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Health

baby-yawn

The communication and capabilities of a newborn baby

By | baby health, Education, Language, play, Relationships, sleep
by Karen Emery
Founder of Haven & Base,
Perinatal Practitioner, Parent Coach & Children’s Sleep Advisor

It wasn’t too long ago that we thought newborn babies couldn’t do much at all, other than eat, sleep and cry. But the exact opposite is true. Newborn babies are born with amazing communication capabilities and are primed and ready for social contact with their parents and caregivers right from birth. More importantly, brain science has shown us just how important this early communication is between a baby and their parent for a baby’s brain development.

Many parents are unaware that a human baby is born with an undeveloped brain and that a baby’s brain and nervous system grows most rapidly in the first few years following birth. A baby’s brain grows and develops in response to their environment but crucially in response to the interactions that a baby shares with their parent(s) and caregivers. Communication is more than talking. It’s any form of message sent from one party to another through sounds, words, or physical hints like body language. From the first moment that your baby is placed in your arms, you and your baby will be communicating with each other. These first glances, sounds, and touches literally shape the way in which your baby’s brain will grow and develop.

Everyone knows that babies cry but did you know that every baby has their own crying repertoire? Every baby has a unique and different cry for a different reason. Unlike other mammal babies, human babies are born completely dependent upon their parent or caregiver for survival and their ability to cry is very important for alerting an adult that something is wrong, or a change is needed. Babies have different cries for different reasons: a hungry baby may cry in a low or short pitched tone, while a baby who is angry or upset may cry in a choppier tone. As your baby grows, you as a parent will be able to recognise and understand what need that your baby is expressing. Even if we as parents cannot always work out why our baby is crying and what our baby is trying to express to us, it’s always important to respond to your baby’s cry for help. Responding to your baby’s cries (even when we may not know what they are crying for) helps to make your baby feel safe, secure, listened to, and heard. You cannot spoil a baby when you are meeting their physical and emotional needs.

Babies love talking! Although a baby doesn’t say a meaningful word until they are about a year old, they love to ‘take turns’ communicating with you as a parent or caregiver with facial expressions, gurgles, coo’s and body language. Why not give this a try? Find a moment when your baby is quiet but alert and give this ‘turn taking’ a go. Position your baby in front of you gazing into their eyes. What ever your baby does – you copy. If your baby gurgles, you gurgle back. Always wait for your baby to respond. This is a beautiful way to connect with your baby but don’t expect a full-blown conversation for hours at a time. Newborns can only manage this type of interaction for a few moments at each sitting before it can become over stimulating for their immature nervous system. As your baby grows and develops you can spend longer gazing at one another and conversing for longer periods each time but it’s always best to follow your baby’s lead. When your baby has had enough, they may look away, grimace, arch their back or posset (spit up milk). Crying is usually the last signal that your baby has had enough, and a change is needed.

This is the second article of three in a series about babies. In my final article, which will be available in the summer edition, I will discuss sleep tips for babies aged from birth until three months old.

You can learn more about how to communicate with your baby by visiting www.havenandbase.com

Karen Emery is available for VIRTUAL one-to-one parent-baby consultations.
You can email her for an appointment at hello@havenandbase.com

boys-forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

playgroup

The ‘Covid Cohort’

By | Education, Mental health, Relationships
by Sally-Ann Potter
Potter’s House Preschool and Forest School
I imagine many of us in the Early Years are adjusting to what should be the new normal – life after lockdown. As well as the logistical and financial impact that Covid-19 and various lockdowns has had on the Early Years, we are now faced with an altogether more alarming challenge – the ‘Covid Cohort’.

An entire cohort of children who are starting preschool are significantly lacking in vital areas of development. A global pandemic saw us losing so many support groups for parents that are vital to the development of children under five and we are now observing the detrimental effect it has had on their development.

By completing assessments of children in the Early Years we are able to identify and pinpoint areas where children may not be meeting targets. This enables early intervention and allows us the opportunity to help support those children to achieve goals and next steps. Recently, when observing children in order to assess them I have noticed first hand and also had reported to me a frightening number of our children who are unable to communicate effectively, are socially unaware and have no understanding of boundaries or keeping themselves safe. What was once around 5% not reaching goals is now closer to 85%.

As children’s brains develop the quickest within their first five years, it is fair to say that the negative effects of lockdown on children’s development could have lifelong impacts. Speech and language development are vital to a child’s ability to engage socially or in education and learning on the whole. Communication is the fundamental starting point for children’s learning.

Let’s look at all the positive interactions and experiences children have missed out on because of the pandemic – play dates, family gatherings, the library, the park, baby groups, singing groups. All of these experiences create opportunities for children to develop their language – they hear and learn new words as they are exposed to conversations, they learn to take turns speaking, this enables them to build social skills and mimic social interactions and, vitally, develop their confidence and self-esteem.

This lack of opportunity to develop their confidence and self-esteem means that the mental health of children in the Early Years is also negatively affected. On top of that the mental health consultations among new mothers went up 30% and is continuing to rise. Post Natal Depression has tripled! Mothers experiencing high levels of anxiety have gone up 43%. The ripple effect of this contributes to the decline in mental health of children in the Early Years.

So what do we do?
We need to look at how the pandemic has altered our ‘cultural capital’ and what we need to adjust in order to give every child an equal opportunity to grow and learn. With the introduction of a new EYFS, settings have the unique and long-awaited chance to construct their own curriculums. This couldn’t have been introduced at a better time and settings have a golden opportunity to build a curriculum that supports an entire cohort of children who need targeted support with communication. This is a time where Early Years settings can shine and make a real difference to the future of millions of children across the world.

How do we do it?
At Potter’s House we are fortunate enough to be supported by an incredible NHS Speech and Language team who offer training and advice to staff whenever necessary. In conversations with speech and language therapists and other practitioners supporting the Early Years, I’ve discovered how aware of this concern everyone is and how hard they are all working to combat it. We have a high level speech therapist attending our setting to deliver vital training, bespoke to our setting, in order for staff to fully understand and underpin the growth of our children’s vocabulary.

In addition to this we need to look at some ways we help children to develop communication and make it omnipresent in our practice. Go back to basics – make comments and statements when speaking to children, avoid asking lots of questions. Give children time to process what you have said and respond. Keep language limited and simple. Repeat back to toddlers what they say in order to model mimicking. If possible, reduce background noise. Build on what they have said, for example, “car”, “yes, and blue car”. Remove dummies and any other obstructions. Speak clearly and subtly correct their mistakes by repeating what they have said back to them correctly. Read to them and introduce visual aids in conversation. Play music and sing songs.

“From the earliest moments of life, children begin to learn the fundamentals of language. The most powerful influence for effective language development are the verbal interactions with caregivers.” – Dr David Perlmutter, Neurologist and Author of Brain Maker.

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

www.pottershousepreschool.co.uk

 

Tips for bringing up a compassionate child

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

Compassionate children are ones that naturally grow into kind-hearted adults, as the values instilled in them through their childhood will be carried into their later life.

The key to raising compassionate children is through being conscious of your parenting techniques and the values that they’re teaching them. Here, MindBE Education shares tips for bringing up a compassionate child:

• Use storybooks to frame ideas

When you read a story ask questions about how the characters might be feeling. How would your child feel if they were that character? What might the character have done differently to be kinder? By highlighting these actions and feelings your child will develop a greater sense of empathy and perspective that will carry forward into their own life.

• Use a persona doll or puppet to discuss issues

Sometimes children don’t like to talk about things but will happily engage through a doll or puppet or other forms of play. If your child is facing a situation or there is an issue in the air, talk to your child and discuss how the doll or puppet may be feeling. Discuss how it might make you feel and what strategies the puppet could use to feel better. By talking about issues and situations that come up we can instil the values of kindness and compassion in our child.

• Teach your child to be kind

Modelling kindness yourself is the easiest way to do this. Do you smile, hold the door open or help your neighbours? More than anything a child will pick up on the cues from the adults in their life. If you are kind and compassionate your child most likely will follow your lead. When you do something, you might explain why you tried to help another and how we can be of service to others.

• Create a sense of gratitude in your home

Being grateful is linked to being a compassionate person. When we are grateful, we can feel empathy for others who may not have something we do. We can ease fear and anxiety and focus on the good which leads to a more loving outlook in the world. Try to take turns every night at dinner to say three good things that happened that day or encourage your child to write a gratitude journal each day.

MindBE Education offers teacher and parenting training courses and resources so that they can better teach children to build compassion, courage and confidence. MindBE Education was founded by Dr Helen Maffini. An international educator, author and consultant who has worked around the world, Helen is a certified emotional intelligence trainer, a Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner and a positive psychology leader.

www.mindbe-education.com

Five tips for preparing your first born for their new sibling

By | family, Health, prenancy, Relationships, Uncategorized

When you’re getting ready to welcome another baby into your family, you’ll no doubt want to share the excitement with your first born. By getting them involved with all the pre-baby organising, you can ensure your son or daughter is just as prepared as you are for the new arrival. Here, Kirsty Prankerd, Managing Director at Write From The Heart shares her tips for getting your little one ready for a sibling.

With another baby on the way, there’s sure to be many things you’ll be planning, and one of those should be helping to make it a positive experience for your first born, too. It’s only natural that your little one might feel a bit left out or upset knowing they won’t be mummy or daddy’s only child, but this doesn’t mean they can’t warm to the idea – especially if you get them involved with the exciting preparations.

Here, I’ll be sharing my top tips for getting your first born prepared for their new sibling.

Make a special announcement to them
Telling your little one that you’re expecting another baby can seem nerve-wracking, but if you approach it in the right way, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Creating a special announcement that gets them involved is a great way of doing this. For example, you could throw a mini tea party with plenty of their favourite foods, games, and decorations and reveal it to them during this and tell them they’re soon going to have a little brother or sister who they can do this with.

You could even give them a little gift that they’ll be able to share with their new sibling. This could be a game they could play together when they’re a little older, or a book they could read to the new arrival.

Allow them to help pick decorations for the nursery
If you’re planning on giving your nursery an overhaul before your little one arrives, it might be a nice idea to have your son or daughter help you with it. If your child is too young to help to do any painting, you could get them involved in different ways. For example, once you’ve narrowed down a few options of paints or wallpapers for the walls, you might want to ask them which they like better and go with that one.

If your child loves drawing or painting, you could even have them create something special for the newborn that you can frame and hang in the nursery.

As you will be spending quite a lot of time in the nursery, whether that’s redecorating or organising your baby’s drawers, it’s important that you try to get your little one involved as much as possible. Allowing them to help you make big decisions and being given their own responsibilities is sure to make them feel happier and more prepared to be a big brother or sister.

Get them involved with the naming process
Thinking of a name for your baby doesn’t always come easy, especially when you haven’t met them yet. This is why some parents like to come up with a few good options so that they can see which suits their newborn better once they meet.

If you’re struggling for some first or middle names, or you simply can’t pick between a couple, why not let your little one help? They’re bound to come up with some that you’re not too keen on, but by spending some time together looking through baby name books and writing down your favourites together, your son or daughter is sure to feel special – plus, you’ll have plenty of options when it’s time to meet your new baby!

Read them stories about other siblings
There are sure to still be periods of uncertainty for your child about having a new sibling, even if they appear excited at times. To help ease any worries and show them how fun it can be to have a brother or sister to share family life with, I would recommend reading them stories about siblings.

Whether the storyline is about fun adventures that siblings can go on together or gives your little one ideas about what types of games they could play together when the baby is a bit older, it’s sure to make them a bit more enthusiastic and excited.

To make it a bit more personal, you could even look for books that can have the character names personalised to match your son or daughter’s name, so they feel extra special and relate with the character more.

Let them choose a gift for the baby’s arrival
Letting your child select a gift from them for the baby’s arrival can be a great initial bonding experience, especially when they choose something that your newborn can cherish for years, like a cuddly toy or a blanket.

So next time you head out to the shops for some baby supplies, why not take your son or daughter with you? Head to the newborn baby section with them so you can be sure anything they choose will be suitable for a tiny human.

If you’ve already decided on a name, you could even let them choose a personalised gift, like a soft toy with your baby’s name embroidered on, or a memory box that they can help to fill when your newborn has arrived.

Ease your child’s nerves or jealousy about a new sibling by getting them involved as much as possible with the preparations. By giving them responsibilities and getting their opinions, they’re sure to feel much more valued and excited to meet their new brother or sister!

www.writefromtheheartkeepsakes.co.uk

nuggets and chips

Five ways to help your children develop a positive relationship with food

By | children's health, family, Food & Eating

If dinnertime has become a battle, try these tips from Denby’s Hayley Baddiley to encourage your children to eat better.

One in five children in the UK consume 78% of their calories from ultra-processed foods, according to research from Imperial College London. Unhealthy eating habits such as these can lead to various health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. It’s also possible that picky eating could be a symptom of, and may worsen, some mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety (Healthline), so it’s important that your children maintain a positive relationship with their food.

As a parent, you’ll know all too well how fussy some children can be when it comes to mealtimes. It’s entirely normal for children to go through a phase of picky eating, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. Luckily, there are a few simple tricks you can try to get them to eat more of the good stuff.

Get children involved in the kitchen

pizza kidsKids love being involved with grown-up tasks, so one of the best ways to encourage a healthy relationship with food is by asking them to help out in the kitchen. Allowing them to handle the ingredients at each stage of cooking a meal helps them become more familiar with the food they’re eating, and is a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety at mealtimes.

There are a whole range of different tasks for your children to do, no matter their age. Little ones can help wash vegetables and measure out ingredients, while older children can help with chopping, peeling, and stirring. Just choose child-friendly recipes and consider making dishes they can put together themselves. For example, you could create your own pizzas or fajitas, and your children can choose whatever toppings of fillings they want.

Grow your own produce

grow vegeisIf you’ve got the outdoor space, why not grow your own fruits and vegetables? Not only is this a fun way to teach your family about where their food comes from, but your little ones are also more likely to eat the food if they’ve grown it themselves. By the time a new ingredient is ready to plate up, your child will already be familiar with the shape and smell – all that will remain is to taste it!

If this will be your first time gardening, then it’s best to start with something small and simple, such as a few lettuces or a tomato plant. But, as you practise and your children become more confident trying new things, you can start to expand your garden to even more varieties of fruit and vegetables. Try growing courgettes, carrots, potatoes or strawberries, depending on what your children like to eat, and what you’d like to encourage them to try.

Make mealtimes fun

Turning mealtimes into a game is another great way to encourage your children to have a healthy relationship with food. Consider creating a rewards chart and give everyone a star for each fruit or vegetable they eat. Why not add an extra element of competition by offering a prize to whoever has the most stars by the end of
the week?

Making mealtimes more of an occasion can also help reduce stress and encourage your little ones to eat better. Prepare healthy snacks for a family picnic or serve up a tasty summer salad outdoors. You could also host weekly themed nights, complete with decorations and a menu to match. This is a great way to encourage children to try something new, while also making it a fun experience for the whole family.

Get creative with presentation

pretty platesSometimes, all it takes it a little creativity to get your little ones to eat their meals, so it’s worth taking some extra time to present their dishes nicely. For example, experimenting with colour and choosing a vibrant array of vegetables served on matching tableware is a great way to make your dishes look more appetising. Add an extra touch of artistic flair by making fun faces out of the ingredients.

You could also encourage children to become more independent when it comes to mealtimes. By plating up each element in serving bowls and urging everyone to help themselves, you can ease the pressure of trying new things. Giving your children their own set of tableware can also help them feel more independent at mealtimes, and they’ll be more likely to engage with the food you serve up.

Hide your fruit and veg

In some cases, it’s the taste and texture of vegetables that can put your little ones off eating them. So, one of the easiest ways to get your children to eat their vegetables is when they don’t know they’re there at all! This is a great way to up your family’s vitamin intake, especially if the children haven’t been swayed by your previous tactics.

Hide vegetables in pasta sauces, pies, and tarts. Disguise puréed carrots in some mashed potato. Make rice from cauliflower. Or use a spiraliser to create pasta from carrots or courgette. If you mix it in with a small portion of normal rice or pasta, your little ones might never know the difference.

Fussy eating in children is very common, but by trying these tips and tricks, you can encourage them to develop a healthier relationship with food, and they’re much more likely to keep up these positive habits as they get older.
Images ©Denby.  www.denbypottery.com

What to expect from your new baby’s sleep

By | baby health, Health, sleep
by Katie Venn
Precious Little Bunnies

This article, ‘What to expect from your new baby’s sleep’, is the first in a series of three articles on children’s sleep. This will be followed by ‘Nailing the perfect bedtime routine’ and ‘Sleep myths busted’. Before we get into baby’s sleep, did you know that foetus’ start sleeping from 23 weeks? In fact they spend most of their time before birth asleep. Mothers can even affect how the foetus is sleeping. Most women avoid alcohol in the first trimester, as it is widely known to impact development, what is lesser known is that alcohol in the final trimester and particularly the last few weeks before birth can reduce the foetus’ ability to REM sleep (which is the type of sleep needed for development).

Birth – 10 weeks

In the early days sleep is driven by the feeding. Babies will wake to be fed and often fall asleep whilst being fed. If your baby is waking up a lot, he/she is probably hungry or needs a nappy change, rather than having a sleep issue. Whilst all babies are different, there are a few things you might expect in this period:
• Initially your baby will want to feed regularly (expect 8-10 times a day) – this means sleep and awake times will be evenly distributed over 24 hours.
• Don’t be surprised if your baby hates being put down. It’s difficult to cope with, but completely normal and is a historic protection mechanism going back to caveman days where a baby left on it’s own would be vulnerable to attack. Being defenceless and unable to move, all they could do was cry to ensure their caregiver remained close to them. Remember this stage doesn’t last long and congratulate your baby for it’s strong desire to survive!
• You may find yourself holding the baby most of the time. Consider a sling/baby carrier in the day as these are fantastic for keeping the baby close but allowing you to do other things too.
• Babies twitch, snuffle and move around whilst sleeping. This is completely normal and happens when your baby is in REM (dream) sleep. Usually in REM sleep the brain sends inhibitory signals to the muscles (effectively paralysing the sleeper); this doesn’t happen with babies as they are not sufficiently developed to be able to block motor impulses.
• As long as there are no medical concerns, go with the flow and don’t panic about having a routine.
• You can’t create habits at this age – enjoy comforting and cuddling your baby when he/she needs it.

Helping your baby sleep well in the early days
• Help the baby differentiate between night and day by:
1) Keeping the night time dark and quiet.
2) Keeping the daytime light and noisy.
3) Limiting your interaction with the baby at night. Of course you may need to change their nappy but this isn’t the time to start chatting with your baby.
• Try changing the nappy when the baby first wakes up, then if they fall asleep whilst feeding you don’t have to wake them up to change them.
• Breastfeeding. Yes I know most people associate breastfeeding with less sleep but breastmilk actually contains tryptophan the precursor to melatonin which helps your baby sleep in those early weeks.
• Swaddling. Wrapping the baby in a swaddle can prevent natural twitches and movements from triggering the startle reflex waking them up.
• Quick bedtime routines (5-10 minutes) – a quick bath, massage and lullaby can help them associate the start of the night from an early age.
• Try warming the sheet with your hand (or a warmish, but not too hot, hot water bottle) before laying the baby down.
• Babies are used to noise in the stomach, white noise or heartbeat noise machines can keep them calm.
• Try putting the baby down on its side and then gently roll over to it’s back, this technique can help reduce the falling feeling for babies when you put them down.

By 10-12 weeks

Congratulations, you’ve made it through those newborn days!
• Your baby has now developed a circadian rhythm (a 24 hour body clock, making us sleepy at night and awake in the morning).
• Your baby’s sleep is starting to mature (introducing lighter sleep
as part of the sleep cycle).
• Your baby should now be getting into a more regular three/four nap pattern.

Your baby may not magically sleep through the night at this stage, and many babies are still feeding at night up to 18 months, but you should start to see more independence. From six months, if you are struggling with your baby’s sleep, do seek help. Sometimes a small tweak can make a big difference!

How much sleep should my child be getting? (1)

Happy sleeping!

Katie Venn (Sleep Consultant and Director) of Precious Little Bunnies.
For more information go to www.preciouslittlebunnies.com

1. Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, DonCarlos L, Hazen N,Herman J, Adams Hillard PJ, Katz ES, Kheirandish-Gozal L, Neubauer DN, O’Donnell AE,
Ohayon M, Peever J, Rawding R, Sachdeva RC, Setters B, Vitiello MV, Ware JC.
National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: final report. Sleep Health. 2015 Dec;1(4):233-243. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh. 2015.10.004. Epub 2015 Oct 31. PMID: 29073398.

The benefits of yoga for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further details please see www.facebook.com/kidsyogawithiona or email iona.yogaga@gmail.com

lonely child at christmas

Coping at Christmas

By | Christmas, Mental health, Relationships
by Edmond Chan
Childline Supervisor
image by Ross Bolger

For many children and families, Christmas can be the most magical and exciting time of the year. But for many others Christmas can also be a more difficult and challenging time. This Christmas, Childline is preparing to help thousands of children and young people, both day and night, as many struggle to cope with loneliness during the festive period. There are many reasons why children may feel lonely at Christmas – some may be struggling with their mental health whilst others may be in homes that are not safe.

What is loneliness?
Children and young people don’t need to be physically alone or cut off to feel lonely. They might be surrounded by other people but still feel like they’re on their own. Maybe they’re struggling to make friends or have low self-esteem. Loneliness can make young people feel down. It’s natural for children to feel lonely at times.

Reasons why children and young people can feel lonely at Christmas can include:
• Feeling misunderstood and ‘invisible’, while those closest to them struggle to understand their feelings.
• Ever-growing influence of social media in their lives leading them to compare themselves negatively to others.
• Struggling to fit into new surroundings after moving house or changing school.
• Losing someone close to them after a death or broken relationship.
• Bullying.
• Experiencing abuse or neglect.
• Don’t get on with their family.
• Have an illness or disability.

As a result of their low mood young people will often spend a lot of time in their bedrooms or online, which can exacerbate their loneliness. In the worst cases some may feel so desperate that they self-harm to cope with their negative feelings, or may even contemplate ending their own life.

One 15-year-old girl who contacted Childline last Christmas said: “I feel sad all the time and keep thinking about suicide. I just don’t want to be here and cry all the time. I have so many bad thoughts and I am glad Christmas day is over as I feel like I should be happy and have to put on a fake smile for my family. It’s really hard to deal with life.”

What signs should parents look out for if they think their child may be struggling this Christmas?
Symptoms and signs can change from person to person but typical things to look out for include angry outbursts at themselves or others, becoming withdrawn from friends and family, irritability as well as problems eating or sleeping.

If you’re worried your child might be experiencing loneliness and unsure what to do, we have some advice to help support you both:
• Start a conversation when no-one will interrupt, perhaps during a bike ride or car journey.
• Try to stay calm if your child tells you something alarming as it may stop them from confiding in you again.
• If your child isn’t ready to talk straight away try again in a few days’ time.
• Listening is important and shows your child you value what they’re telling you.

The first step is always to talk to your child. Ensure it’s in a safe environment and talk to them about how they’re feeling.

A child should never feel so isolated and helpless that they see no way out. We all have a part to play in helping a young person before they reach crisis point. It is vital that children and young people know they always have someone to talk to and they never have to suffer alone, which is why Childline is always here for them.

Childline’s advice for children and young people who are suffering loneliness is:
• Take a break if your family is starting to annoy or upset you.
• Don’t compare your Christmas to other people’s, or what’s said on social media. Every Christmas is different.
• Tell someone you trust how you feel.
• Track how you feel in a mood journal.
• Think about positive things.
• Don’t be hard on yourself – it can take time to feel better.
• Visit the loneliness and isolation page on the Childline website for more advice.
• Call Childline free and in confidence on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org to chat to a counsellor online.

Christmas is the time of year where we think about children, and most of them are happy, excited and loved. But for some children, Christmas can be the hardest time of the year. Childline will continue to be there for all children who feel they have nowhere else to turn – this Christmas and beyond.

Children can call Childline at any time on 0800 1111,
visit www.childline.org.uk or download the ‘For Me’ app.

Any adult concerned about the welfare of a child or young person can call the NSPCC helpline for free 24/7 on 0808 800 5000.

Just £4 pays for Childline to answer a call this Christmas from a child in need of support, to donate visit www.nspcc.org.uk

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