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play

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

A nature spring guide for families – where to go locally and what to look out for

By | Education, environment, Family Farms, fun for children, Green, play, Playing, Relationships, Sprintime, Summer, Uncategorized
by Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham
Fine Feather Press

Grab your coat, your wellies if it is raining, your family and perhaps a picnic, for the dark days of winter have passed and the spring we have all been waiting for is here. These are a few suggestions, COVID restrictions allowing, for where families can go to enjoy some particularly wonderful spring sights across both Sussex and Surrey, but if there is one thing that our confined lives have taught us, it is that we don’t have to go far or even anywhere further than our doorstep to enjoy the natural world.

Spring flowers
Sussex and Surrey have an abundance of woodlands – here the flowers appear early in the year when the ground has warmed up and it is light. Once the leaves on the trees have come out, the woods become too shady for most flowers to grow. Plants that take full advantage of the brighter spring conditions include wood anemones, bluebells, primroses, common dog-violets and lesser celandines. Of all these, perhaps the bluebell puts on the most impressive display, for few wild flowers cover the ground so completely or smell as sweet. Chinthurst Hill near Wonersh, Brede Hill near Battle, Heaven Farm near Uckfield and Angmering Woods near Arundel, all put on annual bluebell spectaculars along with a medley of other spring flowers.

Orchids have a captivating appeal for many people and to discover one is thrilling. Ditchling Beacon and Malling Down are excellent places to search for them. Look out now for the early purple orchid – its clusters of flowers, long spotted leaves and unpleasant smell help to identify it – and come back in the summer for more orchid spotting.

The prospect of free food is always appealing, and a great family springtime activity is foraging. This is the season of ramsons, otherwise known as wild garlic. The young leaves make deliciously pungent soups, salads and pesto and the flowers, seed pods and bulbs are all edible too. The Downs Link path which runs for 37 miles from Guildford to Shoreham provides a great day out for families on bikes or on foot. Here wild garlic grows in abundance but for other sites, there is a fantastic website called www.fallingfruit.org
with an interactive map showing you sources of food growing on common land.

Trees and hedgerows
When winter shows no other sign of ending, along comes the blossom from trees such as blackthorn followed by wild cherry, crab apple, rowan and hawthorn. Every lane puts on its own frothy display for us to enjoy. Get to know where local elder bushes grow, for there is nothing so simple as making elderflower cordial. Another foraging find (maybe not for the children) are the youngest, freshest beech leaves which can be used in salads or soaked in gin. Beech trees are a feature of most of our deciduous woodlands but the ones at Staffhurst Woods near Oxted and Ashdown Forest are particularly fine.

Insects
Early in the year, insects emerging from hibernation are desperate for food. Queen bumblebees fly between early nectar sources such as cowslips, red dead-nettles and lesser celandines as do early butterflies such as brimstones and orange-tips feeding on cuckooflowers, honesty and garlic mustard. Surrey and Sussex are rich in places to see butterflies, but particularly good locations include Box Hill, Denbies Hillside, The Devil’s Dyke, Newtimber Hill, Rowland Wood and Pewley Down.

Birds
There is no better season for listening to bird song and often the adventures begin by simply opening a window! Every habitat has its own star performers with some having flown vast distances to be with us. If you want to hear some outstanding virtuosos then head to heathlands such as Chobham, Pirbright, and Iping and Stedham Commons. Here you may hear (if not see) buzzy Dartford warblers, melodious willow warblers or perhaps a chirring nightjar or two. Even more discrete than these birds are the nightingale – its drab, brown colouring making it almost impossible to spot in the dense undergrowth it inhabits. Its song, though, is unmistakable and the male sings both day and night until it finds a mate. Make your way to Ebenhoe Common, Pulborough Brooks and Puttenham Common for an unforgettable auditory experience. Make a note of International Dawn Chorus Day which is on Sunday 2nd May this year. Events are usually planned by a range of local wildlife groups.

Reptiles and amphibians
On sunny spring days, the coconut-sweet smell of gorse fills the air and reptiles such as lizards and adders like to bask in the sun. A stroll on Thursley Common’s boardwalks usually reveals some reptilian activity but if none materialise there is usually plenty of other wildlife to watch such as dragonflies and damselflies along with carnivorous plants and cuckoos.

For more information
The best way to find out more about these and other nature hotspots across the counties is to contact our wonderful wildlife charities. Most of these have local branches and are bursting with ideas for family activities and places to explore. Among these are Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT).

This is merely a quick canter through a handful of experiences on offer outside in Surrey and Sussex this spring. We apologise for all the obvious ones we’ve missed out. We’d love to hear about the ones you cherish and are willing to share on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FineFeatherPress) and on Twitter (@NatureActivity).

Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham run natural-history publisher Fine Feather Press from their homes in Surrey and East Sussex.
Their latest title – The Little Book of Wild Flowers – is now out.

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.

Music and babies

Benefits of musical toys for babies and how to make your own

By | dance & Art, fun for children, Mental health, Music and singing, play
by Ellie Mckinsey
www.knowyourinstrument.com

If you recall your childhood years, you may remember that nearly any object – anything at all – can become a toy. A ruler or a rod can suddenly become an enchanted sword or a magic wand, a comb transforms into a guitar, a piece of paper when crumpled enough and tied with string becomes a puppet, even a pet. The possibilities are endless as a child learns to develop creativity and let their imagination soar.

Indeed, the best toys don’t even have to come from a store. A child may leave an expensive stacking toy in favor of crinkly paper, and that’s fine. Anything that sparks imagination, engages the senses and encourages social interaction can be considered a toy. Objects that let children explore new shapes, textures, sounds and colours are great for developing minds and bodies.

Here we’re taking a look at musical toys and what babies can get from playing with them. We’ll also share with you some tips on making your own musical toys for your babies to play with, using stuff you may already have at home. Let’s get started!

Importance of musical toys for your baby
In the first four months of a baby’s life, their emotional, sensory and motor experiences help prepare them for further developmental achievements. At this early stage, babies benefit from sensory toys that involve bright, contrasting colors, textures and pleasant sounds.

Moreover, by four months, babies can already bring their hands together in the middle of their bodies and use their eyes to co-ordinate hand movement. Musical, easy-to-grasp toys such as rattles help build grip and tactile stimulation while stimulating hearing.

By their sixth month, babies can now sit and hold objects with their hands. They start manipulating objects with more controlled movement patterns. At this phase, babies benefit from toys that roll or move and make sounds when touched. This further enhances gross motor skills and sense of hearing, and prepares babies for crawling (watching a baby crawl after a rolling egg shaker is super adorable).

Musical toys that encourage movement also give babies a sense of accomplishment and gratification that would inspire them to create the sounds again and again. It’s like they’re already making their own music! Soon, babies would develop a sense of rhythm, a more refined sense of hearing and more control over their movement.

This mix of motor control and sensory awareness is crucial for your baby’s overall development. The ability to fine-tune movements and notice differences in sounds is important for learning to communicate and later on, play an instrument such as a guitar, piano, viola or the drums.

Tips for making your own musical toys
So, are you ready to get crafty and make your own musical toys? Here are some fantastic ideas to get you started.
• Old or unused pots, pans, large tin cans and plastic bowls are great for beat-making and can be played with or without an object to hit them with (like a wooden spoon).
• Make your own rolling shaker or rattle using empty plastic water bottles. Put small raw pasta shells, marbles or pebbles inside and glue the cap shut.
• Give your baby a tactile and sensory feast by making scrunchy, noisy socks. Remember those socks that have lost their partners? They’re perfect for this project – simply put crinkly wrapping paper in them and close off the ends with a secure and tidy knot. Let your baby scrunch the socks with delight.
• Got an empty tissue box and extra elastic bands lying around? Fashion a string instrument with them!

When making your DIY musical toys, remember to watch out for any potential hazards like small parts, sharp corners or edges, loose strings and toxic materials. Make sure the materials you use are clean and baby-safe. Give your toys a test run before letting your child play with them, and always keep an eye on your baby during playtime. Have fun! –

 

Playing outdoors

Outdoor play is an essential part of any child’s development

By | Education, environment, fun for children, Green, play, Playing, recycling, Sprintime, Uncategorized
by Laura Gifford
Little Deers Preschool

The rising trend of Forest Schools around the country displays just how important outdoor play and learning is. In a world of computer games and social media, outdoor play for children is easily overlooked or dismissed as something that was done ‘back in the day’.

It’s important now more than ever that children have exposure to nature and the outdoor world. If the recent pandemic has taught us anything it’s that family time is precious and nature can still be enjoyed when other indoor pursuits can’t. In recent months, a lot of families have reconnected with the outdoor world enjoying leisurely walks in their local parks or forests.

Studies have consistently shown that playing in an outdoor environment reduces stress while increasing vitamin D levels, promoting social skills, and even increasing attention spans.

A lot more parents these days are choosing Forest Schools and outdoor settings for their child’s early education than ever before. In the UK alone there are over 45 registered Forest Schools and in Sussex over 10 forest style preschools. The benefits of outdoor play are endless.
Children are stimulated by the outdoors and typically experience, over time, an increase in their self-belief, confidence, learning capacity, enthusiasm, communication and problem-solving skills and emotional wellbeing.

In an outdoor learning setting, children are physically and mentally more active and generally lead healthier lifestyles. Another recent study showed that outdoor play significantly reduced the symptoms of ADHD, a condition that now affects 11% of all school children. On top of this, playing outdoors promotes self-confidence, fine motor skills, and balance. It promotes self-reliance, increases flexibility, and improves overall co-ordination.

When it comes to toddlers and preschoolers, being outside is an exciting sensory experience. Babies will enjoy the exciting visuals on offer as you take them for a walk outdoors. Toddlers love the chance to explore different spaces and touch natural objects – leaves, pinecones and puddles included.

Playing outside is really important as it gives your little one the chance to look around and learn. While you’re having fun as a family, taking your children outdoors and supporting their play is also helping your development as well as theirs – the whole family benefits from being outside.

Another benefit of outdoor play is that your child learns to appreciate and respect the environment around them. Teaching your child, the importance of taking care of the environment, placing rubbish in the bin, ensuring they look after plants and animals they encounter, is hugely beneficial to them.

In the US, Forest Kindergarten or Nature School is quite common and often referred to as a ‘classroom without walls’ where young children spend their time outdoors in nature creating toys with found objects and experiencing little adventures with their imaginations.

In Germany, Waldkindergraten (forest kindergarten) is also common. And lately, in America, the popularity of ‘out of the classroom and into the woods’ preschools and kindergartens is growing as more parents are starting to feel that academics and tests have become the focus rather than non-cognitive, social emotional development and personal growth.

Starting your child’s education years in a setting which will give them opportunities to grow in such a positive way seems like a sensible choice to make.

Little Deers is a forest style preschool in the village of Nutley, East Sussex and have been running for over 30 years, providing an exciting and stimulating environment for children surrounded by the beautiful Ashdown Forest. www.nutleypreschool.org.uk

Sources:
www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/parenting/the-benefits-of-outdoor-play-for-preschoolers/#gs.d326o8
www.forestschooltraining.co.uk/forest-school/the-benefits/
www.nct.org.uk/baby-toddler/games-and-play/benefits-outdoor-play-for-children
www.mamookids.com/blogs/journal/the-ultimate-guide-to-forest-nature-schools-in-the-us

book reading

School should be enchanting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education, work and learning – do they go together?

By | Education, Language, numeracy skills, play, Playing, reading
by Dr Ian Cunningham
SML College

If we take the average 16 year old school pupil, their working week may be longer than that of their parents. Past generations struggled to bring in laws to limit children’s working in factories and other settings. Yet we now find that if we add a young person’s time on schoolwork to their homework and exam revision, then it is not uncommon for them to put in more hours work per week than a parent.

Another factor is that this work is largely imposed, with the individual having little control over the work pressure. What we know from organisational psychology is that long working hours where the person has little control over the work can lead to severe stress and anxiety. The research shows that stress and anxiety in children is increasing.

It was common in my school for teachers to chide pupils who were not working. Working meant working at a prescribed task from the teacher. Also, in modern parlance, there is reference to having pupils ‘on task’. If you are not working at a prescribed problem or task, then it is assumed that you are not learning. Often, when I was criticised in school for not working, I would be thinking about something not to do with what the teacher was prescribing – but it was productive thinking as far as I was concerned. The notion that working and learning must go together doesn’t make sense.

One of our students spent time doodling in school and was criticised for this – but actually it was her way of learning since she had dyslexia and ADHD and she found that drawing was more suitable for her. She described herself as a visual learner. When she came to our College aged 13 she spent a whole year doodling and drawing cartoons, making figures out of plasticine and seemingly nothing else. It may not have appeared that she was learning but she was. Two years later she published her first graphic novel. It’s a novel that has received much praise and sold well. The publishers were quite shocked that a girl as young as 15 (and diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD) was able to produce such mature material. She learned a great deal to do this – but she didn’t see it as work.

Many writers have indicated the importance of play in learning. Educationalists head to Finland to find out about their education system because it is seen as successful. One thing they seem to miss is that children in Finland do not go to school until they are seven. The importance of the kindergarten experience and play seems to get missed. For instance much of the social ability valued by employers is learned through play.

Another use of the notion of work is in the imposition of homework on young people. Note that it is not about home learning. The assumption is that person will work on school-directed tasks while they are away from the school. What we do know is that young people learn a huge amount within the home and from people they interact with outside school. One example from our research on both young people and adults is the value of travel. Unfortunately, schools in England fine parents who take children out of school to travel in term-time.

In our College (for 9-16 year olds) we encourage parents and students to travel, because it provides valuable learning. A good example was a 14-year-old student, whose parents were working for a few months in India. She was able to go with them and carry on with her learning. A lot of the learning was, of course, about the culture, language and norms of another society. For the two months she was away she remained in contact with her group via a weekly Skyping session. Her group was regularly able to engage with her while she was sitting on a beach in India with her laptop.

What has been interesting is how ex-students refer to what they learned at our College. For instance many talk about gaining the social skills that make them highly employable. Now we don’t teach social skills. We create a learning community where students learn to interact freely with others. Some of the learning comes from structured experiences such as the fact that each student gets the chance to chair our morning community meeting. However, much of this learning is from the seemingly non-working side of the College – learning through engaging with others and learning what works and what doesn’t. So long as students learn why should we be bothered about how they do this?

Dr Ian Cunningham is Chair of Governors, SML College www.smlcollege.org.uk 01273 987629 ian@smlcollege.org.uk

Kiss, cuddle, high five…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The perfect musical instrument for little fingers?

By | dance & Art, Education, Music and singing, play, Playing

There’s a tiny little instrument that offers a big punch, Al Start from Go Kid Music is singing the praises of the humble ukulele. Let me stop you right there! You were about to turn the page, but hear me out! There are a few really great reasons why this small, innocent looking instrument could be your secret (musical) weapon. Indulge me…

There’s a window of opportunity, while your children are at primary school, to open up their world to music. You have the perfect combination of their brains being right in the ‘learning zone’, their little fingers start to do what their brains tell them (most of the time!) and they are open-minded and naturally curious.

For children of primary school age, I would argue, the ukulele makes a brilliant first instrument. Remember when you were at school? Perhaps not as long ago as I, but there was the good old recorder – a solid standard across the land, waiting for us to blow far too hard during a rendition of London’s Burning in assembly!

If the recorder was not your thing, then maybe it was the violin. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s a tremendous amount of technique to learn before you’re able to get a decent sound that doesn’t resemble a cat crying. For most children this can be a real turn off – a barrier to learning an instrument that could change their life forever. Children need quick results; they need the ‘win’ to encourage them to continue. That’s what makes the ukulele such a champ.

In just one lesson, your child will be able to play at least one song, and it’ll sound good! From there it’s only a matter of learning a couple more chord shapes and they will have the solid foundation to be able to play a wide selection of songs. If they prefer to pick tunes rather than strum chords, with just four strings it’s easy on the fingers, small and light to hold, meaning they can concentrate on learning the notes rather than worry about troublesome technique.

From your point of view as the banker, you’ll find the ukulele gives bang for your buck! You can buy a perfectly decent ukulele with good quality (Aquila) strings and a carry bag for under £25! Plus as the faithful audience member, you’ll appreciate how mellow the ukulele sounds (unlike it’s feline counterpart) while you paint that smile on and listen to Smoke on the Water for the 12th time!

What about lessons? Many schools and music services now offer ukulele clubs for free, there’s usually a keen teacher who will lead lunch-time or after-school uke club! Paid lessons are in small groups which make them fun and affordable.

YouTube has a plethora of free tutorials, and just searching the word ‘ukulele’ plus the song title your child fancies will bring up endless options.

There’s always a downside to playing a stringed instrument – you do have to tune them! To start with, the ukulele will need you to help it stay in tune. But don’t worry, there are many options. You can download a tuner app to your phone for free, find an online tuner that plays the note of each string for you to match, or you can buy a small clip-on digital tuner for under a fiver. So, don’t fall at the first hurdle. Persevere, and your ukulele will stay in tune.

The last of my favourite perks of your child learning the ukulele is that you can learn along with them. There is no excuse to mourn your lack of persistence with the violin any more. The ukulele makes an ideal shared activity, especially if you plump for online lessons. You can spend quality time with your child as well as being the next Von Trapp family and the life and soul of your next family gathering!

Handily, the ukulele comes in a range of sizes to suit us all. The smallest (soprano) is ideal for most children, the next size up is the ‘concert’ which is fab for growing hands and smaller adults. The ‘tenor’ is perfect for guitarists and those of us with bigger hands – I prefer a tenor uke as I was initially a guitarist, but I also love the concert size. They come in every colour under the sun – but do get the good strings already fitted as I mentioned earlier. I find the Mahalo M1 soprano range to be a great starter ukulele (no, I’m not an affiliate I just rate them) they tick all the afore-mentioned boxes and are widely available online.

So, I hope I’ve given you food for thought. If there’s a gift-giving opportunity on the horizon, perhaps you could give the gift of music (and treat yourself at the same time)!

Having taught ukulele in schools for over a decade Al Start has perfected the art and packaged it into one super-cool family-focused club! The Go Kid Ukulele Club features online lessons taking you from total beginner to ukulele hero at your own pace, for the price of just one ukulele. Check them out here: https://club.gokidmusic.com

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.