Category

play

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.

 

child bouncing

Stay active all winter

By | children's health, Health, Mental health, play, Playing, Uncategorized

We’re all aware that regular physical activity is important and has many health benefits. But even some very active children have a difficult time keeping exercise going during the winter months. The weather is probably horrible, it gets dark earlier, and a ‘duvet day’ can be very appealing!
However, whatever the weather, it’s important to keep little ones active and help them stay that way by developing an exercise habit from before they even start school. The NHS recommends that to maintain a basic level of health, children aged five to 18 need to do:

• At least 60 minutes of physical activity every day – this should range from moderate activity, such as cycling and playground activities, to vigorous activity, such as running and tennis.
• On three days a week, these activities should involve exercises for strong muscles, such as push-ups, and exercises for strong bones, such as jumping and running.

This sounds a lot but can be made more manageable by combining structured activity classes with fun exercises at home, and building fitness into your everyday routine. It can then help promote healthy weight management and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

Get outside
Just because it’s cold outside does not mean you have to stay inside! The key is to wrap everyone up in layers and to keep moving. Moving around outside and getting your heart rate up will help keep you warm as well. Walk to school or part of the way, once a week, go to the park, or play outside with friends. Children’s farms still have plenty going on in the winter and there is lots of space to run around in. Most of them now have vast outdoor play areas and you can warm up with a hot chocolate in the café afterwards.

Choose another indoor location
Especially in the winter months, getting out of the house will help prevent children getting cabin fever, and can mean they will sleep better at night. Try choosing a location that also incorporates physical activity with lots of fun such as a leisure pool, soft play centre, ice rink or indoor climbing.

Enrol children into a new class
If you want to get your children involved in something fun and consistent, enrol them in a regular class. It’s a great way to try something new, be active, and meet new people – for them and you. Trying new activities is a great way to figure out what children might like. There are lots of classes for preschool children upwards. Classes for preschoolers are all about having
fun while being active. Classes are age-appropriate, and babies can start at many of them from six months, and so by the time they reach school age exercise has become a healthy habit for them, and their social skills will also be enhanced.

Build exercise into your routine
Everyday activities can count as exercise too, as long as your children are getting their heart rates up. Things like walking the dog, biking to the shops, or going to the park on the way home from school all help. Incorporating these activities into your children’s daily routines will help them develop a healthy lifestyle that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. An hour a day is the target, but these activities can be accumulated throughout the day not necessarily all at once.

Limit screen time
We are all aware that even very young children are spending increasing amounts of time in front of a screen, which includes television, videogames, computers and phones. Whilst children are at primary school you are almost completely in charge of what they eat and what they watch, so don’t let them get used to spending hours in front of a screen every day. If screen time isn’t allowed to become a habit whilst they are young, you will have far less problems getting them off screens as they become older.

In order for children to find exercise fun, they need lots of variety. And when they find exercise enjoyable, they are much more likely to stick with it over an extended period of time. Avoid the boredom factor by offering as many different options for activity as possible. Plus, trying new physical activities together as a family will not only benefit your children’s health, but can help fight the winter ‘blues’ too. So, get up, get moving, and stay active this winter!

The future of financial education

By | Education, Finance, play

The world of money has changed drastically. For us, as parents, we could tell how much pocket money we had left just by jangling our pocket. Nowadays, pocket money has been transformed by the growth of contactless payments and ecommerce, with digital transactions making it all too easy for months of careful saving to be blown with the touch of a screen or tap of a card.
With a study by the University of West London showing that one in five Londoners below the age of 45 struggle to pay debts as a result of ‘tap and go’ payments, it is no wonder that many parents have concerns over their children’s finances in a cashless world. Whilst contactless payments have undoubtedly made spending more convenient for many, young people are becoming increasingly aware of the potential risks posed by the ease of digital transactions. As a result, over 5% of young people are switching back to cash to better control their spending.

Statistics like these shouldn’t scare children away from contactless payments entirely, but they should act as a wake-up call to ensure we are instilling in our children a firm understanding of the value of money and an appreciation that every tap adds up. Digital money is here to stay, and it is vital that children are integrated into this cashless society.

Lessons in financial literacy
Schools have played an important role in introducing children to the uses and functions of money since the inclusion of financial literacy on the national curriculum in 2014, with pupils in Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) being taught about managing risk and the importance of budgeting, and children in Key Stage 4 (ages 15-16) learning about credit and debit, income and expenditure, savings and pensions. Exposing young people to the practical applications of financial literacy skills is essential if they are to become financially competent and confident adults.

Though effective in theory, the limited time, resources and staff available to teach even the syllabuses’ core subjects, often results in financial literacy classes being squeezed out of the day. Lesson content is also a cause for concern; the emphasis placed on cash and coins neglecting the fact that digital transactions dominate the world outside the school gates.

With financial literacy lessons taking place inconsistently, and placing an emphasis on the physical forms of money, there is a risk that children won’t leave school with the certified grasp of digital money required in today’s world of consumer credit and contactless payments.

Outside of the classroom
Whilst financial lessons at school are invaluable, seemingly unexciting topics like budgeting, saving and responsible spending are best taught through hands-on experiences at home. Exposing your child to the realities of their spending in a controlled, safe environment creates an opportunity for them to comprehend the value of their money, cultivating their financial awareness and ability to manage their money independently.

Does your child know the average cost of the weekly family shop, or how much is spent on their school supplies? Encouraging them to get stuck in with the family’s finances exposes them to the daily, practical uses of money – consider setting your child a task to help with the next supermarket trip, challenging them to buy items on the shopping list within a set budget, or to work out your monthly spend from old receipts, so they can independently assess the purchases that cost the most.

Of course, managing their own money is key in a child’s financial education. Whether it’s saving up to buy the latest video game, or the satisfaction of building up a nest egg, successfully and independently budgeting their pocket money can enable children to realise the benefits that come with financial planning. Letting children treat themselves once in a while, be it from their own savings or with a little parental help, will encourage them to develop positive financial behaviours and habits.

Money management is a vital life skill that can be introduced from an early age, whether in the classroom or at home. As parents, we can supplement existing financial literacy classes with hands-on lessons from home, and help shape our children into a financially competent and confident generation.

nursery preparedness

Preparing your child for nursery

By | Education, play, Relationships

Your child’s first day at nursery or playgroup can be a daunting prospect for both you and them. But our advice will help to ensure that their experience of nursery or playgroup is a happy one from the start.

Boost their social confidence
Socialising with other children is a skill that has to be learnt gradually, and some children will find it easier than others. If you can introduce them to the idea of sharing and taking turns before they start at nursery they will find the whole experience less daunting. Don’t expect great things at first – children usually play alongside each other rather than together until they’re around three years old. And while you don’t need to stand over young children while they play, you need to be close by to step in if they start to squabble over toys. If you don’t have a network of other mums with children the same age as yours, joining a mother and toddler group is a great way to introduce your child to socialising while you keep a watchful eye.

Time away from parents
It will be easier for your child to settle at nursery if you’ve gradually got them used to being left with other carers, such as grandparents, relatives and friends. Start off by leaving them for short periods – an hour while you go shopping, for example – and then gradually build it up until your child is happy to be left for a whole morning or an afternoon without you. Most children won’t like being left with nursery workers they don’t know at first, but it shouldn’t be long before they come home chatting about what “Mrs X said” and “Mrs Y did”.

Visit the nursery
“When you’re choosing a nursery, it’s usually best to visit it without your child the first time,” says Diane Rich at Early Education, an organisation which promotes quality in early years education. “The next time take your child with you and see how they respond to the environment and watch how the carers interact with them.”

You should be allowed as many familiarisation visits as you feel your child needs. Some nurseries will allow you to leave your child for short visits without you to see how they get on. When you get home, talk positively about the school, the activities that go on, the other children and the staff. Chat through any worries your child has before they start for real.

Potty training
Some nurseries will expect children to be out of nappies before they start, so find out what the policy is if you don’t think your child will be ready. However, all nursery staff should be prepared for occasional accidents and won’t expect children to ask every time they need the toilet – they’ll get plenty of gentle reminders. Pack spare pants and a change of clothes in your child’s bag just in case and tell them that no-one will be cross if they do have an accident.

Feeding themselves
If your child is to have any meals at nursery other than drink and biscuits, find out if they’ll be expected to use a knife and fork or whether hands are acceptable. Practise at home with a little knife and fork, but don’t expect your child to be able to cut up his own food – the staff will do this for him. Make sure you tell the nursery staff about any strong dislikes your child has, and any food allergies or intolerances.

On the first day
Allow plenty of time. The chances are, your child won’t be prepared for you to just drop him off and leave on the first day, so be prepared to hang around until they are settled.

You’ll probably be feeling just as anxious and emotional as they are, but try to stay cheery and confident – children pick up on your feelings of apprehension.

Explain to your child when you’ll be back – don’t fob them off with fibs such as “Mummy’s just going to move the car” when you make your exit. Tell them you’ll be back after lunch/drink and biscuit time/story time.

Leave your contact number with staff in case they need to call you.

If your child cries and won’t let you leave, ask staff for advice. In most cases they’ll ask you to stay for a while with your child in the early days.

When you’ve said your goodbyes, try not to worry. If there is a problem, you’ll be contacted, but in most cases your child will be enjoying their exciting new experience.

Borrow some books to help
Visit your local library and borrow some books on starting preschool or nursery, such as Going to Playschool by Sarah Garland. When you’ve read them, talk to your child about all the fun activities they might be doing at nursery, such as playing outside on bikes, painting pictures, playing with sand and water, making models, singing rhymes, baking cakes and building with bricks and lego.

Problems settling in?
Some children find the experience of starting nursery stressful and still won’t settle after a few weeks. Don’t worry and don’t blame yourself – just accept that children are all individuals and your child will get there in the end.

Find out from your child’s key worker or carer what happens once you’ve left. Do they continue crying inconsolably throughout the session or do they perk up 10 minutes later once they’re distracted by an activity?

Try building up sessions gradually. Start with just 30 minutes and build up the time gradually each week until they’re able to stay a whole session without you.

Try staying with your child for the session, moving away once they become engaged with an activity, but not leaving the room.

Invite children from the group back to play to encourage friendships.

Some children will settle better if you keep your goodbyes brief – lingering may only make the whole process more painful for you both.

Don’t fret about letters and numbers
We all want our children to do well, but no nursery will expect your child to have a good grasp of letters and numbers when they start. “It’s easy to confuse what you want from early years education with what you will later want from a school,” says childcare expert Penelope Leach in The New Your Baby and Child. “Young children learn by playing and therefore optimal learning means being encouraged to play.” This doesn’t mean your child will have free, undirected play throughout the session – a good nursery should provide a balanced agenda of directed activities that are suitable for your child’s level of development and will help them to learn through playing.

If you want to encourage their learning at home it helps to make it fun: play games of I-Spy to associate sounds and letters; encourage number recognition by counting everyday objects like red cars in the street; bake cakes to find out about weighing and measuring; give them dressing up clothes to encourage role-play games; let them paint, scribble and draw so they learn pencil control which will help with writing later on.

Taken from the www.babycentre.co.uk

Not the only boy in ballet class

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, play
by Stephen McCullough
Regency Ballet School for Boys

boy ballerina

For decades girls have far out-numbered boys in dance while classical ballet, in particular, has long been considered a pursuit for girls and has therefore typically been seen as ‘feminine’. This is, of course, far from the truth because male dancers have always been an important part of any professional ballet company. Overcoming the stereotype that ‘boys don’t dance’ is a real hurdle however, there has recently been considerable progress in challenging this concept.

The ‘Billy Elliot effect’ has had a massive positive effect on boys, inspiring many to pursue the study of ballet in greater numbers than ever before while dancers such as Carlos Acosta and Sergei Polunin, along with increased media attention focused on male stars performing on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, have given dance even greater recognition. With this exposure more boys are realising that dancing can actually be ‘pretty cool’. However, there are many others who would love to dance but still don’t have the confidence to try.

So why should a boy choose to study ballet, especially when there are so many other ‘masculine’ sporting activities available to them? Generally speaking, ballet dancers are a lot stronger and more flexible than other sports athletes. As a highly physical artistic sport classical ballet not only nurtures physical conditioning that promotes muscular strength and agility but also improves flexibility and range of motion which encourages good posture and in turn helps in preventing injuries. The physical demands of classical ballet is particularly beneficial for boys who are
very active as it allows them to focus excess energy productively through learning and performing.

Requiring a discipline of the mind, classical ballet also provides a mental workout, enhancing cognitive skills and concentration. Due to the intense mental processing required during class both hemispheres of the brain are engaged which helps to increase neural connectivity. Because several brain functions are integrated at once this multi-tasking activity improves and sharpens co-ordinated learning.

Whatever their age, studying ballet is beneficial for all boys and over time the combination of physical and mental skills can cross-over into other aspects of life. The physical intensity required during class helps to improve physical performance in other sports while increased cognitive function, concentration, discipline and perseverance often helps during school and throughout life. Alongside the knowledge and skills required to perform, ballet also helps dancers to develop an understanding of movement as a means of artistic communication, which in turn teaches them to show emotions through their body language.

Choosing to be a dancer may be an unusual career choice but is a brave decision for any boy as it requires energy, focus, perseverance and above all, a passion and a drive to succeed. With encouragement, hopefully a new generation of boys will ‘get into ballet’, because we need more male dancers. The lack of male dance teachers, however, often means many boys participating in a ballet programme are rarely taught by one. It is good for boys to work with a variety of teachers during their training, and although not essential it is certainly an advantage for boys to have a male dance teacher not only in terms of technique but as a strong, positive role model to emulate and inspire them.

Ballet may look very graceful and easy on stage, but the amount of skill required to perform is huge and at times can be mentally demanding. However, with a supportive network of family and friends a boy is far more likely to succeed. We want boys to enjoy dancing, surrounded by other like-minded males who have the same interest in dance and even if a boy isn’t destined for a career in dance studying ballet is not only fun but an enjoyable, challenging activity that offers a superb all round education that teaches many useful life skills.

Regency Ballet School for Boys offers classical ballet classes for boys aged 8 -16 and follows the BBO dance syllabus. The school has opened as a response from parents looking for an opportunity for their boys to dance in an environment where they don’t feel like the odd ones out.
www.regencyballetschool.com

Is your child falling behind at school?

By | children's health, Education, fun for children, play, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Polly Warren
Centre Manager at First Class Learning – Brighton

Could tutoring be the answer?

With children facing tougher exams and tests such as the new style GCSEs and the more challenging SATS tests for seven and 11 years olds, the tutoring industry is continuing to boom for children across the board, with a quarter of all school children receiving some form of tuition in 2018.

However, concerned parents are hiring tutors for their children not only for exam preparation, but for a whole number of reasons from helping give their children’s self-confidence a boost to giving them an extra challenge in their strongest areas. Some use tutors to help catch up with school work after absence, others to help their children grasp key concepts in maths or English if they’ve been struggling.

Whatever the reasons, tutoring has been shown to improve school performance, confidence and self-esteem, as well as help children develop independent study skills and learn at their own pace.

Maths is the most popular subject for tuition (77%), followed by English (55%) and then science (30%).

How to choose the right tuition for your child
In the past, choosing a tutor was largely based on personal recommendation, but nowadays the industry is far more professional and there are many different tutoring services to choose from.

One-to-one tutoring at home
These lessons usually take place in the student’s or tutor’s home and involve just the pupil and tutor. One-to-one attention may be required if a child is really struggling in a subject or if they have a complicated learning style, but this traditional option is by far the most expensive. One-to-one tutors charge on average between £25 and £40 per hour, working out between £100 and £160 per month.

One-to-one and small group tutoring at a study centre
During these sessions, an expert tutor will be responsible for no more than six children at a time. The tutor not only works with each child on their own individualised learning programme by providing expert support and guidance, but they also encourage independent learning.

When children study alongside other children in this sort of small, focused group, the pressure of sole one-on-one attention is taken off individual children, whilst allowing for one-to-one help from the tutor when needed.

This type of tutoring is typically cheaper than private one-to-one tutoring but can still be highly effective. Many children prefer it as it is not as intense as one-to-one home tuition and helps keep learning fun. Study centres charge between £60-£70 a month.

Parents of Evie, who attended Brighton’s First Class Learning’ study centre say:“We were really impressed with how much the support helped Evie. She has a much more positive attitude to learning and we can see a huge improvement in her confidence, ability and approach to her
maths work.”

Online tutoring
Online tuition is tutoring that takes place over the Internet using a communications programme such as Skype or Google+. Private online tutors are often more affordable (£20-£30 per hour) as they will not be required to travel and may choose to tutor more than one student at once, but many parents feel uneasy that tutors will not be in direct contact with the student.

It really makes a difference!
Extra tuition really can make a huge difference, and it’s more affordable and accessible than ever. Once a child starts understanding the material, the frustration, anxiety and apprehension they felt about schoolwork will disappear, and they will carry this new found confidence with them back to the classroom, allowing them to blossom and genuinely start to enjoy learning again.

Polly Warren is a teacher with many
years of experience across a range of educational settings, and Centre Manager of First Class Learning’s (FCL)
study centre in Brighton.
Please contact Polly on 01273 730873
www.firstclasslearning.co.uk/
brighton-withdean
brighton@firstclasslearning.co.uk

Hothouse or greenhouse? Surviving or thriving?

By | Education, environment, family, fun for children, Mental health, play, Relationships, Safety
by Tamara Pearson
Senior Teacher (Curriculum), Our Lady of Sion Junior School

One cannot foresee the pressure you put on yourself as a parent when the midwife first hands your newborn to you. Which nappies are best? Will this car seat save my child’s life? What does my pram say about us as parents? These soon turn to comparisons over when children learn to crawl, walk and talk. Once at school age, we cannot help but wonder “where is my child in the class?”, “are they happy?”, “does the school of our choice match the needs of our child(ren)?”

We all want the best for our children. So what do we go for? The ‘hothouse’ or the ‘greenhouse’? Are our children just ‘surviving’ or truly ‘thriving’?

To even begin to answer these questions, we must consider what the true purpose of education and the role of schools is. What are our children learning and why? How are they learning? How is failure perceived? How are children assessed and how is that communicated? Is learning/attainment ‘fixed’ or is there genuine room for growth and development of the mind?

Research shows that childhood anxiety is the highest it has ever been. Circumstances, finances, relationships, expectations, social media, diet and exercise all play their part. What are schools doing to address these challenges? Fostering an authentic mindset in students is crucial; the jobs they will have in the future may not yet exist today.

Much has been made of Growth Mindset in the world of work and education, but, in reality, this is not enough. In order to prepare children for life’s challenges, they need a full toolbox of skills. Having a proactive/positive approach needs to be underpinned by social, emotional, and academic tools in order to fully educate the whole child. It is not about just working hard, it is about working smart.

As professional educators, it is our responsibility to prepare children in moving beyond being passive consumers of information and toward becoming active innovators. We must actively inspire and provide genuine opportunities to develop children’s passions.

At our school, our children are driven by our ethos ‘Consideration Always’. As role models to the school community and beyond, we entrust them to develop and demonstrate the best version of themselves. Children develop when they are given the opportunity to do so. Mary Myatt’s philosophy of ‘high challenge, low threat’ leadsthe way.

Expecting consistent productivity and positivity is not realistic, attainable, or even desirable; we may flit between fixed and growth mindsets. This is okay. The clincher is to remember that whatever setbacks we face, we can reflect/process our thoughts, then jump back in the saddle and continue the ride to our intended destination.

Equipped with a well-developed toolkit of social, emotional, and academic skills, every child can take on inevitable setbacks (and pressures of success) with integrity, resolve and good humour.

Tamara Pearson is a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Our Lady of Sion Junior School in Worthing.
She is also mother to a six year old who attends Sion and is passionate about helping the Juniors embrace every enrichment opportunity available.
She is a UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador and in the last three years has seen Sion Juniors rewrite its Curriculum, assessment approach, create an Intergenerational Project, achieve Beach School status, Eco Schools Silver Award and make meaningful links with the community.
www.sionschool.org.uk

Encouraging play

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, play, Relationships, Sport, Theatre, Uncategorized
by Claire Russell
founder of PlayHOORAY!

Have you ever thought about how you can better encourage your child to play more effectively? Now, we don’t all live in an ideal world, our homes have to work for many different things, as well as look nice, but there are a few simple tricks we can apply to create a more playful home.

• Turn off the TV and keep distractions to a minimum when your child is playing.

• Keep resources to hand and ensure your child knows where they are, helping them to become independent and not rely on you to find the answers.

• Teach your child how to do an activity first. Don’t assume they know how to take on the role of a shopkeeper despite the numerous times they’ve been to the supermarket with you!

• Go with the flow. If you set up an activity for your little one, but they do something totally different to what you’d intended, that is absolutely fine. Support them and encourage them to follow
their own initiative!

• If they have enjoyed playing with a particular activity try leaving it out for them to access when they want for at least a week. If you don’t like the mess, perhaps you can throw a tea towel over it?

• Praise your child for their play, the way they play and what they are doing, reassuring your child and showing them how much you value their play. After all, it is supporting their development!

• Try not to interrupt your child when they are focusing, if it can wait then let it. Young children can only concentrate for small amounts of time, so you’ll probably only be waiting for a few minutes anyway!

But what exactly should you be doing when your child is playing?
In reality, there are some days when you want your little one to play to occupy themselves so that you can take a breather because, let’s face it, it’s exhausting being a parent and its important to prioritise looking after yourself! And there are those days when you have a list as long as your arm and you just need five minutes to get jobs done or make dinner. And that’s fine too, honestly it is. We all do it! But then there are days when you do have time, you do have a flicker of energy and you have the headspace to support your child as they play – great! When that occurs, there are many things you can do that will support their development:

• Sit by your child, giving them a sense of security, reassuring them that you’re in sight while showing them that you value their play.

• If they invite you to play with them, copy them. Don’t take charge, just do what they do and let them take the lead.They will love it!

• When you feel you can, talk about what you are doing. You might feel a bit silly doing it but you are teaching your child how to play. Use words they may recognise but introduce new vocabulary too. Tell them what you like, dislike, your favourites and give reasons. Your child may offer their opinion or they may not. There’s no pressure!

• As your child plays, as long as you don’t think it will break their concentration, comment on what they’re doing. Suggest a few things you like about their playing, for example: “I like the way you are stacking the bricks to make a tall tower. I like the way you are trying to get that to stick. I can see you are persevering.”

These show your child that you value what they are doing. Your child may choose to tell you about their play and may begin running their own commentary.

These are just a few ideas you can implement to encourage play. You don’t have to do them all, try a few and see if it makes a difference.

Happy playing!

Mum to one and Early Years Specialist, Claire Russell is founder of playHOORAY! and the designer of playPROMPTS activity cards designed to equip parents with realistic, fuss-free play ideas. For further information please visit www.playhooray.co.uk

Hitting the high notes!

By | dance & Art, Education, fun for children, Music and singing, play

Experienced music teachers Sam Dixon and Carolyn Hextall, who run the music department at Brighton College Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep School, sing the praises for a subject that is becoming increasingly sidelined in many schools.

music for childrenMusic helps us learn
No one doubts that learning music is fun. Sometimes, however, this concept can belittle the advantages that learning music brings and leads to it being given less emphasis in schools than other subjects. Research has shown that being taught music enhances skills such as concentration, memory and focus as well as offering physical and creative benefits to children. Similarly, an increase in the number of teaching hours dedicated to music and the provision of instrumental lessons for pupils can result in overall school improvement.

Busting the myth
There is a common misconception that those who achieve great results in music are naturally talented or gifted. It is a myth that often discourages children, or parents from families without a musical history, to embrace music as a subject. Music is a discipline just like sport or, let’s face it, any subject where success is achieved by children because they enjoy it and are therefore happy to dedicate time and energy to it. Enjoyment and dedication; these are two essential ingredients.

An early start
It is never too early for children to enjoy music and to start performing. Children as young as three can start to learn written notation presented in a fun, active way. Introducing them to the ‘Musical Family’ of Grandpa Semibreve, Daddy Dotted Minim and Baby Crotchet help to bring the notes alive. They learn the musical value of each note by physically moving in a way that suits the different characters; slow footsteps mark out the four beats of Grandpa Semibreve, whilst Daddy Dotted Minim loves to waltz – the children absolutely love the characters and the information sticks.

Keep it moving
Methods such as this introduce the body as an instrument and our youngest pupils begin to connect music with movement, the mind with the body. Note recognition becomes physically embodied at a tender age and this helps to combat any trepidation surrounding their learning to ‘read’ music when they are older. Pulse and rhythm can also be embedded as early as possible through the use of dance along videos and regular opportunities to use simple percussion instruments or even the banging of a humble bucket. Singing is fundamental to the development of ear training
and use of the solfege system helps children to improve their vocal control and develop a strong understanding of the musical scale.

The show must go on
The fundamental principle of performance underpins music teaching at all levels and learning an instrument or singing gives children the opportunity to become involved in musical ensembles, performing with one other, and to explore a wide range of repertoire. Participation in ensembles as varied as orchestras, jazz and swing bands, percussion groups, pop groups, guitar, classical and piano ensembles are a brilliant ways for children to develop the important skills of listening, responding and analyzing. They allow children to work on the art of preparation and offer them vital performance opportunities on all scales.

Technology in music
When composition is introduced at a very young age, through call and response and simple improvisation children respond quickly to the introduction of songwriting, writing music to accompany films or music from particular genres. In a world where so much music is produced by technology, an understanding of notation and composition software such as Cubase and Sibelius is important and should be encouraged.

Making connections
Listening to a wide range of music and putting it into a historical and cultural context helps children to appreciate the links between music and other subjects being learnt at school.
So, when we listen to Baroque music and introduce pupils to the towering genius J.S. Bach, we consider what else was happening at that time. Who was on the throne in England and what was happening in Bach’s hometown? Was he a practical joker like Mozart or, like Handel, did he have a legendary temper? Researching contemporary pieces which use similar techniques, for example Goldfinger’s ‘Superman’ which uses a Baroque ground bass, makes their learning feel more relevant and accessible.

Onwards and upwards
Learning music is a three way process between parent, pupil and teacher. Each one relies on the other for their commitment, participation and development. Parents are key in providing a regular, realistic practice time for children who learn an instrument and ensuring it takes place in an appropriate environment. They can also help by exposing their children to a smorgasbord of different musical styles; it could be as easy as exploring the different channels on the radio, attending concerts or joining local choirs and community music groups. Music is such a wonderful thing to explore with children and parents really do not have to be the expert. If there is something you enjoy, share it with your children. An enthusiastic response to their practice efforts or dancing along to your favorite tunes is all it takes to get started.

Sam Dixon and Carolyn Hextall run the music department at Brighton College Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep School educating over 500 pupils between the ages of three and 13 in curriculum music. Their provision is supported by a body of over 30 visiting instrumental music teachers who deliver individual and group lessons to the children.
www.brightoncollege.org.uk

Top tips for sleepovers

By | dance & Art, family, Food & Eating, fun for children, Music and singing, parties, play
by Kitty Jones
The Dreamy Den Company

Sleepovers are a childhood staple but can be a daunting time for parents. Have no fear, we’ve put together some helpful tips and advice for a smooth sleepover experience.

1 Food
Hungry children are no fun so make sure you have plenty of food and snacks to keep them fuelled and happy. Self-serve stations are great fun and easy to prepare, try a burger bar, taco bar or a noodle/pasta bar with a selection of toppings and sides. Grab some recyclable ‘take-out’ boxes to minimise washing up.

2 Setting up camp
Living rooms are a good option due to size and TV access for movies but make sure pets can be relocated and the TV usage is monitored so they don’t stumble across any late night horrors by accident. And don’t forget to move any precious ornaments!

3 Midnight feast
This definitely doesn’t have to be at midnight – as hopefully everyone will be asleep by then! Consider having a break in the movie and doing a fruit fondue or a popcorn bar with a selection of toppings and sauces. Try some sugar alternatives to keep the sugar rush under control.

4 Entertainment
Garden games are great for summer and for burning off energy. For rainy days you can try DIY pamper packs or craft packs. Alternatively hire an external entertainer to come in and give you a few hours peace. Movies are great for later on and you can always have a pre-selected list to minimise arguments.

5 Nervous children
Be open and discuss action plans with parents beforehand, especially if a child has never been to a sleepover before. Make sure you know where each child’s parent will be and always get two contact numbers from parents.

6 The morning after
Choose your collection time as mid-morning giving the children a chance to have breakfast and, most importantly, don’t plan too much for the next day, you may all need a few impromptu naps to recover!