Category

fun for children

Getting ready for a successful start at school

By | children's health, Education, fun for children, Playing, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Naomi Bartholomew
Headmistress, St Catherine’s Prep School

As you look forward with a mixture of excitement and nerves to your child starting school in September, here are some practical tips to help ensure that your child has a happy and successful start.

Forming links
Most schools now offer settling in days or part days for their youngest pupils. These can be very helpful and a good chance for you to put names to faces. As well as the all-important class teacher, I recommend getting to know the teaching assistant, Head, school secretary, and parents who are a part of the PTA. All of these will be key in helping both you and your child settle into new routines. It can also be handy to work out which other parents live near to you and who might be moving from the same nursery or preschool. Also involve anyone else who might be involved in your weekly routines – grandparents or child-minders so that they too have made some connections ahead of the start of term. I know of one friend who held a name labelling party in order to meet some other friendly looking parents – this is certainly one way to get to know each other and get the dreaded name labels sewn into as many items as you possibly can. Name everything!

Understanding expectations and routines
It seems obvious but make sure you have all of the essential information early on. Some schools have phased starts which begin with mornings only or alternate full days. This is certainly important to plan ahead particularly if your child starting school coincides with you returning to full-time work. Arrangements for drop off and pick up and what to look out for in terms of communication from the school whether that be weekly memos or newsletter or via the school’s website are also key. Getting dates into your diary for parents’ evenings, nativity plays and other things you won’t want to miss is also important.

Encouraging independence and self-help skills over the summer holidays is far more important than trying to teach your child letters and numbers. Can they dress themselves? If not, start to practise that as soon as possible.

Family logistics
Whether this is your first child to start school or a younger sibling, there will be an impact on all of your family. Consider the school run and daily family routines carefully in order to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible.

Extra-curricular activities and playdates
Even for those who have been used to a full day at nursery and a number of extra-curricular activities each week beware of signing up to any additional activities in your child’s first term. They will be learning in a whole new way at school and need time to rest each day when they get home, as will you! Similarly play dates and sleep overs can be very tempting but less is most definitely more in term one.

Younger pupils
Parents with younger aged children, those with summer birthdays in particular, can be anxious about their child being school ready. Trust the school to make the necessary adjustments and remember that age and stage of development can be different for each child.

The first day of term
Stay calm, allow additional time for the school run and cherish the moment – enjoy the photo on the front doorstep marking the occasion and don’t linger too long over the goodbyes. There is a very small window in which to see your child settled and interested in their new surroundings. If you linger and need further reassurance it is likely your child will pick up on that in a split second of doubt and have a wobble. So make a dash for the door as soon as you are able. Many children will have already been used to nursery school and playgroups so remember that you have left them before and all was well. You will have chosen a school you have confidence in and the staff will be able to reassure your child and make sure that the first day is a positive one. If you are the one whose child clings or cries, do not be embarrassed. They will settle once you have gone and the school will contact you to let you know that is the case. Have a plan for what you are then going to do next whether it be return to work or head for a strong coffee with a friend. The day will be one full of excitement for your child.

As your child settles
Remember that day one might feel like Christmas day, full of excitement but that as the weeks go on your child will become tired. The calmer and more prepared you feel as a parent, the more likely your child will also feel ready and willing to skip into school.

Hence, I recommend:
• Talking positively about going to school.
• Helping your child into the routine of managing their own clothing, school book bag and so on.
• Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.
• Getting into good habits of arriving in good time for the start of school.
• Listening to your child tell you about the school day but avoiding 20 questions.
• Trusting the school and their experience – they will allow your child space to grow and develop and it is important that you support them in that.
• Talking to your child’s teacher if you feel uncertain or unsure – communication with the school is vital and building relationships with school staff (admin, teachers and teaching assistants) is really important.

Good luck!

St Catherine’s Prep School, Bramley extends a warm welcome to parents who would like to visit the school.
Open Mornings: Wednesday 25th September and Thursday 17th October.
Please contact Sally Manhire, Prep School Registrar, on 01483 899665. www.stcatherines.info

Far-reaching benefits of drama

By | dance & Art, Education, fun for children, Mental health

As the new school year beckons, many parents will be thinking about after-school clubs that their children will enjoy,and that will benefit them.

The reason for doing sport are well documented and shouldn’t be forgotten, but remember drama also provides many benefits that go far beyond the stage.

In a good drama class, children will do much more than remember lines and act. Children will learn about voice projection, improvisation and movement. Improvisation will help children to think quickly without panicking, and to use their imagination to think about what will happen next and how their character would react.

We often moan about teenagers who are monosyllabic and can’t look you in the eye. Children who attend drama classes, even if it is just for fun, will learn how to look confidently at their audience and project their voice clearly. Speaking clearly, without mumbling, will become instinctive and when they go into the work environment, they will be far more comfortable in interviews and public speaking.

Drama also encourages teamwork and confidence. A good teacher will instil an understanding that every part in a play is important and a play will only be as good as the whole team. Confident children go to drama classes as their parents feel they will be comfortable on a stage, but introverted children will also benefit. The confident children who tend to ‘takeover’ will learn the important skills of co-operation and how to listen, and everyone will be encouraged to contribute and take part. Gradually, the children who were less confident will find their voice and be happy to be heard in a safe environment.

Any class outside school increases a child’s social circle and allows them to meet new friends and build new relationships. Children who have been labelled ‘loud’ or ‘quiet and shy’ at school can start afresh without any pre-conceptions about them. This is important for all types of children and you may be surprised about how much your child flourishes in a new environment.

The benefits of drama are far-reaching and will help a child in so many areas of school life and adulthood. Children will learn not only how to project their voice and to feel comfortable when speaking in public, but the equally important skills of empathy and understanding, which are so important in today’s world.

How not to lose sleep over your holidays!

By | children's health, family, fun for children, sleep
by Becky Goman
Child Sleep Expert

Holidays are something we work hard for and look forward to, but sometimes the thought of going away with children can be stressful and a big difference from the holidays we were used to ‘pre-children’.

I sometimes reminisce about the ‘pre-children’ holidays, the lack of responsibility, wasting hours doing nothing and eating and drinking far too much, however when we have children, holiday priorities need to change. We need to remember that those lazy beach holidays will be replaced by the ‘child friendly’ ones or that the busy city breaks will be impractical with a child in tow.

If you are lucky enough to have a child that sleeps well, whether it’s always been that way, or you have made a concerted effort to get your child sleeping well, it may come as no surprise that holidays are one of the biggest causes of sleep regression in children.

Children thrive on routine and whilst the odd car nap or late night will probably not do too much harm in the long run, if we completely mess with our child’s routine it is likely to have a detrimental effect on their sleep, not only whilst we are on holiday but also when we return home.

It is really normal and to be expected for children to test the boundaries when they are somewhere new and it is also really common for parents to adopt a ‘we are on holiday!’ attitude. Try and think about your child’s sleep needs as much as possible when you are away and this will ensure the holiday is much more enjoyable for all of you.

If you go abroad with a slight time difference (for example one or two hours, within Europe), this can be really beneficial. Keep your child’s routine the same as it is and that way you will be able to enjoy a slightly later night and a lie in!

If your journey is slightly further afield, a well-rested child should slip much more easily into a new time zone than an adult. It is always advisable to adjust to the new time zone as quickly as possible, and maybe offer a nap for no longer than 45 minute to get them through until bedtime. If you have a choice between a strange dinner time or an earlier bedtime, always go with the earlier bedtime as an over tired child is much more likely to wake early, perpetuating the cycle and eventually making their sleep all over the place.

Sunlight is a really good tool for helping children adapt to the new time zone since natural daylight is the most powerful cue for our bodies to differentiate between day and night. Try to plan meals around the new time zone and get an hour or two of fresh air in the early afternoon.

As with all sleep situations, environment is key to ensure your child sleeps well. Use black out blinds and try and stay out of direct sunlight for an hour or two before bed as this will help to stimulate the production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. Try and bring some things from home, such as their sleep toy or blanket or their unwashed sheets. Familiar smells from home can really help with your child feeling safe and settled in a new place.

If your child is eight months or older, try and create some sort of private sleep space for your child if possible and certainly try and avoid sharing a bed with your child. This will avoid the battle when you get home of your child being used to your presence at bedtime.

Regardless of whether you go abroad or have a ‘staycation’, or even just go to visit family for a few days, keeping the routine and environment as close to what would happen at home will ensure less chance of a regression either on holiday or when you return home.

Remember, family holidays are exactly that. They are for the whole family to recharge and reconnect, so don’t stress and enjoy!

Parents I have worked with have said: “Teaching our son to sleep properly was one of the best decisions we have ever made. It wasn’t easy at first but Becky was absolutely amazing supporting us through every single step. In particular we liked that Becky’s approach was gentle but it really worked. We now have our evenings back and our son is well rested.”

“I’m writing this as I’m having a glass of wine, just as I imagined. We are in Lithuania which is two hours ahead but we are keeping A to UK time so we are doing 9pm-9am routine – and it’s working! He took less than 10 minutes to settle yesterday and today he settled as soon as I left the room. We are very impressed and happy. Thank you once again!”

Becky Goman is a fully certified Child Sleep Consultant and founder of The Independent Child Sleep Expert, who has helped families all over the UK get more sleep. For a FREE initial minute consultation call 07770 591159 or email becky@theindependentchildsleepexpert.com. Or for more information visit the website www.theindependentchildsleepexpert.com

Swimming on prescription?

By | children's health, fun for children, Safety, swimming

Swim England tell us why it should be and Vicki Bates from the little swim school thinks she agrees!

Ahead of this year’s World Health Day on April 7th, Swim England launched their #LoveSwimming Campaign to ask doctors to prescribe swimming more often to help long-term medical conditions, backing up their campaign with real life examples of people whose lives have been transformed by being prescribed swimming!

Wanda says she was feeling like an old lady before she was forty with asthma, arthritis and back pain. She described her life as planning around her medical conditions until her physiotherapist suggested swimming. In the short Swim England film Wanda says “It’s been absolutely life changing for me and my whole life is easier than it used to be – I totally feel that I have claimed my life back”.

Steve’s physical health was appalling – he was massively overweight and had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but still did nothing about it. He then had a stroke and that, he says, changed his life. He started swimming and realised his fears about people looking and pointing at him weren’t necessary as they weren’t looking or pointing! Steve said “The benefits of swimming – physically, mentally and socially are massive – the exercise I’ve found that works for me is swimming.”

Paul suffered from constant back pain as a result of working long hours, sitting in a chair – often for 12 hours at a time. He managed his pain with painkillers but then looked for an alternative and saw a physiotherapist who recommended swimming. He literally built up from one length to 40 and says “The further I go, the better I feel afterwards – I feel as if I’ve had some type of internal massage – for hours I feel as if I had no pain at all – for whole days – I love swimming!”

These inspirational stories show what an amazing tool swimming can be in recovery from serious illness and aches and pains, as well as for the many other health benefits it delivers; fitness levels, weight loss, feelings of wellbeing and mental health benefits, to name but a few.

Swim England go on to say that the current Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has called for a ‘culture shift’ and for medical professionals to act on the evidence that activity, such as swimming, can cut the risk of illness and boost survival from major disease.

Elaine McNish, Head of Health and Wellbeing at Swim England said: “Swimming is an ideal activity which can help people manage a range of medical conditions and we are calling on the medical profession to consider recommending swimming to people who would benefit from improved physical health.”

I’m not sure if it’s me getting older but I think over the past few years, as a nation, we are waking up to the realisation that if we want to live long healthy lives, we need to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally. Some of the medical profession also appear to be moving towards the more progressive idea of prevention rather than cure and alternative therapies rather than the constant prescription of drugs that just relieve the symptoms, but don’t help the actual condition. I have a bad lower back and after years of taking care and being over-careful, I have started to build up the muscles around my back – swimming along with weight training have helped me to feel better now than I have felt in a long time. I’m lucky, running a swim school means I know the many benefits of swimming but I really agree with Swim England that if doctors prescribed swimming for relevant conditions – physical and mental, we would definitely be a healthier nation.

I have mentioned many times the multiple benefits of swimming and this just adds another reason as to why, as a parent, you should encourage your little one to love the water and take them swimming or to lessons that teach them water confidence, water safety and swimming skills. It has been shown in many studies that if children are physically active with sports like swimming when they are younger, they are more likely to be fit and healthy as adults. Even if your little one doesn’t continue swimming as an adult, they will have the skills to fall back on if they ever need them in later life. I say teach your little one to swim – for now and the future – for safety and long-term health – it’s all pros and no cons!

If you want more information on preschool swimming, do visit www.thelittleswimschool.co.uk call us on 01273 207992 or email info@thelittleswimschool.co.uk

Hitting the high notes!

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

Experienced music teachers Sam Dixon and Carolyn Hextall, who run the music department at Brighton College Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep School, sing the praises for a subject that is becoming increasingly sidelined in many schools.

music for childrenMusic helps us learn
No one doubts that learning music is fun. Sometimes, however, this concept can belittle the advantages that learning music brings and leads to it being given less emphasis in schools than other subjects. Research has shown that being taught music enhances skills such as concentration, memory and focus as well as offering physical and creative benefits to children. Similarly, an increase in the number of teaching hours dedicated to music and the provision of instrumental lessons for pupils can result in overall school improvement.

Busting the myth
There is a common misconception that those who achieve great results in music are naturally talented or gifted. It is a myth that often discourages children, or parents from families without a musical history, to embrace music as a subject. Music is a discipline just like sport or, let’s face it, any subject where success is achieved by children because they enjoy it and are therefore happy to dedicate time and energy to it. Enjoyment and dedication; these are two essential ingredients.

An early start
It is never too early for children to enjoy music and to start performing. Children as young as three can start to learn written notation presented in a fun, active way. Introducing them to the ‘Musical Family’ of Grandpa Semibreve, Daddy Dotted Minim and Baby Crotchet help to bring the notes alive. They learn the musical value of each note by physically moving in a way that suits the different characters; slow footsteps mark out the four beats of Grandpa Semibreve, whilst Daddy Dotted Minim loves to waltz – the children absolutely love the characters and the information sticks.

Keep it moving
Methods such as this introduce the body as an instrument and our youngest pupils begin to connect music with movement, the mind with the body. Note recognition becomes physically embodied at a tender age and this helps to combat any trepidation surrounding their learning to ‘read’ music when they are older. Pulse and rhythm can also be embedded as early as possible through the use of dance along videos and regular opportunities to use simple percussion instruments or even the banging of a humble bucket. Singing is fundamental to the development of ear training
and use of the solfege system helps children to improve their vocal control and develop a strong understanding of the musical scale.

The show must go on
The fundamental principle of performance underpins music teaching at all levels and learning an instrument or singing gives children the opportunity to become involved in musical ensembles, performing with one other, and to explore a wide range of repertoire. Participation in ensembles as varied as orchestras, jazz and swing bands, percussion groups, pop groups, guitar, classical and piano ensembles are a brilliant ways for children to develop the important skills of listening, responding and analyzing. They allow children to work on the art of preparation and offer them vital performance opportunities on all scales.

Technology in music
When composition is introduced at a very young age, through call and response and simple improvisation children respond quickly to the introduction of songwriting, writing music to accompany films or music from particular genres. In a world where so much music is produced by technology, an understanding of notation and composition software such as Cubase and Sibelius is important and should be encouraged.

Making connections
Listening to a wide range of music and putting it into a historical and cultural context helps children to appreciate the links between music and other subjects being learnt at school.
So, when we listen to Baroque music and introduce pupils to the towering genius J.S. Bach, we consider what else was happening at that time. Who was on the throne in England and what was happening in Bach’s hometown? Was he a practical joker like Mozart or, like Handel, did he have a legendary temper? Researching contemporary pieces which use similar techniques, for example Goldfinger’s ‘Superman’ which uses a Baroque ground bass, makes their learning feel more relevant and accessible.

Onwards and upwards
Learning music is a three way process between parent, pupil and teacher. Each one relies on the other for their commitment, participation and development. Parents are key in providing a regular, realistic practice time for children who learn an instrument and ensuring it takes place in an appropriate environment. They can also help by exposing their children to a smorgasbord of different musical styles; it could be as easy as exploring the different channels on the radio, attending concerts or joining local choirs and community music groups. Music is such a wonderful thing to explore with children and parents really do not have to be the expert. If there is something you enjoy, share it with your children. An enthusiastic response to their practice efforts or dancing along to your favorite tunes is all it takes to get started.

Sam Dixon and Carolyn Hextall run the music department at Brighton College Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep School educating over 500 pupils between the ages of three and 13 in curriculum music. Their provision is supported by a body of over 30 visiting instrumental music teachers who deliver individual and group lessons to the children.
www.brightoncollege.org.uk

Top tips for sleepovers

By | dance & Art, family, Food & Eating, fun for children, Music and singing, parties, play
by Kitty Jones
The Dreamy Den Company

Sleepovers are a childhood staple but can be a daunting time for parents. Have no fear, we’ve put together some helpful tips and advice for a smooth sleepover experience.

1 Food
Hungry children are no fun so make sure you have plenty of food and snacks to keep them fuelled and happy. Self-serve stations are great fun and easy to prepare, try a burger bar, taco bar or a noodle/pasta bar with a selection of toppings and sides. Grab some recyclable ‘take-out’ boxes to minimise washing up.

2 Setting up camp
Living rooms are a good option due to size and TV access for movies but make sure pets can be relocated and the TV usage is monitored so they don’t stumble across any late night horrors by accident. And don’t forget to move any precious ornaments!

3 Midnight feast
This definitely doesn’t have to be at midnight – as hopefully everyone will be asleep by then! Consider having a break in the movie and doing a fruit fondue or a popcorn bar with a selection of toppings and sauces. Try some sugar alternatives to keep the sugar rush under control.

4 Entertainment
Garden games are great for summer and for burning off energy. For rainy days you can try DIY pamper packs or craft packs. Alternatively hire an external entertainer to come in and give you a few hours peace. Movies are great for later on and you can always have a pre-selected list to minimise arguments.

5 Nervous children
Be open and discuss action plans with parents beforehand, especially if a child has never been to a sleepover before. Make sure you know where each child’s parent will be and always get two contact numbers from parents.

6 The morning after
Choose your collection time as mid-morning giving the children a chance to have breakfast and, most importantly, don’t plan too much for the next day, you may all need a few impromptu naps to recover!

swimming south of england

Swimming- your lifelong friend!

By | children's health, fun for children, Health, swimming

In the 15 years that I have been running the little swim school, I have written many articles and spent many hours thinking about swimming! While thinking about this article I realised that much has changed in that time – in terms of swimming and in my life as my children have been growing up and we have all been getting older!

One main thing is the increase in the number of babies and toddlers swimming and the realisation of why it is so good for them to start their relationship with swimming literally from birth – although some would say they spend nine months in amniotic fluid so that relationship has already begun and being in water is the most natural thing for them!

The benefits of baby swimming are well-known now; so much so that we have parents of one year olds asking us if it’s too late to start them swimming! Of course, it is never too late to start swimming but there are real benefits for your baby literally from birth! Although most of our brain cells are formed before birth, most of the connections between them are formed in infancy and the toddler years and research from Queensland University in 2014 showed that the movements of swimming activate both hemispheres of the brain and all four lobes of the brain simultaneously – resulting in heightened cognitive behaviours and ease of learning.Interestingly, another study from Australia showed the cognitive benefits increased when in warm water!

Once babies become toddlers, learning water safety and water confidence have huge potentially lifesaving benefits and toddlers also get loads from the social aspect of the lessons and the learning – as well as swimming there are numbers, letters, games and listening skills, to name a few.

From starting school to well into their teens swimming is great for lifesaving and a social activity but also for keeping children fit and active – especially as when children move into secondary school they tend to reduce activities and increase screen time. Mental health is also really important in these years and exercise can be a great benefit. Lots of recent studies have shown that open water swimming is good for our mental health and is becoming more and more popular. I am lucky to live in Brighton and have found myself swimming in the sea more frequently. I managed to get to October last year in a costume and have plans to use a wetsuit this winter and see how far I can go – it is hard to get in but you really do feel amazing afterwards!

Swimming is often hugely beneficial for children with disabilities of all levels. My daughter was diagnosed with mild scoliosis when she was about 11; one of the best things to do for this is spine lengthening exercise and swimming offers the perfect opportunity. Over the years at the swim school we have had children with many disabilities who have been told to swim by their doctors or specialists.

As children grow swimming is a fantastic thing to do as a family. Now that our children are older, our family spends hours together in the sea on holiday snorkelling, diving and swimming. Many fond memories from our holidays are of us all as a family in the sea!

Even if you don’t fancy swimming as a hobby and haven’t swum much for many years, there are many reasons you might want or need to take it up again. Swimming is great as a solo exercise, but many runners, cyclists and other athletes swim to gain muscle and help them in their chosen sports. And if your goal is weight loss swimming is also a great tool – it burns calories, builds muscle and can be done by larger people with mobility issues.

As we go through life, some of us develop bad backs, osteo-arthritis and all manner of ailments; we need to keep fit and often can’t do the things we used to. I have had a bad back for years and was told not to do any ‘impact’ exercise and even though I hadn’t been a regular pool swimmer for a long time, if I swim twice a week and do Pilates, my back behaves! Swimming allows you to do resistance and cardio training with little or no impact on your spine – I don’t think you will ever hear an osteopath of physiotherapist tell you not to swim! Dr Don Duff from Balanced Back says: “Whenever a patient asks ‘Is swimming good for back pain?’, my answer is always a resounding ‘absolutely! Not only does it have a positive effect on your overall health, but also it’s been shown to be one of the most useful exercise programs for people suffering from lower back pain.’”

As we age, we can end up with more and more limitations on our exercise, but being in water and swimming is one thing we can literally do forever – at one of the lovely, warm, private pools we use, the owner runs aqua fit classes and some of her customers are in their nineties. It helps keep older people fit and active, and again, it is a social thing too.

As you can see, I’m sold on swimming! I suggest that if you haven’t already, introduce your little one to swimming and what could be a lovely relationship that benefits them in so many ways, throughout their lives.

If you want information about baby, toddler and pre-school swimming visit www.thelittleswimschool.co.uk or
call us on 01273 207992.

Articles to check out:
Information on swimming benefits in Coach Magazine –www.coachmag.co.uk/sport/swimming
Information on swimming and back pain –
www.balancedback.com/blog/is-swimming-good-for-back-pain

Choosing the perfect dance class for your child

By | children's health, dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, Uncategorized
by Rianna Parchment
Kicks Dance

Children love music and they love to dance! But with so many dance classes run locally, how do you choose the right one?

Have a read below of my top tips when choosing the perfect dance class for your child:

Are you looking for a school that is technique driven, or just good fun?
Whilst dance schools are united in their passion for dance, their mission and ethos can differ. Some schools focus on preparing children for exams and competitions, whilst others prefer to focus on the fun and enjoyment of dance. Is your child interested in taking exams and competing, or would they prefer a more ‘stress-free’ class?

Top tip: Speak to other parents who have children taking different types of classes to see which atmosphere and environment might best suit your child.

What do others say about the school?
Once you’ve narrowed down the local options in your chosen ‘type’ of school, have a look at their website and social media pages to find out a bit more about them. Are the staff qualified and experienced? Do they come highly recommended by other parents?

Top tip: Asking in local Facebook groups is a great way to get the best recommendations from other local parents.

What is the commitment?
Of course, as an extracurricular activity, dance classes are intended to take up free time. However, it’s a good idea to know whether your child’s class will change day as they get older and progress, or whether there will be extra rehearsals or costs involved during the year for shows, exams, competitions or uniform.

Top tip: Many schools have a Parent Handbook or similar with this information in one place.

Time to talk
A huge part of getting a feel for a dance school is speaking with the owner or principal about their school. This is an opportunity for you to find out the answers to any questions you may have, but also to get a first impression of their customer service and ethos
in practice.

Top tip: Many dance school owners teach during ‘after-school’ hours. If you can, try calling during the school day, but if this is not practical for you, don’t forget to leave a message for them to call
you back.

Finally – give the class a try!
Sign up for a trial class (some schools even offer this for free!) It’s not unusual for some children to feel anxious for the first time in a new class, so see how the teacher responds
to this.

Top tip: Remember that depending on the age of your child, many dance schools will not permit you to watch the class due to safeguarding reasons. My advice is to get to the class a few minutes early to have a look around, meet the class teacher and get a feel for the class environment.

Whether your child is interested in classes just for fun, or to pursue a future career, it’s so important that they feel welcome, safe and inspired in their first dance class. Do your research, follow your gut feeling and find your child’s perfect dance class!

Kicks Dance provides fun, friendly and stress-free dance classes for children aged 18 months – 11 years in your local area. Every child is a star – give yours the chance to sparkle!
www.kicksdance.co.uk

Preparing your child for school

By | Education, fun for children, Safety

Starting school marks a major milestone in a child’s development and it can also represent a time of mixed emotion – and we are not just talking about the child here! We asked Sally Livingston, Reception class teacher at Barrow Hills School on top tips for parents to help prepare their child for this momentous step in their learning journey.

• If your child hasn’t attended nursery or kindergarten, it is a good idea to get them used to being in a social setting outside of the family home. Young children need to learn how to interact with their peers and in particular, they need to get to grips with the concept of playing together harmoniously – and that all-important life lesson, learning to share!

• Schedule your child time to play independently so that they begin to appreciate that they don’t always need to be entertained but rather can be occupied by becoming fully engrossed in an activity, for example, building a model from building blocks.

• Build a good rapport with the Reception staff. If your child shows any signs of becoming distressed at the time of drop off, you need to be secure in the knowledge that the staff are going to step in to comfort your child. Don’t be tempted to loiter, this will make it more difficult for your little one, be upbeat and reassuring and leave. Chances are they will settle within minutes of you leaving and will be easily distracted by all the new toys and friends that await them! Equally, if all is going well at school but you are experiencing some shifts in behaviour at home, always talk to the teacher so that you can work together to demonstrate a consistent approach in encouraging the child to respect any clear boundaries that have been set. We are here to work alongside parents, to help children develop in a safe, protected and most importantly happy setting and no problem is too small to discuss.

• Help your child with their learning by putting into practice outside of the classroom some of the lessons that they are being taught – and make it fun! For example, when you are in the supermarket, get your child to help out by using their numbers and colours to select items; encourage them to identify shapes in their home/outdoor environment; ask them to help look out for letters on road signs.

• Being at school is incredibly tiring for a young child and represents a major transition even if they attended nursery, so make a point of getting into a good bedtime routine and ensuring that your little one gets their required quota of sleep. We all know the negative effects of a lack of sleep on us as adults, so for children who are expending so much energy on simply growing and running around, it is even more important. A common error that parents make is to stop the traditional bedtime reading routine, replacing this instead with ‘school related’ reading which may have been set as homework. Remember, now more than ever your child
needs to go to sleep settled and secure, so the familiar and comforting bedtime read should not be dropped!

• By Reception most children have mastered toilet training but don’t be surprised when accidents happen. Instead advise them to always ask the teacher if they feel the need to use the bathroom and if they do get caught short, to tell an adult rather than be left in discomfort. Make a point of speaking to the teacher if you know that this can be a bit of a problem so that your child is actively encouraged to use the toilet and feels supported.

• Encourage your child to be independent: learning to put on their coat unaided, having a go at doing up buttons and zips, putting on their shoes – all of these small changes will help them cope in the reception environment although, of course, there is always plenty of reassurance and help at hand!

• Begin laying the foundations for good manners whilst eating away from home. Try and make time to eat together as a family and actively support your child so that they learn how to use tricky knives and forks, rather than rely solely on their hands! Persuade them to try and use the knife to cut food rather than simply waiting for help to arrive!

• Start early with helping your child to adopt healthy eating habits, steering them towards the right food options – but of course still allowing the appropriate treats. Try to explain the importance of eating healthier food and how it will help them in the future, using words that your child is able to understand, rather than simply laying down the law!

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The first 1,000 days shape a child’s life

By | baby health, children's health, Education, family, fun for children, Health, Mental health

Children’s experiences during the first 1,000 days lay the foundations for their whole future, a new report has found.

From preconception to age two, every aspect of a child’s world – including their parents’ and carers’ income, housing, neighbourhoods, social relationships, age and ethnic group – is already shaping their adult life.

In her latest report, Croydon’s Director for Public Health Rachel Flowers puts a spotlight on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to demonstrate the effect early experiences can have. She focuses on how Adverse Childhood Experiences can negatively impact on children as they grow up. Stressful and disruptive childhoods are significantly more likely to lead to health-harming and anti-social behaviours, performing poorly in school or being involved in crime. However, Ms Flowers emphasises that a trusted adult and other factors can help give children the resilience to thrive despite these challenging experiences.

Each of the 6,000 babies born in Croydon each year therefore represents past, present and future health, which is a key reason for a focus on health before pregnancy and the first 1,000 days. A baby’s development in the womb is dependent not just on the mother’s diet during pregnancy, but also on the stored nutrients and fats throughout her lifetime.

In 2015, almost one-fifth of Croydon’s children lived in poverty. This means more than a 1,000 babies born each year in Croydon may be touched by the effects of poverty during their early years. Girls born in more affluent areas of Croydon are expected to live six years more than their peers in other areas and for boys, the difference is over nine years.

Brain development starts just after conception and continues at a rapid pace through the first years of life when our brains grow the fastest. Talking, playing and singing are all simple activities that help make vital connections between brain cells. Stimulating environments and positive relationships with carers are critical in these first two years.

Rachel Flowers said: “These first 1,000 days for a child are fundamentally important because they lay the foundations for the rest of their lives. By prioritising health before pregnancy and increasing our understanding about what being healthy for pregnancy means, we can ensure that parents and communities are in the best possible position to bring Croydon’s children into the world.

A healthy start in life gives each child an equal chance to thrive and grow into an adult who makes a positive contribution to the community. It is well documented that inequalities result in poor health, social, educational and economic outcomes across the whole of the life course and across generations. We all have a role to play in improving their transition from childhood to adolescence and into adult life and breaking cycles of inequalities where they exist.”