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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

Tips to soothe your child when they have chickenpox

By | baby health, children's health, Education, family, Health, Uncategorized, vaccinations and ailments

The varicella zoster virus (VZV) is more commonly known as chickenpox. It is one of the most common illnesses to affect young children, affecting more than 95% of children and is most prevalent in children under the age of 10.
It is a very common illness and most children make a full recovery without needing medical intervention. However, it can still be uncomfortable and upsetting for little ones and worrying for parents. When the red, fluid-filled spots appear, there are some things you can do to comfort your child and distract them from the itching.

Doctor Stephanie Ooi, a GP from MyHealthcare Clinic, has provided five tips to advise parents on the best ways to soothe a child when they have chickenpox.

Use gentle itching remedies
While traditional remedies such as calamine lotion have long been the go-to home treatment for chickenpox, there are newer mousse products available on the market that can help. These can be easier to use than creams or lotions as they are less messy and don’t require rubbing in to sensitive rash-covered skin.

Another natural remedy to soothe the discomfort and itching is to take an oatmeal bath, which helps to prevent the spread of infection from one to another part of the body. To make your own oatmeal bath at home, you can use regular unflavoured porridge oats, slow cooked oats or instant oats. Use around 100g for a toddler and 300g for an older child. A coffee grinder or food processor can be used to the grind the oats up to a smaller consistency. Test a tablespoon of oats in a glass of warm water – if the water goes a milky colour, your oats are ground-up enough. Draw a warm bath (not too hot), place the oats in and have your child soak for around 20 minutes.

Some children also find baking soda soothing. You can add roughly a mug of the baking soda to a lukewarm bath and soak for 20 minutes. When you help the child out of the bath, use a clean towel to pat, rather than rub the skin dry.

Keep your child hydrated
Try to encourage your child to drink as much water as possible. When chickenpox spots appear in a child’s mouth it can make eating or drinking slightly distressing and uncomfortable. Try to give soft and bland foods and avoid salty snacks that can aggravate a sore mouth. A very common symptom of chickenpox is a loss of appetite – whilst this is worrying for parents, hydration is more important than food here.

One way to encourage children to consume more liquids is to create soothing ice pops. Simply fill a lolly tray with water or coconut water, or flavour with some squash. It’s best to avoid orange flavouring as the acidic content of this may irritate the mouth. If your child does feel up to eating, natural yoghurt with honey, stewed apples or pears or a chicken bone broth are good options. Dairy and chicken contain the amino acid lysine which is said to aid healing.

Be aware of signs of dehydration – dark urine, infrequent need to use the bathroom or dry nappies, fast breathing, having few or no tears left when crying, dry lips or blotchy, cold hands and feet. If your child has any of these symptoms, please seek urgent medical advice.

Seek medical advice for some cases
In most cases you won’t need to take your child to the GP for chickenpox as it will get better on its own. This usually takes about a week. However, there are some instances when medical advice should be sought. If you notice that skin around the spots has become red, hot and painful, consult your doctor as this can be a sign of skin infection. Also seek medical advice if your child has had a fever for more than four days, if there are signs of dehydration as mentioned above or their condition seems to be worsening. Ultimately you know them best so if something doesn’t seem right then seek medical advice.

Soothe the pain and fever with approved painkillers
Aside from the uncomfortable rash, chickenpox can also often cause cold and flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature (38+ degrees), muscular aches and pains, as well as headaches. These can make children feel pretty miserable and unwell. You can use paracetamol at home to soothe the pain and fever. It’s best to avoid giving aspirin to any child in any illness as this can leave your child at risk of developing Reye’s syndrome (a rare disorder that causes swelling in the liver and brain).

Provide distractions
Due to the highly contagious nature of chickenpox, it’s advised to keep your child away from school, nursery or social situations with other children until the spots have fully crusted over. This can take as long as 10 days. Many children will just want to rest and a day in front of the television is completely understandable! However, lots of parents know that after a few days of isolation, children can feel restless and need a distraction from the itching and misery of being house-bound.

Activities such as colouring, sticker books, reading and puzzles can be good distractions. Try making an indoor assault course with cushions, chairs and blankets. If you have a garden and the weather is nice, try having a picnic together, planting some seeds, or using outdoor chalks to create pictures.

It’s a family affair

By | family, Finance, Fostering and adoption, Uncategorized

The sons and daughters of foster carers play a vital role in fostering; they contribute hugely towards the success of fostering placements and make a valuable difference to fostered siblings as they settle into their new home.

Fostering is a life changing decision and should be considered and thought about as a family. Sometimes, the perceived impact of fostering on birth children prevents families from finding out more as they feel they need to wait until their children are older, however for many of the families who foster for Brighton & Hove City Council, the experience has been positive and rewarding.

Hannah (12) and Louis (16) have been fostering with their mum and dad for seven years. When they began, aged five and nine, they weren’t sure what to expect but they are now wonderful examples of the compassion, kindness and maturity essential to the success of a fostering placement.

Louis remembers, “It was a really long time ago when we first started – there was a sense of nervousness, but I thought it was exciting. I knew I was looking forward to meeting whoever came to live with us.”

Hannah was much younger when the family’s fostering journey began but remembers getting to know everyone involved in the assessment process. The pair would draw and write about some things they were looking forward to and were encouraged to talk about themselves; their likes, their worries and their hopes.

“Our Assessing Social Worker would sit us down, sometimes with Mum and Dad, sometimes without, and go through the process to make sure we were OK. I remember we had to talk about what we’re like, and they’d tell us what the kids could be like.”

For Louis, the best thing about fostering is the first moments of a child’s arrival into his home. He enjoys talking to them, learning about them and finding out about what they like to do. “I soon found out the foster child we have now really likes playing Mario. I said hey, we have a Wii, do you want to go and play?” Louis says that further down the line it gets even better “because then you really know them. They’ll come up to you and ask hey, do you want to do this or hey do you want to that? It becomes a real connection I guess.”

Hannah has found it hard at times to see children move on, but has a close relationship with her social worker, who visits her frequently; “She’s always there to make sure I am OK and I know the children will be going to a nice home or back to their family.”

Louis says, “If we need to talk, there’s always someone there – we’re never left in the dark.”

The support in place for sons and daughters of foster carers also includes regular day trips and activities. A team of Brighton & Hove City Council Fostering Support Officers run activities throughout all of the school holidays, for birth children and foster children alike. The trips are a treat for the kids, who get an opportunity to form friendships with children in similar circumstances, and a well-deserved break for foster carers.

Louis talks excitedly about one of the most popular trips. “A group of us kids go to Chessington, to have an entire day there, and then we get back for a bit of pizza. There’s loads of activities, be it for foster children, or children like us, so we’re all in included and we have a really fun day out.”

Reflecting on their seven years as a foster family, Hannah and Louis both feel that fostering has bought them closer together.

Hannah says “I feel like it’s definitely made me and my brother a lot closer and it’s definitely made us a lot closer as a family. We talk to each other a lot more now.”

Louis says “It’s taught us to understand and respect others. It’s made me who I am today, not all on my own, I’ve had help from everyone around me, but it’s been really good. I now work in a primary school. It’s my first job. I’ve taken my love of fostering and taken it out into the wider world, looking after 30 kids at an after-school club! It’s definitely made me who I am, and I do what I love and enjoy.”

Fostering younger children with an earlier bedtime means the family can enjoy time together in the evenings, watching a movie or playing a board game. They are keen campers and if it’s not possible for the children in their care to join them on their trips, they call upon respite carers to help. Hannah says, “The children always go to the same respite carer, so they feel comfortable when they go.”

Louis feels that fostering “makes you a better person and brings your family together.” His advice to parents who want to explore fostering but feel unsure how to begin the conversation with their birth children is to “let them know you’re still going to be their mum and dad. Nothing is going to be severely affected, it’s still going to be your family – just with extra people.”

If you feel you could make a difference by becoming a fostering family, you can find further information and details of upcoming information events by visiting
www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk. Alternatively, please call 01273 295444 to speak directly with a member of the team.

Encourage learning at home talk to your child!

By | children's health, Education, family, fun for children, Health, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Claire Russell
Early Years Specialist

Research released by the Department of Education suggests that 100,000 under fives are not learning at home but according to Early Years Specialist and mum to one, Claire Russell, who is a huge advocate of learning via play, it’s all about talking to your child and spotting opportunities for them to learn as you go about your everyday routine.

Claire told us: “Talking and singing to your child is the best thing you could do. From day one provide a running commentary telling them about what you’re doing. Even though they may not be responding or talking back, the words will be going in. It will provide children with a wide range of vocabulary! And don’t be scared to use big words either!”

She continues: “Learning doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down with a pen on paper, particularly when it comes to pre-schoolers. It can be counting steps as you climb, spotting letters in road signs or taking turns in a game.”

In particular, the survey found that over half of parents do not spend time teaching children their alphabet but Claire believes learning through play is important in so many other ways.

“Learning is not just the ABCs and 123s, it’s about so much more. We need to teach our children life skills such as social skills, kindness and empathy, how to share, take turns how to look after ourselves and our bodies, how to think of others and the world around us. And who better to teach them? Us! Their parents and carers are their first teachers. We all know children watch, observe and copy. So it’s important we model the skills and characteristics we hope to see in our children.”

Here Claire provides her tips for encouraging play at 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!

• 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.” or “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.

Claire Russsell is currently working with the Department of Education on their Chat, Play and Read campaign. Claire is founder of playHOORAY! and designer of the playPROMPT activity cards providing realistic play ideas for preschoolers.

For further information about playHOORAY! and to download the please visit www.playhooray.co.uk.

Gifted and talented?

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, Uncategorized
by Helen Abbott, Banstead Prep School

If Einstein could not talk until he was four or read until he was seven (which is apparently the case) and Didier Drogba studied accountancy before finding himself playing for Chelsea at the mature age of 26, how can we hope to spot the gifted and talented amongst the cherished progeny that walk through our gates? What does ‘gifted and talented’ actually mean and how should we be supporting them?

Gifted and talented is a term generally used to describe children who are beyond their peers either in academic ability or in a specific skill. ‘Gifted’ tends to refer to those who have a high academic ability, while ‘talented’ relates more to those who are adept in a practical subject, such as sport, music or art. The general assumption in the past was that these children would thrive no matter what. This is most definitely not the case.

Children who are inquisitive, read early, have an excellent memory, are good at problem solving and learn to speak very young (although clearly not the Einsteins of this world) are possibly gifted. I say ‘possibly’ because anything to do with children is an inaccurate art and I tremble at the idea of putting a child in a box with a label on it – and with many people being late developers, there is often nothing evident at an early stage anyway.

When I set about writing this article, I had in mind the plethora of extra activities that we offer our gifted and talented at our school. From maths challenges to gifted writers’ workshops, from refereeing matches to representing the school in a given sport, from workshops at senior schools for instrumentalists and drama prodigies to being mentored in advanced art club. Every opportunity exists to go above and beyond.

However, as I continued to write, I thought back to the days when I attended toddler groups with my own children, where a host of affirmations from adoring parents who were keen to describe their infant’s latest achievement greeted me. Whether it is taking their first steps holding someone’s hand or doing a backward flip, murmuring their first word or reciting the alphabet backwards, proud parents coo over their newfound talent. When do these talents stop being counted as significant? When do we stop noticing every advance and consider it just ‘average’?

Banstead pupil Georgie Forster, age 10

Many high fliers struggle when they are younger because they have learning disabilities, which they are able to hide well. These children are frequently overlooked. Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that his brain was ‘addled’ but he went on to become one of America’s greatest inventors. Every child in the class needs access to a higher level of learning and at our school, we offer challenges to encourage our children to be courageous and tenacious.

Children need freedom to extend themselves but freedom within boundaries. I have to return to languages to give an example because it’s what I know best: it is not enough to simply say, “Now write your own question in French”. Rather say, “Write a question to your best friend/to the prime minister/to a unicorn!” Allow them to use their imagination but frame what they need to do.

Extension activities should provide greater depth on the subject. Research materials should be readily available, but children shouldn’t just be left to work on their own projects. Even as adults, we need support, a second opinion and a good sprinkling of praise!

Classwork should challenge from the beginning. Children should have different amounts of information, as much or as little as is needed to challenge them, but they should all complete the same task so that the outcome is the same. Teach to the top of the class and support those who need it. Aim high and inspire excellence!

At home, children need fewer boundaries for their passions. Days out exposing children to new experiences; encouraging them to read widely, whether it’s a literary tome or a football magazine; and having open conversations are all essential. And, when needed, have an open dialogue with your child’s teacher about their strengths.

I do wonder, although my fingers are almost sticking to the keys in my reluctance to type this, but maybe the geniuses of the future will be YouTubers or game makers. The geniuses of the past certainly faced criticism for their passions! However, unless you are prepared for your YouTubing offspring to burn out at the age of 21, I suggest you make sure they have exposure to other experiences as well!

In my years of teaching, I have never met one of those students who sits their GCSEs at nine or goes to university aged 11. They are few and far between. Every child is gifted and talented in some special way, whether it is in leadership skills, having a way with the spoken word or playing Mozart. Our school ethos of Education with Character, offers a variety of ways of learning, ensuring that we, as teachers, spot unique talents and cultivate them, and parents are encouraged to do the same. We need to push our children as far as possible in their ability – and then another little nudge beyond. Let’s make sure we don’t fail to spot any Thomas Edisons or Albert Einsteins of the future.

Banstead Prep School is a co-educational prep school and nursery for girls and boys aged 2-11 where there’s more to a good education than learning.
www.bansteadprep.com

Getting ready for a successful start at school

By | children's health, Education, fun for children, Playing, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Naomi Bartholomew
Headmistress, St Catherine’s Prep School

As you look forward with a mixture of excitement and nerves to your child starting school in September, here are some practical tips to help ensure that your child has a happy and successful start.

Forming links
Most schools now offer settling in days or part days for their youngest pupils. These can be very helpful and a good chance for you to put names to faces. As well as the all-important class teacher, I recommend getting to know the teaching assistant, Head, school secretary, and parents who are a part of the PTA. All of these will be key in helping both you and your child settle into new routines. It can also be handy to work out which other parents live near to you and who might be moving from the same nursery or preschool. Also involve anyone else who might be involved in your weekly routines – grandparents or child-minders so that they too have made some connections ahead of the start of term. I know of one friend who held a name labelling party in order to meet some other friendly looking parents – this is certainly one way to get to know each other and get the dreaded name labels sewn into as many items as you possibly can. Name everything!

Understanding expectations and routines
It seems obvious but make sure you have all of the essential information early on. Some schools have phased starts which begin with mornings only or alternate full days. This is certainly important to plan ahead particularly if your child starting school coincides with you returning to full-time work. Arrangements for drop off and pick up and what to look out for in terms of communication from the school whether that be weekly memos or newsletter or via the school’s website are also key. Getting dates into your diary for parents’ evenings, nativity plays and other things you won’t want to miss is also important.

Encouraging independence and self-help skills over the summer holidays is far more important than trying to teach your child letters and numbers. Can they dress themselves? If not, start to practise that as soon as possible.

Family logistics
Whether this is your first child to start school or a younger sibling, there will be an impact on all of your family. Consider the school run and daily family routines carefully in order to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible.

Extra-curricular activities and playdates
Even for those who have been used to a full day at nursery and a number of extra-curricular activities each week beware of signing up to any additional activities in your child’s first term. They will be learning in a whole new way at school and need time to rest each day when they get home, as will you! Similarly play dates and sleep overs can be very tempting but less is most definitely more in term one.

Younger pupils
Parents with younger aged children, those with summer birthdays in particular, can be anxious about their child being school ready. Trust the school to make the necessary adjustments and remember that age and stage of development can be different for each child.

The first day of term
Stay calm, allow additional time for the school run and cherish the moment – enjoy the photo on the front doorstep marking the occasion and don’t linger too long over the goodbyes. There is a very small window in which to see your child settled and interested in their new surroundings. If you linger and need further reassurance it is likely your child will pick up on that in a split second of doubt and have a wobble. So make a dash for the door as soon as you are able. Many children will have already been used to nursery school and playgroups so remember that you have left them before and all was well. You will have chosen a school you have confidence in and the staff will be able to reassure your child and make sure that the first day is a positive one. If you are the one whose child clings or cries, do not be embarrassed. They will settle once you have gone and the school will contact you to let you know that is the case. Have a plan for what you are then going to do next whether it be return to work or head for a strong coffee with a friend. The day will be one full of excitement for your child.

As your child settles
Remember that day one might feel like Christmas day, full of excitement but that as the weeks go on your child will become tired. The calmer and more prepared you feel as a parent, the more likely your child will also feel ready and willing to skip into school.

Hence, I recommend:
• Talking positively about going to school.
• Helping your child into the routine of managing their own clothing, school book bag and so on.
• Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.
• Getting into good habits of arriving in good time for the start of school.
• Listening to your child tell you about the school day but avoiding 20 questions.
• Trusting the school and their experience – they will allow your child space to grow and develop and it is important that you support them in that.
• Talking to your child’s teacher if you feel uncertain or unsure – communication with the school is vital and building relationships with school staff (admin, teachers and teaching assistants) is really important.

Good luck!

St Catherine’s Prep School, Bramley extends a warm welcome to parents who would like to visit the school.
Open Mornings: Wednesday 25th September and Thursday 17th October.
Please contact Sally Manhire, Prep School Registrar, on 01483 899665. www.stcatherines.info

Ballet isn’t just pink tutus!

By | dance & Art, Education, Uncategorized
by Tabitha McConnell
Dance Art Studio

Many children dream of becoming a ballerina, wearing the tutu and being right up on their toes. But there is so much more to the ballet curriculum than this. While these aspirations give children something to work towards, dance also provides achievable goals that can be met across a single lesson or across a term, teaching children self-motivation.

So why take your child to dance class when you can just put some music on at home? With the guidance of a qualified teacher, your child is not just learning dance but a variety of cross-curricular skills. Ballet, for example, teaches another language – French. Other subjects covered through the dance curricular include: history, religious studies, music and drama. Our modern-day society and multiple other subjects can be expressed through dance, giving children the opportunity to create their own movements and sequences, also known as choreographing.

There are many long-term benefits of continuing dance; your child is learning discipline through a structured environment, from a different mentor. Student’s uniforms must be smart, they must listen in class and be in time with the music. At competitions, points are deducted if the performer is seen to look untidy or messy in appearance. This teaches students the importance of
good appearance, therefore making them more employable in the future. Many studies
have suggested that a tidy appearance leads to a tidier mind and work ethic.

Encouraging your child to begin dance at a young age will increase their chances of staying physically active throughout life, therefore improving their overall health. Dance develops essential motor patterns that are a key part of many sports.

A shocking 80% of four year olds are showing a significant delay in their motor development. Through dance children gain the vital motor skills needed for everyday life. Simple skills like balancing, jumping and the transference of weight are learnt. These skills assist with everyday life with movements such as reaching for something on the top shelf and increase flexibility. Dance is also a suitable complementary activity to many other sports such as netball, as it assists with footwork, or javelin as it assists with balance. Dance skills are particularly beneficial when playing football, as they increases children’s mobility and therefore angles at which they can kick the ball. Dance is for both girls and boys, with many schemes in place to encourage boys to dance. Starting boys dancing at a young age is teaching all children that stereotypes can be defied and that they should do what they really enjoy.

Is dance really physically challenging my child? You may perceive ballet as a softer dance form and ask if it really challenges a child’s physique. Dance can be classified as vigorous exercise as student’s heart rates are elevated by more than 60% for over half of the lesson. This does not mean dance isn’t suitable for those looking for a more relaxing, less strenuous exercise form; with so many genres available under the dance bracket there is something for all. Dance is so versatile and inclusive that it caters for all capabilities. Ballet has also been shown to increase lung capacity and efficiency with only two hourly sessions a week. Dance is one of few sports to work nearly all the muscle groups counteracting the effects of repetitive strain injuries. Core strength is also developed, which permits good posture and facilitates ease of breathing.

Not only does dance positively influence a child’s physical development but also their cognitive development as they are learning both time-management and self-discipline. These skills are transferable to other parts of life, such as school work. Dance students are also asked to learn and recall patterns of movement, further challenging both their memories and mental capabilities. This challenge has been shown to reduce the effects of many cognitive diseases at an older age. Let’s not forget, dance classes are also where children make friends for life as they develop team skills through group work in a friendly environment.

Ballet offers so much more than just pointed toes; it offers children the opportunity to express themselves freely, whether that be using their butterfly wings to fly away, or joining the marching band and playing their favourite instrument. This is something very few other physical activity schemes offer. This creativity is so important to a child as it enables them to explore their inner selves in addition to the physical world, creating emotional experiences and memories that will remain with them for life. I would highly advise all children are given the opportunity to dance, whether this be something they wish to pursue as a career, perform as a hobby or just use as a regular class for fitness purposes. The positive effects on their social, cognitive and physical development are numerous.

Dance Art Studio is located in the Fiveways and Preston Park area of Brighton offering under 5s and graded ballet, tap and modern. Boys tap and jazz, teen jazz, adult tap and jazzfit.
We also hold summer workshops.
www.danceartstudio.co.uk

The joys of sports-based summer clubs

By | Uncategorized

When summer comes around and children are free from school for many weeks, it’s important to make sure that they keep active, but for busy working families, this may be easier said than done.

However, there are a number of ways in which you can keep children fit and healthy over the summer, including sports-based summer holiday clubs. Here are just four reasons why sport is beneficial when it comes to child development:

1 Physical development
Sport involves many types of exercise, including running, jumping and swimming. Not only does this help to keep children fit, it also develops strong and healthy muscles, joints and bones.

2 Motor skills
Through sports, children enhance valuable motor skills, including balance, hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness. These are all important skills that are put to use in day-to-day situations, not just in sports. Sport also requires concentration and discipline, leading to a positive attitude towards learning.

3 Social skills
Playing team sports encourages friendships and promotes teamwork. Interacting with different people requires compassion and a supportive nature is hugely beneficial. A child’s communication skills will improve through interaction with a team and this will help in any situation that requires meeting new people and making friends throughout their lives.

4 Self-esteem
It’s long been believed that sport can promote self-esteem and confidence in children. Being surrounded by supportive teams and coaches can offer encouragement and make children know that they are valued. Learning to humbly celebrate achievements and graciously accept defeats is really important for a strong, confident personality.

In sport, children will also push themselves to the best of their abilities to meet goals and targets, will be actively encouraged to improve, and can celebrate when they do. By continuously learning and improving skills, children
will see a huge boost to their self-esteem.
Taken from www.summerschooldirectory.co.uk

How to help your child manage failure

By | Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Does your child fear ‘failure’? It’s a frightening word isn’t it and one that puts a sinking feeling in our stomachs.

Today’s young people have to navigate their way through a long list of potential failures: What if I fail my GCSEs? What if I don’t pass my next swimming level? What if I come last in a race? What if I don’t pass my piano grade?

We can’t protect our children from the risk of failure and we shouldn’t try to. As parents, all we can do is help them to cope with and learn from all these situations.

Children’s charity, ChildLine, reports that one of the things children worry about the most when it comes to failing is disappointing their parents. So, reassuring them that you don’t expect them to excel at everything can go a long way.

It’s worth just taking time to think about whether you are passing on some of your own anxieties or expectations onto them. You can talk to them about possible solutions/courses of action if things don’t go as well as they would have liked.

Children’s health and well-being practitioner, osteopath Sheree McGregor, says the word ‘failure’ comes from seeing learning as a two-dimensional scale with success (good) at one end and failure (bad) at the other. A much more positive approach is to look at learning as more multi-dimensional.

Sheree believes we can help our children a great deal by teaching them to look at their results not as ‘success’ or ‘failure’, but as opportunities to explore. Exploration means a chance to discover.

In practice, this means encouraging your child to be curious of a result and ask questions such as:
• What have I learned about what doesn’t work?
• Can this explain something that I didn’t set out to explain?
• What can I do with these results?
• What have I discovered that I didn’t set out to discover?

The same approach should be applied to successful results, which can often be a missed learning opportunity – we rarely ask the child holding the trophy what they have learnt from their experience!

She also warns that ‘failing’ should never be swept under the carpet. Avoiding failure merely heightens the dread of it, so when it does happen it will be felt more strongly and deeply.

Sheree adds: “Helping a child to focus on learning in which there are choices and opportunities allows them to try different pathways so that learning remains a positive experience.

“We, as parents, are often tempted to step in when things become challenging but learning to deal with setbacks helps children develop important life skills such as creative thinking, and resilience.”

Sheree is a practitioner for the Sunflower Programme, which uses a pioneering approach to children’s health and well-being. The programme focuses on integrating the brain with the body to help children become the best that they can be. Sunflower has helped hundreds of children – many with diagnosed health, behavioural or learning difficulties, others who are underachieving at school and some, who for no obvious reason, need a little extra help to achieve their potential.

Sheree explains: “Resilience is a term that is used a lot at Sunflower. Sunflower believes that building resilience within children that extends to their body, brain and emotional state will enable them to cope better with life challenges and reach their potential.

“Often using the analogy of learning to ride a bike can be useful – when you fall off, you get back on until eventually you can ride without thinking about it. However, the absolute best way to deal with a child during challenging times is to make them feel supported and loved as much as possible.”

Mette Theilmann, from Parenting Success Coaching, says listening without saying anything can go a long way towards helping children cope with failure. She explains: “We want the sad feeling to go away so they can go back and be happy again, so we go into over drive to fix. But because of these feelings, we often find it hard to listen and accept what we hear or see.

“It is listening that gives them the greatest comfort to cope with the situation, their feelings and problems.

“Being listened to helps our children accept the situation better and allows them to problem solve themselves – since it’s our acceptance of their unhappy feelings/behaviours that can make it easier for them to cope with the situation.”

For more information about the Sunflower Programme: www.sunflowertrust.com

To read more Parenting Success tips:
www.parentingsuccesscoaching.com

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