Wildlife, people, our opponents in sport. Integrity. Having a strong moral grounding of what needs to be done by the Government and local authorities to keep our green spaces and the planet happy and healthy. To compete within the rules of the game. It is these characteristics, that make a young person stand out from the crowd, that will enable them to inspire others.

It is only when outside regularly – walking, exercising, taking the dog out – you see the impact of the change of seasons. The leaves changing colour in the autumn, the first frost, the horse chestnuts, the birds flying south, the leaves beginning to fall. For children to experience first-hand the change in the seasons, to appreciate how fragile life is and get a sense of what they can do to help support the environment, is again of the upmost importance. Children will inevitably hear comments such as “The daffodils are coming up earlier this year” or “It hasn’t snowed for years,” but seeing it, investigating it, monitoring and testing it, enables children to see the impact of a change in our climate. It gives them a real understanding of the effects of greenhouse gases and why changes in our individual habits as well as large-scale changes in industry shape the way we live on and work with our planet Earth. The next generation of scientists, inspired by the outdoors.

I am fortunate enough to have two happy and healthy young sons. I have tried to refrain from using the term ‘outdoorsy’ however they love nothing more than to explore nature. Climb trees; splash in muddy puddles with their wellies on; have fun at the local rugby club. The fondest memories that they make are not whilst sitting in front of a tablet screen. They are out there – wherever that ‘out there’ might be. They are made through a sense of adventure, exploration and getting out into the fresh air. Stopping, standing, listening. That is the greatest ‘soul food’ of all.

Sompting Abbotts is a West Sussex preparatory school near Worthing for girls and boys aged 2 – 13. Tel: 01903 235960.

To find out more about what Sompting Abbotts can offer you, or to arrange a personal visit at any time of the school year, please visit

happy children in forest

The power of a small prep school Embracing the ‘try everything’ philosophy

By Education, environment, Forest School, fun for children, Green, Mental health, Nature, Primary school, Relationships
by Charlotte Moore
St Christopher’s Prep

In a world where education is often evaluated by standardised testing and one-size-fits-all metrics, nestled in the heart of a vibrant community, small preparatory schools are quiet powerhouses that have a unique charm. They offer a distinct advantage over larger educational institutions, such as smaller class sizes, a strong sense of community, and individualised attention from teachers. They punch well above their weight through a compelling philosophy that sets them apart – the ‘try everything’ approach to learning.

This philosophy encourages pupils to engage in a wide range of experiences, regardless of their interests or perceived talents. This inclusive model is particularly feasible in small prep schools, where the environment is often more adaptable and personalised than in larger institutions. The imperative of a ‘try everything’ philosophy is not just to expose pupils, but to embed a spirit of curiosity and cross-disciplinary agility.

The encouragement to engage with various subjects and extra curricular activities reflects a deeper understanding of the education process – it’s through experience and reflection that genuine learning takes place. Pupils are taught to value the journey of learning, to embrace failures as learning opportunities, and to develop a growth mindset that views challenges as stepping stones to mastery.

Pupils are invited to dip their toes into a variety of subjects and extra curricular activities – from arts to sciences, sports to technology – and discover passions they may not have known they had. They might find themselves coding a robot in one class, sewing a blanket in another and rehearsing a Shakespearean play in the next.

The key to this method is the idea that true learning comes from exploration and experimentation, which isn’t always found in textbooks. In a rapidly changing world, it is ever more important to be adaptable and have a broad skill set as well as specialised knowledge. From teamwork and leadership in sports, critical thinking in debate clubs, to innovation in STEM projects, pupils become well-equipped for future challenges. Such an education cultivates adaptive individuals who can thrive in the dynamic environments of higher education and the professional world.

Small class sizes of typical prep schools allow for highly individualised attention. Teachers are really able to nurture the curiosity of each pupil, encouraging them to take risks in a safe and supportive environment. Not only does this foster a love of learning, but it also helps to build resilience and confidence, both of which are qualities that are essential in both personal and professional lives.

A small prep school often has a much closer-knit community which provides more leadership opportunities. With fewer pupils to compete with for positions on school councils, drama productions, or as school prefects or team captains, pupils are able to step up and lead in more areas. This close-knit environment fosters a greater sense of responsibility and community engagement.

Small prep schools are able to promote an inclusive culture where hobbies and abilities are not dictated by societal expectations but by personal exploration and growth.

By encouraging all pupils to get involved, and try everything, teachers are creating opportunities for collaboration. It also helps break down barriers and fears. Those pupils who may have been reluctant to join a robotics club or a sewing club, for fear of not fitting in, may discover a love for engineering or garment making. Not everyone is naturally gifted at academics or sports but by being encouraged to join in, those who may have thought they were not great, may still find joy in doing it.

Subjects can often be compartmentalised but this ‘try everything’ approach supports a cross-disciplinary learning. Pupils applying their historical knowledge in English discussions or their artistic sensibilities in science projects shows a holistic educational approach that small prep schools champion.

Smaller class sizes and a more diverse lesson curriculum helps broaden the horizons of pupils so they become more rounded human beings when they progress to their senior school. These people are prepared to not just navigate the world but shape it into something better. A smaller school can be an incubator for future leaders. With the access to teachers and the excellent resources and opportunities the pupils have, these schools help ignite curiosity and arm the pupils themselves with the tools needed to build a fulfilling life. Alumni of small prep schools often attribute their success to the versatility and adaptability that was nurtured in their early education.

The ‘try everything’ philosophy at a small prep school is a powerful tool for education and is not something to be missed. It champions the idea that pupils should be encouraged to embrace a multitude of experiences, helping to shape them into adaptable, curious and innovative thinkers. In schools like these, the power of learning is limitless, and the outcomes are as diverse as the opportunities that they provide.

St Christopher’s Prep is an outstanding independent co-ed prep school. Please call 01273 735404 to discover how we could be the perfect match for your child’s educational start.

trampolining fun

The surprising benefits of trampolining

By children's health, Exercise, family, fun for children, Mental health, parties, Playing, Wellbeing
by Sandra Zerr
Head of Marketing, AirHop Group

Trampolining isn’t just fun, it’s good for you too. Exercising regularly not only improves physical health, but mental health as well. And, unlike most other forms of exercise, it doesn’t feel like hard work yet it’s still effective. Bouncing on a trampoline or in a trampoline park can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour! Read on to find out more about some of the surprising benefits that visiting an indoor trampoline park can bring to both your body and mind, whatever your age.

Exercising on a trampoline is three times more effective at burning calories than jogging whilst being lower impact on your joints and limbs. Just ten minutes on a trampoline burns as many calories as half an hour of jogging. The bouncy surface of a trampoline is much kinder on the joints that experience a lot of stress and impact when running, such as your knees and ankles. Stop plodding along the pavement and start bouncing instead, it’s a low impact activity that provides you with really good high impact results!

Research has shown that there is a positive link between physical activity and improved mental health, and what better way to exercise than in a trampoline park!

Exercise can help to reduce stress in the body and release endorphins. These are your body’s feel-good chemicals, so you’ll happily come back for more bouncing! So take a break from your screens and social media and go for a bounce! A couple of hours in a trampoline park will tire you out whilst having fun at the same time, helping to improve your mood and your sleep.

Bouncing is a great way to improve your co-ordination and balance, as well as increasing your spatial awareness. Trampolining requires balance and adjustments of the body to stay in the centre of the trampoline and get a good bounce! The other activities found in trampoline parks – like the wipeout zone, battle beams, assault course, or reaction wall – all challenge your reaction times, physical ability, balance, and strength in different ways.

Every jump uses multiple muscle groups. Bouncing requires the muscles in your glutes, legs, back, and core to be tensed and relaxed repeatedly, giving you a full body workout, and increasing your strength over time. It’s also an aerobic exercise, so your circulation is greatly improved. As you jump, your muscles contract and help the heart push greater quantities of oxygen around the body. So you’ll feel fitter and better in other areas of your life after time spent in a trampoline park!

We’ve found the cure to growing older! Or slowed it down at least – because jumping works in unison with your body’s natural detox system, better known as the lymphatic system, the system responsible for removing dead cells and toxins from the body. Exercising in a trampoline park stimulates lymphatic circulation, promoting a healthy metabolism and helping to burn fat more effectively.

Visiting a trampoline park isn’t just for children, it’s the perfect active day out for the whole family! It’s a great way to spend time together and there are activities for all ages and abilities, not just trampolines! Indoor trampoline parks often have obstacle courses, airbags or foam pits to jump into and practise tricks, battle beams to challenge your friends and family, or reaction games to test your reflexes. Whether you are four or 54, there is an activity for you that will leave you with a big smile on your face.

Students can take a break from the books; swap times tables for trampolines, algebra for airbags, the whiteboard for wipeout, and enjoy a much-needed study break at an indoor trampoline park! They are also the perfect venue for sober socials and even corporate team building events, with a range of different activities to suit everyone and the physical element and fun environment helping to break the ice. Ice breakers without the cringe!

Some of these benefits may have surprised you but they certainly show that the pleasure of going to a trampoline park shouldn’t be restricted to just children; all ages will benefit whilst having a huge amount of fun!

AirHop Adventure & Trampoline Parks run 17 parks throughout the UK providing a fun and active day out for the whole family with sessions for all ages and capabilities.