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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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Leading Practitioners, Leading Practice – Early Years Summit

I’m very excited to announce that the Early Years Summit has had a bit of a make-over.

The Early Years Summits are free, regular, online conferences. Twice yearly a group of experts and specialists share their knowledge, research, expertise, and enthusiasm with the world. These have had themes such as  Quality Interactions; Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development; Outdoor Play and Learning.

As usual, these video interviews are available for free during the broadcast week – 22nd to 28th of October 2018.

But this Autumn Summit 2018 has something a bit extra.

You’ll still hear from leading Early Years experts from around the world, such as Alistair Bryce-Clegg, Christopher Phoenix, Professor Jan White, Rachel Buckler and Sandi Phoenix.

There’s still tons of great advice, thought-provoking discussion and lots of top tips to support your Early Years practice.

BUT – in addition to all this is a full programme of leading practitioners and educators from around the world, who are doing exceptional things for their children, from unusual environments to reflective safeguarding practices to children’s and practitioner’s wellbeing.

These outstanding practitioners and educators explain how they have implemented, grown and reflected on their own practice. They offer real-life solutions to challenges you may be having right now. You can learn about their methods and processes. Find out how they are making it better for children and get lots of support and advice to help you do the same. Of course, there are always the ‘top tips’ as well!

I’m delighted to have the experience and knowledge of both experts AND practitioners on the Summit in this unique way.

To find out more details and to sign up for the Autumn 2018 Early Years Summit, simply click below:

www.earlyyearssummit.com

 

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Early Years TV is here!

I’m really pleased to be able to announce my exciting new venture: Early Years TV.

Over the last few months we’ve been beavering away behind the scenes to create what I hope will be a wonderful resource for professional development for all Early Years practitioners and educators. It’s a weekly “TV show” where I interview some of the leading experts in Early Years who share their top tips and ideas – all for free.

We cover topics like practitioner’s well-being, nurturing your staff, scheme & schema, safeguarding and workplace diversity, all the way through to leadership and management, health inequalities, news updates, and sometimes simply examples and stories to inspire you.

Each interview is posted at 6pm on Friday evening (UK time) and is available to watch completely free for a week, until the next episode is posted.

If you sign up to get updates, you will get an email to let you know which video is on now and what is coming up in the next episode. You can unsubscribe from this at any time.

In the very near future, we’ll be offering a monthly membership, where, for a small fee, you will be able to access the previous videos from the library back catalogue as well as watch the current videos for as long as you are a member. You can buy Lifetime Membership now, which is a one-off payment for all videos, forever – and there’s a FREE Early Years TV notebook and pen for the first 100 Lifetime Members!

We do hope you enjoy Early Years TV, find it inspirational and useful for your practice with the children.

For more information and sign up:
https://www.earlyyears.tv/

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Articles

What is an Enabling Environment?

An enabling environment is one that provides children with appropriate challenges, allows them to explore freely and has plenty of sensory stimulation. Getting the environment right for children will support their holistic development – their all-around, integrated learning and development.

How to Provide an Enabling EnvironmentIn this article, which was published in Teach Early Years, I’ve given you tips in a number of specific areas that will show you how to provide an enabling environment for your children.

Click here or on the image to download the article.

You can find more about Holistic Development in my book The Holistic Care and Development of Children from Birth to Three.

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Holistic development from Birth to Three

The age from birth to three is an explosion of development and learning for young children. From being totally dependent on parents and carers for their every need to becoming independent children, with unique personalities, complex language skills and physical abilities, children learn it all in an incredibly short time.

This does not happen in a vacuum, however. Babies need to hear language and see communication to be able to learn proficiency; a whole range of physical skills are required and need to be practised before crawling, cruising and walking can be mastered; attachment, bonding, episodes of joint attention and developing resilience are just a few of the social and emotional aspects that will help to develop personality.

Similarly, this development doesn’t happen according to a fixed timetable (although there are some general developmental norms) or in discrete pockets of development.

Babies and young children learn and develop holistically, meaning that many areas develop all at the same time and interdependently on each other. This is particularly pertinent in the birth to three age range, where there can be significant benefits to giving babies and young children experiences that are interconnected and consider all areas of learning and development.

For example, baby massage is physically soothing, and, in addition, it is beneficial for bonding and emotional soothing.

Physical development with respect to eye contact, pointing and babbling are all important beginnings of communication.

Of course, communication in the form of storytelling and narratives greatly supports young children’s sense of self, their sense of community and may also be a vehicle for exploring their own sense of morality at the basic level of ‘goodies’ vs ‘baddies’.

Superhero play (which may take the form of ‘goodies vs baddies’) can be used to encourage different forms of movement with older children such as leaping, spinning and creeping during their play.

As you can see, birth to three is all about the interactions, the interdependencies and the links between ALL areas of learning and development.

I have explored these concepts and ideas in my latest book – The Holistic Care and Development of children from birth to three which has just been published. The aim of the book is to illustrate just how vital it is that we consider children holistically, rather than arbitrarily sub-divide their accomplishments into pre-determined boxes, especially in the birth to three age range.

In the book, I have included lots more examples, as well as activity ideas to support them. There are also the underpinning theories about babies and young children’s development at the beginning of each chapter to set the context.

Babies and young children are amazing learners, capable and curious. It seems a shame not to acknowledge this and support them in their preferred way of learning – holistically.

You can purchase the book now from David Fulton Publishers here: https://www.routledge.com/The-Holistic-Care-and-Development-of-Children-from-Birth-to-Three-An-Essential/Brodie/p/book/9781138211056 or from Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2nOcDQK

 

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