Category

Health

dancing tutu

Dance is good for the soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance Art Studio is located in the Fiveways and Preston Park area of Brighton offering pre-school ballet and dance for 3-4-year-olds and graded ballet, tap, modern theatre dance and street as well as boys only tap and jazz. Exams and performance opportunities. We also hold holiday workshops. www.danceartstudio.co.uk

dad-and-son-reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

autistic support

How to support autistic children through the uncertainty of restrictions easing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.kennedyelliott.co.uk

Why going wild is the answer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sports is so much more than just sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

school-shoes

Back to school – shoe shopping with less stress!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.klodhoppers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five basic but often overlooked habits your child should adopt

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

Children inherit more than just genes from their parents. Your manners, habits and overall view of life tend to influence the person your child will become. It is important to introduce certain habits into your child’s routine from a young age to maximise the chances of them carrying it through into adulthood.

Here, Richard Dwyer from UK Flair Gym shares five basic but often overlooked habits your child should adopt:
1. Making the bed – It has been suggested that making your bed in the morning can improve productivity levels which, in turn, boosts your mood. Not only will your child’s room look tidier, but they will be more likely to achieve their daily goals.

2. Eating breakfast – If your child skips breakfast from an early age, it is likely they will carry this bad trait with them for the rest of their lives. Teach them that eating breakfast helps kick start their metabolism and will energise them for the day – giving them both brain and body power!

3. Daily exercise – Whether you encourage your child to join a sports team or simply go for a bike ride, making sure they exercise for at least thirty minutes a day is a great habit to form. Aside from the physical aspect, daily physical activity will boost mental wellbeing and help make your child look at life more positively.

4. Make new friends – This is a skill that your child will require throughout their entire life. Knowing how to confidently build relationships with new people will not only enhance their social life but also their professional one.

5. Reading – Although weaved into their school life, it is encouraged that children should read at home for leisure. Not only will this make them a more confident communicator, but it will also enhance their writing and comprehension skills which are invaluable in later life. Try incorporating reading into their bedtime routine!

Since his childhood, Richard Dwyer has been passionate about his own fitness. With experience as a stuntman for countless films and TV shows, Richard decided to put his full energy into building gymnastics clubs to allow children (and their parents) to benefit from physical activity. Now, he builds children’s confidence through gymnastics that teach valuable life skills. Richard does this through three separate businesses: www.ukflair.com/ www.gymclassroom.com/ www.kidzimpact.co.uk

thumb sucking solution

Why, when and how we should encourage our children to break the thumb sucking habit

By | family, Food & Eating, Health, teeth and dental care
by Dr Chaw-Su Kyi
Orthodontist

Thumb sucking is a natural and soothing habit that many babies start while they are in the womb. Studies have shown that foetuses can start thumb sucking as early as the 10th week of gestation! From birth, the habit often naturally continues, until the age of three or four. Most often, children will stop at around this age as a result of learning other ways of expressing themselves like speaking.

For older children who continue to be thumb suckers, peer pressure at school can often end the habit. However, according to the British Orthodontic Society one in every eight children (aged 7-11) have a prolonged digit sucking habit. Girls are more likely to be prolonged digit suckers than boys.

Why stop thumb sucking?
Thumb (or finger) sucking is probably one of the most common habits infants have, and for the majority of us, we often stop in our early years. However, it can prove to be a difficult habit to break. Research has shown that there can be a number of problems associated with thumb or finger sucking in children. If the act of digit sucking is performed vigorously over a prolonged period of time, this may cause issues with the growth of the mouth and the alignment of child’s teeth. Because thumb sucking affects the development of the teeth, jaw and palate, the habit can also change how children eat and speak. Thumb sucking may cause lisping and other speech impediments, including an inability to pronounce hard consonant sounds like ‘D’ and ‘T’.

If your child is still sucking their thumb once the permanent teeth begin to erupt, it can begin to impact the adult teeth. If the thumb (or finger) is placed in the mouth for prolonged periods of time, the thumb itself begins to act like a brace – pushing the upper front teeth forwards and the lower front teeth back. As the thumb is resting in-between the upper and lower teeth, it can also prevent the normal eruption of the front teeth, causing an open bite and the front teeth not to meet.

When we should look to stop the habit?
The sooner a child can be encouraged to stop thumb sucking, the greater the probability no lasting impact will be experienced to the teeth.

If your child’s teeth have begun to move as a result of thumb sucking, there is still a possibility, if the habit is stopped early enough, the teeth can start to return to their normal positions as children are going through their growth and development. This may mean they do not require orthodontic treatment to correct any misalignment of their teeth caused by their thumb sucking.

How to stop thumb or finger sucking?
Thumb sucking can be a tricky habit for children to break. It’s one of those things, as adults that we often shy away from encouraging our children to stop doing as we know it may be difficult and stressful to try and stop. We first have to start with the child – if he or she is determined to stop the habit, it will happen, but having a habit breaker has shown to aid in the cessation of the habit.

All habit breakers work by acting as a reminder – letting your child know that ‘their digits are in the mouth and to take it out’. There are varnishes which you can paint onto the nails which are designed to be extremely unpleasant tasting. Some parents turn to thumb or finger guards, that can be worn at all times, and prompt children to remove their digits as the feel of the fabric in the mouth is less pleasant or comforting.

If these remedies do not work, there are other options that have been shown to be effective at stopping thumb sucking. As well as straightening the teeth orthodontists, commonly see and treat patients to help stop thumb-sucking. They are able to fit a type of brace to act as a permanent habit-breaker. The brace is often fixed with a little ‘gate’ on the palate which acts as the ‘reminder’ to remove the thumb.

These devises tend to be fitted for around three months before they are removed, typically the habit is broken within a month, and the device is left in situ for at least two months after the habit has stopped to ensure it’s ceased.

It is important that the digit sucking habit is stopped at a young age to allow the teeth to ‘recover’. If the habit is continued through to adolescence, it may have severe consequences on the developing dentition – particularly their alignment. Often brace treatment with fixed braces will be needed and possibly removing teeth to allow space for the teeth to be moved back into their correct alignment to attain a
good overbite.

If you would like some advice on stopping a thumb-sucking habit from Dr Chaw-Su Kyi please visit

Outdoor adventure is the key to happier, healthier children

By | Education, environment, family, fun for children, Green, Health, Playing, Relationships

Spending time outdoors is the key to happier, healthier and more confident children. However, only one in five of them regularly play outside, says leading youth charity YHA (England and Wales).

The charity says that the opportunity to have adventures in the outdoors is vitally important to developing young people’s confidence, resilience and ambition for the future. Studies also show that just five minutes of ‘green exercise’ can improve a child’s mental wellbeing.

To help more young people benefit from the transformational power of travel and adventure, YHA has launched a campaign – The Adventure Effect. It hopes the campaign will inspire young people and their families to get outdoors.

Karen Pine, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, who has supported YHA with the development of The Adventure Effect, said: “If we want to raise children to be healthy physically, mentally, socially and emotionally, we must look at the experiences they’re having during childhood. Outside, spontaneous experiences in nature are critical to their development.”

She explained: “Being unable to get outside for a prolonged period can lead to stress and depression, which sadly besets many people
in our society today. Time outdoors spent having adventures in nature helps to build resilience – which is our ability to bounce back in life. This is an incredibly important skill.” Highlighting the impact of people not having the opportunity to access travel and the outdoors, YHA confined the professional adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys to a room for three days. In contrast, the film also follows five young people during their first trip to the Lake District and demonstrates their personal transformation during that time.

The thought-provoking social experiment has been documented in The Adventure Effect film. Watch the film and learn more about The Adventure Effect at www.yha.org.uk/adventureeffect

The film charts Alastair’s increasing frustration and unhappiness at having the opportunity for adventure removed from him. On day
two of the experiment he admits to ‘feeling low’.

Commenting on the social experiment, Alastair said: “I am delighted to support YHA’s Adventure Effect campaign. Being inside the room was a big learning experience for me. Three days seems like nothing but when the ability to go outside whenever you want, and the mental stimulation that goes with it, is taken away from you it is a huge shock. I was really surprised to discover I use my phone too much and use it to fill in any quieter times during the day. I also realised that I take my ability to have adventures – big and small, for granted.”

He added: “Adventure is as much about your attitude as anything else. Be curious and seize the opportunities that are available to you. YHA makes it easy, cheap and accessible for everyone to get their adventure started.”

As part of YHA’s Adventure Effect campaign, adventurer Alastair Humphreys has shared his five tips for people to get their adventure started:
1. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.
2. Do something simple and small, like going for a walk in your local woods or head up a hill.
3. Make sure you’re warm and prepared for bad weather with suitable waterproof clothing.
4. Take friends or family with you so you can share the experience and encourage each other.
5. Making the most of the outdoors shouldn’t be about pushing yourself and feeling miserable. Go at your own pace and have fun.