Category

Health

first-aid

First aid for parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information visit www.daisyfirstaid.com

Sun protection – myth busting

By | environment, Health, play, Safety, Summer

I can’t get sun damage on a cloudy summer day.
Even if you can’t see any blue sky, a significant amount of UV rays can still get through the clouds, so it’s best to apply sunscreen if you’re out and about during the summer.

I can’t get sunburnt in the UK; the UV rays aren’t strong enough.
Wrong! Always protect your skin. Even in the UK.

My sunscreen says it’s water resistant, so I don’t need to reapply regularly.
Despite what the packaging promises, swimming, sweating, rubbing, or towelling down means you will end up removing the sunscreen from your body. Always reapply after sporting activity or at least every two hours.

My skin is only damaged if it turns red.
Sunburn and skin peeling is the extreme end of skin damage from UV rays. When the skin ‘tans’ this is damaging your skin and putting you at risk of skin cancer in the future.

I can’t get sunburnt through windows.
Wrong! UVA radiation can penetrate glass. This can be a car window, or even your windows at home. Be sure to protect your skin if you’re on long car journeys or spend a lot of time sat by sunny windows.

SPF25 is half the SPF protection of SPF50.
SPF50 does not offer twice the protection of SPF25 even though it offers a higher level of protection, so don’t be fooled!

Common missed spots for sunscreen:

Eyelids
The sun’s rays can damage the eyes and surrounding skin over time. The skin of the upper and lower eyelids is thin and fragile, requiring protection. Eyelid cancers account for about 5-10% of all skin cancers and occur most frequently on the lower eyelid. The best defence against this is to wear sunglasses that offer adequate protection against UVA and UVB which cover as much skin as possible.

Back of knees
The legs are the commonest anatomical site for melanoma in females. It is important to reapply sunscreen regularly to achieve the SPF on the bottle, this is particularly true if you are in and out of the water or sweating excessively.

Ears
The ears are a high-risk area, particularly for non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These occur as a result of UV exposure from sunlight. Skin cancer on the ears is more common in men than women.

Tops of feet, sides of face, hands and underarms
The same principles apply for all these areas of the body. Any areas of skin that are exposed to UV sunlight should ideally be protected by sunscreen. This should be broad spectrum, containing UVA and UVB protection, with an SPF of at least 30. Try not to miss any areas and leave your skin vulnerable to sunburn.

Scalp and hair
Skin cancers can develop on the scalp. Men, with reduced or thinning scalp hair may be particularly vulnerable to sun damage in this area and should ideally wear a hat. For women, ensure that sunscreen is applied adequately to the margin of the hairline.

Lips
The lips are often an overlooked site for non-melanoma skin cancer. These most commonly affect men over the age of 50 years with fair skin types. The lower lip tends to get more sunlight than the upper lip and is therefore more likely to be affected by skin cancer. Don’t forget to use a photoprotective lip block or lip balm to block UV rays.

The V (neck and chest)
Dermatologists advise that sunscreens should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outdoors and then regularly reapplied every two hours. One way to avoid missing areas may be to apply sunscreen before getting dressed.

Source: www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk

breastfeeding

Breastfeeding help for all new mums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

shy-child

Overcoming shyness

By | children's health, Mental health, play, Relationships
by Poppy O’Neill
Author of Be Brave: A Child’s Guide to Overcoming Shyness

If you’re concerned about your child’s shyness, you’re not alone. The pandemic has profoundly altered our social lives and how we interact with each other, and children are no different.

We use the word ‘shy’ to describe many behaviours – being an introvert, social anxiety, speaking softly – so it’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with those labelled ‘shy’. Enjoying time alone and choosing when to use your voice can be really positive traits. However, shyness can also indicate anxiety around social situations, trying new things and being your authentic self.

Perhaps your child is struggling to make friends, or seems to fade into the background when around others. Maybe they’ve been stung by bullying or teasing in the past, or they avoid taking risks because the idea of speaking up or failing is too frightening for them. The thing about bravery is, it’s not about being fearless – it’s about feeling uncomfortable emotions and persevering anyway.

With your support and patience, it’s possible to build bravery and self-assurance so your child can face challenges, be themselves and grow into a confident, happy and well-balanced young person.

The best thing you can do for your child is to accept them as they are and be patient with them. It might feel tempting to dismiss feelings of shyness or anxiety and encourage your child to go ‘in at the deep end’ but the sad truth is, while this may change their behaviour in the short term, it doesn’t get to the root of what’s going on emotionally for them. If your child is shy, it’s already difficult for them, and extra pressure makes it doubly so.

Comparing your child to others is another big no-no. It can be tempting to point out how confident their friends seem, but this can backfire, causing your child to feel bad about themselves and even more shy. Instead celebrate differences and point out the things that make others unique, as well as what you admire about your child. Acknowledge how important small achievements can be, and how everyone struggles with different things. Your love and acceptance will help them view their own shyness in a new light – allowing them to break free of the ways in which shyness holds them back.

Let your child know that you are on their team and it’s OK to struggle with shyness. Listen to them without judgement and together you can work out what parts of life they need a bit of extra support with. Take your cues from your child: what helps is very personal and varies from child to child. It might help to role-play social situations together, do a ‘dry run’ of a daunting upcoming event or practice your big, most confident voices together. Talking through your child’s biggest challenges and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable chunks can be a really useful exercise – you could draw a comic strip, make a star chart or plan out steps towards progress over the course of a month.

Real bravery is different to how it looks in books and movies. In real life, being brave can mean saying “no” to something you feel obliged to do but really don’t want to – or saying “yes” to something that might inconvenience others. It can mean speaking up in a work meeting or saying “sorry” when you mess up. The same goes for children: the bravest child in the class is often the one who comes last in a race or the one whose voice shakes when they speak.

When children feel understood by the adults around them, they feel more able to strike out on their own, use their voice and be brave. Let your child know that they can take their time and that you are there for them for as long as they need you to be. When a child hears this, it helps them relax, take the pressure off themselves and push themselves in ways that feel comfortable, because they know that you will be kind and understanding, even if things don’t go according to plan or they’re not ready.

Being a kind, empathetic listening ear will help your child grow emotionally strong and resilient. As your child grows, they will be secure in the knowledge that you are on their team and there for them no matter what.

It’s so hard to see your child missing out or shrinking themselves out of shyness, but there’s a lot you can do to support them when you acknowledge their feelings and guide them towards ways to build up their bravery and self-assurance.

Poppy O’Neill has written several books on mental wellbeing for children and adults, including Amazon bestsellers Don’t Worry, Be Happy, You’re a Star and Be Brave: A Child’s Guide to Overcoming Shyness
Find her online at www.poppyoneill.wordpress.com

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. www.danceartstudio.co.uk

dad-and-son-reading

My top five books for little people’s BIG EMOTIONS…

By | Education, Mental health, reading
by Sophy Henn
Children’s author

It was reading picture books to my daughter that made me want to create my own. I was in awe of their power to excite, inform, empower and soothe, to convey quite complex messages and emotions in a way that both my daughter and I could relate to, all whilst keeping us entertained. Picture books can be such a brilliant way to start conversations of all sorts – picky eating, feeling good about yourself or even bad moods.

Being little is awesome, obviously, but it can also be quite tough too. There is just so much new stuff all the time! New situations, new people, new emotions, it’s just relentless. And all of these new situations require new responses, there’s so much to work out and then learn from our mistakes. Exhausting! And don’t get me started on the hormones (who knew they started so early? Well, science apparently) and the rollercoaster they take everyone on. Phew. So it’s no wonder all these feelings can sometimes be a lot.

I remember the first time my daughter had a proper shouty meltdown. When it subsided we all stood there shocked and stunned, but I don’t think any of us were as shocked as her. And that is why I believe that reading about these ‘moments’ and emotions is such a great thing. Watching other characters go through these situations affords everyone some perspective, the chance to have a chat about things in a calm way and maybe even have a chuckle about it all.

So after much wrangling, here are my top five books about those BIG EMOTIONS for little people. Enjoy them as a wonderful story or maybe use them to start a conversation, whatever you do I hope you love them as much as I do.

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
One of my all time favourites. I adore how Max’s mood transports him to the place he needs to go to in order to exorcise his bad mood. After proving himself the wildest of the wild things, Max realises his wild feeling has now gone and been replaced by not such a nice one – loneliness. So he returns home. Sendak perfectly captures that rollercoaster of emotion a bad mood can take you on. Let the wild rumpus begin!

Barbara Throws a Wobbler
by Nadia Shireen
Nadia Shireen, has made Wobblers a physical presence in her wonderful, brand new picture book. I love how you can see Barbara literally wrestle with her bad mood and watch it shrink before her very eyes, once she alters her behaviour. A valuable message for us all! I think children will really respond to seeing a bad mood as an actual character, helping them realise they own the mood not the other way round. And who doesn’t love the word wobbler?

Grumpy Frog
by Ed Vere
Borne out of frustration with all the intolerant voices that seem to shout so loudly at the moment, Ed Vere created Grumpy Frog, who disputes this label by declaring he is actually very happy, but only so long as everything is going his way. When other ideas, suggestions and even colours impinge on his day, things start to get grumpy. But then Grumpy Frog meets a lovely green crocodile! What could go wrong? A great book to start discussions about compromise and empathy.

My No, No, No Day
by Rebecca Patterson
An absolute classic that I have only just discovered. This book takes us on the journey of Bella’s No, No ,No Day. Things start off wrong for no particular reason, and only get worse, right up until bedtime. But then Bella acknowledges her bad day to mummy, and they both hope for a better one tomorrow. A truly relatable story, grounded very much in the everyday but with such a great use of language (ballet is described as ‘too itchy’ – genius!) and such hilarious illustrations it can’t help but make you smile through Bella’s bad mood.

The Best Worst Day Ever
by me!
The idea for this book came from my childhood. When I was little and having a ‘moment’, when things all got ‘a bit much’, I would go for a big, dramatic exit and ‘runaway’. This involved me running to the end of the (not very big at all) garden and hiding behind the shed, convinced everyone would be desperate with worry and truly sorry for making me have a bad mood. I would wait for what felt like hours (probably only about five minutes) and then realise I was bored, probably hungry, felt a bit silly and wanted to go back inside. But after such an exit, such high emotion, it felt like there was rather a hurdle to overcome in order to ingratiate myself back into the house. And this is what happens to my main character Arthur, only his hurdle is a huge, dark forest that has sprung up between him and home during his post running-away pondering. As there is not time to go around it, Arthur must go through it and we follow Arthur’s journey as he meets some characters along the way who help him work through his bad mood, turning a stomp into wiggle, and a huff into a hoot.

I have loved creating this book and my hope it that it is not only enjoyed as a story in it’s own right, but might just gets kids and their grown-ups dancing away the grumps as well!

The Best Worst Day Ever by Sophy Henn is out now published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books.

autistic support

How to support autistic children through the uncertainty of restrictions easing

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, play, Relationships

Whilst restrictions ease, lots of us are feeling a little overwhelmed, living in anticipation of what’s to come. After all, if the past year has taught us anything it’s that we can never predict what lies around the corner. Although, for children with special needs, including autistic children, this can be particularly stressful; the difficulties they face amid such uncertainty often cause more extreme levels of anxiety and therefore require specific, informed consideration.

This is supported by recent research which suggests that some autistic children have experienced ‘worsening in behavioural, social and developmental domains’ during lockdown, with this ‘success or failure’ often being ‘directly related to how their parents coped’ and how they ‘accommodate to the child’s needs’ (Latzer, Letiner, & Karnieli-Miller, 2021). Seemingly, we must understand how autistic children are struggling and proactively support them, embracing any and all professional advice along the way.

However, understanding exactly how we, as parents and/or caregivers, can best support autistic children during an unprecedented and turbulent period isn’t easy. Trevor Elliott MBE is the Managing Director of Kennedy Elliott, an organisation which provides care and accommodation for children and young people aged between 11-25 who have experienced extreme disadvantages. Trevor is a foster parent himself, as he has been for the past five years, and cares for several young people – including a young person with autism.

Trevor understands the difficulties autistic children face and here highlights his tips and insights that’ll help you support your autistic child over the next few months and beyond.

1. Maintain a consistent routine.
It’s widely acknowledged that children with autism cope best when their daily routines are kept consistent, unchanged and uninterrupted. Routines are a source of comfort for those with autism, whilst many experts believe that this helps them to express their feelings. Of course, the pandemic, and subsequent easing of restrictions, has changed everyone’s routine and continues to do so; there’s nothing that could have been done, or can be done, to maintain our pre-pandemic routine in its entirety. This is incredibly stressful for children with autism, not only are their routines now very different, we continue to be surrounded by uncertainty as restrictions are incrementally lifted and, ultimately, we await a very different world post-pandemic.

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take as a caregiver to maintain some consistency. For example, I would recommend following their usual sleep/wake routine, encourage them to complete regular chores and work with them to create a visual schedule that they feel comfortable with.

2. Understand what they love and promote this hobby.
Children with autism often struggle to express themselves, which can lead to frustration and distress – something which is often presented in the form of tantrums or complete withdrawal. Therefore, when an autistic child finds an activity that they enjoy and feel comfortable doing, they’ll latch onto it. During a period of uncertainty, like we’re currently experiencing, make sure you know what your child loves; discuss this with them and look to see what activities/interests really allow them to thrive and flourish. If you’re able to feed their passion(s) amid current restrictions, do so. For example, if your child loves trains, encourage them to play with a train set for a period each day.

If they enjoy dance or art, make sure this is a part of their weekly schedule (which you work with them to create). This will encourage expressive communication which is vital if they’re feeling stressed, whilst generally helping any autistic child to feel more positive and in control.

3. Be patient.
The most important thing you can do to support an autistic child whilst restrictions ease and beyond also happen to be the simplest; be patient. Autistic children struggle to communicate and often aren’t able to articulate their feelings so it’s important that you’re empathetic and understanding. Similarly, autistic children will have varied levels of understanding about the pandemic and what it means for restrictions to be ‘lifting’; they might worry that the disease is rifer than it perhaps is, or simply can’t envisage what their lives will look like in six months’ time. In any instance, describe the current situation to them without any abstract phrasing, be honest, use clear language and take your time.

When communicating with autistic children it can be useful to use visual supports and a social narrative to convey complex information. When discussing the realities of restrictions easing and what this will mean for them in the long-term, towards the latter end of this year and beyond, bear this in mind.

4. Learn what environments work best for them.
To help your autistic child thrive when they’re struggling you must first identify what environments work best for them. For example, they might feel more at ease in small groups inside, or perhaps they benefit from being outside in less formal settings. Whatever the case, do what works for your child (rules permitting) and make sure they understand that their preferred environments will always be accessible to them in one form or another.

5. Explore coping and calming skills.
It’s incredibly important that every autistic child develops coping and self-management skills. Explore different techniques with your child to find out what works for them; for example, listening to music on headphones might work wonders, whilst they might enjoy exercise and feel that this lessens their stress levels. There are also lots of great apps out there – be sure to explore those too.

6.Maintain social contact where possible.
Covid-19 has of course limited social interactions and it’s likely they’ll continue to be limited, to some degree, for a while. However, it’s vital that we maintain autistic children’s social connections wherever possible. Use tools like FaceTime and Zoom to keep in touch with loved ones, explore virtual play groups and/or encourage them to virtually volunteer; there are lots of options and every autistic child needs to be aware that support is within easy reach.

Caring for any child isn’t always easy, particularly during a period of uncertainty. However, the challenges ensued by the pandemic will unfortunately affect our lives, to various degrees, long into the future; it’s therefore important that we equip autistic children with the skills necessary to cope with these difficulties. This needn’t be too difficult; the key is to listen, understand and trust that you know what’s best for your child’s unique needs.

www.kennedyelliott.co.uk

Why going wild is the answer

By | children's health, environment, Green, Mental health, Uncategorized
by Richard Irvine
author of Wild Days and Forest Craft

This very strange year has seen many of us desperate to take whatever opportunities we can to be outdoors, exploring our local neighbourhoods. Wilderness might not always be on the doorstep, but little bits of wild nature can be found everywhere – whether you live in a bustling city or its suburbs, or close to farms, forests or the coast. There are adventures to be had in parks, on city streets, canal tow-paths, riverbanks, beaches, woods, moorland and country walks.

All that is needed is a bit of curiosity, a playful attitude and maybe a tiny bit of know-how. Paying attention to the ordinary and everyday that might have escaped our notice for years, can open the door to tiny adventures close to home. Outdoor play is not just a ‘nice to have’, it is essential for children to experience the world to learn about it and their place in it.

Learning about our neighbour-hood nature connects us to where we live and makes us feel more at home. The more time spent outdoors, the more you notice the patterns of the changing seasons; get to know the sights, sounds and smells of your local wildlife; and enjoy ‘slow time’ as you lose yourself in the fascination of nature. Creativity, resilience and positive attitudes towards the environment and exercise are forged in outdoor play. Understandable fears of busy roads and encounters with strangers can make parents and carers feel anxious about letting their children and young people play out of sight but it is vital that all young people have opportunities for unstructured outdoor adventures.

A simple walk in the park can be transformed into an engaging, playful experience with a mission to collect materials to make natural art or to make a wreath at home. A bit of string and some twigs can be transformed into boats to sail on the pond or canal with ‘jelly baby’ passengers to keep safe and dry if possible. Playing Pooh sticks, racing marbles down a hill and just gazing up at the clouds can turn reluctance into enthusiasm when it comes to getting children outside.

On your wild days out, it is very important to remember that the world is not a playground for humans but the habitat for us and all other living things. At the very least, we should try and leave as little trace of our activities as possible. It would be fantastic if we could leave things in an even better state than we found them and to have a positive impact on our environment.

To be safe in the world, young people need to be allowed to take risks. If they grow up insulated from potential harm, they may find it difficult to assess what is safe or dangerous for themselves and not learn to ask the important “What if…” questions that help us to consider the consequences of our actions and to make good decisions. Some of the best childhood adventures can involve fires, tools and the chance of getting lost, but all can be undertaken safely with trust, practice and common sense. You know your young people and context. My plea is to let them explore, play and experiment under the open skies. Join in alongside or keep an eye from a distance but try to relax, enjoy being outside with them and remember that the benefits of outdoor play and adventure will stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead.

Richard Irvine is a qualified teacher with a love of the outdoors and over 20 years’ experience in the field of outdoor learning. His specialist knowledge of woodlands and practical education comes from a love of the outdoors and many years working for forestry and education organisations. An accomplished greenwood carver, he brings woodcraft into his work wherever possible through progressing children’s skills at Forest School and running professional development workshops and recreational carving days for adults.
He is the author of Wild Days and Forest Craft from GMC Publications. He lives in Devon.

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.

Friendships
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?

For more information, visit www.brightongirls.gdst.net

school-shoes

Back to school – shoe shopping with less stress!

By | children's health, footwear and feet
by Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
Klodhoppers, Haywards Heath

Before you know it the summer holidays are almost over and it’s time to get your children ready for their new academic year, or perhaps they’re even starting school for the first time.

Leaving the purchase of their uniform, school shoes and other school essentials until the last minute is not advisable – it’s just too stressful!

Hopefully, lockdowns are a thing of the past and a ‘proper’ pair of school shoes is what’s needed to protect your child’s long-term foot health.

Going to your fully qualified shoe fitter for a professional measure and fit is essential, so throw away those ill-fitting supermarket school shoes and the dodgy sizing gauges you’ve printed off the Internet, and put your children’s feet in our safe hands.

School shoes should be sturdy, durable, comfortable and preferably breathable as it is your child’s main item of footwear for six or seven hours a day, five days a week. It can be a false economy to choose a cheap pair which you may have to replace several times, when you only really need one or two pairs per academic year, depending on your child’s growth.

Due to their growth spurts it’s definitely two pairs of school shoes per year for primary age children – if not, then it’s very likely that they are in the wrong sized shoe. However, it may only be one pair per academic year for older (secondary age) children as their feet start to mature and the rapid growth spurts reduce.

Here are some of the FAQ’s asked by parents who visit Klodhoppers:

When is the best time to buy school shoes for my child?
Shop early is our advice. Our shoes are delivered to us during July, just as the schools are breaking up for the holidays. This is when the collection is strongest and there is the best selection of all the styles and size runs. If you leave it until the last week of the holidays then there isn’t much left to choose from.

My child has specific foot health requirements, so when should I time my school shoe buying?
Again, shop early for a child with specific foot health or size issues. If your child has very wide or narrow feet, hypermobility, or wears orthotic inserts, then ‘early’ is the best time to come and buy – and remember to bring the orthotic inserts with you too! Please make us aware of any special requests beforehand so that we can assist you and your child fully and to the best of our abilities.

My son is autistic and doesn’t like shopping for shoes in crowded spaces with lots of noise. Can you help us?
Yes. At Klodhoppers we specialise in offering appointments for children with autism and other special needs. Depending on these needs we can book you in for a fitting at the beginning or the end of the day, when we are closed to other customers. If your child prefers to be in the shop with the lights or the music off, and minimal members of staff around then we can accommodate this too. Please talk to us and let us know how we can assist you and your child.

I don’t want to buy school shoes early as my child is bound to grow over the summer holidays. What should I do?
This is more of a myth than reality. Occasionally some children will have a growth spurt in the six weeks of the summer break, but it is not a good reason for leaving your school shoe buying until the last minute. When we fit school shoes early in the summer holiday we always fit with this in mind and tend to err on the generous side with our sizing. Buying school shoes on the day before they are due to return to the classroom can mean a fraught time running around looking for the preferred style, size or brand, with limited choice available. Also it won’t allow your child sufficient time to wear them around the house beforehand in order to soften up the leather, which is something we always advise. Furthermore it helps them get used to wearing a structured shoe again – especially if they have been wearing sandals, trainers or flip flops all summer. A fitted shoe may feel ‘tight’ until the leather softens.

My son wants to wear black trainers to school as his school’s uniform policy is very relaxed. I would prefer for him to have a proper shoe. What should I do?
Wearing trainers for school all the time is not advisable for developing feet, especially as it is likely that he will be wearing trainers at the weekend too. Boys’ feet keep growing until they are approximately 18 years old (girls’ feet reach their adult size a little earlier – usually mid-teens.) Trainers may be very comfortable and lightweight but they encourage the feet to spread over time and become flaccid. They are designed for sports and casual wear, and should not be a school shoe substitute. If your son really wants to wear trainers then perhaps you can compromise with him and buy a school shoe that has the look of a trainer but has all the support of a proper shoe.

My child is going to be starting in Reception. Is there any specific advice for the first pair of school shoes?
You may want to consider a style with a ‘toe bumper’ or scuff guard, and certainly avoid buckles or laces. A lot of reception children spend time on their knees on the classroom carpet and the toes of their school shoes tend to wear through more quickly than usual. Or perhaps they have a climbing wall, or like to play football in the playground at break times, or even scoot to school – this extra wear and tear can have a detrimental effect on their school shoes. You could encourage your child to put on her new school socks and shoes and have a good walk around the house (while they are still clean) a few days in the lead up to school starting. If they do this for 10 to 15 minutes each day then it will allow them to get used to the shoes and for the new leather to soften up. This way the shoes won’t feel too ‘stiff’ on the first day.

Remember that school shoes are NOT indestructible! Children will always find a way to damage or destroy them!

Also, with younger children especially, they are not intended to last a full school academic year without having them checked for growth spurts.

So here’s to a stress-free ‘back to school’ shoe season to you all. Your child only has one pair of feet to see them through life – make sure they are looked after with great care.

Remember to look for the Society of Shoe Fitters logo and/or the Children’s Foot Health Register to ensure you are putting their foot health in the best qualified hands.

Kim Jackson M.S.S.F (Member of the Society of Shoe Fitters & Children’s Foot Health Register accredited) Klodhoppers, Haywards Heath.

www.klodhoppers.com