Category

Relationships

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

Sion School advice

Mental health and emotional wellbeing

By | Education, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Anne-Marie Coe has been a teacher for over 20 years at Our Lady of Sion School in Worthing and is a mother with grown up children. Now in the role of Assistant Head, Pastoral, she has been instrumental in developing the Wellbeing Programme at Sion which has recently been recognised with an ISA (Independent Schools Association) award for Excellence and Innovation in Mental Health and Wellbeing. This programme successfully supports pupils and helps raise awareness about issues surrounding mental health with a whole school approach. Taking the stigma out of mental health is at the core of the programme so that students feel comfortable and confident in understanding and talking about their feelings.

Our mental health and emotional wellbeing is all about how we think, feel, and behave. It can affect daily life, relationships, and even physical health. It is our ability to enjoy life – to attain a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

The emotional wellbeing ofour children is just as important as t heir physical health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Most children grow up mentally healthy, but surveys suggest that more children and young people have problems with their mental health today than 30 years ago. This can be attributed to changes in the way we live now and how that affects the experience of growing up.

The sad reality is that mental health problems affect about one in 10 children and young people. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives. Sadder still is that 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age (as cited by The Mental Health Foundation).

In our roles as parent, carer or teacher we are very keen to fix things, so what can we do to keep the children and young people in our care mentally well?

Technological advances mean there is the biggest gap in cultural understanding between adults (parents and teachers) and children since the 1960s. The challenge is to bridge the divide because communication is key to good mental health. In order to have an open and honest dialogue with our children, we need to understand their world and what is important to them.

Empathy versus sympathy
The ability to understand and share the feelings of children and young people is a way in to meaningful conversations about their lives and what may be troubling them. With younger children, empathic listening will help their previously unmanageable feelings become more manageable. Take, for example, the toddler who doesn’t want to leave the play park and starts screaming – by saying that you understand that they love that play park and that they don’t want to go home, they will experience the relief of being understood and no longer being alone with their feelings of loss.

Play is a great way for children to express themselves as well as through words. You can learn a lot about how they’re feeling by simply spending time with them and watching them play. Stressed and upset children often play fighting games with their toys. Commenting that there are a lot of fights going on, or that it seems pretty frightening, can pave the way for them to open up to you about what is bothering them.

Dealing with change can be as difficult for us as it is for the children and young people. Changes such as moving home or school can often act as triggers for anxiety. Some children who start school feel excited about making new friends and doing new activities, but others may feel anxious about entering a new environment. One of the most important ways parents, carers and teachers can help is to listen to them and take their feelings seriously.

Starting school, or a new school, can lead to separation anxiety in some children – excessive and persistent worrying at being separated from those the child is attached to or worry that harm will come to them. Following the ABC plan is a great way to prevent the anxiety from becoming overwhelming or unmanageable.

Step A – acknowledge and validate how they are feeling with empathic listening.
Reassure them that anxiety is normal and that the aim is not to have zero anxiety but to prevent it becoming overpowering.

Step B – build self-esteem.
What I am good at and my achievements; what I like about myself; nice things that people say about me; my happiest memories, people I am grateful for.

Step C – challenge and plan.
Where is the evidence? How likely is it to come true? What if it does come true? What is a suitable alternative thought? Choose a goal and break it down into small steps.

It is also a difficult time when your child is grieving as you may also be in a state of grief and coping with overwhelming emotional pain that this brings. If they seem tearful or withdrawn, encourage them to open up about how they’re feeling by talking about the person who’s died.

Young children have an awareness of death, but can see it as reversible. It helps to explain it by saying, “… has died … is not going to be with us any more”. They may also blame themselves and can become angry or have difficulty with changes in routine. They may even have psychosomatic symptoms. Older children (around eight years old) start to understand the finality of death so their anger and distress levels can be higher. They can also display younger behaviour or may try to be the perfect child and be brave. Their grief will make them feel different from their peers and it is important that they feel supported by their school community.

We need to remember that children and young people’s negative feelings usually pass. However, it’s important to get professional help if your child is distressed for a long time, if their negative feelings are stopping them from getting on with their lives, if their distress is disrupting family life or if they are repeatedly behaving in ways you would not expect at their age.

If your child is having problems at school, a teacher, school nurse, school counsellor or educational psychologist may be able to help. Otherwise, go to your GP or speak to a health visitor. These professionals are able to refer a child to further help. Different professionals often work together in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

To end on a happy note here are the top tips for keeping our mental health and that of our children in top shape.

Smile – pass on a smile to someone.
Optimism – self-fulfilling prophecy – thoughts and behaviours will follow.
Creativity – everyone needs a creative outlet, something which lets us exorcise difficult feelings, perhaps through sport, art, music or drama.
Kindness – a random act of kindness each day.
Mindfulness – meditation – focus on your breathing – think of nothing!
Gratitude – think of three things that you are grateful for each day.
Have fun! – make time to do things that you enjoy. Happiness is contagious!

Our Lady of Sion is an independent interdenominational school based in Worthing for girls and boys, ages 3 to 18. www.sionschool.org.uk

Inspiring our girls

By | children's health, Education, Relationships

In 2013, Miriam Gonzalez, the wife of Nick Clegg former Deputy PM, set up a charity called inspiring girls.com. The aim of the organisation was simple, to make young women aware of the range of opportunities that are potentially available to them and to support that by gathering potential mentors to help them find and follow these pathways. Gonzalez’s organisation operates globally and in the UK has strong links with inspiring women.co.uk which has already established itself as an organisation that uses role models, motivational speakers and events to showcase equality in the workplace, on the sports field and beyond.

The subjects of defining the role of women, equality, gender pay gaps and harassment of women have rarely been out of the headlines in 2018. For young women of the next generation it potentially feels like a step forward towards greater equality. Making sure it is meaningful and sustained is the next challenge.

Change in societies’ outlook does have implications on education and many would argue that development of positive attitudes and values are one of the key elements of the education system. Extensive research suggests that girls from an early age have distinct attitudes to equality. A project in 2017 in the US looked at children as young as five and six and how they absorbed gender stereotypes. Andrei Cimpian, one of the co-authors at New York University, found that girls as young as six believed that ‘brilliance’ was a male trait and that unlike boys, girls did not believe that achieving good grades was related to innate abilities. Some of the outcomes from this research link with other work that found that parents and teachers attribute good grades in maths to hard work for girls, but to natural ability for boys.

In the Primary and Prep sector we have a huge responsibility
to try and open up opportunities to redress some of the stereotyping and possibly to work with parents to help them not to reinforce these attitudes at home. Most of us would be shocked and disappointed to think that our young girls don’t see themselves equally capable and yet it is evident that sometimes it is our attitudes that are compounding the problem.

The challenge then is to create a culture whether at home or at school, where girls feel that all subjects can potentially play to their strengths and that they can become natural risk takers and not fall into the ‘slipstream’ of boys who will often take this role with confidence. We all recognise that the work place of the future will be about people’s response to change, innovation and problem solving. If girls are to become more risk takers, we need to firstly create a culture of security from which they can take risks with confidence. Schools talk about creating resilience but this actively requires schools to allow children to manage disappointment, respond to unfamiliar situations and initiate problem solving and not rely on adults.

Role models play a particularly strong role in inspiring all of us and schools are recognising the importance of opening up opportunities for pupils to see the breadth of career options as well as examples of determination, resilience, performance and overcoming adversity. Inspiration is a rather overused word but there is no doubt that there are so many examples of ‘a spark being lit’ that inspires people to achieve more than they could imagine. Even at Primary and Prep level we are using parents and people in the community to give pupils an insight into their motivation, how they developed their skill set and the rewards their tenacity and hard work have given them.

In our experience, girls in particular respond to personal journeys and insights. Many of these women, rather like the suffragettes of the past, have been trailblazers, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations. Many have been real inspirations to others and while examples of people like Cressida Dick, Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police or the UK Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sally Davies are exceptional examples we also need to consolidate that with more women at all levels. The workplace can be challenging enough so it really should be everyone’s responsibility to ensure that people at least join on an ‘even playing field’.

Girls’ natural strengths in negotiation, collaboration and empathy enable them to be great team players, inclusive and keen to work alongside others. Research shows that girls also respond well to establishing strong relationships with mentors, therefore projects that enable girls to access the full range of courses, training, apprenticeships and employment through mentors have to be encouraged and possibly funded. It is clear that stronger collaboration between education and the workplace will be of benefit in developing the right skills and qualities in all candidates, which employers often suggest is lacking.

We believe that if more young girls can link with or be exposed to mentors and role models, either in person or through social media, it could become the inspiration that they need to pursue their dreams.

Sian Cattaneo is the Head of Brighton and Hove Prep, the only girls Prep in the heart of Brighton & Hove.
For any enquiries please contact 01273 280200
www.bhhs.gdst.net
prepenquiries@bhhs.gdst.net

Tips to get your children listening

By | family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Camilla Miller
Keeping Your Cool Parenting

It’s easy to feel guilty, stressed out and overwhelmed when you know there’s a way to lead to a happier family life, but you just can’t find it.

As a parenting coach, I get to work with many families and the one thing all the parents tell me is that they want to have a better relationship with their children.

Here’s how Emma describes her situation: “When I first met Camilla, I was at my wits end. My relationship with my children had hit rock bottom. They were constantly fighting and I was losing my cool and shouting too much. The kids weren’t listening unless I lost it. I went to bed most days feeling guilty and overwhelmed. I didn’t think there was any way out of the power struggles and negative cycle of anger and frustration. The relationship with my husband was becoming strained as we were arguing about how best to deal with raising our children.”

Sound familiar?

Within just a few hours of learning the techniques and skills I teach on my parenting course, Emma started to see results, and you can too.
Here’s what Emma said after taking the course: “Camilla’s ‘Chaos to Calm’ course transformed family life. Our family went from stressed out and overwhelmed to calm and connected. Our relationship is now based on love and respect. Camilla taught me techniques that improved our communication skills and we learnt how to best deal with misbehaviour in a positive way.”

“How do I get my children to listen?” is one of the questions parents ask me most often. If you’re having the same problem, here are some tips that will help you rapidly improve your relationship with your children:

1 When your child is defiant, what he or she needs is more love and attention, not less. Our children first need to feel heard by us before they can listen to us. So, spend time talking and listening to your child each day.

2 No one likes being bossed around all the time – it only leads to resentment and push back. Notice how many demands and commands you give your child daily and aim to lower it.

3 Before losing your patience with your child, think: “Would I speak to my best friend that way?”

4 Ask for what you want and not for what you don’t want. For example, ask your child to walk, rather than telling them not to run.

Camilla Miller is a qualified parenting coach at Keeping Your Cool Parenting.
She supports mums and dads whose kids are starting to rule the roost, and communication has broken down, often leaving parents feeling guilty, stressed and overwhelmed. She supports parents to gain skills that create willing cooperation without coercion so that the whole family can go from chaos to calm.

On becoming a mother…

By | baby health, family, prenancy, Relationships
by Sam McCarthy
UMEUS Foundation

For many women there is a decision made, usually in conjunction with a significant other, to ‘have a baby’ or ‘start a family’. It might be discussed, perhaps somewhat romantically, and framed from our own lived experience of childhood, what we will never do as parents. How many are reading this and remembering the phrases, “it’s not going to change us, we will still travel/go dancing/work…” and “we won’t be talking about our child all the time like (fill-in any parents name you knew before you had a baby)…” Or perhaps you were seduced by the idea of being blissfully radiant in pregnancy, ‘natural childbirth’, ergo slings and shared responsibility?

Even for those who chose to walk the path without a partner, and the many women who have no choice in the matter at all, the decision to bring a new life into the world is one we have no experience in making first time around, even if we’ve been surrounded by babies and children; just ask any midwife, nursery carer or teacher. Within all this thought and talk of pregnancy and the delights we will call our children, how many of us have asked ourselves, how do I become
a mother?

We’ve all had one at some point, some maybe two or more, in the forms of in-law, step or adoptive/biological. But how many of those in the hood have really shared their experience with us BEFORE we were staring into the abyss of broken sleep, emotional weightlifting and relationship upheaval? The monumental shifts that accompany the transition from woman to mother are rarely spoken of outside of this shadowy fraternity.

Perhaps the elemental nature of motherhood can’t quite be understood until we are ‘in’ our experience, or maybe we wouldn’t head on this collision course with life if we knew what was ahead? If this were the case, why do so many of us go on to do it time and again? Creating life can be addictive, because although oxytocin is understood by endocrinologists as an antidote to craving, the positive feedback mechanism that controls its release actually helps anaesthetise us a little, or diminish the sensations of discomfort, and feelings of turmoil that are intrinsically linked with pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.

When we are deep in the throes of becoming a mother, we often forget ourselves, and without intending to, so do others around us. Whilst pregnancy isn’t necessarily a glowing period for all, many women experience being regarded, honoured even (unless you’re on the 17:59 from London), and taken care of whilst carrying our precious load. What to expect when you’re expecting, pregnancy and birth; the industry around these very specific periods of time are festooned with ideas, methods and opinions, and many are eager to inform. As the excitement mounts, children’s clothes are cooed over, yoga sessions are chanted in and birth plans are written. Whatever happens at birth, statistically, becoming pregnant is the most dangerous thing a woman does in her lifetime. But now there’s a baby and attention shifts from you to your newborn.

We all respond differently to the awakening of motherhood. It’s a realisation that comes quickly for some, and as a quest through a submerged haze for others. The magnitude of decisions that arise as we begin to meet our new responsibility can be weighty and unwieldy. Breastfeeding (or not), back to work (or not), childcare (or not), intimacy with partner (or not), have another child (or not), this list is barely begun.

So, what happens if we meet the responsibility of our new state or experience of having or raising a child and everything that comes with it, not just with gratitude, which helps lessen the sense of heaviness, but also with conviction, so as to empower us?

Wholly embracing that we are the life givers, more often the primary carers, the chefs, the emotional weight bearers, the cleaners, the educators, the travel agents, the event organisers, and so much more, can elevate us, rather than drag us down, and help us to assert ourselves so that we can regard ourselves positively for what we achieve every day. Once we hold ourselves in this regard, it is easier for others to value us and for us to get our needs met.

Researchers at Washington University studied new mothers with varying degrees of stress. They wanted to know if support from community affected the way a parent relates to their children and their ability to raise them. The results were clear. Mothers without strong support from community had higher levels of stress, and mothers with higher levels of stress were more worn down and pessimistic about parenting. They also found the opposite true: mothers with strong support from their communities had lower levels of stress and were optimistic.

UMEUS Foundation was created to support women who happen to be mothers, because as much as not all women carry and birth, most women find themselves being mothers, sometimes as carers, sometimes as partners, often to their own parents, but mostly to humanity.

We believe in cultivating community through compassion and creativity. At UMEUS our central tenets are to trust mindful, yogic and humanistic, person centred approaches to supporting development. That applies to all stages of development, but most importantly our own.

Sam McCarthy, UMEUS co-founder, psychotherapeutic counsellor, mother, creative producer, wrangler of words.
www.umeusfoundation.org

Could you provide Supported Lodgings?

By | family, Fostering and adoption, Relationships

Brighton & Hove City Council is continually seeking people from all walks of life to provide safe and supportive homes for vulnerable children and young people. From short-term and respite care, to long-term foster care and Supported Lodgings, all you need is a spare room and a genuine desire to make a difference.

Brighton & Hove City Council welcomes applications from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds and encourages families,
couples and single people to apply. Similarly, the young people they seek placements for come from a wide range of diverse backgrounds.

Graeme has been providing Supported Lodgings care for almost a year. He says “I have a full-time career, my own hobbies, my own pastimes, my own friends. Being a Supported Lodgings Carer hasn’t interrupted my life. In fact it’s augmented my life.”

One of the main differences between Supported Lodgings and foster care is that the young person is considered a member of your household rather than a member of your family. It is also easier to combine full-time work and Supported Lodgings compared to fostering.

Graeme’s parents took his cousin in from a broken home when Graeme was a teenager, so he’s had some experience of helping a younger person in need and setting them on the right path. Since then he has always wanted to foster, but felt he needed to be within a ‘couple scenario’. However, as he found out more, he realised he could do it on his own. “I’m able to hold down a full-time job and still be there to give a young person some direction in life.”

Michelle has also been providing Supported Lodgings care for almost a year. She feels rewarded because she is making a difference to a young person’s life. “They enjoy staying in my home, and they thrive in different areas. I wanted to make a difference.”

Graeme and Michelle provide an opportunity for young people (18+ care leavers and 16/17 year olds at risk of homelessness)
to live in the home of someone who will help them develop the practical skills and emotional maturity needed for independent living. For example, the young people they care for may need help with getting into education, training or work, managing money, shopping, learning to cook and do housework, attending appointments, building confidence or managing relationships.

Graeme says being a Supported Lodgings carer is like “being a sounding board for young people, giving them direction and teaching them about budgeting. It’s helping them to make the correct life choices.” He doesn’t tell his placement what to do; instead they talk through the options. “It’s his life and his decisions. It’s about giving direction not instruction.”

Both Graeme and Michelle like and respect young people and have an understanding of some of the issues they may face. They have the time and flexibility to offer advice in a safe and supportive environment.

Becoming a Supported Lodgings carer will take approximately three to four months. The assessment will look at your lifestyle, finances and experience, and it will include a visit your home and statutory checks on you and members of your household.

Graeme recalls “The assessment for Supported Lodgings is a lot easier, it’s a lot simpler and a lot shorter than you might think. You’ve got to prove you’ve got the right experience but it’s nothing to be scared of, it was really easy and I quite enjoyed it!”

Michelle says “It was absolutely fine. Someone will assess you at your home, but they are very friendly; we’re all human at the end of the day! Obviously you have to have the right skills, so it’s good to understand what you’re going into.”

As a Supported Lodgings carer, you will be part of a team that also includes the young person’s key worker and other professionals – you will not be on your own.

Michelle says “there is a lot of support and a lot of regular meetings. There’s always someone at the end of the phone and there is very good training.”

Graeme approaches his role as a Supported Lodgings carer with an open mind. “I didn’t have a fixed concept of what I thought it was going to be like as I’m the kind of person that deals with situations as they come up. Some aspects of it have been a lot easier than I thought they might have been – and some other bits are harder. I’m a few months in and at no point have I thought ‘what have I done?”

Graeme’s advice is to “find out more. Go to one of the open evenings, speak to people, talk to them about how it would fit in with your life. Supported Lodgings is not 24/7 parenting, it’s being there in the background as the safety net and being a gentle guide through life.”

Michelle says “if you’ve got a spare room, if you’ve got the skills, if you’re patient and if you’re passionate about supporting young people for a brighter outlook, I would recommend it very highly, it’s very rewarding.”

If you are interested in becoming a Supported Lodgings carer or foster carer for Brighton & Hove City Council, you can find out about upcoming information events by visiting www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk.
Please call 01273 295444 to speak directly with a member of the team.

Positivity in the family

By | family, Health, Mental health, play, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Sara Dimerman
www.helpmesara.com

Do you want to create a more positive home environment in which your family can connect and continue to grow?

Here are Sara’s five tips:

1. Collaboration is key.
Introduce monthly family meetings. These are most successful when not used to come down on your children for what they’re not doing well enough. Rather, they’re an opportunity to address problem areas that need resolution. So, instead of saying something like “I’d like you to get off your phone so that you can help me more” say something like “I feel like I’m the last man standing in the kitchen after dinner. I’d like to explore a solution to this so that I don’t feel so alone.” When presented in this way, your children will often come up with creative solutions – many that you may not have thought of. The idea is not to impose unilateral rules on the kids but to have them problem-solve with you. It doesn’t mean that they are calling the shots. It means that their voices are being heard, that they are encouraged to speak up and they are more inclined to follow what’s been decided on when they’ve played a role in planning for it.

2. Don’t fan the flames.
If, for example, you’ve recently had an argument with your child about whether or not he can stay out past midnight, try not to have this argument cloud other conversations. After feelings have been validated and you’ve put the argument to rest, put it behind you.

3. Create opportunities to come together as a family with as few distractions as possible.
Sometimes going outside of the house is best, especially if you have a long list of to dos inside. Board game cafes, bowling, ice skating, throwing a ball or frisbee in the park are some ways to connect. Often, as kids get older. they will decline your invitation but if you let them know how much it means to be spending time with them, and if you make the outings as positive as possible, they will likely get into the right frame of mind once they are engaged in the activity with you.

4. Hold onto that thought a little longer.
I know it’s tempting to remind your children to do something like put their dish in the dishwasher after supper (even though you know that it often triggers a negative reaction from them). However, I have found that often, when I say nothing but wait instead to see what they do, they will do exactly what I would have requested. Then make sure to comment on the behaviour you’d love to see
more of – “Thanks for putting your dish in the dishwasher.
It makes my job easier.”

5. Help them see their parents in a positive light.
Whether living together or apart, the way we treat our children’s other parent, and the things we say to or about him or her, sets the tone for how our children will treat and view them too. Even if you’re angry or upset at one another, try not to expose your children to this- no matter their age.

The importance of role-play in Early Years

By | Education, play, Relationships
by Antonia Burton
Head of Lower School, Chinthurst School

Children love role-play! Acting out stories, playful manipulation of ideas and emotions, and interacting with each other in imaginary ways are essential for a child’s cognitive and social development. Over the last 75 years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the value of such imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child.

Between the ages of one and a half and six, studies have consistently demonstrated that pretend play increases language usage and children’s awareness that their thoughts may be different from their friends. Role-play allows children to express positive and negative feelings and fosters divergent thinking, the ability to come up with many different ideas, story themes and symbols.

So how are these benefits harnessed in an Early Years setting?
Plenty of free unstructured play is essential. Children should have the space and time to initiate play spontaneously. It should arise from their own imagination without the direction of an adult and it encourages risk taking and creativity and helps the children to practise collaboration and decision making.

However, structured play, in the form of a themed play corner is invaluable in stimulating make believe games. An ‘airport’ or ‘doctor’s surgery’ enable children to choose and assign roles and work through any problems that arise. As pretend play progresses, children need to socialise and cooperate with peers and this helps them to learn to control impulses and respect the decisions of others.

Children’s communication and language skills also benefit hugely as they must collaborate and listen to each other as they role-play. Children will draw upon pictures built up in their minds from past experiences and recreate these scenes, helping them to solve problems and draw their own conclusions – so developing essential cognitive skills.

Taking on the roles of different characters encourages children to empathise with each other. They gain an understanding of different perspectives which develops their ability to relate to each other. Pretend play offers a safe place to act out real life situations. Children cope with worries by acting them out so role-play gives them a setting to work things through and help them to address their fears.

Moreover, the use of costumes and props in a theatrical way can help to improve a child’s gross and fine motor skills. From dressing themselves in a character’s costume to putting the props away when the game has finished, role-play builds hand/eye co-ordination as well as developing visual discrimination.

Children often interact with literacy and numeracy skills during pretend play. They may have to count things out as part of their character or ‘write’ on a notepad. Acting out a favourite story book can be an invaluable aid to comprehension skills too.

The introduction of drama teaching at the age of three and four can really boost the effectiveness of imaginative play and help children to develop soft skills and emotional intelligence. Drama gives children further opportunities to rehearse roles, characters and a broad spectrum of life situations helping them to explore ideas and feelings. Drama promotes self-esteem and gives children the confidence to present themselves in front of an ‘audience’, all whilst having great fun.

At home, a dressing up box, even if it is just hats and masks, can stimulate a child’s imagination and initiate fantastic role-play scenarios. It is important to let your children define objects for use and to allow them to be whatever they would like to be. The benefits really are amazing!

Chinthurst School is a leading co-educational school for pupils agedthree to 11 and is part of the Reigate Grammar School (RGS) family.

Kindergarten children benefit from a bright and spacious environment where their confidence and self-esteemare developed through role play and specialist drama teaching.

At 11, children proceed to a range of top independent and state schools and can take advantage of an early offer entrance arrangement to RGS in Year 5, should this be their chosen path.

How women can empower themselves with good health

By | beauty, Education, family, Food & Eating, Health, Relationships, sleep, Uncategorized
by Dr Mathi Woodhouse
GP at Your Doctor – www.your-doctor.co.uk

1 Being proactive about your health is vital both in terms of strengthening your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and preventing future illness and disease. Planning, testing, check-ups and addressing all kinds of areas of mental to sexual health matters all take time. People often do not prioritise their own health. Be proactive now.

2 Have you ever wondered what your biological age is? Telomere testing can reveal your biological age through a simple blood test. Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Lifestyle can influence the rate which your telomeres shorten faster that simple tests can reveal. Eat well, exercise often, sleep well, and address stress levels. These can all reduce the inflammatory process and therefore slow the rate of telomere shortening.

3 Don’t miss your vaginal smear. In 2013 60% of all new HIV diagnoses were to young adolescent women and girls. HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted infection, it accounts for around 70% of all cervical cancers. Sexual health in women is of the utmost importance and more importantly is totally preventable. Take measures for safe sex, and ensure all available screening is seized. A cervical smear should be available at least once every three years until the age of 65. Oral contraceptive pills protect against pregnancy but offer no protection against infection. Ensure you take measures to keep yourself clear of pelvic disease. Use condoms and get yourself tested for STDs if you’re worried. Do not wait.

4 Feel those boobs. Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths amongst women. Early detection can result in great long-term outcomes. A simple examination once a month after your period is the best time to check. Pay particular attention to dimples in the skin and inversion of the nipple. If you are unsure have a doctor give you a quick tutorial. It’s simple, easy and a potential lifesaver. If you are above 50 you should be able to have routine mammography to screen for breast cancer; ensure this happens.

5 Hot flushes… if you feel perimenopausal there are many non-hormonal ways to assist. Soya, red clover and black cohosh are all approved herbal remedies to fight your fluctuating hormones. If these symptoms are really bothersome and you want to avoid HRT, your doctor may be able to offer some alternatives.

6 Women are more likely to have greater emotional intelligence and empathy. They typically have a larger limbic system which supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory. Use it!

7 Eating well goes without saying. A large proportion of women are anaemic without knowing. Tiredness, poor skin and hair loss, and pallor are all signs of this. Eat foods rich in iron such as dark green vegetables, small servings of red meat, and legumes. Keeping your folate and calcium levels up also will help in preserving good health prior/during pregnancy and your bones will be strong beyond the menopause.

8 Eat to energise yourself. Stick to a diet low in saturated fats, salt and processed sugars. Increase your intake of omega 3 through nuts, avocados, or oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna. Eat enough fibre by increasing your portions of fruit and vegetables. Experts believe that 30g of fibre a day can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

9 Sleep is crucial in maintaining your physical and mental health, it supports many facets of healthy brain function. Good quality, deep sleep is important for all of us, especially multi-tasking women. To really train your body to sleep well, allow a period of de-stressing before bedtime, get into bed at a decent hour and keep the room dark. Avoid browsing the Internet on your phone or laptop in bed and limit caffeine and alcohol.

10 Stress management is one of the key pillars to good health. Much of our stress is caused by too many responsibilities. Start saying ‘no’ to requests that are asking too much of you. Meditation, practicing some mindfulness and deep breathing are all worth investing in a few minutes per day. Find a quiet moment to sit down and focus on yourself. Positive thoughts and self-worth can make leaps and bounds to self-esteem and mood.

11 Drink less alcohol. Women should stick to no more than 14 units per week allowing at least three alcohol free days per week. High alcohol intake can lead to a heart disease, diabetes and liver damage. Binge drinking can cause serious injury, collapse, and irregular heart rhythms called arrhythmias. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories and sugar which can have a big impact on weight management and the risk of diabetes.

12 Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer each year in the UK yet some 9.4 million people in the UK smoke every day. Set a date and time to stop smoking. Slowly cutting down on cigarettes can have a psychological effect that makes the cigarettes seem far more precious than they actually are. Put the money aside that you would have otherwise spent on cigarettes and watch your money grow!