Category

children’s health

Can friendly bacteria help reduce the occurrence of allergies?

By | baby health, children's health, Education, family, Food & Eating, Green, Health
by Rebecca Traylen (ANutr)
Probio7

What is an allergy?
Allergy UK define an allergy as “the response of the body’s immune system to normally harmless substances, such as pollens, foods, and house dust mites. Whilst in most people these substances (allergens) pose no problem, in allergic individuals their immune system identifies them as a ‘threat’ and produces an inappropriate response.”

Allergies such as eczema, hay fever and certain foods are becoming increasingly common in children and are on the rise. They can have a major effect on children and their families lives and therefore, anything we can do to understand how they develop and where possible minimise their occurrence should be encouraged.

What is the link between your gut and allergies?
There are trillions of microbes including bacteria, fungi, archaea, viruses and protozoans which are present in and on our body. 95% of these microbes are found in our gastrointestinal tract, weighing a staggering 2kg! Our gut microbiome has several important roles including digesting food, ensuring proper digestive function and helping with the production of some vitamins (B and K).

Our gut microbiome can strengthen the integrity of our gut wall and helps reduce inflammation. It also helps teach our immune system to respond appropriately to substances and fight off harmful pathogens. This allows our immune system to react appropriately to substances and ensures it doesn’t overreact to substances, as typically seen in allergies.

70% of our immune system lies along our digestive tract which further highlights the significant role our gut microbiome can play in our immune system.

Rates of allergies have been increasing as we have moved towards more urban environments. This has meant the variety of foods we are eating have decreased, our use of antibiotics has increased, and we are spending less time outdoors. Subsequently, this has been thought to reduce the diversity of our gut microbiome.

Research has shown that having a healthy and diverse gut microbiome is associated with fewer allergic symptoms. Therefore, our move to urban environments is thought to play a role in the increased number of allergies, through changes in our gut microbiome.

Reducing the risk of allergies
Friendly bacteria are live beneficial bacteria that can be consumed in food or supplement form. Taking friendly bacteria has been suggested to reduce the occurrence of allergies by supporting the gut microbiome.

One way to reduce the risk of allergies in your infant starts in pregnancy. Research has shown that taking a friendly bacteria supplement during pregnancy may reduce the chances of their infant developing eczema by 22%.

In addition, taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy may also reduce the chance of children becoming sensitised to egg (a sign of a potential allergy) by 31% and also may reduce the chances of peanut allergy.

Therefore, supplementing with both friendly bacteria supplements and omega-3 during pregnancy could be of particular benefit for allergy prevention in the infant.

Friendly bacteria supplements during infancy have also been demonstrated in some cases to prevent atopic sensitisation (this is a positive test for eczema, hay fever and allergic asthma).

Should you try a friendly bacteria supplement?
Whilst the research is still relatively new around friendly bacteria supplements and allergies, so far, they are shown to be safe and well tolerable. If you have a family history of allergies, taking a friendly bacteria supplement might be worth considering, either during pregnancy or for your infant.

Most importantly you should be looking after your gut by eating plenty of fibre, having a diverse diet, getting outside and exercising for at least 20 minutes every day, staying hydrated and reducing stress whenever possible.

Make sure you check with your GP or health practitioner before introducing any supplements when pregnant, breastfeeding or on medication.

Probio7 have been supporting digestive and immune health in the UK since 1995 and we are dedicated to developing a unique range of the highest quality friendly bacteria supplements. Please visit www.probio7.com for more information.

book reading

School should be enchanting

By | children's health, Education, environment, Mental health, play, Playing, Relationships

Chris Calvey, Headmaster of Great Walstead School, West Sussex, talks about the balancing act of meeting academic rigor whilst maintaining pupils’ excitement and enthusiasm.

School League tables are now very much a part of our lives and pre-testing for schools is creeping in at an increasingly younger age. Now, take into account the not insignificant amount of money that private schools charge. You can see the rising pressure on both teachers and the Head to ensure that pupils achieve the highest results. The safest way to do this sees the classroom take on a more teacher led approach where pupils are told the information they need to learn, guided in how to answer questions by rehearsing past papers, and even have timetabled lessons on verbal and nonverbal reasoning tests. Such an approach generally ensures that pupils pass their tests but at the cost of genuine enjoyment, pleasure and natural wonderment of school.

I believe there is an alternative way in which children can maintain their love of learning. By understanding there is more to the process of education than just working to pass a test, they are able to develop a set of skills that enables them to tackle challenges without a fear of failure. Inspired by the book ‘Educating Ruby – what our children really need to learn’ written by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas, all the staff at our school explored a variety of definitions for the seven aspects that the book identified as developing confidence and character. We refer to these as our 7Cs – Confidence, Curiosity, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Commitment and Craftsmanship.

Each ‘C’ has an age appropriate definition for the sections of our school and children are rewarded when they demonstrate these attributes. They see Confidence as the ability to tackle difficult tasks and challenges whilst not being afraid to make mistakes. Curiosity is about developing wonder and awe, while Collaboration helps pupils see the benefits of working in a successful team. Communication encourages children to share their ideas and thinking whilst understanding the importance of listening to each other. Creativity is not just for the arts, but is to be developed with problem solving challenges and alternative thinking. Commitment recognises those times when pupils show determination and resilience even if they find tasks challenging. Finally, Craftsmanship celebrates the sheer joy and pride of completing something which has taken time, care and love to produce. By rewarding these skills, every child is able to achieve and none are limited by their cognitive ability. It leads to an “I can” culture rather than a fixed mindset where pupils feel limited by the scores they achieve.

Since focusing on the 7Cs, we have seen children become far more engaged in their own learning process, take responsibility for what they can achieve and, as a result, make impressive levels of academic progress where they not only know things, but genuinely understand them – there is a distinct difference.

Children only get one chance at their schooling, and I believe it is so important that we look to develop the whole person – not just focus on exam results and entry testing. Working in several prep schools, I have seen and promoted many ‘learning profiles’ from school ethos based principles to International Baccalaureate inspired systems. All offer something more than just a ‘teacher led’ approach to learning, but in the 7Cs I have found a set of values and attributes that really inspires the girls and boys in our school, and prepares them for the challenges that lie ahead.

The second closure of schools has arguably made these values yet more important as children have spent hours in front of a computer screen, being taught in a very isolating and unfamiliar environment. Those opportunities for communication and collaboration between each other are significantly diminished, and that lack of human contact makes the whole process of learning yet harder. Incorporating our 7Cs into the pupils’ learning will be a real focus when they are allowed to return, and we will actively promote the development of these skills, continuing to build a real sense of “I can do” within each and every child.

At Great Walstead, children learn happily inside the classroom because they play happily outside the classroom. A game in the woods and a maths lesson are, at this age, equal learning opportunities – we call it Mud p!
www.greatwalstead.co.uk

Nurture through nature Every day is a school day!

By | children's health, Education, environment, family, Family Farms, fun for children, Green

This spring, Nicola Henderson, CEO of Godstone Farm in Surrey, explores the learning opportunities that are on the doorstep for many of us, and the adaptations we can make in everyday life if we don’t want to be stuck to a timetable or even use an exercise book.

As we’ve seen over the past year, learning is not just about being in the classroom; and who would have known that our children’s education could take so many forms and be delivered in so many ways. Cue the cries of parents saying they never thought they would actually have to BE the teacher! Perhaps unconventional ways of learning are here to stay, but above all we have realised that being outdoors is good for us on so many levels.

Homework doesn’t have to be at your home!
How about learning about another little creature’s home? There are so many habitats in the great outdoors and not all of them are deep in the countryside. From birds in their nests, to hiding hedgehogs and mice in hedgerows it’s great to get children to spot where animals might be living. Now that hopefully, the weather starts to improve, there’s opportunity to sit out at dawn and dusk to watch where birds fly to or see if you can spot a tiny nose poking out among leaves. A simple game of matching animals to their habitats can be done wherever you live, as even in more urban areas it’s not impossible to find a brave fox. What could he be looking for? And where do you think he might go to sleep?

Changing of the seasons
It’s not just signs of animal life to look out for. Spring brings about the most wonderful chance to see colour and shape appear by way of plants and flowers. Can children notice not only what is newly appearing as we start to see more sunny days, but also which plants or trees remained the same through winter? It is likely they know what a Christmas tree looks like, but which other trees can they spot that kept their leaves? As well as noting names, playing games such as finding shapes they know in nature around them can be heaps of fun.

Keep active and keep healthy
Even the youngest of children know that exercise and eating well is the key to being healthy, but it’s clear from all the farm visitors each year that kids ‘just wanna have fun’! Playing is a fantastic form of exercise and if it’s outside then all the better. Play equipment is a brilliant way to teach children boundaries, risk taking, and sharing with their friends or being patient to wait in line for their turn. Open outdoor spaces can also lend themselves well to imaginative play. With or without apparatus, children will find a story to become part of. Reading is such a huge part of a child’s first school experience, but as they develop their skills its fun to get them re-telling a story and answering questions about what happened, or predicting what might happen next. When you are out for a walk, at a playground or visiting somewhere with gardens what stories can you make up about what you can see? Can you
re-tell it when you get home?

Farm fun
We just can’t forget the wonderful signs of new life that can be found at farms at this time of year. Chicks hatching, lambs being born and baby rabbits ready to hop into the sunshine. A farm attraction is a great place to see these exciting babies but also learn about the differences between species, what they eat and how they are kept. Many attractions also offer a behind the scenes experience where children can get up close and hands on with their favourite pets or livestock. Actually taking part is a great way to commit a skill to memory and who doesn’t want to learn to muck out the stinky pigs? Other, less smelly jobs are available!

There’s so much to be fortunate for as we enter the favourite season for so many. Springtime on the farm or anywhere amongst nature is a wonderful time, and sharing experiences with your children is precious. Its hoped that the majority of learning can stay in school with our wonderful and very valued teachers, but it’s nice to be able to extend this beyond the classroom, keep it fun and increase our wellbeing at the same time.

Nicola has run Godstone Farm for three years now, and whilst there are plans to develop the experiences and facilities on offer, she is keen to ensure the farm keeps its heritage and wholesome feel. The Farm continues to follow government guidance so its always best to check the website before visiting for the most up-to-date information.
www.godstonefarm.co.uk

shoe fitter kids

Getting back to basics – putting your child’s best foot health first

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

As I write this article we are approaching Christmas and many of us are emerging from the second lockdown and the vaccine roll out has started. It has been a rather strange and difficult time for all of us. It’s time to reflect on the past few months and re-evaluate what is really important to us during the Year of the Coronavirus.

Amongst other things good friends and close family are key to a happy and successful life. The sunshine helps, of course, and keeping our job helps, but this horrible pandemic has shown that good health is the key factor.

It’s now time, as we move into the spring, to get ‘back to basics’ – let’s aim to maintain the caring attitude that was so prevalent during lockdown. To be more community-minded within our neighbourhood, to shop locally and support the small, independent businesses in our area, and to value our own health and wellbeing and that of our family members.

Regarding our children’s foot health it’s also time to throw away those supermarket trainers and poor quality school shoes – they’re not designed to last very long anyway. They may have been an emergency purchase during lockdown but you don’t need to subject your child’s feet to them any longer. Plus, depending on when you bought them they are likely to be too small now anyway!

It’s time to get back to getting your child’s feet properly measured and fitted once again. Restore those good foot health practices for your children’s future wellbeing. They may not thank you for it now but I guarantee they will be grateful for it in years to come.

Regular readers of my ABC articles will know that I keep saying it but, it is really important to look after your child’s feet. It’s just as important as looking after their teeth by taking them to the dentist, or looking after their eyes by taking them to the optician – their foot health is crucial.

This is because most of our bones begin to form while we are in the womb, long before we are born. These bones start out as, and are formed from, pieces of gristle known as cartilage – which gradually turns into bone. This process is called ossification. All the bones in the body are normally completely and fully ossified by the age of 25 (it is important to note that the bones in the foot are nearly fully ossified by the age of 18, although girls tend to complete their process a couple of years ahead of boys, due to the difference in hormones).

Throughout this long growing period care must be taken to avoid persistent pressure on the foot. Before the bones have fully ossified there is a danger of the bones and joints becoming distorted by pressure applied to them. Many children’s feet are deformed by the wearing of ill-fitting socks, tights and shoes that are either too small or too tight and do not allow for growth. As a result it is essential to take special care when fitting shoes for children, as their formative years shape the way they walk and their entire physiology.

So what happens when you take your child along for his or her first pair of shoes – their first ‘walkers’?
Because your child’s bones are not formed, and because the joints are cartilage not bone, he or she cannot feel pain if the shoes are incorrectly fitted. They don’t know if their shoes are a good fit or not and there’s a good chance that you probably don’t either.

That’s why you’ve chosen to get the advice, expertise and experience of a fully qualified fitter. Someone who knows how to assess your child’s feet, to measure them properly and who knows the different brands thoroughly enough, and can therefore suggest what size, style and fit will suit your child’s feet best. Any damage done at this early stage can be irreversible.

Your child may not like wearing shoes for the first time and he or she may scream the shop down throughout the entire process – and that’s probably purely because it’s the first time they’ve done this. It’s got nothing to do with the actual fit of the shoes that you are intending to buy for them, especially taking into account the recommendationof the fitter.

As your child develops and grows the gristle changes to bone and the bones lengthen at a greater rate than they thicken. Therefore the foot grows longer in proportion to its width. The arches also develop and the muscles in the foot grow stronger. Generally the fastest growth occurs in a child’s early years, but it is not a constant, it usually occurs in spurts. These growth spurts do not happen at even intervals, they can be quite random, and it can be perfectly possible for a child to outgrow a correctly fitted pair of shoes in a matter of weeks.

In adolescence the growth continues with the feet becoming longer and sometimes the relationship between length and width can change. A child needing a wide fitting at four years old, may require a much narrower fitting 6 or 8 years later because their feet have grown longer without a proportionate increase in width. This is why regular size checks are recommended even if you don’t need to buy any shoes. Any professional fitter will always carry out a size or shoe check on your child’s feet, without any obligation to buy.

By their late teens your child’s feet are fully formed and if their development has been correct, they should enter adulthood with almost perfect feet. The bones will be fully formed and positioned correctly, the muscles will be in tone and in balance, and the whole structure should be in great shape to take years of wear and tear without complaint.

Any problems that arise with the feet do not always become just a ‘foot’ problem – your child’s whole posture can be affected by ill-fitting footwear. This can include their ankles, knees, hips, lower back and neck. Even severe migraines can be attributed to ill-fitting footwear in childhood!

Take my advice – it’s the spring, so put a ‘spring’ in your child’s step and get their feet measured and fitted by a qualified professional fitter, based at one of your local independent shoe shops. You will be supporting your local high street as well as giving your child’s feet the best start they need.

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

Kiss, cuddle, high five…

By | children's health, Education, Health, Mental health, play, Playing
by Sally-Ann Barker
Potter’s House Preschool

I watch the children coming into preschool in the morning and wonder how their last few hours have been and how it might shape their day. The ones who run in without saying goodbye because they have already planned in their head what they are going to be doing and are desperate to execute that. The ones who come in with their hats over their eyes pretending to be invisible because this has become their routine to make us laugh and set the tone for the morning. The ones who cling to their parent that little while longer and then the ones who need peeling away so we can start our day.

Because of Covid, our drop offs are slightly different. Parents used to come into the building and were welcome to stick around for a little while if necessary. It instilled a sense of unity with our staff and parents – that we all have the same goals for the children. Now that parents aren’t allowed in, we receive the children outside and take them in ourselves. Granted, it meant they settled more quickly in September but I can’t help feeling a little sad at how quick the handover feels now. Parents are conscious that it’s cold and they may be holding up the queue of other parents who may need to rush off to work so they quickly hand the child over and off they go. We had a child a few years ago who was incredibly shy and after a few weeks of tears at drop off, his mum set a little routine for them. She’d bring him in and then say “Kiss, cuddle, high five” and he would do all three things and then go in happily. That little bit of comfort she gave with a clear and precise routine worked for him and it always stuck in my mind, what a lovely way to say goodbye.

The reason I wonder about their time in the morning before they come to us is because it completely determines how their day will be. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there are five levels of ‘needs’ that dictate a persons behaviour. These are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs and self-actualisation needs. The phrase “just one of those days” tends to be accompanied by a dismissive eye roll, a shrug off that it’s not a big deal or out of a person’s control – just one of those days. But, what if it didn’t need to be “just one of those days” ? Picture a day you’ve had where nothing seems to be going right. You overslept, you burnt the toast, you were late to work – anything really. One thing going badly in the morning can shape your day into “just one of those days” and that’s exactly how it is for children. The Hierarchy of Needs adapted for children is set out like a pyramid, with the more critical needs taking up the larger part of the pyramid at the bottom working their way up to the peak.

Physiological needs
Children need to have had a decent nights sleep, be fed and watered and been to the toilet. In short, they need to feel physically comfortable. This is especially important in preschoolers because they may not be able to process those needs and be equipped to tend them themselves, so that responsibility falls solely on the parent/carer.

Safety needs
Fairly self-explanatory but basically children are entitled to feel safe and secure. Both physically and emotionally their safety needs should always be met.

Love and belonging needs
Children need affection, it sits beautifully alongside their emotional needs, they need comfort and physical touch. This enables children to feel secure and connected.

Esteem needs
This one can be tricky when your children are small – how do we help boost their self-esteem? How do we help them to be confident? Children find confidence in our trust. Allowing children the space, time and opportunity to be independent means they no longer feel impotent or vulnerable. This is so easily done by allowing that extra time for them to get themselves dressed and trusting them to do it, pouring their own milk into their cereal, putting on their own shoes and remembering their coat. We use positive affirmations at preschool every morning as part of our registration – “I am good. I am kind. I am smart.” We use these alongside promoting their independence as much as possible in their self-care and play.

Self-actualisation needs
These are a child’s creative needs, problem solving and stimulation, something that is provided in spades at any setting they will attend so not something parents really need to put pressure on themselves to do in the morning before the school run.

These needs not being met form a barrier for children’s development. They can become unmotivated, aimless, disconnected and disengaged. For a child to have a positive and successful day, they need to be healthy in body and mind. You have to attend to the basic needs of a child before you can expect them to reach their full potential and, after all, what do we all really want as parents?

That kiss, cuddle, high five at the door means more than we may initially realise.

For more information please contact Sally-Ann at sallyann@pottershousepreschool.co.uk or call 07375 379148
www.pottershousepreschool.co.uk

What makes a school a great school?

By | children's health, Education, Relationships, Sport
by Dominic Mott, Head of Senior School, Hurst College

Well, many things – but, unsurprisingly for an industry dedicated to learning – academic achievement is frequently prized as the key factor. So how can this be measured? Results in public examinations are a reasonably good indicator of academic achievement, and although exam results do matter, clearly, they aren’t the sole metric of a great education.

How, then, might schools be compared against one another so that parents know which school achieves the highest grades? A league table that ranks each school by their GCSE and A-level results would seem to be a pretty sensible place to start. “So far, so good,” you might be thinking; or perhaps, “so what”? Please bear with me.

Value what you measure. Measure what you value.
What if academic ‘achievement’ isn’t actually what we want to be measuring at all? What if the real metric here is not the fixed notion of ‘achievement’, but instead the journey implied by ‘progress’? Isn’t that what learning is all about? Improving, growing, maturing, developing, and striving to do the very best that you are capable of, whatever that ‘best’ might be.

League tables have their place if you are the parent of a highly academic child, looking for them to be schooled amongst a selective cohort of similarly niche students, in an exams-focused environment, where the school has a vested interest in driving up its overall statistics – at any cost. For most parents this simply isn’t what they are signing up for.

For those parents who simply want their child “to do their best”, the only metric on which to judge schools is their ‘value added’ data. Put simply, it tells you how your child is likely to fare at one school compared to the grades they would achieve if they went to another school.

This data, which is generated by comparing GCSE and A-level results to standardised national baseline figures, is a far more accurate metric of the quality of teaching and learning in any given school. It cuts out ruthless academic selection, hot-housing, and questionable practices such as using different exam centre numbers to enter less-able pupils or those with special educational needs.It values the progress made by every single child, whatever the final outcome.

For the sceptics who (wrongly) suspect I may be attempting to distract from an unremarkable set of results at Hurst, you may wish to put our 2019 GCSE statistics (83% at grades 9 – 7) into The Times rankings of independent co-educational schools and you will see where we would have come. A gold star to anyone who emails me with the correct answer! We are even prouder of our ‘value added’ scores, which celebrate the outstanding achievements made by every single one of our pupils and puts us right at the top of the national rankings.

To return to the initial question, what makes a great school?
For sure, parents want their children to achieve the very best results of which they are capable at GCSE and A-level. However, they also want them to be healthy, happy, rounded, kind, confident, mature, independent young adults, ready to go out into the world to live successful lives and make a positive difference to those around them. That’s definitely not something you can measure by a league table!

The challenges of remote learning
What also makes a great school is one which can adapt swiftly, efficiently and effectively to unforeseen circumstances, such as switching to remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government’s decision to close all schools from 20th March 2020 was less of a surprise than the bold announcement that there would be no public examinations this summer for GCSE and A-level students. Nevertheless, school leaders were left with precious little time to plan for the lockdown.

As with other independent schools, our priority was clear from the outset: to continue with, as far as was reasonably possible, the full provision of an outstanding all-round education for every child.

With days to spare before lockdown, one of the first priorities was to ensure that all staff and pupils had the equipment to teach or learn from home. An audit of digital devices redistributed laptops to those who needed them, and support staff were encouraged to take their office desktop computer home to enable remote working. Teachers were equipped with deskcams, whilst pupils’ devices were upgraded and checked to ensure that all were ready for a transition to the online world.

We were fortunate to be ahead of the game in the transition to a cloud-based network. Already 12 months into an 18 month project, it became clear that the final six months would need to be condensed into just a few weeks. All of our teaching and learning resources are stored in a bespoke SharePoint site which allowed teachers and pupils to access PowerPoints, worksheets, exam papers, mark schemes, online video tutorials, tests and revision materials from any device, anywhere in the world. In addition, by centralising the delivery of lessons through Microsoft Teams, with easy access to applications such as OneNote, it was made as straightforward as possible to deliver live lessons whilst giving teachers freedom over how to teach.

One of the most interesting challenges was to redesign the school day to adapt to the new way of working. Slightly shorter lessons and longer gaps between helped to reduce screen time; synchronising Prep School and Senior School timetables allowed families with siblings in two different parts of the college to take lunch together; regular short tutorial slots allowed tutors time to offer one-on-one support to pupils; and some creative timetabling allowed for an earlier finish each day without losing any of the co-curricular provision. This last point proved critical: by continuing to offer a programme of assemblies, sports sessions, choir and orchestra practices, musical rehearsals and activities sessions the regular rhythms of school life continued – pupils remained fit, healthy and active.

Hurst College is a thriving independent school for children aged between 4 and 18 with an overarching aim to provide an excellent all round education with a strong academic core and ideally located between Brighton and Haywards Heath. www.hppc.co.uk

As soon as they stand, they dance…

By | children's health, dance & Art, Education, Mental health, Playing, Relationships
by Lynda Forster
Dance Art Studio

Cuts in education budgets sadly impacts on most creative subjects as they are classed as ‘non-core’. Unfortunately, throughout lockdown, children from preschool to teens, suffered with their wellbeing and confidence because of lack of contact with their peers.

This is another reason why it’s so important to set them up early with not only a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, but with a physical activity which channels into the creative art form of human expression. This will help keep their minds healthy and balanced whilst learning a skill that will stay with them for life. Many dance classes moved online during lockdown and offered pupils a weekly lesson – this helped keep a sense of normality for the dancers and ensured they kept up with a skill, whilst keeping their social connections alive with their dance friends and teachers. I’ve heard such positive feedback from parents and older dancers who all, more than ever, appreciated the benefits and happiness that a dance class brings.

Dance as an art form is beautiful and breathtaking. There’s nothing quite like watching a skilled dancer turn and leap across the stage in time to the music, telling a story with their body.

But dance provides benefits far beyond that available to those trained in the discipline. For young children, dance and creative movement can help improve their cognitive development, building skills necessary for success later in life.

Here are ways creative movement can benefit children during the early childhood years:

Sensory awareness
Young children are highly sensory beings. They flock to things that stimulate their senses of touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing.

Dance and creative movement provide stimulation for three of those five senses at once: touch, sight and hearing.

By listening to the music and learning how to move in time with the beat, children begin to more finely hone their senses and learn how their bodies can work in harmony with the stimuli around them.

Development
Dance provides opportunities to hone both gross and fine motor skills.

From turning and jumping to carefully controlling the movement of hands and fingers, dance engages all aspects of a child’s physical development.

Dancing also awakens the inner creativity in all children, allowing them to hear a piece of music and decide how their body can best respond to it.

In early childhood creative movement, it’s important to have a mixture of structured directions for moving as well as plenty of time for individual exploring. This balance gets children used to bringing to life someone else’s creative vision while giving time for their own exploration.

Social skills
To have a healthy social life, children must understand and embrace their own uniqueness.

Through creative movement, they learn that not everyone interprets music the same way they do, and not everyone moves the same. This helps children see that everyone is different but no one is wrong in their individuality.

Health and fitness
Dancing is great exercise. Teaching children from a young age that frequent exercise is fun and beneficial helps build lifelong lovers of sports and movement. This leads to improved health and wellness as adults.

Language
Co-ordinated movement is essential for proper brain development, which is necessary to developing language skills.

The right side of the brain, the sensing and feeling side, functions best through creative activities. The left side is the logical thinking and planning side of the brain.

Dance allows both sides of the brain to engage, as children must follow steps and directions while also utilising their creativity and interpreting the music.

Body awareness
Young children often cannot tell the full limits of their own bodies.

Through dance, however, they learn in a controlled environment what their bodies can and cannot do and what actions they need to take to perform a desired movement.

Dance helps build co-ordination and spatial awareness, which in turn improves children’s gross motor skills.

Concentration
Remembering the next steps in a dance sequence requires a great deal of concentration. So does sitting down to participate in school work.

Using and honing concentration skills in early childhood better prepare children for the expectations of the classroom.

They learn when it’s OK to move and when they need to sit still, what types of movement are acceptable, and how to stay within their own physical boundaries.

Respect
Through dance, children learn that it’s not possible to move in someone else’s space. If you do, you crash and no one gets to dance.

Learning this skill helps children understand that everyone has their own body boundaries, and they should respect the limits of those boundaries at all times.

Self-esteem
As children learn and develop new skills, their self-esteem increases.

Just like in school, play, and the rest of their lives, dancing and creative movement gives young children new skills to learn and master. This progress keeps them motivated and interested, leading to better tenacity later in life.

Why ballet?
Ballet is the focus for most dance schools, but you’ll also find tap dance, modern musical theatre, jazz and contemporary.

It is considered the absolute foundation from the very early stages where it is taught in a fun imaginative way using mime, props and stories that young children relate to. From here there is a gradual healthy build up, taking children up through the grades with a recognised exam at each level, although these are added options.

What are they learning?
• Correct technique and terminology.
• Strength and endurance.
• Timing and appreciation of music.
• Poise and posture.

Enrolling your tot into a ballet and dance class will help enrich their world around them in so many ways!

Dance Art Studio is located in the Fiveways and Preston Park area of Brighton offering preschool 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

Bump to bum shuffler – a vegan parent’s journey

By | children's health, Education, Food & Eating
by Siobhan Dolan
PR Manager, Viva!

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I had no doubt I’d raise my child vegan. Good nutrition is the key to a healthy life and I knew that by feeding my baby a balanced healthy vegan diet they would thrive.

At that time I’d already been vegan for seven years, I worked for the vegan campaigning charity Viva! and had a good knowledge of vegan nutrition. Despite all of this, I was still confronted with questions from others about my decision. How will your baby get their protein? Is it right to force veganism on a child? Won’t they feel left out?

One of the first challenging situations I encountered was during my first appointment with a midwife. I explained I was vegan and was told straight away that I would be low in iron – before she had even taken a blood sample! It was time to put the record straight – I explained how it is a misconception that all vegans are low in iron and there are countless iron rich vegan foods including leafy greens, pulses, seeds and nuts. If a healthy balanced diet is followed vegans can even have higher levels of iron than meat-eaters! The EPIC-Oxford study, the largest single study of Western vegetarians and vegans to date, found vegans had the highest intake of iron, followed by vegetarians then fish-eaters with meat-eaters coming last.

In the same appointment I was given a long list of animal-based foods that were off limits during pregnancy such as mould-ripened cheeses (like brie and camembert), soft blue cheeses, raw eggs, pâté, undercooked and cold cured meats, liver and mercury-containing fish such as shark, swordfish or marlin. None of the foods were vegan, so I could still safely (and smugly) eat everything I enjoyed with the peace of mind that it was safe for my baby.

As the pregnancy progressed I felt healthy and strong. I continued to cycle to work and regularly practiced yoga. I took care to ensure my iron levels didn’t drop during pregnancy (they often do because the body produces more blood for the developing baby). To combat this I ate a variety of iron rich foods including dark leafy greens and a daily natural organic iron supplement. In addition to this I took vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid and omega-3 supplements. Viva!’s Mother and Baby guide was my go-to for nutritional information as it provides practical tips for pregnancy and beyond.

My baby was born a healthy 8.9lb and was full of beans! I breastfed him from birth and began to wean him at six months. Initially, I introduced soft nutrient-dense foods such a banana, avocado and sweet potato. Once he mastered the act of chewing I introduced high-protein foods such as lentils and tofu combined with vegetables and carbohydrates (rice, pasta and wholemeal bread). Nutrient-dense foods rich in healthy polyunsaturated fats are recommended for young children as the energy found in them is essential for growth and development. Nut butters, ground chia seeds, hummus, avocado and vegetable oils are all excellent sourced of healthy vegan fat.

For reference I use a set of Viva! wallcharts on my fridge which outline iron, calcium and protein rich foods. I find them really useful and they help me to plan nutritionally balanced meals for my family.

Before I knew it, my maternity leave was coming to an end and it was time to find a nursery place for my son. As a vegan, finding a nursery that offered good vegan food was a priority. Sadly, several nurseries I approached didn’t cater for vegans. Fortunately, I found a fabulous nursery with an in-house chef who was happy to accommodate us. My son is their first vegan child and we’ve been welcomed with positivity and a dash of intrigue!

I’ve provided the nursery with a few vegan cookbooks and suggested how their meat options could be made vegan by using pulses rather than expensive processed substitutes, which would result in cheaper and healthier food. They have provided us with oat milk for cereal and are in the process of sourcing soya yoghurt so my son can have the same dessert as the other children. Luckily the nursery doesn’t offer cake or chocolate so we haven’t had to find alternatives.

In summary, being a vegan parent can have its challenges. Sometimes outsiders can be quick to judge the vegan lifestyle. However, if you are prepared to be patient, explain veganism to others and encourage inclusivity, you may find a more welcoming reception from sceptics. Veganism is undoubtedly the most compassionate lifestyle choice for children and offers countless health benefits too, setting your baby up for a long and healthy life!

Useful links:
www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vegetarian-vegan-children/
www.vivashop.org.uk/collections/materials/products/nutritional-poster-trio-deal
www.vivashop.org.uk/products/vegetarian-and-vegan-mother-and-baby-guide

Viva! is the UK’s leading vegan charity www.viva.org.uk

I’m overweight after lockdown, but what’s that got to do with my shoes?

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

We have to accept that as a nation we are getting bigger and heavier, and in the light of the Government’s recently updated document ‘Childhood Obesity: Applying All Our Health’ (1st May 2020), it is clear that as a nation we have an obesity problem that isn’t going to go away any time soon.

For many grown-ups and children, lockdown hasn’t helped! Childhood obesity and excess weight are significant health issues for children and their families. There can be serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, which can then overlap into adulthood.

Obesity is associated with poor psychological and emotional health, and many children experience bullying and stigmatisation linked to their weight. Children and young people living with obesity are more likely to become adults living with obesity and therefore have a higher risk of morbidity, disability, low self-esteem and premature mortality in adulthood.

For some children it can mean more school absences (in order to avoid the bullies) in addition to the obvious health concerns such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, breathing difficulties and bone and joint problems.

So what has this got to do with shoes?
There has been a marked increase in overweight children in the last few years, and this can affect how a shoe is worn and its durability. Members of the Society of Shoe Fitters are trained in many aspects of shoe fitting for children and young people, and one of the factors to be taken into consideration is the weight of a child and the impact it may have on the wear and fit of a shoe.

The most important thing to remember about any footwear is that ‘it is essential to wear the right shoe for the right occasion’, so that footwear will perform correctly and in accordance with its design and manufacture. Shoes are designed to do different jobs and take varying amounts of wear and tear.

So for example:
• Party shoes are not designed for climbing trees.
• School shoes are designed to be worn five days a week within a school environment.
• Wellies and waterproof boots are made for puddles and muddy walks!

Overweight children (particularly boys) often resort to wearing trainers all day, every day, mainly because it’s the only type of footwear that fits and feels comfortable. The construction of a trainer offers comfort for the foot due to all the padding inside, the soft chunky soles and the ability to easily open up wide for a chubbier foot.

Strictly speaking, however, trainers are designed and manufactured to be worn for sporting activities, and not for all day wear. Daily wearing of trainers can be harmful to your feet and general health and can lead to another different set of foot health problems such as allowing the feet to ‘spread’ and become more flaccid. As a result when you go back to wearing a more structured shoe, you may suffer for a while.

Overweight girls often choose fashionable flat ‘pumps’ like a ballet shoe, but with no fastening. Again these are not ideal especially if they are not fitted correctly, as the foot can bulge over the topline of the shoe. This is not just unsightly, it can be very uncomfortable. It can also create the potential for the skin to be chafed and for blisters to develop. The child also has to ‘claw’ her toes in order to keep the shoes on, then the shoes either gradually stretch and turn into ‘flip flops’ or the backs get broken down so there is no support for the heel. Unless the pump is of high quality there is likely to be inadequate shock absorption in the sole and insole which can make the foot prone to plantar fasciitis – which is extremely painful. The arches of the feet become overworked and bear the child’s entire weight, as opposed to a properly constructed shoe which is designed to take weight in specific places throughout the shoe.

Taking a shoe wider and wider is not necessarily the answer to fit a chubbier foot. In fact it often pays to go longer and narrower (although the depth and the style of the shoe would be a greater consideration with an overweight child) as it is all about how the weight of the child’s foot is distributed within the shoe.

Extra body weight puts strain on the arches and muscles in the feet, ankles, legs and hips, affecting your entire physiology. Even migraines can be attributed to ill-fitting footwear.

Finding comfortable and supportive shoes for overweight children is important to keep young people active and mobile. If your feet hurt due to ill fitting shoes, then you exercise less and are likely to gain more weight – a vicious cycle.

GPs, chiropodists and podiatrists inevitably see more foot health problems due to obesity, but their knowledge of mainstream footwear may be limited. Contact a qualified shoe fitter who is more likely to be ‘in the know’ with the latest brands, designs or trends, and who has the knowledge needed for giving the correct fit.

A qualified shoe fitter will always recommend a structured shoe, preferably with a fastening (such as laces, or a Velcro® strap, or a strap with a buckle) for children who need the correct footwear and who need to get in shape.

What adults choose to do with their feet is their concern, however as a parent we have a duty of care to our children to ensure that during the long growing period extreme care must be taken to avoid persistent pressure on the developing foot. Before the bones in a child’s foot have fully formed there is a danger of the bones becoming distorted by pressure due to inappropriate or ill fitting footwear. The additional problem of obesity in a child is another vital factor to be taken into account when getting their shoes fitted correctly.

If in doubt, then always consult a health professional or take advice from a qualified shoe fitter – remember that a child’s formative years shape the future of their feet and the way they walk and can have profound and far-reaching effects on their whole physiology.

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

Outdoor play vs Covid-19

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, Mental health
by Sally-Ann Barker
Potter’s House Preschool

While the country is in a state of limbo and we’re all trying to find the new normal or taking tentative baby steps to the old one, I’ve found myself overwhelmed with awe and wonder at the world that surrounds us. Amongst all the doom and gloom in the press, the media has, on occasion, provided us with heart-warming articles detailing how this unprecedented global crisis has affected nature in a rather more positive way.

Throughout lockdown, nitrogen dioxide levels dropped by more than 50% in some areas across the UK. Road traffic in the UK fell by more than 70% meaning there was a significantly lower toll for road kill and councils delayed the cutting of grass on roadside verges crucially providing more pollen for our bees. Further afield, wild boar became braver in Barcelona, peacocks have been wandering around Llandudno and dolphins have been spotted frolicking in Venice. Closer to my home in Sussex, swans have apparently returned to Storrington duck pond for the first time in 15 years. This was however according to my father-in-law and on closer inspection they turned out to be plastic decoy ones used to deter Canada Geese. Perhaps he should take a drive to Barnard’s Castle to check his eyesight!

I have always had a passion for Early Years education and have spent my career observing the impacts that differing environments have on children’s development. In my experience, I believe that access to outdoor play is hands down the most enriching thing we can give our children and indeed ourselves. As a result of my personal observations and experiences, I try to make sure that my preschool is predominantly outdoor based with access to indoor play and absolutely not the other way around.

The Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably provoked discussion amongst my staff and I regarding how nurseries and preschools should be operating under these new conditions. We’ve been forced to reassess our procedures, draw up reams of fresh risk assessments and develop totally new routines. We’ve been made to think about how we are going to try to keep these precious little people, and our staff, as safe as we can in these difficult times. We recognise that we must maintain the highest levels of care, whilst also ensuring everyone’s mental health remains positive. I began researching a substance called Phytoncides, which are emitted by trees and plants and are widely used in holistic, veterinary and aromatherapy medicines in Russia and Japan. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities that assist plants in fighting disease. When we breathe in these chemicals, our bodies increase the activity of white blood cells, which in turn kills off virus infected cells and boosts our immune system. So, given all of that, surely the safest place for us all is outside. Science says so!

As a rule, as the winter approaches, we inevitably spend far less time outside and are drawn to the warmer areas inside to keep cosy. When I was a child, we had no option but to stay inside at playtime if it was wet or windy which I feel conditioned us to regard wet weather as ‘bad weather’. But really, providing we are properly equipped then there is no such thing. The children in our setting come to preschool all wrapped up in snow suits and boots and hats and gloves and they still choose to be outside making potions in the mud kitchen – using every single one of their senses to explore and learn organically. It sometimes takes some convincing for parents to understand why we are still outside in the depths of the wet British winter, but I know that even the most dubious will come back to tell us that their children went home happy, that they ate well and they slept well – which is the bare minimum we want as parents.

In Sweden, outdoor nurseries are called ‘I Ur och Skur’ meaning ‘rain or shine’ and their children thrive. They are among the happiest and healthiest children as well as achieving academically later on in life. At our preschool we have adopted this pedagogical approach in developing our children – teaching them to be resilient and brave, encouraging them to manage risk and emotion. Ultimately, we want them to explore and respect the nature that surrounds them with their eyes wide and their minds curious.

So, come rain or shine we are always outside and as a result, the children are happy, healthy and developing beautifully. We will continue this practice (with added health and safety precautions because of the pandemic) and we will watch, wrapped up warm, as our children fight off all the nasty winter bugs.

For more information please contact Sally-Ann at sallyann@pottershousepreschool.co.uk or call 07375 379148 www.pottershousepreschool.co.uk