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Singing with small children – seven simple strategies!

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, parties, Party, play, Playing, Uncategorized
by Sarah Marsh BSc, ALCM
Director for Musical Bumps

So let’s start with the ‘why’ and move on to the ‘how’. Why on earth should we sing to/with our children? My own mum (she’s 84 and doesn’t live round here – so she won’t be reading this unless I’m very unlucky!) can’t sing for toffee. It’s quite painful asking her to sing, and she mostly avoids it – singing to babies or at church is her limit. My own anger at her teacher telling her she couldn’t sing – this is back in 1942 – is still bubbling away, but that’s another story…

Anyway, why does my non-singing mum still sing to babies? Deep down, she probably knows that singing is the very best thing to do with babies. Babies hear language in their musical brains – they hear all that talking, cooing and singing as music (and they won’t care if you are a bit out of tune – so just go for it). Think about it for a moment – music has patterns that are clearer and more distinct than speech, music has intonations that are better defined than speech. If we want our children to be good communicators, then the absolutely best thing to do is to sing with them.

So – now for the ‘how’. Here are seven simple strategies that might help you get started (or give you new ideas if you are already tunefully chirping!)

1. Back to basics.
Whilst we might want to be bang up to date, there’s nothing wrong with singing some of those old songs (although not the one I learnt when I was little “do you want a cigarette, sir?”!). Humpty Dumpty, Twinkle Twinkle and those ever-spinning Wheels on the Bus are an important part of our heritage. If you are lucky enough to have roots in other cultures, or know family and friends that have, then use their songs too.

2. Can’t remember the words?
Dum di dum di dum will do just as well. My father was known to his nieces as ‘uncle boom boom’ because every song started well and ended up as boom di boom di boom. It’s not just about the words, it’s about the game, the interaction and the steady beat!

3. Join a group!
It’s great to have a repertoire of songs for every occasion – joining a music class really helps with this! Great too for making new friends with similar aged children.

4. Sing your way through the day…
Have you got a ‘hello’ song to greet your child with every morning? No? make one up – quickly! What about a ‘tidy up your room’ song – that would be useful, don’t you think? Singing about what you are doing is a great way to involve your child too, just gets a little embarrassing at the supermarket!

5. Transactional singing This call and response style is used right across Africa. It’s a great way to use music to build communication. If your baby has some favourite little noises, try copying them – a conversation (of sorts) will ensue – it’s fun, if a little silly. Once the game is established, you can try starting it – with
real words this time!

6. Can’t sing, won’t sing? Oh, go on – no? Okay try some rhymes instead. Humpty Dumpty works just as well (even better maybe) without the tune. The pattern and intonation of your voice will be just as useful!

7. Be a bit silly and be a bit rude!
Don’t worry if you divert from real words – sing or play around with this rhyme and your own name. “Anna fifanna, sticklanna bombanna, sticklanna fifanna that’s how you spell Anna!”

And remember that anything to do with wees, poos or farts is hilarious when you are tiny, “beans beans, good for your heart, the more you eat the more you…” well, you get the drift!

Sarah Marsh is a music teacher and advisor working in primary and early years music across the UK. Sarah founded and directs Musical Bumps www.musicalbumps.com with classes in Sussex from newborn to starting school. Please contact Belinda McBride on 07582 256957 for more information.

wooden toys

Wooden toys

By | family, fun for children, Party, play, Playing, Toys
by Susan Luxford
Timeless Toys

Wooden toys- the freedom to explore, create and grow

It might be surprising to know that wooden toy brands have been around for a long time. Leicester based Lanka Kade and Surrey based Le Toy Van both celebrated 25 years in 2019 whist German brands like Goki and Heimess have been making wooden toys since the early 1970s. Despite their longevity, it is only in the most recent years that wooden toys have seen a revival and are experiencing an ever-growing popularity. But why?

There has been growing awareness of the value of unstructured open-ended play and wooden toys have often been designed with this in mind, enabling children’s imaginations and creativity to be boundless. These toys don’t have an obvious single use, instructions or rules giving children the ability to be in control of how they play, keeping their minds clear as they think through different scenarios or solve problems. By encouraging open-ended play, wooden toys can help develop a child’s reasoning and problem solving skills, social interactions, improve their hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills and aid speech development.

There’s been increasing health concerns about the chemicals used within plastic toys to make them pliable and colourful, that children then absorb through their mouths and skin. Despite regulations in place, toys made to unsafe levels are still commonly finding their way into homes. In 2018, 31% of toys sold in the EU were recalled over safety concerns with 25% of these having unsafe chemical levels1 – whilst 722,000 toys were seized and impounded by the EU in 20182. Wooden toys do not contain PVC or phthalates that cause endocrine (hormone) disruption, they are free of preservatives and formaldehyde, respiratory irritants linked to asthma and allergies and free
of Naphthalene and its chemical cousins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are strongly suspected to cause cancer.

Parents are questioning whether previously popular electronic toys marketed as educational and interactively beneficial, are either. Noises and electronic features can interrupt a child’s thinking process and limit how far a child’s imagination can go. Overstimulation can make it difficult for the brain to think critically. Additionally, with parents now spending twice as much time with their children as 50 years ago and more time at home than playing outside, parents are seeking toys that foster a calmer home environment.

The issues of plastic pollution, waste and environmental damage are big issues we are all concerned about. 8.5 million3 new, perfectly good toys are thrown away every year in the UK, which then end up in landfills, incinerators or in the ocean. Wooden toys are robust, durable and repairable, will hold a child’s interest for longer and can become family heirlooms, yielding less waste. They can be recycled easily and will fully biodegrade harmlessly within 13 years. Wooden toys use minimal fossil fuels to create them and quality brands only use FSC woods, a global forest certification system that means the wood is not only renewably sourced but comes from responsibly managed forests that protect fragile ecosystems and respects local indigenous populations.

Last but not least, there is a growing interest in the impact our buying power has on the communities and workforces where manufacturing is taking place. Many wooden toy brands are already ahead in the toy industry for their sustainability and ethos to ethical practices. The majority are still family-owned independent companies and run charitable education foundations and reforestation programmes.

With spring now here, it’s the perfect time to declutter those shelves of unloved toys and the noisy ones that irritate you. Consider making your next purchase a wooden one, with no right or wrong, no levels, no batteries, no flashing lights or sound. Just the freedom to explore, create and grow.

1 https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumers_safety/safety_products/rapex/alerts/repository/content/pages/rapex/reports/docs/RAPEX.2018.Factsheet.EN.pdf

2 https://eeb.org/more-banned-chemicals-in-toys-than-any-other-product-type/

3https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/rubbishandrecycling/factsandfigures/

Timeless Toys specialises in wooden toys and is at 103 Portland Road, Hove BN3 5DP – open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday. For more information see Timeless Toys UK on Facebook.

 

The winter staycation

By | Education, environment, family, Family Farms, fun for children, Party, Playing

If it’s not possible to escape the colder months here in the UK and jet off to sunnier climes this year, then we might all just need to be a bit more creative in order to make sure we can still enjoy the great outdoors.

Summer staycations have been pretty popular this year, and no doubt some people were probably found moaning about it being too hot, but soon enough we will be longing for warm weather and sunshine again.

“There’s no need to wait for a warm, or even dry day to plan a family trip out” says Nicola Henderson, who is a mother of three and runs family farm, Godstone Farm, in Surrey.

Here are her top tips for day trips to help get you outdoors whatever the weather:
Book online
With reduced capacities to ensure social distancing most venues will ask you to book in advance, and why risk not getting in with excited children in the back seat? Many attractions may offer their best price if you book in advance via their website and often more savings can be made the further ahead you book. That all important booking confirmation is also a valuable chance for the attraction you are visiting to communicate important information to you; in uncertain times its best to get the low-down before you arrive.

Use the website for all important information
Most venues will now have information on their site about their ‘Covid Secure’ measures and any information you need to know. But, let’s not forget the fun stuff – the website will give you all the details of what’s open and what’s on, plus check out the blog and any latest posts on social media. This day out might be a special treat, so show the children pictures and read content to them, even play a quiz in the car about what they think they might see and do. You might not be going on holiday, but you can still escape for a bit!

Arrive early
Let’s face it, the children aren’t likely to give you a lie in on your staycation so make the most of the day. Arriving early means getting the car parking space closer to the entrance (important in bad weather!) and also being first in line for things that might get busier during the day. Whether it’s the front of the queue for a ride, or the first to cuddle a cute bunny it’s always good to beat the crowds, especially on weekends and holidays. Check out opening times before you visit – some attractions have started opening earlier than usual – this seems a popular idea, especially when toddlers get tired and need an afternoon snooze.

Leave the picnic at home
There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, hear the cries of parents up and down the land who are plain bored of making a picnic. All those lockdown walks where daily exercise meant packing up a hamper, going to the green space close by and trying to entertain the children while keeping in line with government guidance. Nicola adds “Certainly with my family, when lots of places were still closed there was an endless snack-packing exercise to go out to the local park.” Secondly, if you are able to support your local business, or small attraction in the area by making a purchase when you are there, then do. Of course, picnics are still fine if that’s what you prefer.

We love wellies!
It’s a fact! Remember that blistering heatwave? Yep, there were still those children that want to wear wellies, and hey, you’re only a child once so why not. If it is raining however, why not make extra fun on your day and do a bit of puddle jumping? If the children are dressed for it, then it makes bad weather into a real positive and provides endless fun. There’s puddle jumping competitions wherever you go in the rain, because you just make them yourself, or even try the puddle jumping Olympics! The only rule is that parents must join in too.

Wherever you go, whether it’s a staycation away from home or day trips out nothing beats the outdoors and the benefits we all know it can bring.

Godstone Farm will continue to provide fun whatever the weather, but it’s always worth checking the website for up to date opening days and times. They have some exciting plans for 2021 including a Day Nursery and Pre-School planned to open in early 2021. www.godstonefarm.co.uk

The benefits of ‘bouncing’!

By | children's health, Education, family, fun for children, Health, Mental health, Party, play, Uncategorized

by Springfit Gymnastics and Trampoline Clubs

There are many benefits to participating in trampolining and gymnastics. They are great sports for all ages and fitness levels, and for people who enjoy both individual sports and teamwork. They provide a chance to set your own goals and work at your own pace.

Here are just a few of the reasons to get involved with gymnastics and trampolining in 2019.

Health and fitness
The moves taught are designed on a progressive scale to allow further development to make them harder and more intricate. With each level achieved through suitably planned training, participants are able to improve their joint health, maintain muscular development and improve cardiovascular fitness, making you feel healthier and more alert. Unlike running, trampolining has comparatively low joint impact for an intense exercise routine. It has been proven that trampolining improves your metabolic rate, helping you stay fit and healthy!

Mental health
Both gymnastics and trampolining are extremely beneficial for improving concentration and mental focus. These activities are great for a child’s cognitive development – encouraging them to use their imagination and gain a better understanding of their body and capabilities. The physical activities you perform will also make you feel happier, more positive, and even more self-confident. Endorphins, the positive mood-enhancing natural chemicals released by all exercise are triggered, and in trampolining especially, the sheer fun factor of jumping up and down will make you smile, make you laugh and make you feel really happy. It’s hard to feel blue when you’re bouncing!

Co-ordination and motor skills
Flexibility is a big factor in gymnastics and trampolining. In order to achieve the various positions needed to perform moves, teaching suppleness is of vital importance. Increasing flexibility can also be an effective aid to the reduction
of injury.

Co-ordination can also be improved. David Beckham, NASA trainee astronauts and many other professionals use gymnastics and trampolining to and develop the skills that allow you to undertake a number of items requiring concentration at the same time: bouncing, balancing, maintaining the body’s position, and anticipating the next action in order to learn to perform skilful activities.

Education
Gymnastics provides a unique and valuable social education and experience. It provides an ideal opportunity to learn about teamwork; sportsmanship; fair play and dedication. The time required to master the fundamental skills requires a great amount of patience, dedication, perseverance and planning. Regular gymnastics, therefore, helps people learn to work hard for objectives that can take years to achieve.

One of the most interesting elements of the activities is that the gymnast can experience a variety of effects in practice rather than just in theory. For example, physicists discuss the principle of conservation of angular momentum; the gymnast experiences it.

Conclusion
If you’re still not convinced, I have saved possibly the most persuasive benefit until last. It’s really good fun! Learning how to jump, tumble, flip, swing, and come as close to self-powered flight as is possible is anything but boring. There is always another step to learn; it is possible to learn something new every single class you attend. A regular workout releases endorphins (the happiness chemicals that improve mood) and trampolining could even be an answer to those who want to keep up their fitness but have struggled with joint difficulties.

There are so many diverse and wide-reaching disciplines involved within the sport that make it accessible to all ages and abilities, with benefits at every stage. So what are you waiting for? Join in!

For supporting studies relating to the benefits evidenced here please see www.springfit.org.
Springfit host many classes in the local area which provide the benefits listed above.
If you are keen to get your kids involved in something new, or perhaps try a new sport yourself then get in touch!
We have classes for all ages and abilities!