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Articles

What is the best thing we can give teachers?

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Chanie Wilschanski again last week. This time we were discussing the sorts of things that headteachers, managers and administrators need to think about before the start of a new school year.

One of the many things that I love about talking with Chanie is that she has actually been in practice, so really understands the pressures and frustrations (and joys!) of working with young children, whilst also keeping an effective and motivated team.

She commented last time that, as leaders and managers, ‘the best thing we can give teachers is each other’.

I asked Chanie to expand on that in this interview, so she explained that by getting teachers to help each other, to acknowledge each other’s strengths and to set up a culture of mutual support and trust really pays dividends – for both the teachers and the children.

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Articles

5 books on Supporting Children’s Mental Health

It is becoming more and more important to understand children’s mental health.

It is too easy to assume that children have no worries because they don’t need to pay bills, go to work or care for others.

The statistics are alarming. For example, one in eighteen (5.5%) preschool children have been identified with at least one mental disorder (1). But knowing there’s a problem and knowing what to do about it are two very different things.

So I was delighted to read five very helpful, but very different books this month, all published by Featherstone (part of Bloomsbury Publishing)(2)

  1. What’s going on in my head? by Molly Potter

A beautifully illustrated book, written using language that is ideal to share with even the youngest of children, this book starts with how emotions link to general health. Molly goes on to give some meditation ideas for children; asking for help; friends and thinking habits.

There is much to enjoy about this book. The many different scenarios and the variety of solutions are particularly useful – addressing the vast majority of everyday situations that children may find themselves in, from friendship problems to school and parents.

There are three full pages of guidance for parents and carers at the back, which condenses the advice, including resilience and emotional literacy.

There are two great books in the Featherstone ’50 Fantastic….’ series that I’ve chosen for their help in supporting children’s mental health.

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2. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Emotional Resilience by Jillian Harrison-Longworth

Jillian notes at the beginning of her book that children do not learn to be resilient by osmosis, they need to be taught some skills directly. Her 50 Fantastic activities are perfect for this.

The 50 activities are 10 in each of the 5 key characteristics of emotional resilience: routines; self-esteem; confidence; perseverance, and co-operation. These activities look deceptively simple, for example, drawing together or talking about your own reflection in a mirror, which means you can pick up the book and use it immediately.

However, to get the most from these activities, I would suggest treading about each of them all the way through, including the top tips, to ensure you understand the reasoning behind each activity.

3. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness by Tammie Prince

This book has some excellent meditation and mindfulness activities. Most of them require no resources or very simple resources that you are already likely to have, such as pebbles, mirrors or leaves.

The activities are mostly about the process as children use their natural mindfulness to stack stones, flower breathe or smell the roses (or other flower scents).

The book ends on some ‘mindful teacher’ ideas for practitioners and educators. Although I think practitioners could easily use the ideas intended for the children for their own mindfulness as well. For example, the first activity, Just Breathe, changes ‘energy from tension to relaxation’ simply by using a breathing technique. Easy, useful and very effective.

4. A sense of Place: Mindfulness Outdoors by Annie Davy

This book on mindfulness is a more in-depth book, with references to seminal work and some interesting research references. Chapter 6 on mindfulness pedagogy is particularly interesting and includes focusing on the breath, nature’s breath, fire and finding a ‘sit spot’.

A sit spot is described as a place where adults can sit quietly and notice the invitations or affordances that nature offers for learning – as well as the impact this can have on everyone’s wellbeing.

The 3 part structure of this book – Setting the scene; Learning through the senses, and A sense of place – makes this an easy book to access, whilst still discussing some complex ideas and concepts.

5. Let’s Talk about When Someone Dies by Molly Potter

Hopefully, this is something that, as parents and practitioners, that we don’t have to encounter too often, but there may be occasions when it is necessary.

As with Molly’s other books, this is beautifully and sensitively illustrated throughout, with clear advice.

Molly includes some pages on different types of funerals, as well as how children may feel or the questions that may come up. This is an excellent book for practitioners and parents who would like to discuss death with children in a clear and non-euphamistic way. It would be ideal to have in the staff room or office, ready in case it was needed to help support children through difficult times in their lives.

So, five very different books, but as a group, they cover a lot of angles when supporting children’s mental health as a matter of good practice.

It is also very encouraging to see ever more recognition that the practitioner’s own mental health is valued in these books as well.

You can purchase these books on the Bloomsbury website here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/superpage/featherstone/

or from Amazon here:

What’s Going on in my head by Molly Potter

50 Fantastic Ideas for Emotional Resilience by Jillian Harrison-Longworth

50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness by Tammie Prince

A sense of Place: Mindfulness Outdoors by Annie Davy

Let’s Talk about When Someone Dies by Molly Potter

(1) https://files.digital.nhs.uk/A6/EA7D58/MHCYP%202017%20Summary.pdf
Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017 Published November 2018 by NHS Digital

(2) Disclaimer: I was sent one or more of these books from the publishers for free. You can be assured that the reviews are fair and honest reflections of the contents.

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Articles

Managing our own discomfort

Babies are fascinating.

They learn so much, so quickly and absorb their surrounding environment with all their senses.

As parents, practitioners or educators, one of our responsibilities is to ensure the environment is suitable, stimulating and accessible for children. However, this can mean very different things to different people.

For example, a stimulating environment may be considered to be somewhere full of toys, colour, noise and moving objects. Although this may stimulate all the senses, it may not necessarily be a suitable environment for babies or children. Deborah Carlisle Solomon reminds us of this during her Early Years TV interview, where she explains that a rattle may be over-stimulating for a baby because the baby can’t let go of the rattle.

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Articles

Mixed age grouping in Early Years settings

I really love the idea of family grouping or mixed age groups in a setting.

It happens naturally in settings where there is limited space for segregation, such as in a community centre or in a church hall. I have been lucky enough to see this in several settings and seen some great advantages.

For example, social interactions take on a whole new level, with more experienced (not necessarily older) children leading the way with organising games, sharing, turn-taking, ‘they learn to be both leaders and followers’.

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Articles

Quantity Time vs Quality Time with Kim Hunter

I first interviewed Kim Hunter for the Summit on Leading Practitioners. At her inspirational setting, children spend their time outdoors in mixed-age groups, enjoying a beautiful natural setting.

In this interview for Early Years TV, I wanted to explore some concepts that Kim has been researching since the Summit, namely the ‘Fear and Love Spectrum’. This is the idea that children’s contemporary childhood is changing and the world that children are growing up in has the increased potential to be fearful or isolating – from Stranger Danger to excessive screen time and violent games on smartphones.

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Articles

Explaining kindness to children

One of the things that young children need to learn as they grow up is the concept of ‘Theory of Mind’. This is understanding that other people or children will have different opinions, thoughts, experiences, beliefs, imagination and perceptions than our own. Robert Seyfarth explains a classic ‘Theory of Mind’ experiment in this Youtube video here.

By about 4 years old, children will start to realise that not everyone thinks the same way they do, or that they have the same ideas or motivations. They will be able to understand that they may be hungry, but their friend isn’t. Or that their friends all have different favourite colours.

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Articles

Challenge and Risk in the Early Years – 2019 Spring Summit

What do you think of when someone mentions ‘risky play’?

Maybe it’s “We used to go out to play by ourselves and had to be back by tea-time”.

Or maybe you think about the rope swing in the big tree or the time you went so fast down the slope on your bike that you landed in the stinging nettles at the bottom.

All of these types of play can be considered ‘risky’. Indeed, Professor Ellen Sandseter has researched this and identified 6 different types of risky play:

  1. Play at height
    2. Play at high speed
    3. Play with dangerous tools, including ropes
    4. Play near dangerous elements, such water or fire (or stinging nettles!)
    5. Rough and tumble play
    6. Play where you get ‘lost’ or out of adult’s sight

On the 2019 Spring Early Years Summit, I have 15 Early Years specialists and experts from around the world – including Professor Ellen Sandseter – sharing their expertise and knowledge about risky play. Everyone offers their top tips, advice and strategies for risky play, no matter where you are on the risky play spectrum.

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Guest post

The History of Physical Development Champions

In this blog post, I asked Sharon Skade what had motivated her to set up ‘Early Years Physical Development Champions’ and what the benefits for children are.

You can find out more on Sharon’s FB group: @EarlyYearsPhysicalDevelopmentChampions and you’ll find lots of interesting posts, articles, links and advice on her Twitter feed here: twitter.com/GMUnder5s

You can contact Sharon directly to ask about training and consultancy here: sharons7@hotmail.co.uk

Here is what Sharon had to say about young children’s physical development:

Physical activity specialists are often seen as the poor relations when matters of curriculum are discussed.

I experienced this first hand during my time working for a Local Authority, when having been asked to consult on local provision for families and attending some very productive meetings I was not invited back as I only had a Level 3 Childcare qualification. My various Coaching qualifications were not recognised, even though many of my ideas were implemented.

I was delivering a long-standing successful physical activity programme for children and their parents/carers and had developed a new programme which would encourage parents to interact and engage in physically active games with their children and be able to continue this in the home environment without the need for expensive specialist equipment or a large amount of space.

In some instances, the sessions involved providing time for the parents to learn how to play but more alarming was this knowledge had to be shared with the practitioners supporting the session.

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Viewpoint

Children and food

The past few weeks seem to be dominated by food thoughts.

First of all, I had interviewed Deb Blakley, Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian, Nutritionist and mum – who created Kids Dig Food in 2012. We discussed food, children’s body image and the type of eating experiences that children have in our settings. It’s so important that we consider what food times are like for children because these early experiences will help to form children’s perspectives on food, eating and body image.

This really made me think about the different ways that we serve food – from rolling snack time to picnics outdoors to preparing food with the children. Are these chosen just for the convenience of the staff and the nursery/setting’s routines? Or do they change according to the cohort of children in the setting that day and time? How are children’s preferences met? How are the nutritional contents of a meal calculated?

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Guest post

Some of the benefits of homebased childcare

Pebbles Childcare was the first winner of the brand new category ‘Childminding Business of The Year’ at the Nursery World Awards 2018. Bridgit Brown has built up this childminding business, based in Worthing, West Sussex, over the last 3 years, drawing on her 20 years of childcare experience in a huge range of settings.

I was therefore delighted when Chloe Webster, who works at Pebbles Childcare, offered to write a guest blog, detailing some of the many benefits of home-based childcare. You can see how this good practice supports children’s holistic wellbeing and development.

Home-based childcare has countless benefits, despite a sad lack of understanding and recognition from society, other childcare professionals and parents alike, who still struggle to see home-based childcare as a viable career and childcare option.

Home-based childcare provides children and their families with a home-from-home childcare environment, which for the parents enables them to build up a friendly rapport with their child’s caregiver, and the process of walking into someone’s home, instantly puts you at ease, making the parent as well as the child feel comfortable.

For the children, home-based childcare provides an individual and holistic approach to childcare and with reduced ratios, provides them with a sense of ‘family’ amongst the flexible, real-life learning experiences that home-based childcare has the freedom to provide.

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