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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.

outdoorplay_boots

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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Kate Winslet says children being harmed by social media…should we unplug our families…??

In a recent article in The Guardian, Kate Winslet – co-star of new Steve Jobs film – says she is worried by the addictive qualities of devices Apple has created.katewinslet

Parents are “losing control” of their children to social media, award-winning British actor Kate Winslet has said, adding the she has banned her own from using such sites over fears their self-esteem is being damaged.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the Revolutionary Road star, 40, said parents should confiscate technology from their offspring – who she said may turn to social media for validation from strangers. Winslet said social media made her blood boil and said it has a huge impact on young women’s self-esteem. “Because all they ever do is design themselves for people to like them. And what comes along with that? Eating disorders,” she said, adding: “We don’t have any social media in our house.”

The actor, shot to fame after the success of Titanic in the late 90s, revealed that when her daughter Mia had asked for an Instagram account, the photo-sharing site, she told her daughter that sharing photos is like giving away memories. Winslet would not however put her name to a campaign on parenting in the digital age saying: “Stars get slagged off for getting behind causes” and that she did not want to look like a celebrity who thinks “they’ve got the answers”.

The mother of three called for parents to take mobile devices out of the hands of their young. “Let your kids climb trees,” she said, adding the suggestion: “Play Monopoly!”

In the wide-ranging interview given ahead of the release of Steve Jobs, a new film starring Michael Fassbender and directed by Danny Boyle, Winslet said she and her husband, Ned Rocknroll, distance themselves from their mobile phones by charging them downstairs at night. Winslet added she was troubled by the addictive quality of the devices that Jobs created. People “practically kiss them goodnight” she said.ipads

Her harshest criticism was reserved for families who are glued to mobile devices when out together. She said: “You go to a cafe and grown-ups are at one end of the table and children the other, on devices, not looking up.” “They go into a world, and parents let them. I’m going to get slagged off for saying this, but it takes every member of a family to be a family, and there are too many interruptions these days — and devices are a huge interruption,” Winslet added.

Playing “I-spy” on long car journeys was more important, she said.

The mother of three is the latest to speak out on the effect of technology on the young. In August Tom Bennett, the government’s adviser on behaviour in schools, said children should be kept away from iPads for as long as possible. He states ”

“Schools are increasingly giving kids iPads, even primary schools. I am not a fan of that. There is absolutely no research evidence that giving kids technology helps them learn. Some people say, ‘Give kids iPads because they love them and then they will love learning too.’ No, kids love iPads, that’s all. From my point of view they are used far too often as a pacifier by teachers who can’t control classes.”

Strong opinions from Kate Winslet and Tom Bennett – what do you think? 

Are schools (and parents) using them just to keep children quiet? Or is there a benefit? Should we help our children keep abreast of technology?

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter

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

Mummy Lanterns1

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!

Mummy Lanterns2

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

Mummy Lanterns3

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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10 Simple Ideas for Days Out this Summer

Days out in the summertime don’t need to cost a fortune. Families can have a great time in their local area by enjoying outdoor activities, whether means heading to a nearby beach, exploring natural trails or camping out in your own back garden.

Here are ten simple ideas for family-friendly days out this summer:

Blue Flag Beaches

Blue Flag Beaches

We all love a day out at the beach, but how do you know which ones are best for your family? Blue Flag beaches are considered to be the cleanest, most well kept beaches with the highest water quality and safety services available. The UK has 178 Blue Flag beaches located all around the country. You can use this handy map to find your nearest Blue Flag beach.

Geocaching

How about taking the whole family on an outdoor treasure hunt? Geocaches are hidden boxes filled with unknown surprises that are dotted all around the country. All you need is a handheld GPS and you can download the coordinates for geocaches in your area. Geocaching is great for getting children active outdoors and their boosting map reading and problem solving skills. You can also try geocaching with the National Trust.

Woodland Walks

There are woodland walks and nature trails all around the UK, so no matter where you are you won’t need to go far for this activity. If your little ones are reluctant to get their trainers on and go out walking, encourage them by creating fun tasks such as collecting leaves which can be used for art projects at home, or spotting different kinds of wildlife. You can search for your nearest woodland walks on the Woodland Trust’s online map.

Fossil or Interesting Rock Hunting

Are your children born explorers? Fossil hunting could be the activity for them. There are a few spots across the UK which are famed for their fossils, including the Jurassic coast in the South West, the South Downs in West Sussex and the Yorkshire coast to name just a few. Fossil hunting is a great way for children to learn about rock formations and the environment. The National Trust has a full list of all the top fossil hunting spots in the UK. You may be surprised what is on your doorstep and if you can’t find a fossil you should be able to find some interesting rocks which will teach your children about the geography below their feet.

Pick Your Own!

Pick Your Own

Fruit picking is lots of fun for children, but make sure you know what fruits are in season before you go. Strawberries are usually ready June to August, while raspberries are only available for picking during July. The blackberry season is a bit longer, extending from July to early November. You can search for your nearest PYO farms here. Once you’ve got your berries, you can have making your own jam or just eating them straight from the basket!

Picnic in the Park

Putting together a picnic is a great way to encourage children to help out in the kitchen. Simply by making some sandwiches, blending some chickpeas to make hummus, and bringing along some chopped vegetables and fresh fruits, you can have an excellent healthy picnic basket in no time.

Castle Ruins

Visiting castles and ruins is not only an adventure, but also a great way for children to learn about history. The UK is home to some incredible stone castles, which you can look up on the CastleXplorer map. Many castles are owned and protected by heritage organisations and therefore have an entrance fee. You can save money by becoming an annual member.

Garden Camping

Garden Campin

You don’t to drive for miles to enjoy a camping trip. For young children, camping outside in your own back garden can be just as fun. Teach children how to set up a tent, using the poles to make the structure and pegging the strings into the ground. When evening rolls in, enjoy a small campfire and toast some marshmallows. Night time is the perfect opportunity for some stargazing too.

Kite Flying

Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height! Kite flying is a favourite pastime of young and old alike. If you don’t have a kite already, you can make one at home using sticks from the local woods, a spare rubbish bag and some string. Head on up to your nearest hill or a windy spot and watch your kite soar.

Local Conservation

The summer holidays gives families plenty of time to get involved with conservation projects in their local area. These will vary depending on the area in which you live but you can usually get involved with beach cleanups, wildlife spotting and monitoring animal population numbers. You can contact the National Trust, the RSPB and other local charities in your area to find out what programmes will be running during the summer months.

Don’t forget to see ideas from What’s On 4 Juniors too in our annual round-up of ‘Days Out & Getaways’ : http://www.whatson4littleones.co.uk/days-outgetaways.asp

Days Out & Getaways 2015 with What’s On 4 Juniors

About the Author: Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5,000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. He has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the new school curriculum. He is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.

Website: http://www.pentagonsport.co.uk
Pentagon’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PentagonSportUK
Pentagon’s Twitter: @PentagonSportUK

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Why Children Should Play with Their Veggies

Struggling to get your little ones to eat their greens? A new study may have the answer.
In some areas of the UK, up to 40% of pre-school children refuse to eat their vegetables, and only one in five children consumes the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Getting children to eat their apples and enjoy those sprouts isn’t always simple, but letting children play with them could help.Creative-craft-Using-vegetables-as-stamps-1

Children who are introduced to unfamiliar fruits and vegetables during play time are almost a third more likely to give those foods a try when it comes to mealtimes, according to the recent study. It is hoped familiarising children with healthy foods at an early age will also kick-start a healthier diet as they grow up.

As part of the study, children aged between 12 and 36 months were introduced to sweet potato, broad beans, rhubarb and pomegranates, during play time at nursery school every day for four weeks. Children chose to touch and taste the fruits and vegetables that they had played with earlier in the day, but were less keen to take on board the other vegetables that they didn’t know.

Dr Carmel Houston-Price, who led the study, said: “Our study showed that introducing new foods through fun familiarisation activities such as letting children poke their fingers inside foods, smelling them and drawing pictures of them, increased toddlers’ willingness to touch and taste them at mealtimes – especially the vegetables.” She added, that the “research could help parents to introduce more vegetables into children’s diets, and encourage children to make healthy food choices and actually enjoy eating healthily as they grow older.”fruitkebabs

Why not try out these fun, hands on activities with your children and see if it makes them more keen to eat green:

Edible Fruit Paints: These easy to make paints are great for littles ones who love licking their sticky fingers! Simply puree fruits to make the paints. Use fruits with strong colours to get better paints, such as pomegranates for red, blueberries for blue, and passionfruit for orange.

Veggie Stamps: Potato stamps are a childhood favourite for many of us, but we don’t need to just use potatoes. Try carving shapes into other root veg, such as butternut squash, swede and turnips, and cutting up unusual shaped veg such as okra and cauliflower. Once the stamps are made, children can create patterns using their coloured fruit paints.

Rainbow Lollies: Cut up a variety of fruits into cubes and let children enjoy threading them onto wooden lollipop sticks ready for eating later as delicious icy treats. Soft fruits are better for this; try using watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas and kiwi. The best part: everyone can eat them afterwards!

Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. He has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development and can easily be integrated into the new school curriculum. He is currently based in Bristol with his two sons. He is also an uncle to a 2 year old niece, who loves playing with her vegetables!

Website: http://www.pentagonsport.co.uk
Pentagon’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PentagonSportUK
Pentagon’s Twitter: @PentagonSportUK

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Ticking All The Boxes For a Perfect Getaway…

We are proud to be working with The Hotel Nanny, one of our 2014 “What’s On 4 Junior Awards” Sponsors.Image

“I’m a mum of two and like many mothers I love spending time with my family as it’s the most rewarding job in the world. From the day I became a parent I knew that I would love my children unconditionally, I would never stop worrying about their well being and I would try my best to give them all of the opportunities and experiences that life has to offer. I’ve also learnt that I need some time to myself to re-energise and break away from the mummy mould in order to keep my own identity and make time for my husband. As parents, we have an awful lot of things to nurture and it can be an impressive circus act keeping all of those plates spinning in a consistent way.

Prior to having children, my husband and I enjoyed weekends away in exclusive hotels and with a good dual-income, we didn’t think twice about it. We still enjoy a get away but now choose special occasions to indulge as we take the whole family.

Some years ago, when my eldest daughter was crawling, we decided to treat ourselves and booked a beautiful hotel in Devon for the weekend. During the day we had a ball. Molly was able to crawl the length of the grounds without us having to redirect her every five minutes, the sun was shining so we could enjoy our lunch outside and let her play with her toys on the lawn. We took her for a dip in the pool and she enjoyed watching the other guests riding horses in a nearby field. In the evening it was slightly trickier. The Michelin star restaurant was fantastic and we decided to have an early dinner and take Molly with us. The staff were exceptional in terms of services and also their ability to keep our daughter entertained so that we could enjoy our meal but it was a bit of a strain Imageand we decided to eat our dessert in the room.   The meal was on the pricier side and, with hindsight, room services would’ve been a better option.

A friend had a similar experience and it led her to launch a brilliant new business venture – The Hotel Nanny. They’re the only agency in the UK to provide a bespoke nanny service for exclusive hotels.

The owner, Angela Roach, only works with the very best of child practitioners. All nannies are formally trained in childcare and have a wealth of nanny experience, many have also trained as primary school teachers, teaching assistants or nursery nurses before they took a break and had their own children. They’re all CRB checked and paediatric first aiders, the nannies also need at least four years of experience to be considered. Once they have been selected and join the team, there is in-house training and the nannies are constantly assessed. Angela knows that it can be a daunting prospect leaving your child with a nanny, especially when you are on holiday and away from home. Therefore, she has responded to this by building a framework that offers the parent absolute reassurance that The Hotel Nanny team will deliver only the best care for the children and the best service for the parents, to put the family at total ease while maximising on all the wonderful hotel facilities.

Quite a few of my friends have had children before they decided to tie the knot. This is another situation when The Hotel Nanny comes into it’s own as the agency provides a team of nannies for the bride and groom, and also guests with children.

My kids are now 7 and 4 which means that I’ve been able to take up work again and so we can justify a weekend away with nanny services. For us, it’s about giving everyone in the family a mini break. We entertain the children in the day time and then my husband and I enjoy a late afternoon spa session followed by dinner. Everyone’s a winner!”

Vicki Cheadle (mum of 2)

 

Notes

Visit The Hotel Nanny online www.thehotelnanny.co.uk.

Enquiries: +44 (0)1666 504562 or email enquiries@thehotelnanny.co.uk

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