Tag Archives: Activities

5 Ways To Get Your Children Outdoors This Easter

With Easter just around the corner, finding ways to keep your children active during the holidays can often seem like a herculean task. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to get your little ones out and about in the spring sunshine and many of them won’t cost you a penny. So, lace up their shoes, button up their coats and start giving the Easter bunny a run for his money.

Eggs-ercise Outdoors With An Easter Egg Hunt

It’s nearly impossible to avoid chocolate at this time of year. But, an Easter egg hunt is aeaster-13646_640 great way for your children to burn off energy before they get their hands on any tasty treats. The garden or local park makes the perfect hiding place for these goodies, keeping your children active whilst they race around looking for them. For older children, you might want to introduce a scavenger hunt theme. Providing clues to where the next egg lies will help keep the game fun and engaging. Just remember not to go overboard, as the harder the clues, the higher the chance of your child growing bored of hunting.

Go Wild With Animal Role Play

Easter is the perfect time to introduce a little pretend play to your child’s life. With thousands of baby animals being born up and down the country, it can be fun to imagine what it would be like to be a sheep or a duck. Encourage your children to hop, waddle and quack their way across the garden, enabling them to exercise their imagination as well as their bodies.

Explore The Countryside With A Springtime Walkoutdoor play

If you live in an area where the countryside is close to hand, then you could think about trying to spot some local wildlife. The natural world is an abundant source of wonder to young children, especially if they’re introduced to animals they’ve never encountered before. Taking a stroll with your family through the fields or along the riverside can be a great way of letting off steam and exploring the world around you. Easter is also a great time to visit a petting zoo or local farm to see chicks, bunnies, lambs and ducklings.

Get Involved With An Easter Parade

Whilst there’s plenty to do in your own backyard, joining the local community in their Easter celebrations can be a great experience for the whole family. Check to see if your neighbourhood is putting on an Easter parade that your children can get involved with. These usually provide children with the opportunity to hop, skip and run down the street, along with the chance to create banners and play with their friends.

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Encourage Creativity With Messy Play

If you’re looking for a sensory experience at home, then Easter themed messy play could be the ideal solution. Making shapes in sand, mud and paint allows children to exercise their creative side, as well as helping them develop core motor skills. By turning their creativity into a game, you can keep them active at the same time. Digging for eggs in the mud or searching for toys in the sand will keep toddlers happy for hours and only comes at the price of a quick cleanup afterwards.

 

Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing outdoor school play equipment for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. He believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which should be integrated into the school curriculum at every opportunity.

Website: http://www.pentagonplay.co.uk/.

Pentagon’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PentagonPlayUK.

Pentagon’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/PentagonPlayUK

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Children should learn mainly through play until age of eight, says Lego

Toy company funds research suggesting educational development can be hindered by early formal schooling. So are UK schools getting it wrong?

The Guardian today reports that parents are squeezing the role of play out of their children’s lives in favour of the three ‘R’s as they try to prepare their offspring for a competitive world, according to the head of Lego’s education charity arm.

A lack of understanding of the value of play is prompting parents and schools alike to reduce it as a priority, says Hanne Rasmussen, head of the Lego Foundation. If parents and governments push children towards numeracy and literacy earlier and earlier, it means they miss out on the early play-based learning that helps to develop creativity, problem-solving and empathy, she says.

According to Rasmussen, the evidence for play-based learning has built enormously over the last decade, but parents don’t know about it. “Both in the formal education system and in the homes of children, the focus on the value of play is rather limited. That’s really something we want to work on – to improve the understanding of the value of play and what play really can do, where more and more it is squeezed by a desire both from the formal system and from parents that children should learn specific literacy and numeracy quite early.”kid_learningthruplay

The intervention by Rasmussen directly challenges the knowledge-based, heavily tested approach to schooling favoured by the UK government – and questioned by many education practitioners.

The 29-year-old Lego Foundation, generously funded with a quarter of Lego’s post-tax profits, is beginning to flex its muscles. Where once it quietly dished out cash – and bricks – to lots of small projects, it has set its sights on campaigning for a mindset change in education around the world. “Our contribution to the world is to challenge the status quo by redefining play and reimagining learning,” says the foundation’s mission statement.

Part of the mission involves putting £4m into a new ‘Lego professorship’ at Cambridge University – the first incumbent will be chosen in April – and supporting an accompanying Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (Pedal). There are more links with Harvard, MIT and other prestigious institutions. The aim is to provide an incontrovertible academic underpinning to the educational value of play, and to define more clearly what works and how to measure it, arming Lego with more evidence to support its campaigning.boy_learningthruplay

But can a toy company – albeit the largest in the world and so famous that its every move makes news (David Beckham builds Lego “to relax”; Ai Weiwei embarrassed “non-political” Lego into bulk-selling him bricks for art) – really influence the way our children learn? Conquering the globe with little red and yellow bricks is one thing; changing the minds of governments is another.

As a child in Denmark in the 1970s, Rasmussen recalls there was more time to play simply because there were fewer of the planned activities that clog up the timetables of today’s over-scheduled children. “We had more room to actually engage and keep ourselves entertained and we learned through that and we grew in many different ways through that,” she says. She and her sister played with Lego, but Rasmussen’s real joy was her years in the sea scouts, when she and three or four other teens would island-hop at weekends on a small boat off the coast close to the Danish capital, adult-free and entirely independent.

SA boy with bricks

©LEGO Foundation

“All over the world, we see parents spending much energy doing the best for their child, and play is not on that list because they don’t have the background to understand what it could do.”

The problem is not that parents don’t have their child’s best interests at heart, she says. But “global competition, economic development – that has put fear or a concern into parents and into governments over how do we become relevant in 15 years or even right now”.

Countries fear seeing their young people left behind, their workforce made irrelevant. “And in that situation what the parent says is, ‘I want my child to have a job, without a job the child will not have a good life, so what can I do to prepare the child?’ And the answer often ends up being more focus on specific skills, and earlier and earlier.”

Rasmussen laments that “barriers in systems – school systems, homes, longstanding institutions that run on their own structures and methodologies” make it a “heavy, heavy task” to change things. Here in the UK – with a school starting age some three years earlier than that of our Scandinavian neighbours, “instructional” learning from the outset and external testing of seven-year-olds in literacy and numeracy – the barriers look pretty solid.

Lego identifies five types of play – physical, symbolic, with rules, with objects, and pretence – and points to the variety of skills developed through each. Even tech-driven play – that source of guilt and respite for so many parents – can fit in: not mindless screen-gawping but activities in which children can “engage with the technology”, or what Lego calls “hands-on, minds-on”. Its second definition of play is a playful state of mind in which, Rasmussen says, “you are open and try different things and are in a positive flow”.

Nailing the benefits of play seems a bit like describing beauty – the essence of it seems somehow diminished by scientific analysis – but research findings are accumulating.

A Cambridge University project, funded by the foundation, saw children devise, tell and act out stories with Lego before writing them down, with play shown to boost narrative and writing skills, as well as interaction and cooperation. The Cambridge study centre will now look into how early play relates to other aspects of young children’s development, explore what happens to the brain during play and conduct a longitudinal study examining what promotes children’s playfulness and how it helps learning and wellbeing.

With strong evidence of the power of play, parents and politicians can be convinced, Rasmussen says. It’s not a question of rejecting the importance of the “content” so beloved of Conservative education secretaries, “but things are changing so fast in our society so the understanding of how you gain and use content knowledge is for us much, much more important. It has to be a balance. You need skills to interact with others, to be able to seek knowledge yourself, because learnings will get outdated.”

An early school starting age need not necessarily be harmful, she says, providing the learning is based on whole-child development and not “sitting at a desk”. But, in contrast to the UK system, she advocates children learning through play well into key stage 2: “In the early years – and that’s up to around eight – a play-based methodology makes a lot of sense.” She cites New Zealand research indicating that early formal literacy lessons do not make children any better readers by age 11, and may even put them off reading.

If Lego is right, then in Britain, with our early formal schooling, we’re getting it wrong. Critics might say that the Lego Foundation – though separate from Lego’s commercial arm – is simply about flogging more models of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon. But, Rasmussen points out, Lego isn’t producing pro-play research itself: the findings come from some of the most esteemed universities on the planet. The Lego link does not compromise the argument, she insists. “We certainly believe the brick is a very, very valuable tool in learning through play but is it the only way or only tool? No, certainly not.”

Can Lego really persuade fearful parents and governments to trust in play? It’s a safe bet that most of its audience will at some time have locked a few Lego bricks together – and just might be willing to listen.

Visit LEGO Foundation at http://www.legofoundation.com/en-gb/.

Visit LEGO at http://www.lego.com/en-gb.

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Halloween Series: How To Make Your Own Spooky Mummy Lantern Decorations

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If you’re planning a party this Halloween, these DIY mummy lanterns are a great spooky addition and they cost next to nothing to make!

I don’t know about you guys, but here at What’s On 4 we LOVE Halloween! But, as with many holidays, the price of going all out to celebrate can soon start to add up, especially if you’re organising a party. That’s why we think these DIY Mummy Lanterns made with old jars and toilet paper are a perfect addition to any Halloween shindig and they’re so quick and easy to make. Huge thanks to our friends at PK Green for the idea!

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What You’ll Need To Make Your Mummy Lanterns

  • Clear jars – you can also use large plastic cups
  • Toilet roll
  • Scissors
  • Double-sided tape or normal cellotape
  • PKG battery operated LED tealight candles
  • Felt-tip pens (for decoration) – you can also use googly eyes

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Step-by-step Instructions

Follow the steps outlined here to create your very own scary mummy lanterns!

  1. Unroll a good length of toilet roll and tear off. Fold it in half and cut down the middle to make 2 long, thin pieces of paper.
  2. Pull each of the pieces of paper apart (from end to end) to make them single ply.
  3. Repeat steps 1 & 2 until you have enough paper to cover all of your jars.
  4. Take the first jar and stick a small piece of double-sided tape to the Mummy Lanterns4shoulder (if you are using sellotape, fold a piece over to make it double-sided).
  5. Take a strip of paper, stick it to the tape and begin to wrap your jar. Repeat this process until the whole jar is covered in paper.
  6. Once your jar is fully wrapped it’s time to get creative. Use the felt-tip pens or stick on eyes to decorate your mummy jars and bring them to life!!
  7. Finally pop in your PK Green battery operated LED tealight candles and voila! Your very own Scary Halloween Mummy Lanterns

Throughout October our Mummy Lanterns5friends at PK Green will be using #PKScream to give away some awesome Halloween goodies via their Twitter page. Don’t miss out – head over and follow PK Green UK now! For more DIY Halloween inspiration check back for our weekly Halloween Series on the blog throughout October.

Mummy Lanterns6

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Now anyone can get their dancing shoes on with babyballet …and ‘Big Ballet’ on Channel 4

Thousands of British babies and youngsters have fallen in love with dance – and exercise – over the past eight yeaImagers thanks to Yorkshire mum-of-four Claire O’Connor.

The 40-year-old set up her own song and dance academy, babyballet in Halifax in 2005 and can now lay claim to running the UK’s leading pre-school dance concept.  She has 58 franchisees across the country with over 10,000 youngsters attending 996 classes, and has won numerous awards for her work, including ITV’s Mumpreneur and Best Business Parent.

These days, babyballet is a recognised children’s brand. Alongside classes it has a thriving gift shop selling branded goods, its own distinctive babyballet car for franchisees, and loveable characters Twinkle and Teddy and Fluttery the Fairy who take part in numerous children’s festivals across the country.

Claire, who started theImage company with no capital investment and only a handful of staff, spotted a gap in the market for non-competitive dance classes that not only accepted the best, and has spent the last nine years spreading the word that ballet can be enjoyed by everyone, not just the elite. This year has got off to a great start for her.  She was handpicked to take part in a new three-part documentary, Big Ballet which follows a troupe of plus-size dancers as they realise their dream of dancing Swan Lake.  The Channel 4 series started on Thursday, February 6 and has attracted media attention from across the globe, along with a great deal of controversy.

Here Claire tells us about her involvement in the series and why she believes dance is good for all of us – no matter what our shape or size.

“I think it would be fair to say that taking part in Big Ballet has been the most uplifting and inspiring experience of my life.  My feet literally haven’t touched the ground since word broke about the life-affirming new documentary series, and it feels like the country has gone ballet mad.

I’ve appeared on The One Show, This Morning and ITV’s Yorkshire regional news programme Calendar, along with numImageerous newspapers and magazines.  What’s thrilled me most of all however is the reviews the programme has had from critics. They have called it sweet, heart-warming and a triumph over adversity. It’s certainly been a personal triumph for me.

I was picked to take part in the series because of my painful experiences with ballet. I attended classes ran by my mum, Barbra Peters, but discovered ballet and I didn’t fit because I was the wrong shape. I gave up at 14 and it left me with a lack of self-confidence and poor body image.

I started babyballet because I didn’t want this to happen to others, and while it has been a huge success, I’ve never really laid my personal ghosts to rest – until I took part in the show.  I feel like my life has now gone full circle. I loved ballet, I fell out with it and now thanks to the series not only do I love it again but I have finally accepted my body shape and ability and am happy to be me.

Best of all, the programme echoes the ethos of babyballet, that ballet and dance isn’t just for the super skinny, it’s for everyone, and the benefits are truly amazing.  Whether it’s ballet or ballroom, modern or tap, dancing is a great way for people of all ages and physical abilities to get and stay in shape.  Simply put, dancing just doesn’t feel like exercise but the truth is, dance offers a total body workout using all the major muscles groups and provides heart-healthy benefits.

ImageBabies develop through being active and exploring the environment so moving and grooving activities helps them develop key skills in all areas of their development such as coordination, balance, flexibility and strength.  Being physical in a creative way also helps their self-esteem and self-confidence and encourages them to explore the world around them. babyballet is all about self-awareness and inspiring confidence. Learning to move to dance is quite an advanced skill. It helps develop children’s bodies and brains. Research shows babies are born to dance and really enjoy it.

Dancing is great for other things too as you age, including reducing stress, and because it increases serotonin levels, your general sense of well-being improves. But by far the best news is that dancing makes you smarter.  Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that stimulating one’s mind by dancing improves your memory and cognitive function and can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.  It says that more is better and the sooner you start the better too.

I have seen first-hand how dancing keeps you fit and young thanks to my mum.  She started dancing at the age of two and at 76 is still dancing now.  After Big Ballet I decided I wanted to encourage women to put their dancing shoes back on and I have recently started adult classes, which are proving really popular.

Big Ballet currently goes out at 9pm on a Thursday and stars former Royal Ballet principal Wayne Sleep and ballerina Monica Loughman.  I hope you will tune in to the frank and refreshing glimpse into a world obsessed with size and make up your own minds.”

Click here to find out more about babyballet >>>

Visit What’s On 4 Little Ones to search for babyballet classes in your region >>>

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Ferry Fun to Jersey!

Everyone was very excited about our mini-trip to Jersey although life had been so busy in the run up I suddenly realised the night before I hadn’t really had time to prepare or plan.

jersey3photoI needn’t have worried. Packing was a breeze, not having to worry about a number of bags and weights and sizes we just chucked everything in the car! The journey to Poole was pretty smooth although roadworks delayed us meaning we were later arriving than the ‘1 hour in advance’ advised. I started to get a bit panicky, remembering stressful airport check-ins, security delays, queues etc but again I needn’t have worried. We were met by a series of charming, professional Condor staff and before we knew it were comfortably on board, drinking coffee, as the ferry glided off.

We didn’t sit still for long however, such was the excitement of being on the water! We spent the next hour+ exploring the decks, enjoying the views, waving at other boats and taking in the sea air. The kids loved it! Then there was lunch, a wee bit of mooching in the shops and then the kids settled in the fab little cushioned area to watch a film and relax after all their fun.

Before we knew it we had arrived! We embarked, swiftly and efficiently once again and in less than 10 minutes we had arrived at the hotel. No waiting for luggage, no delays, no long tiresome walks through airports without the buggy. We felt refreshed and energised after the journey which was a welcome change from the stress and weariness flying with small children can sometimes bring.

jersey4photoThe hotel initially worried me as we piled in with 2 excited kids, various Toy Story characters and a football – it was so beautiful and tranquil – but we couldn’t have been given a warmer welcome. The Cristina is positioned in an enviable location with a 180 degree vista of the sea and breath-taking views. The staff were so kind – nothing was too much trouble and the food was amazing. My children are still talking about the breakfast! There was a great terrace – a real sun trap with amazing views – perfect for early evening drinks and the bar even had a toy box and mini library! There was a modest but perfectly adequate outdoor pool and sun bed area. The pool was cold but the weather had been so poor we were not surprised and the kids had their wet suits and so they were happy!

The room was lovely, bright and well appointed – quite ‘cosy’ for the 4 of us with a small bathroom but fine just for 2 nights. There was a private balcony area with chairs and again, stunning views. It was a short walk through the hotel gardens to the most amazing park (Coronation Park where we could have spent all day!) and the fabulous beaches abundant with shells and driftwood and so much space……..and the sun shone and shone!

We also enjoyed a fabulous visit to the aMaizin Maze and Adventure Park as part of our visit. This offers an incredibly well designed and managed family day out with activities including Petting Zoos, Go-Carts, Tractor Rides and Water Bomb Wars! Although we were there on Bank Holiday weekend, there was no over-crowding or long queues, the food was excellent and sensibly priced and the staff friendly, attentive and committed (very different to similar places we have visited elsewhere!) I would suggest that as long as you have dry weather this is a ‘must visit’ for families to Jersey. We were there for nearly 7 hours and didn’t run out of things to enjoy and the kids are still taking about it!

Jersey is a wonderful place for families. There’s so much to do but it’s small enough to feel very accessible and of course the wonderful thing about travelling by ferry is having your own car to explore with. The scenery is beautiful, quite rural and felt like a wonderful combination of France and Devon with the warmer climate making such a difference.

The Ferry back was an evening crossing where the ‘film room’ came into its own more than on our way out but that was fine. We had a very enjoyable trip once again, a nice meal and even got back ahead of schedule!

Our trip to Jersey has been one our most favourite family breaks ever – yes we were blessed with the weather but with so much to do and such a lovely ‘feel’ to the Island we will definitely be back!

By Suzanne and Dave aged 40 something, George age 7 & Ruby age 4.

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Throw the X-Box out of the window!

Firstly this is not a campaign against Microsoft.  But it is a plea to all parents of children, that cannot leave the house without a smart phone, or have no idea what the weather has been like today because they’ve spent it in their room gaming, to unplug the tech and get out of the house.

I write in my capacity of What’s On 4 UK Sales Manager and parent of two children. I am guilty, my children have rooms crammed with laptops, games consoles, both portable and not, smart phones, and so on.  Don’t get me wrong, I enthusiastically encourage my kids to be up to date with all things new and I was delighted when they were given ipads to use at school, but when I talk about my childhood memories of playing out, walks in the woods, days at the river they look a little disturbed and roll their eyes.  I’m not saying that I had a better upbringing then they’re getting, but I could hold a conversation with a real person at a young age and did not have to cling to a hand held device for entertainment.

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So, who will join me?  I recently challenged my kids to have a week of ‘outdoorsness’.  They can now surf (which they enjoyed, despite the rain), they’ve been taught life saving skills, they’ve learnt to abseil, rock climb, play lazer hunt, the list is a long one.  I think that they’ve enjoyed it and I’m sure that my electricity bill has been reduced. Needless to say, they’ll be back on their tech in no time, but they’ve had an experience that they can now tell their children about, and I’ll have grandchildren rolling their eyes.

If you think your kids are capable of doing something different, then give them the chance.  Use our advanced search for an actvitiy near you, or if you’re holidaying in the UK use the search to pre-book a session before you get there. We’ve even got the option to select free activities if your budget is tight this summer. Register for our newsletter to get up to date info from us. Image

And when the kids have had their fill of outdoors, why not swing by our facebook page, we’ve got some great hints and tips (check out the jelly oranges), perhaps you have a few of your own that you can share with us?

Most of all have a great time, enjoy the summer break, what ever the weather!

 

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