How to support our children with separation anxiety

Covid 19 has meant missed / inconsistent nursery sessions, no stay and play sessions, hardly any experience of the outside world and adventures with family and friends.

So it’s understandable that when going to nursery or when being left with another responsible adult they are going to be full of anxiety, confusion and frustration.

When starting nursery or after having some time off due to holidays, sickness etc. young children struggle with their emotions because it’s out of their routine so even more so now their emotions are going to be heightened as a lot of our young children have only ever been in the care of their parents/carers and as of recently, immediate family. Most children have never been without their parents until now.

You may drop your child off feeling like the worst parent in the world as they kick and scream your name but you’re actually helping them learn to cope without you, and that’s an important step towards their growing independence. It’s also a sign of how well you have bonded with your child. Don’t be too hard on yourself – separation anxiety is common and it’s normal even more so in these times of covid.

Tips for separation anxiety:

  • Practice short sharp bursts when leaving your child. Due to covid children may require more frequent and shorter settling in sessions i.e., leaving them for 10 minutes one day. 15 the next. It may be tedious to begin with and feel like a long process but they need to understand and realise that every time you are coming back. It’s also good as its not allowing them enough time to get overly distressed if you do leave him when they are upset.
  • If your child is between the ages of 3-5 they will be familiar with certain places you visit together in your local area i.e. the shop down the road. When leaving your child you can talk to them before and when dropping them off about where you are going and that you will be back soon.
  • Talk about what you are going to do when you pick them up so they have something to look forward toe. “when Daddy picks you up we are going to pop to Nanny and Grandad’s house”.
  • Leave something comforting with your child. This could be something of theirs i.e. a blanket, a teddy or something of yours; perhaps a scarf, a cardigan, an item that smells like you.
  • Speak to your child about all of the fun things they will get up to at Nursery. If your child is obsessed with trains, Peppa pig or sand make sure you tell the setting / person caring for your child. They can ensure this is available for them.

Toddler Behaviours that are Normal

 

We have all been there, thinking that our toddlers are crazy and question their normality. Toddlers do some very strange behaviours, some more than others, this is completely normal and usually very common. Doorknob licking and barking like a dog are commonplace. “The vast majority of strange toddler behaviours are short-lived phases,” (Heather Wittenberg, PsyD, psychologist).

Head banging – This behaviour can be worrying to witness, however a lot more common than you may think. The toddler usually is after some attention or uses it to sooth themselves. Unless the child is doing it over socialising with friends, eating or sleeping then this is nothing to worry about and the behaviour can just be ignored or redirected.

Putting crazy things in their mouths – Children use their mouths as tools for exploring the world. They yet quite understand that some things you can eat and some you can’t. Most of the time they will learn themselves, that actually that bit of soil I just put in my mouth didn’t taste vey nice.

Imaginary and Stuffed Friends – Know a toddler who’s so obsessed with their stuffed animals that they line them up perfectly at bedtime, or one who has made up a whole family of imaginary friends? This is a normal reaction to the realization that the world is confusing and difficult to understand. When you embrace your child’s imaginary world, you honour their creativity.

Playing with Their Poop – Then there’s that curious toddler who takes off their nappy to explore the mess they’ve made during naptime. Ick! It’s way more common than people realize, and most of the time it’s just that they’ve discovered an intriguing new plaything.

There you have it, did you recognise some, or did you find out new behaviours you didn’t know existed!

 

 

 

 

Get Rid of ‘That Dummy!’

 

Dummies have some great advantages, they can help sooth young babies, help them to fall asleep and satisfy babies sucking instinct. However, these advantages are great for very young babies, between the ages of 6- 12 months parents should begin to wean their child of all use of dummies.

Why get rid?

  • Dummies may transport bacteria and fungus, which can increase the rate of infections
  • Effects of dummies on baby teeth include overbite, malocclusion, cross bite and open bite
  • Speech is a huge factor, especially for children 18 – 24 months –  When a baby or young child has a dummy in their mouth they are less likely to copy sounds adults make or to attempt to babble and play with sounds themselves. This is important in the development of speech skills.

Top tips on how to wean of the dummy:

  • If the dummy is being used as a sleep cue, then introducing a different sleep cue can help
  • You could restrict your child’s dummy use to certain times only, such as in the car
  • Rewards might work better for an older child – your local children’s centre or health visitor can offer support with this. Some areas even have ’dummy fairies’ at Christmas
  • Try picking a good time to stop using a dummy – when your child is feeling well, things are stable and they’re happy
  • Have a go at hiding the dummy away so your child doesn’t see it

 

 

 

Let’s Get Active!

 

You have more than likely heard about the importance of keeping your 2 and 3 year olds active throughout the day, but how much is enough? Children this age are walking and running, kicking, and throwing. They’re naturally active, so be sure to provide lots of chances for your child to practice and build on these skills.

Physical activity guidelines for toddlers recommend that each day they:

  • get at least 30 minutes of structured (adult-led) physical activity
  • get at least 60 minutes of unstructured (active free play) physical activity
  • not be inactive for more than 1 hour at a time except when sleeping

The Benefits of keeping active:

Children who are active at a young age tend to continue this and lead very active adults lives. Keeping physically fit can boost self-esteem, prevent obesity and decrease the risk of serious health conditions/illnesses, such as; high blood pressure or diabetes. Keeping active strengthens children’s bones, muscles, hearts and lungs and improves children’s coordination, balance, posture and flexibility.

Top Tips: 

Staying active can be fun for the whole family. Why not get everyone joining in with some fun games/activities:

  • Walk like a penguin, hop like a frog, or imitate other animals’ movements.
  • Sit facing each other and hold hands. Rock back and forth and sing the song “Row, row, row your boat.”
  • Bend at the waist and touch the ground. Walk your hands forward and inch along like a caterpillar.
  • Sit on the ground and let your child step over your legs, or make a bridge with your body and let your child crawl under.
  • Play follow the leader, “Ring around the rosy,” and other similar games.
  • Listen to music and dance together.

The possibilities are endless, just exploring the garden or park together is great fun, you could even try bug hunting!

Screen Time Tips: 

Babies under the 18 months old should have no screen time at all. Toddlers 18 months to 24 months old can start to enjoy some screen time with a parent or caregiver. By ages 2 and 3, kids should watch no more than 1 hour a day.

But not all screen time is created equal. For example, you and your baby playing an interactive colour or shape game on a tablet or watching high-quality educational programming together is good screen time. Plopping your toddler down in front of the TV to watch your favourite shows with you is an example of bad screen time.

Use screen time as a chance to interact with your child and teach lessons about the world. Don’t let your child spend time alone just staring at a screen.

 

 

 

 

School Readiness

 

Parents and carers are often filled with mixed emotions – some know that their child is probably ready for the next step; some are equally sad that their little one is taking this big step and some are confused about the words ‘school readiness’ which we see and hear everywhere.

What does being “school ready” mean?

School readiness is about been ‘ready to learn’ not knowing how to read and write or count to 10, otherwise what would be the point in going to school? It is about children preparing themselves, been comfortable in their learning environment.

  • Independence – been able to go to the toilet, pull up their trousers and wash their hands
  • Knowing how to sit and listen
  • Be aware of other children – can interact with others appropriately with friendly behaviours
  • Having strong social skills
  • Can cope emotionally with being separated from their parents
  • Have a curiosity about the world and a desire to learn
  • Understand some boundaries
  • Good language skills – to communicate with adults for support or other peers

If the child attends a pre-school or child care setting the professionals will be supporting and encouraging ‘school readiness’ throughout. Parents/careers can also encourage all these skills at home.

PACEY_preparingforschool_guide.pdf  Parents, check out this free guide for some top tips on preparing your little ones for school.

Keeping the Sun Fun!

 

As much as we are all enjoying the recent warm weather it is vital to keep safe in the sun, especially children. It is easy to forget the dangers when there is so much fun to be had. There are many precautions that we can take, here are just a few that may help:

  • Children’s skin is much more sensitive than an adults, extra precautions should be taken
  • suitable clothing should be worn, sunhats, light long sleeve tops
  • Spend time in the shade, between 11am and 3pm is when the sun is at it’s strongest in the UK
  • Apply at least SPF30 sunscreen regularly
  • Ensure sunscreen is applied on the face, neck, backs of hands and ears, or any skin exposed
  • Protect your eyes, where possible wear sunglasses

Swimming/water play:

  • Wear water-resistant sunscreen
  • When in water it can be more difficult to notice if you skin is burning due to the cooling water. Ensure sunscreen is reapplied straight after waterplay, even if it is water-resistant
  • Wear appropriate clothing while in the water, sunhats, swimsuits

Applying sunscreen:

  • Ensure to use at least two teaspoons of cream if you are covering your head, neck and arms. At least two tablespoons if you are covering the entire body. Applying too thin will reduce the protection
  • If you are going out for the day or for a long period of time sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before leaving and then again just before leaving
  • It is suggested that sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours as direct sunlight can dry the cream from the skin
  • Make sure the sunscreen is not past its expiry date. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2 to 3 years

Dealing with sunburn:

  • Sponge sore areas with cool water and apply aftersun cream to sooth
  • Stay out of the sun until the skin is fully recovered
  • Painkillers can be used if necessary, paracetamol or ibuprofen for all potential inflammation

You should take extra care in the sun if you:

  • have pale, white or light brown skin
  • have freckles or red or fair hair
  • tend to burn rather than tan
  • have many moles
  • have skin problems relating to a medical condition
  • are only exposed to intense sun occasionally (for example, while on holiday)
  • are in a hot country where the sun is particularly intense
  • have a family history of skin cancer

(Sunscreen and sun safety – NHS (www.nhs.uk))

 

‘Scribbling’ – The Hidden Meaning

 

Adults see scribbling, but for children it is their masterpiece!

Mark making is a very important phrase of a child’s development. It is a visual way to communicate and interact in a meaningful way with adults in their lives, as well as developing their coordination, creativity and literacy skills.

The phases of scribbling in young children can be categorised:

  1. Random scribbling – this first phrase is the very beginning of children showing interest in holding a pencil making random marks, typically this can be seen as lines in different directions.
  2. Controlled scribbling – this next stage shows the child having much more control over the pencil and will leave marks where they want to on the paper.
  3. Naming of scribbling –  at this stage the child is thinking more into the mark making action. They are beginning to make links with their marks on the paper and the world around them, this could be something that is meaningful to them in their life, a personal experience or object.
  4. Early representational attempts – at this stage, the child’s drawing may start to resemble real-life images, because they have greater muscle control and a greater understanding of the world around them.
  5. Representational stage of scribbling –  in the last and final stage children will draw basic objects, this usually starts with circular shapes. It might be their own personal version, e.g. they may draw five circles together and call it a car.

As adults we should provide opportunities for children to mark make it their own way. This doesn’t always have to be using a pencil and paper. Try sticks in the mud, flour and a paint brush or their finger dipped in paint. The possibilities are endless.

Life Skills

As our children grow older we want them to be able to look after themselves and be independent. We want them to head out into the big wide world prepared so the future seems exciting. This starts from a early age and children as young as two will be beginning to learn new life skills everyday. This may be zipping up their coat, helping to put the washing away at home or learning to cook in the kitchen. It is never too early to start.

Montessori talks about ‘practical life activities’. “Practical life activities are applicable for all ages, even infants, and change depending on what the child can do at each stage of development. The activities can start with something as simple as pulling pants up or washing hands and can get as complicated as baking a dessert, or even developing a business plan in the elementary or middle school years.”

“When taken seriously and presented as an approachable, impactful challenge, these activities hold inherent dignity. It’s not “just” getting dressed or “just” juicing an orange if one is doing it oneself. The child is learning to follow a complex motor sequence, independently, in order to fulfil his or her own desires and needs. These skills, when taught early in life, allow children to believe in themselves as well as develop the self-discipline needed for success throughout their lives.” (The Importance of Practical Life Activities Within the Montessori Method)

This week in the Woodland we have been cooking on the fire. We all helped to chop the vegetables and prepare the food. First we washed our hands, put on a aprons and discussed why these steps were important. We used chopping boards and safety knifes to cut up the butternut squash, rhubarb and onion before roasting on the fire. The fire itself gives children experiences of safe risk taking and supports their understanding of boundaries at Nursery. We even got to devour our delicious creation for dinner!

 

Healthy Eating and Portion Control

 

It is important to keep a healthy well balanced diet for young children for their health and well-being. It is advised to ensure children eat from all four food groups everyday to maintain the nutrients they need.

However, a huge factor is portion control! This is just as important, if not the most important part for a healthy, well balanced diet. It can be easy to think the more they eat the better, overfeeding can be harmful and have some lastly effects, for example, obesity or diabetes.

It can be difficult to understand the correct portions for some foods, especially taking into consideration the size, age and personality of the child.

The appetites of children can vary considerably from day- to- day, meal-to- meal and from child- to- child. Their appetite can be influenced by age, gender, activity level, growth spurs, puberty and whether the child is unwell or recuperating from being ill. There are no specific recommendation on how much a child should be eating, however this is just a guide.

This chart is a useful guide for portion control: (Portions and Serving Sizes – HealthyChildren.org)

Portions and Serving Sizes - HealthyChildren.orgSome top tips to support meal times:

  • Gradually increase portion sizes as the child grows older.
  • Avoid over filling plates as this can be off putting for younger children particularly for fussy eaters.
  • Ensure that the proportions on the plate are correct.
  • Offer small portions to begin with and allow second helpings if they eat it all.
  • Remember that second helpings should still be nutritionally balanced, so ensure that they include food from each food group and not just the food group/s that children prefer.
  • Offering second helpings of the vegetables, salad or fruit is a good idea to ensure your child gets plenty of vitamins and minerals but not too much energy.

 

The Benefits of Climbing

 

One of the first instincts for a young child is to climb. To pull themselves up, a way of getting up the stairs or to explore their surroundings. When let loose at nursery outdoors, young children need assess to climbing equipment to cater for their instincts and t0 take risks.

School readiness is a huge topic of interest for both practitioners and parents. Nurseries and pre-schools must create an environment that prepares young children for the big jump into school. Climbing frames/equipment in nurseries will improve children’s confidence and help prepare children for larger climbing challenges for primary school, both physically and mentally, which is all vital to settle in.

  • Improved Dexterity – Climbing will develop children’s fine motor skills, their grip and grasp. This in turn will support them in hand writing later on in the classroom.
  • Confidence – Children might feel a little nervous at first about climbing new equipment, however in time children will learn to take safe risks and to overcome their fears.
  • Physical Strength – Climbing will build children’s physical strength, developing their gross motor skills for a healthier more active lifestyle.
  • Problem-solving skills – While climbing children will develop critical thinking skills, to figure out which moves to take, which foot to put where.
  • Safe Risk Taking -Children will learn to take safe risks and will experience falls and mistakes that they will learn from.

At our Woodland setting we have made a great climbing challenge for the children using a big net hanging from the trees. The children have to work hard and use their climbing skills. This has become very popular. It has been wonderful to see the children’s skills develop and their confidence grow.