Category

Uncategorized

Five tips for preparing your first born for their new sibling

By | family, Health, prenancy, Relationships, Uncategorized

When you’re getting ready to welcome another baby into your family, you’ll no doubt want to share the excitement with your first born. By getting them involved with all the pre-baby organising, you can ensure your son or daughter is just as prepared as you are for the new arrival. Here, Kirsty Prankerd, Managing Director at Write From The Heart shares her tips for getting your little one ready for a sibling.

With another baby on the way, there’s sure to be many things you’ll be planning, and one of those should be helping to make it a positive experience for your first born, too. It’s only natural that your little one might feel a bit left out or upset knowing they won’t be mummy or daddy’s only child, but this doesn’t mean they can’t warm to the idea – especially if you get them involved with the exciting preparations.

Here, I’ll be sharing my top tips for getting your first born prepared for their new sibling.

Make a special announcement to them
Telling your little one that you’re expecting another baby can seem nerve-wracking, but if you approach it in the right way, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Creating a special announcement that gets them involved is a great way of doing this. For example, you could throw a mini tea party with plenty of their favourite foods, games, and decorations and reveal it to them during this and tell them they’re soon going to have a little brother or sister who they can do this with.

You could even give them a little gift that they’ll be able to share with their new sibling. This could be a game they could play together when they’re a little older, or a book they could read to the new arrival.

Allow them to help pick decorations for the nursery
If you’re planning on giving your nursery an overhaul before your little one arrives, it might be a nice idea to have your son or daughter help you with it. If your child is too young to help to do any painting, you could get them involved in different ways. For example, once you’ve narrowed down a few options of paints or wallpapers for the walls, you might want to ask them which they like better and go with that one.

If your child loves drawing or painting, you could even have them create something special for the newborn that you can frame and hang in the nursery.

As you will be spending quite a lot of time in the nursery, whether that’s redecorating or organising your baby’s drawers, it’s important that you try to get your little one involved as much as possible. Allowing them to help you make big decisions and being given their own responsibilities is sure to make them feel happier and more prepared to be a big brother or sister.

Get them involved with the naming process
Thinking of a name for your baby doesn’t always come easy, especially when you haven’t met them yet. This is why some parents like to come up with a few good options so that they can see which suits their newborn better once they meet.

If you’re struggling for some first or middle names, or you simply can’t pick between a couple, why not let your little one help? They’re bound to come up with some that you’re not too keen on, but by spending some time together looking through baby name books and writing down your favourites together, your son or daughter is sure to feel special – plus, you’ll have plenty of options when it’s time to meet your new baby!

Read them stories about other siblings
There are sure to still be periods of uncertainty for your child about having a new sibling, even if they appear excited at times. To help ease any worries and show them how fun it can be to have a brother or sister to share family life with, I would recommend reading them stories about siblings.

Whether the storyline is about fun adventures that siblings can go on together or gives your little one ideas about what types of games they could play together when the baby is a bit older, it’s sure to make them a bit more enthusiastic and excited.

To make it a bit more personal, you could even look for books that can have the character names personalised to match your son or daughter’s name, so they feel extra special and relate with the character more.

Let them choose a gift for the baby’s arrival
Letting your child select a gift from them for the baby’s arrival can be a great initial bonding experience, especially when they choose something that your newborn can cherish for years, like a cuddly toy or a blanket.

So next time you head out to the shops for some baby supplies, why not take your son or daughter with you? Head to the newborn baby section with them so you can be sure anything they choose will be suitable for a tiny human.

If you’ve already decided on a name, you could even let them choose a personalised gift, like a soft toy with your baby’s name embroidered on, or a memory box that they can help to fill when your newborn has arrived.

Ease your child’s nerves or jealousy about a new sibling by getting them involved as much as possible with the preparations. By giving them responsibilities and getting their opinions, they’re sure to feel much more valued and excited to meet their new brother or sister!

www.writefromtheheartkeepsakes.co.uk

Nine ways to make moving house easier on your kids

By | Uncategorized

Moving to a new house is always a challenge, let alone when you have kids to keep entertained as well. However, there are plenty of ways to make it manageable (and possibly even fun) and the team at www.onlinemortgageadvisor.co.uk have compiled their top tips to help get you and your kids through the big move.

Let them know that moving house is a new adventure, not something they have to do

Quite simply, kids hate being told what to do. As soon as you tell your child that they must do something, they will drag their feet and not want to. However, if you position it to them as an exciting new adventure, rather than something they don’t have a choice in, they’re going to be far more willing to go along with it. Tell them all the exciting things the new house has that your current home doesn’t, that way they’ll be even more excited to get going.

Let them come to showings with you

I know, letting your kids come on a house viewing with you sounds like a whole new level of stress. However, by making them feel involved, they’ll then be just as excited as you are and will be able to see with their own eyes what is to come. A great tip for this is to give them a designated job such as ‘official house viewing photographer’ or letting them make a Pinterest board to design their new room. This isn’t to say that you should drag them along if they’re not interested, but if they are, it could be the perfect opportunity to get them on side.

Spend time in the local neighbourhood

Spending time in the surrounding area and letting your kids explore the parks, playgrounds, shops and restaurants, is another great way of getting them excited to move. If they find a cool new park that they love, they’re going to be much happier about moving to a new area that has something the current area doesn’t.

Make packing creative

Letting them paint and draw on the boxes is going to make packing feel much less of a chore for them as well as making the whole process much more enjoyable. Maybe turn it into a competition for the little ones to see who has done the best drawing. Every kid loves to compete with their sibling.

Unpack toys and their favourite belongings first

It might be a challenge when you first step through the door of your new home to not crack right on with unpacking boxes and getting settled in, but the kids will want to be entertained from the get-go. Unpack their boxes first and make sure they’re entertained with something, that way you can get on with unpacking the rest of the house!

Assign them tasks

Assigning them tasks will make them feel much more involved in the move as well as making them feel just as important as the grown-ups. Whether it’s creating a playlist and being DJ for the moving day, making sure all their toys are in boxes, or entertaining the family pet for the day, it will keep them occupied and even help you out in the process.

Let them camp out in their new bedroom

Allowing them to set up a fort and camp out in their new bedroom will be a great novelty for them. Every kid loves a blanket fort, so crack out the duvets and cushions and give them free reign of their room for the night.

Don’t let all the familiar routines slip

If sitting down for a meal together is a daily routine, don’t let it slip just because you’re busy unpacking. Kids not only need the consistency, but they will also appreciate it and feel much more at home seeing that things are still the same within the family. Even if you’re having to use moving boxes as a table, it will be an exciting dinner time for them to say the least.

Keep snacks at hand all day

The last thing you want when you’re trying to empty one house and fill another is your kids moaning that they’re hungry and as a result, turning ‘hangry’. Keeping snacks at hand means you won’t have to rush out and find the nearest supermarket whilst you’re trying to focus on unpacking as quickly as possible.

How your relationship shapes your child’s future relationships

By | Uncategorized
by Neil Wilkie
Relationship Expert

You have the power to create great relationships for your future generations or not!

Possibly the most important skill in life is how to have a loving and fulfilling relationship with another person. Who teaches us how to do this? From a very early age children model their parent’s behaviour as this helps them to make sense of this new world that they have been born into. Until they are old enough to develop their own map of the world, they will aspire to having the same sort of relationship that their parents have.

How parents relate to their children, in the first three years, will shape the attachment style of their children for what is likely to be the rest of their lives. The four attachment styles are; Secure, Anxious, Avoidant or Fearful. The state of the relationship of the parents in these formative early years may impact on their ability to make their children feel secure.

Children often believe that their relationships will have to be like their parents. So, if it is loving and harmonious, they are very fortunate and will carry that into their futures. If it is unhappy and argumentative, they will carry that shadow with them because ‘that is how relationships are’ unless they can find a better model they can apply in their lives.

Couples may believe that they can keep their disagreements hidden and their frustrations swept under the carpet. Children will pick up, at least subconsciously, if the relationship of their parents does not feel right. Children need to see that differences are part of life and that they can be dealt with amicably. They also need to experience that life can be a bumpy ride and that their parents can handle this as a team.

Children should see their parents experiencing joy and fun with each other. If they can see the love glowing and growing, the looks, gentle kisses, kind words and touches; the moments of intimacy where it is as if the world stops and nothing else matters, then they will be well set up for their future relationships. If they can see respect, consideration and sharing of burdens, this will give them an insight into balanced gender roles. If the future dreams and purpose of their parents is talked about openly then they will feel part of that journey and realise that they too, can shape their own future rather than be passengers.

Parents should retain privacy on sensitive issues and should show their children that relationships require openness and nurturing. They can also demonstrate that mistakes are inevitable, and they are a great opportunity to learn and improve.

Children need to be taught, by example, what a great relationship is like. They also need to understand that life changes and that falling in love is easy but staying in love requires hard work.

The six key elements of a relationship are:
Communication – being able to express your feelings to each other and feeling listened to and understood.
Connection – having time each day where you are there for each other and fully present.
Commitment – both being clear about what you want from life and from the relationship and working to achieve this.
Fun – spending time doing things together, sharing laughs and good times.
Growth – the you, me and ‘us’ all growing and being fulfilled.
Trust – doing what we say we are going to do, being there for each other and being open and honest.

Couples should regularly be talking about their relationship, calibrating it and agreeing where improvements are needed. If parents can show their children that they are doing this in the same way that tests at school chart their own progress, this will demonstrate a great model for their future relationships.

What we say to our children and how we behave with them should help them grow into happy and secure adults and parents. So many children are badly affected for the rest of their lives by things that parents say to them or that are overheard. They may be said in moments of anger or misunderstanding but the emotionally developing brain of a child may attach too much importance to what they hear and carry that shadow with them for the rest of their lives.

These are the 10 important feelings that children need their parents to stimulate:
Loved – unconditionally, no matter what.
Secure – that we are there for them, to protect them when needed.
Supported – to be the best version of themselves.
Boundaries – to know what acceptable behaviour is and what is not.
Growth – to continually develop to be even better.
Trust – to be able to predict what we will do and feel safe.
Communication – to be listened to and able to express their feelings.
Connection – to feel an important part of a family.
Commitment – parents are there for them.
Fun – to be able to have fun together.

If we can give our children all of these, this will build a firm foundation to experience the joys of a great relationship and weather the storms of life and relationships.

What legacy do you want to give your children?

Neil Wilkie is a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author of the Relationship Paradigm Series of Books and creator of the online therapy platform, The Relationship Paradigm®.
Find out more at www.relationshipparadigm.com

Why going wild is the answer

By | children's health, environment, Green, Mental health, Uncategorized
by Richard Irvine
author of Wild Days and Forest Craft

This very strange year has seen many of us desperate to take whatever opportunities we can to be outdoors, exploring our local neighbourhoods. Wilderness might not always be on the doorstep, but little bits of wild nature can be found everywhere – whether you live in a bustling city or its suburbs, or close to farms, forests or the coast. There are adventures to be had in parks, on city streets, canal tow-paths, riverbanks, beaches, woods, moorland and country walks.

All that is needed is a bit of curiosity, a playful attitude and maybe a tiny bit of know-how. Paying attention to the ordinary and everyday that might have escaped our notice for years, can open the door to tiny adventures close to home. Outdoor play is not just a ‘nice to have’, it is essential for children to experience the world to learn about it and their place in it.

Learning about our neighbour-hood nature connects us to where we live and makes us feel more at home. The more time spent outdoors, the more you notice the patterns of the changing seasons; get to know the sights, sounds and smells of your local wildlife; and enjoy ‘slow time’ as you lose yourself in the fascination of nature. Creativity, resilience and positive attitudes towards the environment and exercise are forged in outdoor play. Understandable fears of busy roads and encounters with strangers can make parents and carers feel anxious about letting their children and young people play out of sight but it is vital that all young people have opportunities for unstructured outdoor adventures.

A simple walk in the park can be transformed into an engaging, playful experience with a mission to collect materials to make natural art or to make a wreath at home. A bit of string and some twigs can be transformed into boats to sail on the pond or canal with ‘jelly baby’ passengers to keep safe and dry if possible. Playing Pooh sticks, racing marbles down a hill and just gazing up at the clouds can turn reluctance into enthusiasm when it comes to getting children outside.

On your wild days out, it is very important to remember that the world is not a playground for humans but the habitat for us and all other living things. At the very least, we should try and leave as little trace of our activities as possible. It would be fantastic if we could leave things in an even better state than we found them and to have a positive impact on our environment.

To be safe in the world, young people need to be allowed to take risks. If they grow up insulated from potential harm, they may find it difficult to assess what is safe or dangerous for themselves and not learn to ask the important “What if…” questions that help us to consider the consequences of our actions and to make good decisions. Some of the best childhood adventures can involve fires, tools and the chance of getting lost, but all can be undertaken safely with trust, practice and common sense. You know your young people and context. My plea is to let them explore, play and experiment under the open skies. Join in alongside or keep an eye from a distance but try to relax, enjoy being outside with them and remember that the benefits of outdoor play and adventure will stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead.

Richard Irvine is a qualified teacher with a love of the outdoors and over 20 years’ experience in the field of outdoor learning. His specialist knowledge of woodlands and practical education comes from a love of the outdoors and many years working for forestry and education organisations. An accomplished greenwood carver, he brings woodcraft into his work wherever possible through progressing children’s skills at Forest School and running professional development workshops and recreational carving days for adults.
He is the author of Wild Days and Forest Craft from GMC Publications. He lives in Devon.

summer-camp

Holiday camps – great for children and parents!

By | environment, family, fun for children, Green, Playing, Relationships, Uncategorized

The long school summer holidays are lovely for so many reasons; particularly because you and your children have a break from the school routine. There is time to relax and be less governed by the clock. However, unfortunately most working parents don’t get six weeks off, so finding childcare can be difficult.

Even if you are lucky enough not to actually ‘need’ childcare, children (and parents!) may enjoy some time apart. Children often miss not spending time with people their own age during the holidays; hence the dreaded
“I’m bored” phrase being uttered!

Many parents find holiday clubs or play schemes are the answer. They are very flexible so you can book them for the whole of the working week, or just a couple of days each week, depending on your needs. Most run for similar times to the working day with some time either side to allow you to get to and from work.

They are normally based at schools or leisure centres in the area, as they already have the facilities needed on site and are easily accessible. Some clubs are based around a particular sport or hobby whilst others allow children to do lots of different activities. You may find that due to the better weather in the summer holidays, some are also based at locations that allow children to have fun outside or in the water – but obviously there will always have to be a plan B in case of horrendous weather!

There is a variety of clubs to choose from; some may offer the chance to try lots of different sports and hobbies during the week, whilst others will concentrate on something specific such as drama, football, netball or trampolining. Children may want to enhance the skills they already have in a sport or hobby, or it can be a chance to try something completely new. Younger children may enjoy a variety of sports and crafts during the week, and you may even find one in particular that sparks a new interest that they want to continue, after the summer.

The summer is obviously the best time to try watersports for the first time. Children can learn to windsurf, kayak, sail, or paddle board. If children can learn a new skill it can really increase their self-esteem and confidence, and there can’t be many better things to enjoy in the sun than the thrill of learning a new watersport.

It can be hard to find ways to keep children active and occupied during the summer holidays, whether you are a working parent or not. At holiday clubs children will engage in physical activity and there will virtually be no time in front of screens. Children will be able to participate in a wider variety of activities that they may not normally have access to.

Children who have had friendship problems at school, have a chance to start afresh in a holiday club. They will be with children their own age and they have the chance to make new friends and socialise with children they may not necessarily go to school with. They are likely to increase in confidence as they make new friends, and this can continue when they go back to school as they will undoubtedly be more confident socially.

In addition to the social benefits, children will also learn new skills. Clubs may offer the chance to try things that children have never had opportunity to try before such as handball, trampolining or even archery and they will leave with a positive feeling of accomplishment.

Finally, clubs also provide peace of mind for parents as they know their children are enjoying themselves in a safe environment. As children come to the end of their primary school age they may want to be out by themselves a little bit more, and meet their friends in the park for example, but while they are in a holiday club you know they are safe, happy and having fun.

This summer, more than ever, the most important thing is that children have fun; it is their holiday from school after all! This last year has been stressful for everyone and children have had their own stresses at school, with constant talk of them being ‘behind’ and the need to ‘catch up’. They need this summer to have fun, relax and create new memories, whether that is playing football with new-found friends, rehearsing, and putting on a play, sitting down enjoying some crafts, or learning to paddle board.

There is always great demand for holiday childcare particularly as last year’s summer was so uncertain, so do book your childcare as soon as you can and then relax and enjoy the holidays!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singing with small children – seven simple strategies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playing outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NHS Thank You

Pandemic parenting

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, Mental health, Uncategorized

Psychotherapist offers positive parenting tips

If you are one of the many families struggling with home schooling and feel that you are failing in meeting your children’s needs, you will not be in the minority. Psychotherapist Noel McDermott has over 25 years experience in this field and is keen to reassure families that any struggle in the here and now is OK. It is normal for both parents and children to be experiencing feelings of anxiety at this time. Here he provides simple tips to help support your child’s mental health.

Noel comments: “Talk to your children about how they’re finding the lockdown and home schooling this time round, reassure them it’s okay to ask for help if they feel low. Explain it’s normal and natural but that they don’t have to suffer alone. Monitor for signs they are struggling by watching out for mood, presentation or behaviour changes that last longer than a day or two. Increase family time and family events to be able to lift each other up and observe your kids at work and play.”

Positive parenting tips for both parent and child:
• Get outside. Nature is brilliant at lifting mood and it doesn’t have to be the great outdoors, your local park or even your garden is just as good. In fact, even noticing something simple outside like the trees in the park will elevate your mood!
• Challenge your thinking. Don’t give into those low mood thoughts, tell them they are temporary and will go away, that all feelings have an end by date and theirs is coming soon. Get involved in activities and events even though you might think they are useless and boring at the time; you will soon change your mind!
• Exercise as a family, stay active and get the blood flowing. Getting active for 20 minutes a day regulates your mood, just add some brisk walking into your day, take the kids for a run at lunchtime or do an online exercise class together.
• Sleep, eat and drink well. Children need good, sound sleep to ensure proper body and mind development. A nutritious diet plays an important role in a child’s physical and mental health. Get the basics right and the rest will follow.
• Treat your kids. Have a list of those things your children especially like and treat them when you think they deserve a lift! You also deserve treats – be kind to yourself.

Alternative social interaction
As well as providing education, schools and nurseries provide another even more important function in a child’s development and that is access to complex social group interaction. Children across the country will be missing their friendship circles and for all kids, but especially younger ones, access to play with other children is central to healthy development. Think outside the box and help support your child’s needs, for example:
• Plan movie nights: teleparty www.netflixparty.com is a fun way to have film nights with friends and family who cannot see each other in person.
• Organise virtual playdates: these will help fulfil your
child’s social needs and find positive opportunities. Perhaps they could have a tea party online, do arts and crafts together or simply read a book with their friend?
• Arrange a gaming session for your children with their friends – gaming, especially online, can provide immeasurable benefits to those who are lonely and isolated. It provides safe social contact and a place where skills can be developed. These skills can provide a much-needed boost to self-esteem.
• Online spaces – organise social and groups activities online with both friends and family that stimulate and develop social interaction. Although not as effective as a real-world connection, helping kids organise online groups and activities with their peers and friends can be very beneficial. The online space challenges the child (and the adult) to engage socially and cognitively.

How to spot anxiety in children
Unfortunately, cases of anxiety and distress in children are on the rise now and this is being caused by an almost constant diet of scary stories on the news/Internet, isolation from peers with schools being closed and from picking up on the stresses of family and parents. For many children they will be experiencing more vivid dreams during this time, interrupted sleep, issues around appetite and so-on which are all classic signs of distress.

Younger children and COVID-19 concerns
Little ones might try to protect you from their distress and say they are fine, but it will show up in other ways such as, in their play, which can become preoccupied with the worries; mummies and daddies getting sick and going to hospital, people getting hungry, people fighting and getting angry with each other. Kids might become avoidant when they are upset, not talking, and withdrawing. Behaviour may deteriorate and arguments and fights start. They may ‘regress’ and start to act in a younger manner, depending on age you may see thumb sucking, incontinence, clinging behaviour.

Older children and COVID-19 concerns
In teenagers, distress can often appear as disconnection (I don’t care, I don’t want to talk about it) and through avoidance behaviours. Avoidance and procrastination are both classic signs of anxiety. In older children we are seeing increases in anxiety as reported by parents, this includes relapses in anti-social behaviour, substance misuse and so on.

Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “Parenting in a pandemic is not an easy feat but now more than ever it is vital that parents help children develop and maintain good mental health and emotional wellbeing. You can do this by helping them feel safe, keeping healthy routines, managing their emotions and behaviour and by being positive at home. By being positive ourselves, we promote positivity to our children. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health don’t be afraid to ask your GP for support.”

Vaccination and the end in sight
It’s important to explain that we are on the final straight now, with the vaccination programme well under way. Soon, your kids will be able to see their grandparents as the shielded ones are being vaccinated first. Tell yourself this is positive news as well! The closure of schools, as well as being temporary, is for the last time. We are all looking forward to a big party soon to move on from all this stress.

Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education.
Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual.
They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources in order to help clients access help without leaving home –
www.noelmcdermott.net/group-therapy/

Ten tips for nurturing emotional wellbeing at home

By | Uncategorized
by Catherine Lynch
PlanBee

1 Relationships are important
Create a nurturing environment where everyone feels valued and safe. While the need may be innate, the skill of developing and maintaining connections is learned. You can create this environment at home by working as a team, sharing responsibilities and making sure everyone’s efforts are appreciated. Think about ways your family is looking out for each other and remember showing appreciation and keeping the lines of dialogue open consistently will help your children learn these skills.

2 Adjust your expectations
We are in a very strange time. Our worlds have been turned upside down and almost everything we knew to be true has changed. Adults and children alike have been affected by changes to their lives and as a result things we used to be able to cope with might feel like huge mountains to climb. We all have something called a window of tolerance. If your window is smaller than usual at the moment, go easy on yourself and take the pressure off. Allow yourself and your children to be less productive than normal, and give yourselves time to process what you are feeling.

3 Allow everyone to have a voice
It is absolutely normal to want to feel in control and to hold on tightly to the things we can control. Whether your child breaks down over the wrong colour socks or something else, see what practical choices you can give them to help them feel they have some control. Depending on their age, give them a few carefully selected choices to choose from or have an open discussion about the options available. If transitions are hard for your child, focus on what is happening when the current activity ends, give them time warnings, or a timer if they are old enough.

4 Be playful and have fun
Play fosters creativity, collaboration and problem solving, all of which are important for good mental health. Playing is a fantastic way to develop relationships and resilience. It also releases feel-good hormones. Children (and adults) learn through play. Children often explore areas they are finding challenging through their play. Role plays are a great example of this.

5 Create an atmosphere where all feelings are allowed
Name feelings and emotions as they arise. This gives children and adults the language to describe how they are feeling. Set aside a calm time to talk about feelings. You could show your children Emoticon Emotions Cards or Photo Emotions Cards and ask them to pick one to explore. Talk about the physical sensations the emotion has for each of you. Talk about times you felt it or characters in books, films or TV shows experienced it. Discuss what happened before, during and after the emotion was felt. Is there a better way the character could have reacted? What led up to the crisis point?

Help children to give their feelings an appropriate outlet. Put boundaries in place around behaviours to keep everyone safe and develop strategies to help reinforce those boundaries. For example, you are allowed to feel happy, angry or sad, you are not allowed to break things or hit.

6 Read stories
Spend time together and lose yourselves in a good book. Act out stories and make up your own narratives. Use your imagination or add props. Let books take you where you cannot physically go.

7 Keep some structure in the day
This does not mean you need to timetable every second. For example, agree times that you will come together as a family. Agree a time that is for quiet activities, work, going outdoors. If your family is anything like mine, you may find the daily structure seems to centre around food!

8 Encourage curiosity
Take your children outside and follow their lead, see what they have questions about and research the answers together. Go on ‘I spy challenge walks’, find out how exercise changes their heart rate, have timed races, explore shadows, find mini-beasts, classify animals, identify plants and identify birds. The list is endless. These do not have to be structured planned activities, go outside and develop observational skills and see where the time takes you.

9 Give your child a safe space they can go to
See if you can create a den or something similar for your child to play in, and retreat to when they want to be alone.

10 Make time for family time
Designate time each week where there are no screens and no distractions. Use this time to work on something together. This might be building a den, cooking, painting, crafting, going on a walk. It doesn’t matter what the activity is; the important thing is to spend some quality stress-free time connected, doing something together. Success has different guises: have a day where you forget about the end goal and the focus is on being together.

Catherine Lynch of education resources and lesson-planning experts PlanBee is a former primary school teacher. She tweets at @planbeecath.