fun for children

30 things to do before you’re five

By | Education, environment, fun for children

Following two years of disruption to daily routines, parents can now show their children new experiences they have missed out on.

Together with Nick Jr. UK Blue’s Clues & You series and a panel of celebrity parents, they have put together this ‘bucket list’ to get children out exploring and to help feed their curiosity.

From climbing trees and going underwater for the first time, to building a sandcastle on the beach and camping in the garden, the activities are all based around the simple pleasures that come with being able to explore.

1. Pebble painting
2. Feed the ducks
3. Write a letter to a family member and post it
4. Go underwater
5. Paddle in the sea
6. Get dressed up in fancy dress
7. Litter pick
8. Go to a castle
9. Have a water fight and soak your parents from head to toe
10. Go mudlarking and see who can find the grossest thing
11. Get some chalk and do some pavement art
12. Spend a night camping in your back garden
13. Ride on a scooter
14. Climb a tree
15. Go to the park
16. Explore the neighbourhood
17. Find stones and leaves and make a collage
18. Watch a film at the cinema
19. Go to the beach and build a sandcastle
20. Kick a ball around
21. Learn catch
22. Visit the farm/zoo
23. Host a picnic with your teddy bears
24. Bake something with parents or grandparents
25. Fly a kite
26. Face painting
27. Build a den
28. Blow dandelions
29. Make a mini beast hotel
30. Make pizza.


Supporting children’s physical and mental health through outdoor adventure play

By | children's health, environment, fun for children, Mental health
by Melanie Parr
Managing Director, Lymley Wood CIC

The value of outdoor play and outdoor learning, getting out and about, moving their bodies and connecting to nature, is huge.Children experience freedom when they play outside. Outdoor play is a natural way for children of all ages to do physical activity, to exercise and stay fit. It’s good for children’s physical health, it improves brain development, it can boost mental wellbeing and improve sleep quality.

Outdoor play is particularly beneficial during times of anxiety, stress and adversity – it provides a sense of control and independence, it helps children make sense of things they find hard to understand, it supports their coping and resilience and it helps them to understand risk and their own capabilities.

According to the Open University’s OPENspace Research Centre, there is considerable evidence suggesting that time spent outdoors, in nature, increases life expectancy, improves well-being, reduces symptoms of depression and increases a child’s ability to function in school.

In addition to better physical health, teachers report improved concentration, better ability to focus and learn, increased productivity, better behaviour, and the fostering of more positive relationships between adults and children and amongst peer groups, when children are more active and spend more time outside during the day.

Time spent playing outdoors is also thought to help relieve stress and anxiety by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol in the brain. Time to have fun just playing, enjoying life in the outdoors and doing something that makes them feel good! Through this they can feel balanced and refreshed and more ready to learn.

“There is a natural simplicity to nature; it is far more tactile and tangible than the classroom. It’s a leveller; it strengthened my character and set me back on track. That’s why we should focus on wellbeing and encouraging our children to connect with the natural world. I’m not suggesting the abolition of the exam system, but we could certainly cut back to allow more time for children to explore the world around them.” Ben Fogel – broadcaster and writer.

Claims that connecting children with the outdoors is good for their social and emotional development, improved mental health and psychological and emotional wellbeing, are backed with clear evidence. “We now have conclusive evidence that sport and physical activity are clearly linked to mental wellbeing,” says Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England insight director.

One influential study (Psychiatric Times) measuring the effect of regular exercise on children with ADHD strengthens these claims. Ultimately, this study concluded that “moderate-intensity aerobic exercise may be an additional treatment modality for children with ADHD” and can be of benefit to all children generally. Most children at this age are naturally curious, and an outdoor environment really stimulates all their senses and lets their imagination go wild.

Exposure to nature has a soothing effect on all children, and can reduce hyperactivity, especially in those suffering from ADHD. Being outside in natural sunlight allows our bodies to naturally produce vitamin D, which releases the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. This helps to regulate emotion and mood and is linked with happiness and relief from depression. Lack of sufficient time outdoors puts children at risk of vitamin D deficiency, because the sun is the best source for vitamin D production and it isn’t found in many foods. New research also backs up that exposure to microbes found in woodland soil can actually build immunity and act as an antidepressant.

Outdoor, active, ‘free play’ provides a powerful way of working with children and young people that supports optimal social and emotional development. Free play, getting outside and exploring nature all makes for healthier and happier minds and consequently happier well balanced, resilient children, who are more able to deal with challenges that life may hold.

Oh and let’s remember that playing and exploring outdoors is excellent fun!

Lymley Wood are taking referrals for teenagers onto their Wild Teens programme and offer regular weekly groups for tots and primary aged children.

Sources: Mental Health Benefits of Exercise in Children, Psychiatric Times, Vol 32 No 1, Volume 32, Issue 1 Mind & Brain/Depression and Happiness – Raw Data “Is Dirt the New Prozac?” by Josie Glausiusz, Discover Magazine, July 2007 Issue


The benefits of yoga for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further details please see or email

Known, not numbers…

By | Education, fun for children
by Steven Jeffery
Headteacher of Our Lady of Sion

Steven Jeffery is Headteacher of Our Lady of Sion, an inter-denominational school for boys and girls, ages 3 to 18, in Worthing. Having been Deputy Head at the school for six years and Acting Head for six months, Steven was recently appointed Headteacher. A passionate musician, Steven is well known in Worthing having lived and taught there for many years, and is actively involved in community support. His education philosophy focuses in on the individual character and potential of each child. Where there is a positive connection between teacher and young person, the outcomes can be impressive and groundbreaking. Understanding the child is essential in achieving that all-important connection.

Over the last 25 years in education, I have enjoyed and endured various ‘wheels of progress’ brought in by educationalists and politicians to support and serve the academic endeavours of young people. Some of these ideas have been energising and immensely valuable, whereas others have seemingly distracted teachers and pupils from what truly matters. Of course, there are always those ‘wheels of progress’ that are unknowingly reinvented by well-meaning experts who re-trial historical methods under new facades. This is a familiar feature of our education system. It often goes astray in the maze of political initiatives, and unfortunately the essence of inspirational, engaging and genuinely satisfying learning can be somewhat lost.

girls playgroundOne thing that remains steadfast and true is the importance of a positive and respectful teacher-pupil rapport. I strongly believe that the role of teacher is undoubtedly vocational and the ways in which an educator works is fundamental to the academic success and emotional wellbeing of each child. Since as long as I can remember, I have always been moved by the notion of paths crossing. I have met thousands of young people over the years and always count those moments as a deeply significant and profound part of this role. Our paths have crossed, so what can I now bring to this child? How can I unlock creativity? What will inspire this young person to achieve great outcomes? Who is this child? Those tacet questions signify the beginning of one of the most noteworthy relationships that a child will ever have. We all remember our teachers. We remember many of the conversations we had with them and how these made us feel and respond. We easily recall those that took time to get to know us and encourage us. We regrettably also very easily recollect those that saw us as mere numbers, and never as people, treating us in apparent accordance with that very mindset.

At the start of my career, I vowed that every child with whom I worked would be known as an individual and not a number. So, what does that mean in real terms? How does it look in the daily life of a mindful teacher?

Learn names quickly. Knowing a child’s name makes all the difference. What does it say to a child when we know his/her name? Ask yourself: who is the one teacher in your entire life who made the biggest difference for you – who taught you so well that you still think about him or her as your best teacher? I bet that for almost all of us, that best teacher was someone who knew you by name. It takes effort but it’s worth it. I have always applied mental images to each new child I meet. Every Luke is given a lightsabre, Tom always carries a cat, Caspar wears a white sheet (friendly ghost style), Jenna is always engaged in a game of giant Jenga, and Hannah always carries a spanner, and so on. It still amazes me that once I have applied these mental images, they stick. When I see Jenna walking along the corridor, the giant
Jenga is right there with her!

Education is about learning more about the unknown so that more of the unknown becomes known. That is why learning is life-long, energising and exciting. Getting to know an individual is to understand the child’s perspective, interests, environment, beliefs, and passions – essentially what makes the child tick. As Headteacher and teacher, I want to engage with each young person in ways that demonstrate my knowledge of that person as a whole being, not merely a student or pupil. I want those encounters to affirm the child’s qualities and impressive talents. I want to share how impressed I am to hear about their community outreach, their kindness to others, their achievements in music or sport, their outstanding contribution to a local charity and their personal triumphs in the classroom. This knowledge comes from regular interactions, asking tutors to pass on the good news, and encouraging parents to communicate successes. A school’s reward system should offer parents and grandparents the opportunity to nominate their children/grandchildren for awards linked to acts of kindness and achievements beyond the classroom. ‘Shout Out!’ assemblies offer teachers and students the opportunity to nominate people for a special mention for their outstanding actions or accomplishments. Success is broader than academic prowess, although schools should be giving this area considerable focus too.

Remember birthdays. This is a simple way to reiterate how much we value each child. Sending out birthday messages each day, being inclusive of those that fall on weekends and holidays. Celebrating in this way is to rejoice in the delight of community and tangibly express how much each member is valued and known.

A school community works together towards common goals. Examples of these ambitions could be learning about ourselves and each other, understanding diversity and discovering its beauty, finding our own voices and using these for change, recognising the part we all play in building a better society and so on. Within each of these communal aims, there is an individual response brought to the whole. When a culture actively promotes the importance and power of action, the school can make a noteworthy impact on the immediate community and even the world. Being open to recognise and notice an individual’s acts of kindness, timely words of wisdom, selfless actions and heartfelt responses to world-issues, will unquestionably empower a young person to utilise their time and talents for philanthropic causes. Recognising our own positive impact on the world around us provides us with a sense of purpose and significance. When we are reminded that the part we play matters, our energy soars and so does our fundamental wellbeing. I believe that members of the school community should actively notice altruistic acts and encourage those individuals to keep on going.

An understanding of the individual journey towards personal success is a crucial factor in developing a ‘known not number’ culture. I feel very strongly that parents and educators should repeatedly encourage students to guard against making comparisons with others. Attention should be given to effort, and the celebration of this should always be the priority rather than the actual grade. It is therefore crucial that a teacher knows a student well and knows what outstanding effort looks like for that child. It is very easy to lavishly praise the Grade 9 student and fail to celebrate the Grade 4 student, even though the Grade 4 student demonstrated more progress, dedication and commitment than the seemingly more successful child. Both students are worthy of congratulations, but if the Grade 9 student was achieving the Grade 4 outcome, the response would need to be appropriately tailored too. When we know our students, we can motivate, engage, encourage, inspire, challenge and change them through carefully chosen words, considered tone and mindful body language as well as a steadfast commitment to helping every child achieve full potential. It is the individual’s possibilities that we should be heedful of, not merely grades. Each child sees the world in their own unique way. Taking time to understand this will make all the difference as to how we communicate.

I count myself very honoured to work with young people. I want to encourage each one of them to be the very best that they can be. If I am getting to know who they are, how they respond and think, I will be doing my best for them. May they always know that they are welcome, known and admired and never a number. We are working with unique, fragile souls. That work brings with it a momentous responsibility. Each encounter matters. Each word is heard. What will my impact be?

Our Lady of Sion is an independent inter-denominational school based in Worthing for girls and boys, ages 3 to 18.

dancing tutu

Dance is good for the soul

By | dance & Art, fun for children, Mental health
by Lynda Forster
Dance Art Studio

Exactly what benefits can dance classes offer kids? The list is endless and not just about learning a few steps to perform… Apart from the physical elements of helping to keep them fit and active, dance is also proven to benefit their mental health and social skills which is something we should all be focusing on more during these times.

Children always leave a dance class happy and relaxed even if they’ve had an ‘off’ day or they’ve been feeling a little reluctant to join in at the beginning of the lesson. Whilst engaged in the lesson, the movements produce endorphins which channels their negative energy into a positive calm and those feelings of stress and anxiety will soon disappear, so not only are they staying physically healthy they are staying mentally healthy in a fun way, learning a new skill.

It takes time and lots of patience to master new steps. When children listen to music and learn a dance to its rhythms – it stimulates their brain which improves their cognitive abilities. Children are constantly reminded about when they were babies they fell over many times until they could walk properly, they kept practising until they could and this seems to resonate with them. These are coping mechanisms which are valuable life skills.

Feeling healthier both physically and mentally will push them towards great things in the future. Working in a consistent lesson setting will also help your child’s self-esteem grow as they dance and share ideas with their friends and peers. An atmosphere of trust and support is necessary for a dance group – that feeling of support, community and camaraderie is also beneficial towards their mental wellbeing when outside of their normal comfort zones.

So many wonderful friendships can be formed through this physical art form, the emotional connection of creating movement together and sharing ideas is therapeutic. For younger children this will involve something as simple as galloping in pairs, waiting their turn and then both working together trying to win ‘stars of the lesson’. These could be awarded for the happiest dancing smile, the pointiest toes or the best posture, and for older children there are mimes, choreography tasks to encourage expression and creative thinking. Eventually leading them through to having a dance exam partner throughout their grades, this can be for 10 or more years, so having someone to share the same experiences and love is truly magical for them – many of our past students remain friends in adulthood.

Being a dance student certainly keeps them busy and during their tween and teens years they’ll hopefully prefer spending their spare time rehearsing with their network of dance friends rather than slouching around on their phones looking at negative social media posts and constantly comparing themselves to others – so investing in dance lessons certainly has an endless list of positives. For you, seeing your child develop from a preschool ballet and dance movement class through to a young person able to perform ballet en pointe or tap dance and shine on stage is a wonderful journey.

Recent studies suggest continuing dance and exercise during important academic exams such as GCSE’s can help to re-focus, lay down information in the brain and subsequent recall. Teen brains are wired to seek fun and pleasure, so surely if they stop all their fun creative hobbies during these exam periods they will not have the mindfulness benefits that dance provides – yes exam success is very important but a top grade academic record is of no use if your mental health is suffering. It’s about balance and time management which again is another life skill. Many students have told me that having dance helped get them through these exams.

Dance teachers themselves have often danced since they were young children and have followed their passion, they love what they do and have so much to give back, children feed off this positive energy. Dance teachers are normally very good at reading ‘vibes’ by the way their dancers perform in lessons. Unlike academic teachers, a child will often have the same teacher for a number of years, from tot to teen, so they become a stable person in their life and someone they can confide in during difficult times and who can offer support.

Continuing dance lessons online throughout the lockdowns has certainly been richer for many children and young people and although you can never create the same atmosphere as in person lessons, having that familiar connection and social aspect to look forward to certainly helped keep them physically and mentally motivated and kept their interest alive. It’s also given them a new found confidence as they’ve adjusted to solo learning.

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.

The magic of story telling and wellbeing

By | family, fun for children
by Gemma Parker
CraZy BeanZ

After an incredibly challenging year, many more children are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. Our children are sponges and soak up everything. It was impossible for them to go through the last year and it have no impact on them. As well as their own experiences, they mirror our emotions, even when we think we have been expert geniuses at masking them.

How can we help our children at home with these big changes?
One way is through storytelling. Children gain knowledge and understanding through stories and play.

Where to start?
We can’t hide our children from uncomfortable emotions and experiences, as much as we wish we could. We need to equip them with tools to help them process and learn from all their experiences.

It starts by ‘feeling’ and ‘naming’ our emotions. All emotions are important and noticing them really helps us to work through them. You can help your children name their emotions and connect with them. For example: Comfortable emotion – “You looked like you were feeling very excited when the robin took the bread.” Uncomfortable emotion – “I think you were feeling embarrassed when you dropped your drink just now.”

By connecting with your child’s emotions, you are acknowledging them as an individual and helping them name what they are feeling. This is ownership and it so powerful.

Big, big, BIG emotions!
When a child is experiencing a big emotion, they are in a triggered state. It is best to comfort them at this point. Later when they are more relaxed, we can start to look at the magic of story telling and work through the emotion.

Here’s how…
Make a story together. “Let’s tell a story about a someone else who got embarrassed. We need a character, who should we choose?”

With your child, create a story which includes the emotion or experience you are addressing. They can choose characters and settings. Make gentle suggestions while including your child in the process. This helps you both work through the emotion in a creative way!

Here’s an example of this process…
Adult: We have chosen a dragon and what’s his name?
Child: Bob the Dragon!
Adult: OK Bob the Dragon it is. Once upon a time there was a dragon called Bob the Dragon. Bob lived in a… where did he live?
Child: In a cave!
Adult: Bob lived in a cave at the top of a very tall mountain. One morning Bob was tidying up his cave getting ready to go out. He had decided to go the café to meet… who is he going to meet?
Child: He is going to meet a robot and a ghost with big eyes…

The adult manages the narrative and the child creates the elements. As you proceed, your children will get more engaged and creative. This is something you can do anywhere, even in the car! This is also great for settling sibling quibbles.

You can then play the story together with toys or with drama. Just make sure you are including that big emotion so your child can experience it from outside themselves. Seeing the emotion helps them to connect with it the next time they experience it.

Play with toys.
This is the same process as making a story together, only you use toys and props. Children take more control with this method. You’ll need to steer them back every now and again to the emotion intended, but do roll with the creativity. It is magical and lots of fun!

Comic strip.
Make a story together as a comic strip. This process is better for older children who will happily sit for some time. You will have lots of time to talk with your child and connect with them. Drawing together and collaborating with your child will strengthen your bond and make them feel safer exposing their emotions.

Remember these key points:
• No judgment.
Allow your children to have their emotions. Create a space where they feel they can open up to you. Sometimes they may disclose things to you that would trigger you, but if you can remain calm and thank them for their honesty then work through the process together, you will have a child who can come to you no matter what.

• Tailor your debrief.
It is important to discuss the emotions as you play them out, but we don’t want to kill the magic of the story and lose their interest. Adults can talk for much longer than children, so we must remember when to reign it in and return to the narrative.

• Lose yourself in the magic!
Be there in the moment and present with your child. These are fundamentals in wellbeing and if you are modelling this and experiencing it with your child, they will mirror you.

I hope these activities help you and your child work through some big emotions and changes but most of all, I hope you have fun trying!

CraZy BeanZ specialise in children’s entertainment and wellbeing.
Story telling is at the heart of all their work, taking children on big adventures.
Covering Sussex, Surrey and Kent, you can book them for party entertainment, school and club workshops and toddler workshops. 07955 854 881

Another day, another train track…

By | Education, fun for children, Toys

“Too often we give children answers to remember, instead of problems to solve.” Roger Lewin

Each term I do an audit of the resources we have on offer, I work out what the children have enjoyed and what seems to be great in theory but short lived in practice. I then spend some money on new and exciting resources. Today, I spent £17 in a St. Wilfred’s Hospice charity shop on resources that I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself – and that’s the point.

“Excuse me, what actually is this?” I asked the cashier brandishing a brass pot with a lid on it – “actually, ignore that – it doesn’t matter, it can be anything really.” I got a strange look when I explained I was buying resources for a preschool when in my basket I had a wooden serving dish, a toast rack, a straw hat, beads, bangles and scarves, a ceramic tea set from the 70’s and said brass pot.

I can’t predict where any of these items will lead the children in their play and that’s what excites me about it. I am tired of the same old Early Years, I am tired of previously much loved ‘Happyland’, I am tired of train tracks only ever being train tracks. I am tired of the same observations on the same children year after year and ticking a box to say they can do it. The new school year kickstarts the beginning of a brand new EYFS, an EYFS more children centred than ever before and it’s very exciting. I’ve always gone slightly outside of the expected parameters with my preschool, I’ve become accustomed to explaining my rationale for certain activities and I enjoy explaining them because I am unapologetically passionate about what I do and why I do it.

The children are predominantly outdoors and that comes with its own challenges as far as reassuring parents goes, but when I add that
I’m always on the hunt for donations of old china teapots and vintage phones and weighing scales I hear “but they’ll smash them” to which my response is always “they might do, but they will almost certainly learn something new from that experience.”

When we only allow children to play with plastic, brightly coloured and pre-planned toys, we stifle their imaginations and don’t allow any space for curiosity. We also don’t help them to learn how to handle heavier, more breakable items so inevitably when they are then given them they are inexperienced and any breakages become a negative experience. And we do nothing to foster a nurturing attitude towards the planet that we so badly need to start thinking more about. Plastic toys aren’t sustainable, they have a shelf-life and quite frankly, they’re a bit dull. That’s not to say we don’t currently have any plastic toys at the preschool but there will be a time in the not-so-distant future that we will banish them entirely.

Curiosity in children helps foster good relationships, good communication, satisfaction in play, stimulation and life-long learning. Children genuinely want to learn in the early years and it is so important that we get it right to allow that positive attitude to learning to continue throughout their school career.

A little while ago, I set up a ‘curiosity station’ instead of our usual ‘areas of development’ sections of the room. I had very few predictions about what it would achieve and it was mostly just an experiment. In part of my ‘curiosity station’ I had some metal garden spheres, initially these were just balls to throw and kick but when the children discovered their weight they became an object of schematic play, rolling them back and forth and between legs. It encouraged positive communication, new vocabulary and turn taking – all vital skills when starting school. I had a ‘tuff spot’ with sand, scoopers, jars of orange slices, conkers and pine cones, sticks, stones and bamboo cups – these became items from a restaurant where six children played together in harmony serving each other, taking orders and paying for their meals using the most expressive language and beautiful manners. It was also a dinosaur land where the children searched in debris for fossils and dinosaur bones. All of this learning was without any prompting from adults, it was in the moment, authentic, inspirational and fascinating. I was mentally noting endless observations about the children’s language, their social abilities and their natural interest in numbers and mathematical problems.

When we give children a train track and some trains and stop there, they stop there. There’s only so far they can go. A train can really only be a train but a brass pot can be anything they want it to be. When we give children a dolls house, they put the furniture in the rooms, put the people in the beds and then take it all out and start again – that’s exactly what we expect and part of the joy of working with small children is the unexpected. My favourite days are the days when the ‘plan’ doesn’t go to plan and the children become pirates following their own treasure maps because they didn’t want to make another junk modelling rocket ship, the days when they use the puddles to fill up cups and add petals and nettles to make potions and the days when I capture a little boy who previously ignored all books looking at a book because it is inside the climbing frame and not in the ‘book corner’.

The new EYFS is a new and desperately overdue opportunity for all settings, all practitioners, all teachers and anyone else working with children to continually ask themselves “why are we doing this? Who is it for?” We have been told we are to build our own curriculum. My curriculum is based on real experiences and that beautifully innocent desire to learn fostered through the medium of curiosity and I cannot wait to see where it all leads.

For more information please contact Sally-Ann at or call 07375 379148

Sports is so much more than just sports

By | Education, fun for children, Mental health, Playing, Sport
by Jenny Spires
Brighton Girls

As we emerge from the pandemic, the focus in schools is very much on providing children with as many opportunities to play the sports they have missed out on and rekindle social skills and friendships that may have waned during lockdown.

Sounds fun, right? Well, yes, but it’s so much more than that – encouraging pupils to participate in sport is now known to play a crucial role in building a child’s confidence and emboldening them to be risk-takers, which underpins all that they do now and in later life.

Many studies have shown solid links between sport participation and the development of strong self-esteem and self-belief. An analysis in The Sport Journal, a peer-reviewed title published by the US Sports Academy, showed that taking part in sport before university was directly related to higher self-esteem and these findings are echoed across the world in various research projects that show a relationship between sport and better wellbeing, happiness and lower anxiety levels.

So, let’s break that down. What is it about participation in both individual and team sports that fosters this personal development?

Handling mistakes
No one gets good at a skill or sport without making a lot of mistakes along the way. A child quickly learns that mis-steps and hurdles are a vital part of their journey to becoming a better footballer, tennis player, swimmer, runner, cyclist or anything else – and realises that nothing terrible happens when they make those mistakes. This flowering of a resilient attitude and an acceptance that mistakes don’t equal failure is a hugely important life skill which leads to bolder risk-taking (and potentially greater rewards) in life. Making mistakes and having the self-esteem to know that those mistakes are not a reflection on your ability but simply a necessary experience on your journey is a priceless attribute.

Dealing with stress Children have faced more stress than we could have ever imagined in the last year or so and have had to find ways of coping with it. We know that the demands of playing for a team or striving for personal success in an individual sport require channeling all your thoughts and energies into the moment which frees the mind temporarily from ongoing stress. To develop the ability to switch off daily concerns and focus on your sport teaches the mind that this is possible, that you can control your stress levels and put them aside.

Understanding the link between practise and success
Children sometimes need reminding that success is, of course, related to effort and sports and skill-building are constant reminders of this. As children continue to commit to turning up for team practice, going out in the rain to try and beat their PB or heading off down the skatepark again to perfect that ollie, the realisation solidifies that they and they alone control their chances of success. When they see improvement, they know it was brought about by their own hard work. That knowledge brings confidence in their own ability every time they turn out to play.

This applies to the rest of their lives outside of sport. When you have self-confidence based on hard work, even when you don’t succeed, you can keep morale high. You understand the causal link between your ability to put work in and improve.

Unlike a child’s handpicked friendships group, a sports team is made up of all sorts of different characters who your child may not have naturally befriended. Yet, sharing a common goal (to get better and win) unites those children and social skills are forged. This ability to rub along with everyone is a wonderful confidence builder (“if I can do it in sport, I can do it everywhere else in my life too.”)

Winning and losing and a healthy mindset
Great sportsmen and women have learnt how to avoid their self-esteem being dented by losing. It isn’t easy to do this as often confidence takes a knock after below-par performances. But being surrounded by like-minded players and coaches who offer continued support and encouragement really helps and drives players of all ages to improve and keep trying. They learn that losing is only a driver to keep going and strive for better – and what better life lesson could any child learn?

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Why swimming should be the top priority for your child after lockdown

By | children's health, family, fun for children, Mental health, swimming
by Eri Coles
Sports Generation

The recent lockdowns have resulted in a significant decrease in physical activity levels among children. Sport England’s latest study shows that 31.3% of children and young people in England do less than an average 30 minutes a day of sport or physical activity. That is an increase of 2.4% from the previous year, bringing the total number of less active children to 2.3 million. There are countless activities children can get back to after lockdown, but we strongly believe swimming should take priority over other extra-curricular activities for every child. Read on to find out our reasons.

1. Swimming can save lives
Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide with the highest rates of drowning among children of one to four years, followed by children of five to nine years. Therefore, swimming is a life skill that everyone should acquire from a young age. Even before the pandemic, 23% of children were leaving primary school unable to swim 25 metres unaided and one in five cannot self-rescue, despite swimming being on the national curriculum. With regular swimming lessons, children learn how to stay safe in and around water – something you cannot learn by reading a book or watching YouTube!

2. Swimming helps to build a stronger body
Swimming is a perfect sport for improving overall health and fitness as you move most of your muscle groups against the resistance of water. Because it is full-body workout, it helps to tone muscles and build core strengths far more effectively than any other sports. Swimming increases heart rates without putting stress on the body, therefore it is also beneficial for building cardiovascular strength. In addition, swimming helps to expand lung capacity and improve breathing control which is valuable for everyone but especially for asthma sufferers. These are reasons why many children who swim regularly tend to be good at other sports as well.

3. Swimming is a mood booster
There is increasing concern about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people’s mental health. Data now conclusively indicates a substantial overall worsening of mental health in children and young people during the pandemic compared to previous years, according to the APPG’s latest report. Some children find it more difficult to express their emotions or share their thoughts verbally with others and therefore it is important to keep them active and provide enjoyment whilst doing so. So, how can swimming improve your child’s mental health? Swimming naturally reduces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline whilst simultaneously creating endorphins, the hormones that make you feel happy and increase positivity. The breathing patterns and rhythmic movements created with swimming can be meditative. Another study shows that swimming can reverse damage to the brain from stress through a process called hippocampal neurogenesis. We have seen time after time anxious or fidgety children leave swimming lessons calmer and more relaxed.

4. Swimming can make your child smarter
Studies carried out by Fusion Lifestyle and Griffith University reveal regular swimmers are lengths ahead in school than non-swimmers. When it comes to classroom-based subjects such as maths, English and science, children who frequently take swimming lessons are more likely to perform above average:
• Children who have taken swimming lessons enjoy reading more and are more likely to read outside of school.
• Children can better recite their times tables, with 39% of swimmers able to recite their five times table vs only 28% of non-swimmers.

This is down to several factors:
• A child who swims after school has busy weeks, meaning they are disciplined with their time. It is natural they would apply this time-management to their studies.
• It develops focus in children, showing you must work hard and consistently to achieve your goals.

We all find it that little bit easier to work hard when we have something positive to look forward to – like swimming in a warm pool!

5. Swimming builds self-confidence
Swim England’s research has revealed that seven to 16-year-olds who swim rated a higher feeling of life being worthwhile compared to those who don’t. Swimmers are, on average, 2.5% more confident than non-swimmers. Girls who swim have considerably higher increases in wellbeing, health and self-confidence compared to boys.

As you can see, swimming is one of the best and most valuable activities out there for your children, and with this skill it would open doors
to other opportunities later in their lives. It is a true worthwhile investment for your children.

Sports Generation offer swimming lessons to children from age two years and above with up to two children per class to maximise learning potential. Lessons, taught by highly experienced coaches, are engaging, confidence building and results-based. If you want your child to get back into swimming, email or call 0208 940 9431 to find out more.

References: Sports England: Active Lives Children and Young People Survey. Academic Year 2019/20, January 2021 World Health Organization: Drowning, April 2021 Swim England: Value of Swimming, 2019 All-Party Parliamentary Group: The covid generation: a mental health pandemic in the making. April 2021 PsychCentral: How Swimming Reduces Depression,2010 Griffith Institute for Educational Research, at Griffith University, 2013.


Holiday camps – great for children and parents!

By | environment, family, fun for children, Green, Playing, Relationships, Uncategorized

The long school summer holidays are lovely for so many reasons; particularly because you and your children have a break from the school routine. There is time to relax and be less governed by the clock. However, unfortunately most working parents don’t get six weeks off, so finding childcare can be difficult.

Even if you are lucky enough not to actually ‘need’ childcare, children (and parents!) may enjoy some time apart. Children often miss not spending time with people their own age during the holidays; hence the dreaded
“I’m bored” phrase being uttered!

Many parents find holiday clubs or play schemes are the answer. They are very flexible so you can book them for the whole of the working week, or just a couple of days each week, depending on your needs. Most run for similar times to the working day with some time either side to allow you to get to and from work.

They are normally based at schools or leisure centres in the area, as they already have the facilities needed on site and are easily accessible. Some clubs are based around a particular sport or hobby whilst others allow children to do lots of different activities. You may find that due to the better weather in the summer holidays, some are also based at locations that allow children to have fun outside or in the water – but obviously there will always have to be a plan B in case of horrendous weather!

There is a variety of clubs to choose from; some may offer the chance to try lots of different sports and hobbies during the week, whilst others will concentrate on something specific such as drama, football, netball or trampolining. Children may want to enhance the skills they already have in a sport or hobby, or it can be a chance to try something completely new. Younger children may enjoy a variety of sports and crafts during the week, and you may even find one in particular that sparks a new interest that they want to continue, after the summer.

The summer is obviously the best time to try watersports for the first time. Children can learn to windsurf, kayak, sail, or paddle board. If children can learn a new skill it can really increase their self-esteem and confidence, and there can’t be many better things to enjoy in the sun than the thrill of learning a new watersport.

It can be hard to find ways to keep children active and occupied during the summer holidays, whether you are a working parent or not. At holiday clubs children will engage in physical activity and there will virtually be no time in front of screens. Children will be able to participate in a wider variety of activities that they may not normally have access to.

Children who have had friendship problems at school, have a chance to start afresh in a holiday club. They will be with children their own age and they have the chance to make new friends and socialise with children they may not necessarily go to school with. They are likely to increase in confidence as they make new friends, and this can continue when they go back to school as they will undoubtedly be more confident socially.

In addition to the social benefits, children will also learn new skills. Clubs may offer the chance to try things that children have never had opportunity to try before such as handball, trampolining or even archery and they will leave with a positive feeling of accomplishment.

Finally, clubs also provide peace of mind for parents as they know their children are enjoying themselves in a safe environment. As children come to the end of their primary school age they may want to be out by themselves a little bit more, and meet their friends in the park for example, but while they are in a holiday club you know they are safe, happy and having fun.

This summer, more than ever, the most important thing is that children have fun; it is their holiday from school after all! This last year has been stressful for everyone and children have had their own stresses at school, with constant talk of them being ‘behind’ and the need to ‘catch up’. They need this summer to have fun, relax and create new memories, whether that is playing football with new-found friends, rehearsing, and putting on a play, sitting down enjoying some crafts, or learning to paddle board.

There is always great demand for holiday childcare particularly as last year’s summer was so uncertain, so do book your childcare as soon as you can and then relax and enjoy the holidays!