January 2022 Parenta magazine

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Issue 86<br />

JANUARY <strong>2022</strong><br />

FREE<br />


Industry<br />

Experts<br />

Mark-making and<br />

the connection to<br />

reading acquisition<br />

in the early brain<br />

Supporting staff<br />

and apprentices<br />

with SEND<br />

<strong>2022</strong> New Year’s<br />

Resolution: Get moving<br />

and help grow brains<br />

+ lots more<br />

Write for us for a<br />

chance to win<br />

£50<br />

page 8<br />

Sing away the blues:<br />

The power of music on mental health in the early years<br />

“Blue Monday” coincides with the end of festivities and the return to school and work. Instead of singing the blues this<br />

year, we’ll give you reasons and ways to sing away the blues, along with a fantastic musical giveaway for your setting!<br />


hello<br />

welcome to our family<br />

Hello and welcome to the <strong>January</strong> edition of the <strong>Parenta</strong> <strong>magazine</strong>!<br />

The year <strong>2022</strong> is upon us - and a new year often brings new resolutions, as some of us evaluate<br />

what has gone well for us; and what could be improved in the coming year. In <strong>January</strong>, the day on<br />

which travel agents have found that most people look for or book holidays is on 17th, now unofficially<br />

called “Blue Monday”. This year, of course we also have the ongoing impact of COVID-19 restrictions to<br />

contend with - so instead of ‘singing the blues’ for Blue Monday, we give you some reasons and ways<br />

to sing away the blues! Turn to page 18 to read early years musical expert Frances Turnbull’s wonderful<br />

and uplifting advice on the power of music on mental health. To help you even more, we have a great<br />

selection of musical instrument give-aways for your setting, courtesy of Frances!<br />

Music and movement expert, Gina Bale continues this theme as she advises us to make a new year’s resolution to “get<br />

moving and help grow brains”; while Kathryn Peckham and Helen Garnett, both give us some fantastic insight into just how<br />

those little brains are developing; and Katie White gives some invaluable guidance on “creatively expressing emotions”.<br />

As always, all the advice, guidance, crafts and recipes you read in our <strong>magazine</strong> are written to help you with the efficient<br />

running of your setting and to promote the health, happiness and well-being of the children in your care. We hope you love<br />

reading it as much as we enjoy making it!<br />

Don’t for get to check out our recipe for Chinese Dumplings which we will be making for Chinese New Year!<br />

Please feel free to share the <strong>magazine</strong> with friends, parents and colleagues – they can sign up to receive their own copy<br />

here!<br />

We wish you a happy new year.<br />

Allan<br />

JANUARY <strong>2022</strong> ISSUE 86<br />

JUNE 2020 ISSUE 67<br />



Regulars<br />

7 Congratulations to our learners<br />

8 Write for us for the chance to win £50!<br />

8 Guest author winner announced<br />

24 Chinese dumplings<br />

25 Pinecone birdfeeder<br />

News<br />

4 Childcare news and views<br />

6 A round-up of some news stories<br />

that have caught our eye over the<br />

month<br />

Advice<br />

12 Child-led learning<br />

16 Supporting children with EAL<br />

28 Chinese New Year<br />

32 Supporting staff and apprentices<br />

with SEND<br />

36 RSPB Big Schools Bird Watch<br />

Industry Experts<br />

Egg-cellent advice: Twinkle toes 30<br />

Supporting staff and apprentices with SEND 32<br />

Creatively<br />

expressing<br />

emotions<br />

10<br />

Although children need to<br />

learn how to emotionally<br />

regulate, it’s also important<br />

that they are able to express<br />

what they are feeling.<br />

Supporting<br />

children with EAL<br />

16<br />

Early years practitioners<br />

need to be able to help<br />

students with EAL access<br />

the curriculum and not<br />

allow the children to be<br />

at a disadvantage.<br />

5 Ways to reduce<br />

sibling rivalry<br />

22<br />

Sibling rivalry can often start from the<br />

day a new baby is brought home, and<br />

can have a huge impact on a family.<br />

It’s important for us to be aware of this<br />

so we can minimise any repercussions.<br />

10 Creatively expressing emotions<br />

14 Mark-making and the connection<br />

to reading acquisition in the early<br />

brain<br />

18 Sing away the blues: The power<br />

of music on mental health in the<br />

early years<br />

22 5 ways to reduce sibling rivalry<br />

26 CEO of the London Early Years<br />

Foundation explains WHY the Government<br />

must bridge the attainment gap for<br />

disadvantaged children through an urgent<br />

reform of 30-hours nursery policy<br />

30 Egg-cellent advice: Twinkle toes<br />

34 <strong>2022</strong> New Year’s Resolution: Get<br />

moving and help grow brains<br />

38 Together we are growing children’s brains –<br />

understanding brain development<br />

RSPB Big Schools Bird Watch 36<br />

Together we are growing children’s brains -<br />

understanding brain development<br />


Childcare<br />

news & views<br />

Inequalities have worsened<br />

during pandemic: Child of the<br />

North report<br />

A report published by the Northern Health<br />

Science Alliance, Child of the North:<br />

Building a fairer future after Covid-19<br />

paints a bleak picture, caused by chronic<br />

underfunding in the North of England.<br />

Ofsted releases updated<br />

Education Inspection<br />

Framework<br />

On 15th December, Ofsted updated its<br />

inspection framework (EIF) to reflect the<br />

new EYFS framework which came into<br />

force in September.<br />

In the updated guidance, the following<br />

questions are answered in more detail:<br />

• “Will Ofsted expect providers to show<br />

the progress of a child tracked against<br />

the revised non-statutory guidance,<br />

‘Development matters?”<br />

• “Will Ofsted prefer to see paper<br />

assessments rather than those<br />

recorded electronically?”<br />

• “How will Ofsted inspect the<br />

curriculum? Do registered providers<br />

need to produce a curriculum map?”<br />

• “How will inspectors consider<br />

progress?”<br />

• “Does Ofsted expect practitioners to<br />

use the government’s non-statutory<br />

guidance, Development matters,<br />

when developing and shaping their<br />

curriculums?”<br />

• “When carrying out deep dives,<br />

will inspectors want to see national<br />

curriculum subjects, rather than EYFS<br />

areas of learning, being taught in<br />

Reception?”<br />

• “Does Ofsted expect the national<br />

curriculum in a primary school to start<br />

when children first join in the early<br />

years?”<br />

You can read the full story, as reported by<br />

Early Years Leadership here, and you can<br />

read “Ofsted EIF inspections and the EYFS”<br />

on the official government website here.<br />

Read the full article here at parenta.com.<br />

Toddlers struggling with<br />

sharing post-pandemic<br />

Ofsted has revealed that observations that<br />

were made during November showed<br />

that many two- and three-year-olds are<br />

struggling with social skills, like sharing<br />

and taking turns, post pandemic.<br />

Two-year-olds - who have spent nearly<br />

80% of their life in the Covid pandemic -<br />

and babies of 18 months who have lived<br />

their whole life in it, are often displaying<br />

different characteristics to those who<br />

started attending early years settings<br />

before the pandemic.<br />

This has been caused by (unsurprisingly)<br />

lockdowns and reduced availability<br />

of parent and toddler groups which<br />

resulted in these children having a lack<br />

of interaction outside their close family.<br />

With limited social interaction at home<br />

during the pandemic, children struggled<br />

to settle with unfamiliar people, were<br />

more wary, shyer, quieter, and some were<br />

overwhelmed in larger groups. Inspectors<br />

also found that the language and<br />

communication skills of children born in<br />

the pandemic were not as strong as those<br />

that nurseries had cared for in the past.<br />

On a brighter note, however, findings<br />

published in Ofsted’s report also revealed<br />

children soon grew in confidence in<br />

nurseries and became more comfortable.<br />

Ofsted reports that this ‘suggests that<br />

there is no long-term negative impact on<br />

children’s ability to settle into childcare’.<br />

Ofsted has currently halted all nursery<br />

inspections due to the threat posed by the<br />

Omicron variant and the rising number of<br />

Covid cases in nurseries.<br />

You can read the full story, as reported by<br />

daynurseries.co.uk, here.<br />

Read the full article here at parenta.com.<br />

Inequalities which were in existence<br />

before Covid have since deepened, with<br />

children in the North East, North West and<br />

Yorkshire and Humber being affected<br />

disproportionately. They now have poorer<br />

educational outcomes which authors of<br />

the report predict will affect their lifetime<br />

incomes.<br />

Due to frequent lockdowns in some<br />

local areas, compared to the rest of<br />

the country, children in those areas lost<br />

more education. Their health and mental<br />

well-being has also consequently been<br />

impacted.<br />

The report states this must be addressed<br />

by a child-first place-based recovery plan<br />

and recommendations include:<br />

• Tackle the negative impacts of the<br />

pandemic in the North through rapid,<br />

focussed investment in early years<br />

services, including health visiting,<br />

family hubs and children’s centres.<br />

• Commissioners of maternity and<br />

early years services must consider the<br />

impact of pandemic related service<br />

changes on inequalities in families<br />

and children’s experiences and<br />

outcomes.<br />

• Increase child benefit by £10 per child<br />

per week. Increase the child element<br />

in Universal Credit and increase child<br />

tax credits.<br />

• Support educational settings to initiate<br />

earlier interventions. Teachers and<br />

early years professionals see many<br />

of the first indicators of children’s risk<br />

and vulnerabilities.<br />

• Prioritising strong pupil and staff<br />

relationships and collaboration with<br />

parents/carers will ensure a firm<br />

foundation for meeting children’s<br />

needs, and for a return to learning.<br />

Read the full report here and read the<br />

story, as reported by the BBC here.<br />

Read the full article here at parenta.com.<br />

Ofsted report: 98% still good<br />

or outstanding but more recent<br />

inspection concerns<br />

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Amanda<br />

Spielman has launched Ofsted’s Annual<br />

Report 2020-21. The report covered the<br />

year to September 2021 during which the<br />

Inspectorate carried out fewer inspections<br />

than normal due to closures and<br />

restrictions.<br />

Although 98% of nurseries and preschools<br />

still remain judged as good (76%)<br />

or outstanding (22%) there are concerns<br />

about the numbers of childcare providers<br />

leaving Ofsted’s register.<br />

Childcare places have reduced by about<br />

1% of the total numbers of places the<br />

previous year.<br />

Another big concern highlighted in<br />

the report was that 44% of early years<br />

providers believe children’s personal,<br />

social and emotional development had<br />

fallen behind. This was particularly strong<br />

in in areas of deprivation where it was<br />

reported there was lower take-up of twoyear-old<br />

places.<br />

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive<br />

of National Day Nurseries Association<br />

(NDNA), said: “This Ofsted report rightly<br />

acknowledges the key role that early years<br />

settings and their workforce have played in<br />

supporting our youngest children through<br />

such a tough year with the harmful effects<br />

of closures and restrictions.<br />

“We are hearing from early years providers<br />

how they have worked with children who<br />

have displayed challenging behaviours at<br />

nursery. Their well-being and support with<br />

their language skills and personal, social<br />

and emotional development have been<br />

critical.<br />

It’s a great tribute to our nurseries that<br />

despite the negative impacts from<br />

the pandemic, 98% are still judged as<br />

being good or outstanding. However,<br />

we are concerned by the trend in recent<br />

inspections. It is vital that inspectors<br />

recognise the challenges that nurseries still<br />

face and the stress that staff are under on<br />

a daily basis. Due to ongoing measures<br />

and staff absences, nurseries are very<br />

different places compared to pre-pandemic<br />

times. Ofsted must review its complaints<br />

and appeals procedure to make sure that<br />

complaints are treated fairly.<br />

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we<br />

were reporting that staffing recruitment<br />

and retention had hit crisis levels but the<br />

pandemic has made this situation even<br />

worse. It’s important that this is recognised<br />

by Ofsted. There is therefore a question<br />

about how everyone in the sector, from<br />

Government to Ofsted can put measures<br />

in place to support nurseries to retain staff<br />

and to encourage more people into the<br />

profession.<br />

Children must be at the heart of<br />

educational recovery efforts, starting with<br />

early years. That’s why we need to see a<br />

clear reform of the early education and care<br />

policy and a funding system that is built to<br />

deliver this.”<br />

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman,<br />

said: “In order to protect older generations,<br />

we asked the youngest generation to<br />

put their lives and education on hold. As<br />

we look forward to the year ahead, we<br />

must strive to redress the balance. Every<br />

generation gets one chance to enjoy its<br />

childhood and fulfil its potential. We must<br />

do all we can to make sure this generation<br />

is not denied its opportunity.”<br />

Read the full report here and read the full<br />

story, as reported by NDNA here.<br />

Read the full article here at parenta.com.<br />

4 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 5

A round-up of some news<br />

stories that have caught<br />

our eye over the month<br />

Source and image<br />

credits to:<br />

<strong>Parenta</strong>’s blog, The Daily Mail,<br />

The Northern Echo,<br />

Leader Live<br />

Congratulations<br />

to all our <strong>Parenta</strong> learners!<br />

Congratulations to all these <strong>Parenta</strong> learners who completed their apprenticeship<br />

in November and have now gained their qualifications.<br />

These range from Childcare Level 2, Childcare Level 3 and Team Leading<br />

to Level 3 and Level 5 Management – that’s a huge achievement in the<br />

current climate.<br />

All that hard work has paid off – well done from all of us here at <strong>Parenta</strong> Training!<br />

<strong>Parenta</strong> Training reinforces<br />

its leadership team with new<br />

Managing Director - Edyta White<br />

<strong>Parenta</strong> Training enters the next phase of<br />

its commitment to “fully embed unrivalled<br />

quality within apprenticeship programme<br />

delivery” with the addition of Edyta White.<br />

Tops Day Nursery had a visit from<br />

the National Manager of the year<br />

award winner<br />

The Southsea based nursery had a visit<br />

from Hannah Jennings who was awarded<br />

the prestigious award in November after<br />

more than 25,000 nurseries applied.<br />

Dorset Council educate children<br />

at local nursery<br />

Dorset council are currently creating a<br />

cycle Cath which passes Tops Day<br />

Nurseries Wimborne. The council and<br />

nursery have used this as an opportunity<br />

to educate the children on the project.<br />

Did you know?... <strong>Parenta</strong> has trained over 20,000 apprentices within the early years sector!<br />

Our Level 3 success rate overall is almost 10% higher than the national average.<br />

That’s down to great work from you, our lovely <strong>Parenta</strong> learners!<br />

If you have a learner with us who has recently completed their apprenticeship, please send in<br />

a picture to hello@parenta.com to be included in the <strong>magazine</strong>.<br />

November’s wall of fame!<br />

Recent data reveals UK parents<br />

are missing out on ‘tax-free<br />

childcare scheme’<br />

Only a fraction of parents are taking up<br />

the ‘tax-free childcare scheme’ as there<br />

has been a £2.37bn underspend on the<br />

government’s flagship policy.<br />

Nursery group of 10 settings<br />

fundraise for baby hospice<br />

charity Zoe’s Place<br />

Rosedene nursery group have made an<br />

addition to their usual festive activities by<br />

asking the children and their families for<br />

small donations to the charity.<br />

Caego Day Nursery children<br />

take part in reindeer run for<br />

Nightingale House Hospice<br />

All of the little ones at the Wrexham<br />

based nursery have been taking part<br />

in the run for the hospice - who care for<br />

people with life-limiting illnesses.<br />

A. Jepson<br />

B. Tyrrell<br />

C. Phillips<br />

C. Wager<br />

C. Hickmans<br />

D. Gomes Alves<br />

D. O’Brien<br />

D. Sifanno<br />

E. Coulson<br />

E. Adams<br />

F. Shaukat<br />

I. O’Sullivan<br />

I. Nasar<br />

I. Billings<br />

J. Salt<br />

J. Selt<br />

K. Circuitt<br />

K. Paget<br />

K. Barber<br />

L. Davenport<br />

L. Plant<br />

L. Swaby<br />

L. Page<br />

L. Romanucci<br />

M. Kolodziejska<br />

M. Eriera<br />

M. Turner<br />

N. Urbano Herrera<br />

S. Moreno De Abreu<br />

S. Hussain<br />

T. Frisby<br />

Z. Geoghegan<br />

6 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 7

Write for us!<br />

We’re always on the lookout<br />

for new authors to contribute<br />

insightful articles for our<br />

monthly <strong>magazine</strong>.<br />

If you’ve got a topic you’d like to write about, why<br />

not send an article to us and be in with a chance of<br />

winning? Each month, we’ll be giving away Amazon<br />

vouchers to our “Guest Author of the Month”. You<br />

can find all the details here:<br />

https://www.parenta.com/sponsored-content/<br />

Help change<br />

children’s lives<br />

We are recruiting Early Years educators<br />

that go that extra mile to join our growing<br />

family. Receive a competitive salary plus a<br />

great package of benefits:<br />

50% off childcare at our nurseries<br />

26 days paid annual leave<br />

8 days’ training per year<br />

and much more<br />

020 7254 7359<br />

apply@leyf.org.uk<br />

Congratulations<br />

to our guest author competition winner, Joanna Grace!<br />

Youngest Chef<br />

Award<br />

Musicaliti’s Musical Giveaway<br />

For your chance to win one of 8 musical<br />

hampers, including a Musicaliti song<br />

book, cd, sets of musical instruments<br />

and puppets for either under 2s or over<br />

2s, answer this question and send it to<br />

marketing@parenta.com<br />

Congratulations to Joanne Grace, our guest author<br />

of the month for the second time running! Her article<br />

“Egg-cellent advice: A little room” is two out of series<br />

of a 10 articles following the adventures of her son<br />

aka ‘Egg’. In this article Joanna explores the sensory<br />

fun children can have with the most simple objects<br />

including a cardboard box. Well done Jo!<br />

Sign up and receive:<br />

Videos and Lesson Plans<br />

Stickers<br />

Posters<br />

Books<br />

Medals<br />

A massive thank you to all of our guest authors for<br />

writing for us. You can find all of the past articles<br />

from our guest authors on our website:<br />

www.parenta.com/parentablog/guest-authors<br />

A fun, practical, purposeful and engaging award that ensures curriculum<br />

coverage and basic life skills to support long-term health and wellbeing for<br />

children aged 3+. The award is a ‘Mini Muncher Challenge’, which includes<br />

5 exciting stand-alone lessons and additional resources/activities.<br />

Find out more at: youngchefoftheyear.com<br />

info@thefoodteacher.co.uk 01582 620178<br />

Q: What is the name given to the Monday<br />

in <strong>January</strong> when most people book<br />

holidays?<br />

Send your name, answer and preference<br />

of over 2s or under 2s before Friday 28th<br />

<strong>January</strong> for the chance to win.<br />

8 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

Winner need updating<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 9

Creatively<br />

expressing emotions<br />

Managing children’s emotions can be problematic. We may lose<br />

our patience, feel triggered by their outbursts, or become reactive<br />

ourselves when they behave. Or act out in certain ways. We may insist<br />

that they ‘calm down!’ or patiently explain to them that their actions<br />

are unacceptable, only to be met with more difficult behaviour.<br />

Although children need to learn how to<br />

emotionally regulate, it’s also important<br />

that they are able to express what they are<br />

feeling, and for those feelings to be seen,<br />

heard and validated by us. That’s why<br />

it’s vital that we are able to self-regulate<br />

in those difficult moments; so that we are<br />

able to create a safe space where those<br />

feelings can be processed, expressed and<br />

released.<br />

But how an earth can you do that in the<br />

middle of the supermarket? I might hear<br />

you ask! And what about their incredibly<br />

bad behaviour!?<br />

All behaviour is communication! Those<br />

outward behavioural displays are coming<br />

from a need in the child to feel seen,<br />

understood and accepted. For example, a<br />

child might feel angry about not receiving<br />

an invite to their friends party; being<br />

unable to communicate or verbalise<br />

their anger they might lash out, become<br />

frustrated or annoyed. Or that anger could<br />

turn inwards and be expressed through<br />

self-criticism, judgement or self-harm.<br />

Emotions are doing a job, pointing to an<br />

experience, thought or feeling. It’s our<br />

job to give recognition to those emotions,<br />

so they aren’t suppressed, ignored or<br />

shamed. When we are able to welcome<br />

in every emotion without judgement and<br />

reactivity, that’s when the thought or<br />

feeling underneath the behaviour can start<br />

to come through and be expressed.<br />

Learning how to verbalise emotions<br />

through language takes time. (I’m sure<br />

you know some adults who still haven’t<br />

mastered the art!) So this is where<br />

creative expression can play a big part<br />

in supporting children work through,<br />

understand and express what they’re<br />

feeling.<br />

Recognise the feeling<br />

Children can get overwhelmed by their<br />

emotions and fearful of them. Teaching<br />

them that every emotion is welcome and<br />

is part of being human, can help to lessen<br />

the need for them to suppress how they’re<br />

feeling.<br />

Finding a time to play with emotions can<br />

help children to recognise them when they<br />

arise in the moment. One of the best ways<br />

to explore this is through drama play or<br />

improvisation: as it provides a framework<br />

where children can safely embody<br />

emotions within the structure of a game.<br />

The ‘Potato’ game is one of my favourites,<br />

as it gives children the opportunity to<br />

explore and exaggerate what an emotion<br />

feels like in the body. You can play this<br />

game with a group of children or one-toone.<br />

The aim of the game is to say the word<br />

‘potato’ in the style of an emotion. What<br />

would a shy potato look and sound like?<br />

A stressed potato? An excited potato?<br />

Embody each emotion, clench fists for<br />

angry, hunch shoulders for sad, move and<br />

smile for happy. Explore the realms of all<br />

the emotions through movement, voice<br />

and posture.<br />

Create without an outcome<br />

Learning to put outcomes and objectives to<br />

one side and be creative for the purpose of<br />

self-expression can be hard for us adults.<br />

When we conform to a structure or are set<br />

to an outcome-driven activity, like making<br />

a card, building a vase or creating a dream<br />

catcher for example, the child is limited to<br />

the structure and therefore has little room to<br />

explore their feelings.<br />

Not all creative projects need a final piece.<br />

Try moving beyond a structured activity and<br />

explore more expressive ways to create.<br />

Mark-making for example can be a great<br />

way to release emotions. Get a big piece<br />

of paper and stick it to the wall, then use<br />

paint, chalk, charcoal or felt tips, maybe<br />

exploring different art tools, like brushes,<br />

pallet knifes and sponges. Allow those<br />

emotions to be released in the marks, don’t<br />

be afraid to make a mess!<br />

Release the emotion<br />

Movement can help to shift and release<br />

suppressed emotions. You can use this<br />

technique with your child in the moment or<br />

retrospectively after an event or challenging<br />

situation. Take a nice deep breath in,<br />

stretching up to the sky with your hands,<br />

tense every single muscle. And as you<br />

exhale, release the hands down and shout<br />

“HA! “<br />

Katie White<br />

Katie Rose White is a Laughter Facilitator<br />

and founder of The Best Medicine. She<br />

works predominantly with carers, teachers<br />

and healthcare professionals - teaching<br />

playful strategies for boosting mood,<br />

strengthening resilience and improving<br />

well-being. She provides practical<br />

workshops, interactive talks and training<br />

days - fusing therapeutic laughter<br />

techniques, playful games and activities,<br />

and mindfulness-based practices. The<br />

techniques are not only designed to equip<br />

participants with tools for managing their<br />

stress, but can also be used and adapted<br />

to the needs of the people that they are<br />

supporting.<br />

Email: thebestmedicine@outlook.com<br />

Twitter: www.twitter.com/bestmedicine1<br />

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/<br />

thebestmedicinecornwall<br />

This exercise works particularly well for<br />

nerves or anxiety. HA! The feeling can go<br />

out the window, in the bin or down the<br />

toilet!<br />

For more information on how to playfully<br />

and creatively support children check out<br />

www.thebestmedicine.co.uk<br />

10 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 11

Child-led learning<br />

Situation<br />

Example of practitioner<br />

leading or taking over<br />

an activity<br />

Example of the<br />

practitioner<br />

facilitating and<br />

extending the learning<br />

Explanation<br />

In the revised EYFS, early years practitioners should consider “the individual needs, interests and<br />

development of each child in their care and use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable<br />

experience for each child in all areas of learning and development.”<br />

A child picks up some blocks<br />

and begins to put them into a<br />

box.<br />

The practitioner says, “I see you<br />

are counting the blocks, let me<br />

help” and counts the blocks with<br />

the child.<br />

The practitioner goes over and<br />

asks “I see you are playing<br />

with the blocks. Are you using<br />

them for something special?”<br />

When the child explains that<br />

they are ‘picking potatoes’, the<br />

practitioner joins in and asks<br />

if there are other vegetables<br />

that the child wants to harvest.<br />

In the first instance the<br />

practitioner has assumed the<br />

child was counting and taken<br />

over. In the second example, the<br />

practitioner has interacted with<br />

the child without assuming what<br />

is going on. They allowed the<br />

child to explain their idea and<br />

then joined in, extending the<br />

activity to other vegetables.<br />

A child draws a picture of a tree<br />

which is red and yellow.<br />

The practitioner notices and<br />

says, “That’s a lovely tree, but<br />

trees are not red and yellow.<br />

What colour are trees normally?”<br />

The practitioner notices and<br />

asks, “Those are interesting<br />

colours, why did you choose<br />

those for this picture?”<br />

In the first instance, the<br />

practitioner is naming the colours<br />

but also placing limitations on the<br />

child’s imagination. In the second<br />

instance, the practitioner opens<br />

up the conversation for the child<br />

to explain.<br />

One key word here is “interests”, which<br />

means things that the child is interested<br />

in and motivated by, be that a model<br />

car, a bird in the tree or the glinting<br />

reflection of light on a carpet. These are<br />

important because they motivate children<br />

to explore, ask questions, and stimulates<br />

them in a natural way. But the things that<br />

children are interested in can sometimes<br />

be overlooked in favour of national<br />

curriculums, parental preferences, cultural<br />

bias and goals and expectations dictated<br />

by other people.<br />

Child-led or child-initiated learning can<br />

redress this balance and put the child’s<br />

interests back at the heart of their world.<br />

What is child-led learning?<br />

Child-led learning happens when a child<br />

chooses an activity to do at a particular<br />

time rather than have an adult choose<br />

for them. It assumes that each person is<br />

a unique expression of themselves and<br />

has individual and valid approaches to<br />

learning that are right for them, leading<br />

to a meaningful learning experience. An<br />

example could be when a child picks up a<br />

pen and begins exploring what marks they<br />

can make, or when a child’s imagination<br />

is captured playing with some cardboard<br />

boxes, or when a child chooses to explore<br />

an outdoor environment, looking under<br />

rocks to see what is there. The potential for<br />

the child to learn is almost endless since<br />

they are free to move from one learning<br />

experience to another. The opposite of<br />

child-led learning would be a controlled<br />

classroom where there are set learning<br />

goals that need to be covered and the<br />

children are only allowed to do the tasks<br />

assigned them by the teacher.<br />

Tips to encourage child-led<br />

learning in your setting<br />

Be prepared – ensure your<br />

environment is inviting<br />

The key to being spontaneous with<br />

children is sometimes to be well prepared.<br />

If all your toys, pens and paper are<br />

neatly stored away until the practitioner<br />

decides that she wants to use them, then<br />

the opportunities for children to explore<br />

using these resources will be limited. Your<br />

resources therefore need to be organised<br />

but easily accessible for the children. Don’t<br />

worry too much either if resources get<br />

moved from one area to another, such as<br />

a child taking some blocks into the outdoor<br />

area. You want to be teaching them<br />

adaptability and creative thinking rather<br />

than limiting their choices or ideas.<br />

Train practitioners to observe and<br />

interact<br />

Child-led learning is not the same as a<br />

‘hands-off’ approach to teaching. It does<br />

not mean practitioners have time off to<br />

catch up on paperwork whilst the children<br />

play on their own. Child-led learning at<br />

its best has a high degree of practitioner<br />

involvement but this involvement needs to<br />

be measured and follow the child’s lead.<br />

It is important not to try to manipulate the<br />

child into following the adult’s agenda.<br />

Practitioners need to be able to first<br />

observe the children at play and identify<br />

the moments where they can extend or<br />

augment the child’s learning through<br />

joining in with the activity, taking the lead<br />

from the child, or by posing high-quality<br />

questions which lead the child to develop<br />

their higher-order thinking.<br />

Learning to identify higher-order thinking<br />

questions is a skill that you can train your<br />

practitioners to do. Bloom’s taxonomy was<br />

one of the original frameworks to identify<br />

educational goals, but can be applied in the<br />

early years too since it encourages students<br />

not to just remember and regurgitate<br />

information, but to solve problems, adapt<br />

the situation and create something<br />

completely new.<br />

Make time but don’t worry about<br />

time<br />

A child-led learning moment could last a<br />

few seconds or a whole day. The length<br />

of time does not matter but the quality of<br />

the time and the quality of the interactions<br />

between practitioners and children do. You<br />

may already have free play or child-led<br />

learning time scheduled into your day but<br />

think about doing this if not. Remember too<br />

that you can follow a child’s lead at anytime<br />

if it is appropriate and safe to do so.<br />

Reflect and improve<br />

Take a moment to reflect after a childled<br />

learning experience and think about<br />

whether you could extend their learning<br />

through a different activity later in the<br />

day or in the week. For example, if the<br />

child was building a boat in the sandpit,<br />

is there a way you could introduce this<br />

topic later in the day at storytime or when<br />

mark-making for example. Practitioners<br />

should take the time to introduce new<br />

vocabulary and to encourage speaking<br />

and conversations to help children make<br />

links to other areas of the curriculum, as<br />

is encouraging physicality, movement and<br />

social interactions with others.<br />

A word about SEND<br />

When working with children with SEND,<br />

it is important to really understand the<br />

needs of these pupils and to accommodate<br />

them during child-led learning time. Some<br />

children with SEND are less able to cope<br />

with unstructured time than other children<br />

and can become anxious or fretful if<br />

they are not sure what to do or what is<br />

happening. These children may require a<br />

greater degree of support and guidance,<br />

or some help in starting out. Some children,<br />

such as those with autism, may become<br />

completely engrossed in an activity that<br />

they are interested in, to the exclusion<br />

of everything else, so it is vital that you<br />

understand the different needs and make<br />

plans for SEND children too.<br />

The great thing about child-led learning<br />

is that it plays into a holistic programme<br />

of education which will allow the child to<br />

develop across all the areas of learning in<br />

the EYFS and more.<br />

More information<br />

• https://www.readingrockets.org/<br />

article/how-increase-higher-orderthinking<br />

• https://www.teachstarter.com/gb/<br />

blog/higher-order-thinking-in-theclassroom-and-why-it-matters-2/<br />

• https://www.teachwire.net/news/<br />

how-to-implement-child-led-learningin-your-early-years-setting<br />

• https://www.teachingexpertise.com/<br />

articles/child-initiated-learning/<br />

12 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 13

Mark-making and the connection to<br />

reading acquisition in the early brain<br />

Mark-making is as much a dynamic motor activity as reaching, grasping and manipulating objects. But<br />

think about it! It is the only dynamic motor activity that leaves a ‘trail’ or a mark behind! This is literally<br />

mesmerising for very young children, and with the use of colourful and bright crayons and marker pens,<br />

mark-making can become a truly rewarding activity.<br />

And then there is reading – this is also a<br />

dynamic process. Some children can read<br />

at a very early age, but most children’s<br />

brains cannot integrate visual, verbal and<br />

auditory information rapidly enough until a<br />

child reaches five years or above. Markmaking<br />

is hugely important in emergent<br />

reading because it activates the brain in<br />

a way that fully supports future reading.<br />

We will be far more successful in teaching<br />

children to read if we offer plenty of<br />

mark-making along with shared reading<br />

of favourite stories, and wait for that<br />

natural rite of passage when children are<br />

developmentally ready for reading.<br />

Brain activity in markmaking<br />

Try giving a child a mark-making tool that<br />

doesn’t leave a mark. The reward system<br />

in the brain is not activated and it is highly<br />

likely that the child will abandon the task<br />

within a few moments. The feedback<br />

from ‘marking’ is lacking. Only tools that<br />

produce a visual effect result in a child<br />

wanting to leave more marks. And the<br />

brighter the colour, the thicker the mark,<br />

the more the child will want to carry out<br />

this extraordinarily satisfactory motor<br />

activity.<br />

There is a powerful activation of the<br />

reward system in the brain each time a<br />

child picks up and uses a mark-making<br />

tool. This will encourage them to try<br />

ever more complex ‘drawings’ over a<br />

longer duration of time. And this is where<br />

automaticity will take place – mark-making<br />

becomes automatic, and the child is able<br />

to make marks repeatedly without effortful<br />

thought, building up the letter recognition,<br />

drawing and writing with more and more<br />

ease.<br />

14 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

Mark-making and reading<br />

As already said, there is a powerful link<br />

between mark-making and reading.<br />

When children see the ‘trail’ made by a<br />

mark-making tool, be it a letter, a shape or<br />

anything else, the motor activity switches<br />

on a part of the brain that supports<br />

memory and cognitive thinking. The<br />

dynamic motor activity influences the brain<br />

activity, supporting the memory; children<br />

will remember the way something felt as<br />

they ‘drew’ it.<br />

That isn’t all. When children write letters by<br />

hand there is more brain activity, and they<br />

show better letter recognition skills than<br />

when they look at letters or trace them<br />

or use a keyboard (James & Engelhardt<br />

2012). Interestingly, it does not matter<br />

about any variability in the shape or size<br />

of letters children make, as it appears<br />

that this is a crucial component of their<br />

emergent recognition and understanding<br />

of letters.<br />

Mark-making in the setting<br />

Happily, we have plenty of research 1 about<br />

what sorts of writing instruments and<br />

backgrounds best elicit mark-making. Here<br />

they are. Give them a go in your setting!<br />

1<br />

Crayons and magic markers are associated<br />

with more complex and mature drawing<br />

compared with pencils. The more<br />

pronounced, bold and bright the markmaking<br />

tool, the more a child will make<br />

marks, and also the more advanced the<br />

pre-drawing behaviour becomes. Offer<br />

brightly coloured, thick and thin marker<br />

pens/crayons, ones that leave a satisfyingly<br />

noticeable mark.<br />

2<br />

Paper that already has images on it not<br />

only elicits significantly more mark-making<br />

than blank paper but also encourages<br />

more complex mark-making. Provide paper<br />

with images of people, animals, shapes or<br />

nature. Draw them yourselves or find paper<br />

with images already on them.<br />

Conclusion<br />

3<br />

Of all images on paper, it is human figures<br />

or animal images that result in the most<br />

complex and frequent mark-making 2 . Make<br />

sure you have paper with images placed in<br />

areas around the setting, e.g. role play.<br />

4<br />

Writing on a slant helps children engage in<br />

mark-making when they are using markers<br />

or crayons. For some reason, this does not<br />

apply for using pencils.<br />

5<br />

Structured and collaborative activities as<br />

opposed to unstructured child-led activities<br />

also elicits more lengthy and increasingly<br />

complex mark-making. As rewarding as<br />

child-led mark-making can be, children are<br />

more likely to join in and focus longer on an<br />

adult-led, captivating mark-making activity<br />

than on their own.<br />

In short, the more drawing opportunities children have, the more they mark and scribble,<br />

and the quicker they make that transition to more complex drawing. And the more children<br />

are given plenty of fun opportunities to mark or scribble, the more intent and engaged<br />

they become in mark-making. Young children learn to enjoy mark-making which increases<br />

their skill in emergent writing, strengthens the visual and motor regions of the brain seen in<br />

letter processing and production, and facilitates their acquisition of reading.<br />

It’s a win-win situation!<br />

Helen Garnett<br />

Helen Garnett is a mother of 4, and a<br />

committed and experienced early years<br />

consultant. She has a wealth of experience<br />

in teaching, both in the primary and early<br />

years sectors. She co-founded a preschool<br />

in 2005 where she developed a<br />

keen interest in early intervention, leading<br />

her into international work for the early<br />

years sector. Helen cares passionately<br />

about young children and connection.<br />

As a result, she wrote her first book,<br />

“Developing Empathy in the Early Years:<br />

a guide for practitioners” for which she<br />

won the Professional Books category<br />

at the 2018 Nursery World Awards, and<br />

“Building a Resilient Workforce in the Early<br />

Years”, published by Early Years Alliance<br />

in June 2019. She also writes articles for<br />

early years <strong>magazine</strong>s, such as Nursery<br />

World, Early Years Teacher Organisation,<br />

QA Education, Teach Early Years, and Early<br />

Years Educator.<br />

Helen is the co-founder and Education<br />

Director at Arc Pathway, an early years<br />

platform for teachers and parents.<br />

Helen can be contacted via LinkedIn.<br />

References:<br />

1. Dunst C, Gorman E. 2009 Development<br />

of Infant and Toddler Mark-making and<br />

Scribbling<br />

2. James & Engelhardt . 2012 The<br />

effects of handwriting experience on<br />

functional brain development in preliterate<br />

children<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 15

Supporting<br />

children with EAL<br />

• Staff who have access to translation<br />

materials<br />

• Taking the extra time to ensure that<br />

messages and home communications<br />

have been properly understood<br />

• Using stickers and praise<br />

Involve parents<br />

What is EAL?<br />

According to government statistics,<br />

approximately 17% students at the end<br />

of key stage 2 are classed as having<br />

English as an additional language (EAL).<br />

That’s nearly 1 in 6 students in our primary<br />

schools, 79% of which join in the reception<br />

year. Many of these children will be in early<br />

years settings prior to that, so as early<br />

years practitioners, we need to be able to<br />

help these students access the curriculum<br />

and do everything in our power to make<br />

sure these children are not disadvantaged<br />

by their EAL status.<br />

The percentage of EAL children varies<br />

widely from as little as 0.9% in more rural<br />

areas to 76% in some inner city areas.<br />

Some schools and nurseries have counted<br />

the number of languages other than<br />

English spoken by their children as over<br />

40. Since all children, regardless of their<br />

language are entitled to equal access<br />

to the whole curriculum, how can we<br />

effectively help these students to make the<br />

same progress as native English speakers?<br />

The first step is to correctly identify children<br />

who have EAL and according to Ofsted,<br />

all EAL children should be recorded on the<br />

school census. There are many reasons<br />

why children may have EAL, and it is<br />

certainly not a guaranteed predictor of<br />

poor achievement. Many EAL children<br />

are fluent in English or become fluent in<br />

English as they progress through school.<br />

However, many still struggle to access<br />

the education system as fully as those<br />

whose first language is English. The<br />

government definition of a pupil with EAL is<br />

“a pupil whose first language is other than<br />

English.” And a first language is defined<br />

as “the language to which the child was<br />

initially exposed during early development<br />

and continues to use this language in the<br />

home and community.”<br />

This therefore includes:<br />

• Pupils arriving from other countries<br />

and whose first language is not<br />

English<br />

• Pupils who have lived in the UK for<br />

a long time and may appear to be<br />

fluent, but who also speak another<br />

language at home<br />

• Pupils who have been born in the UK,<br />

but for whom the home language is<br />

not English<br />

• Pupils who have a parent who speaks<br />

a language other than English and the<br />

child communicates with them in that<br />

language (i.e. bi-lingual children)<br />

British citizens can still have EAL. According<br />

to a 2020 Government report, 30% of EAL<br />

pupils are white, 41% are Asian and 13%<br />

are black, compared with 85% of pupils<br />

with English first language being white,<br />

4% black and 4% Asian). However, they<br />

are similar to pupils with English as a first<br />

language in terms of other characteristics<br />

with 51% being male, 25% being<br />

disadvantaged and 13% having a special<br />

educational need. For children with SEN<br />

and EAL, it may be more difficult to identify<br />

EAL status due to other SEN issues.<br />

Supporting children with EAL can be difficult<br />

and many early years practitioners can<br />

struggle to communicate effectively with<br />

EAL children because of the language<br />

barrier. However, it is important to realise<br />

that in the early years, children have a<br />

very high propensity to learn, so can<br />

develop quickly with the right support.<br />

And sometimes it is the inexperience of<br />

practitioners rather than the language<br />

barrier which is the biggest problem. So<br />

how can we best support EAL children?<br />

Oxfordshire County Council have produced<br />

an very informative guide on how to do<br />

this which you can access here and we<br />

have some best practice ideas below.<br />

It’s not just about visual aids<br />

It’s important to understand that it’s not<br />

just about picking up new vocabulary and<br />

grammar when learning English. Many<br />

children may have to learn an entirely new<br />

set of sounds, new intonation patterns, a<br />

new alphabet, new social conventions and<br />

non-verbal signals too. In addition, they<br />

may feel isolated and anxious going into<br />

a setting they cannot initially understand.<br />

Best practice would begin supporting<br />

these students even before they have<br />

started attending your setting and may<br />

include:<br />

• Application forms which clearly<br />

identify the first language of the child<br />

• A home visit (in 2s) to the family to<br />

assess the level of English of the<br />

parents as well as the child<br />

• Ensuring that everyone in the setting<br />

is using the correct spellings and<br />

pronunciations of the children’s and<br />

parent’s names<br />

• Training for staff on how to best<br />

support EAL students<br />

Once children are attending your setting,<br />

there are a number of strategies that can<br />

help students to feel welcome, included<br />

and able to access the curriculum. These<br />

can include:<br />

• Using visual aids and signs that the<br />

child can easily recognise (e.g. toilets/<br />

playground)<br />

• Cutting down language to avoid<br />

being overwhelmed – this means<br />

not necessarily using full sentences<br />

but making sure that the essence of<br />

the communication is understood<br />

– remember that words make up<br />

only 7% of communication so using<br />

intonation, gestures and facial<br />

expressions helps<br />

• Translating ‘survival’ words which are<br />

given and explained to the child so<br />

they understand the basics, such as<br />

where the toilets are, where they eat,<br />

how to introduce themselves and say<br />

‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and to ask for<br />

help<br />

• Other signs and information in their<br />

own first language. Promoting and<br />

using their first language as well as<br />

English will help them feel understood<br />

and more involved and will reinforce<br />

the value of different cultures and<br />

languages<br />

• Using repetition and speaking slowly<br />

and clearly<br />

• Opportunities to speak and practice<br />

English in small groups<br />

• Opportunities to read and to be read<br />

to in English, and at times, in their own<br />

first language<br />

• Learning through play where learning<br />

is natural and achieved through<br />

osmosis<br />

The parents of an EAL child can be a great<br />

resource to help ease the transition into<br />

nursery, and support them with leaning<br />

English at home. Ask parents for lists of<br />

keywords, and exchange translations so<br />

that the parents can use English word<br />

labels at home too.<br />

There are benefits too<br />

According to research, good development<br />

of a child’s first language has a positive<br />

effect on the development of other<br />

languages and situations where children<br />

are able to speak additional languages.<br />

It should also be valued as a positive<br />

skill. Learning and using more than one<br />

language creates additional learning<br />

opportunities for adults too and can often<br />

bring a rich cultural tradition to the setting<br />

to help increase understanding and<br />

tolerance.<br />

More information<br />

• https://www2.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/<br />

sites/default/files/folders/documents/<br />

childreneducationandfamilies/<br />

informationforchildcareproviders/<br />

Toolkit/eal_guidance.PDF<br />

• https://assets.publishing.service.<br />

gov.uk/government/uploads/<br />

system/uploads/attachment_data/<br />

file/908929/Attainment_of_EAL_pupils.<br />

pdf<br />

• https://flashacademy.com/<br />

• https://www.earlyyearscareers.com/<br />

eyc/latest-news/5-tips-to-supportchildren-with-eal/<br />

• https://www.nurseryresources.org/<br />

post/EAL-early-years-settings<br />

• https://www.pacey.org.uk/workingin-childcare/spotlight-on/2-year-olds/<br />

english-as-an-additional-language/<br />

16 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 17

Sing away the blues:<br />

The power of music on mental<br />

health in the early years<br />

New Year often brings new resolutions as we evaluate what has gone well or could be improved in our<br />

lives. The day on which travel agents have found that most people look for or book holidays is now<br />

unofficially called “Blue Monday”, coinciding with the end of festivities, and the return to school and work.<br />

This year, we also have the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, so instead of singing the blues, we’ll give you<br />

reasons and ways to sing away the blues, along with a fantastic musical giveaway for your setting!<br />

Research from Mastnak (2020) identified<br />

4 phases of impact that natural disasters<br />

had on children’s mental health.<br />

• Acute phase: lockdowns/closures<br />

trigger acute stress or adjustments<br />

including insomnia, paranoid traits,<br />

disruptive behaviour, fear and suicide<br />

• Subacute phase: living an adapted<br />

lifestyle for a few years led to<br />

unhealthy habits, ongoing anxiety,<br />

delusional ideas, post-traumatic<br />

stress disorder, and regressed<br />

development, personal growth, and<br />

cognitive factors (concentration,<br />

motivation)<br />

• Post-traumatic phase: +3 years<br />

after the initial event, resulting in<br />

self-protective attitudes/personality<br />

features, post-traumatic stress<br />

disorder, and depressive/avoidant<br />

personality traits<br />

• Effect phase: children may remain<br />

symptom-free for decades until<br />

adulthood, where the effects could<br />

impact the mind and harm quality of<br />

life<br />

To counteract these effects, our aim<br />

is to help children to learn to regulate<br />

their own emotions and immunological<br />

health. Medical evidence shows that<br />

music positively influences the immune<br />

system, benefiting everybody. Singing<br />

therapy is already used for respiratory<br />

issues like asthma and COPD, while music<br />

therapy develops inner calm, rebalances<br />

psychosomatic conditions, reduces stress<br />

and breaks through obsessive compulsive<br />

disorder structures. Analytic and<br />

expressive arts transform traumatic events,<br />

helping both shy and hostile personalities,<br />

while community music therapy improves<br />

group immune systems and develops<br />

mindfulness.<br />

18 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

Practical pointers supporting<br />

children through traumatic<br />

events:<br />

Positive and negative attitudes depend on<br />

the child’s culture, personality, changes,<br />

and perceptions of the anticipated future;<br />

vulnerable children can be supported in<br />

modifying thinking through reassurance<br />

and routine.<br />

Mummy loves and daddy loves<br />

(Russian lullaby)<br />

Mummy loves and daddy loves and<br />

Everybody loves little baby<br />

Brother loves and sister loves and<br />

Everybody loves little baby<br />

With younger infants, two adults hold<br />

either end of a blanket (like a hammock)<br />

gently rock the child. Older children can<br />

use small blankets or scarves to gently<br />

rock a cuddly toy or doll.<br />

1<br />

2<br />

Children may exhibit new conditions<br />

including social phobias, self-imposed<br />

withdrawal, personality disorders,<br />

emotionally cold, detached, inappropriate<br />

paranoia of contamination by others.<br />

Musical games involving nearby,<br />

appropriate contact help to refocus and<br />

reprioritise personal safe space.<br />

Old Brass Wagon<br />

Circle to the left, old brass wagon<br />

Circle to the left, old brass wagon<br />

Circle to the left, old brass wagon<br />

You’re the one, my darling<br />

Circle to the right, old brass wagon …<br />

Everybody down, old brass wagon …<br />

Everybody in, old brass wagon…<br />

In a circle, perform the actions – walk to<br />

the left/right/stand up and crouch down/<br />

walk towards the middle and out – and<br />

for the final line, point across (“you’re the<br />

one”) and hug yourself (“my darling”).<br />

3<br />

Anxiety in children may lead to obsessive<br />

compulsive behaviours. Familiar songs set<br />

to easy, relaxing exercises can override<br />

subconscious self-controlling behaviours.<br />

Twinkle Twinkle<br />

Twinkle, twinkle, little star<br />

How I wonder what you are<br />

Up above the world so high<br />

Like a diamond in the sky<br />

Twinkle, twinkle, little star<br />

How I wonder what you are<br />

Lying down in a warm, quiet, darkened<br />

room, use a torch light to watch its<br />

movement on the ceiling. Within COVID<br />

restrictions, consider giving each child a<br />

turn to use the torch.<br />

4<br />

Vulnerable children could see COVID<br />

regulations as punishment, leading to<br />

learned helplessness and dependence.<br />

Songs and games involving daily routines<br />

can remind and recreate the natural desire<br />

to achieve activities independently.<br />

Mulberry Bush<br />

Here we go round the mulberry bush<br />

The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush<br />

Here we go round the mulberry bush<br />

So early in the morning<br />

This is the way we brush our teeth …<br />

This is the way we comb our hair …<br />

This is the way we put on our clothes …<br />

This is the way we eat our food …<br />

Choose actions that children find familiar<br />

and easy as well as actions that they may<br />

find challenging. Consider breaking down<br />

complex actions to allow the routine to<br />

become familiar e.g. this is the way we pick<br />

up our fork … this is the way we sit at the<br />

table …<br />

5<br />

Children may witness extreme ideas or<br />

allow their imagination to exaggerate<br />

situations. Distinction between reality and<br />

imagination can be made using songs and<br />

games that make this clear.<br />

Grand Old Duke of York<br />

Oh, the grand old Duke of York<br />

He had ten thousand men<br />

He marched them up to the top of the hill<br />

And he marched them down again<br />

And when they were up, they were up<br />

And when they were down, they were<br />

down<br />

And when they were only halfway up<br />

They were neither up nor down<br />

Marching around the room to the beat,<br />

pretending to be soldiers, and follow<br />

the actions, moving up (tip toes), down<br />

(crouching), and halfway (usual walking<br />

height).<br />

Children may display non-psychotic<br />

paranoia and make assumptions from<br />

dramatic news headlines which may<br />

trigger imaginations. Comforting songs<br />

and routines help to remind children of<br />

emotional anchors like love and family.<br />

6<br />

You Are My Sunshine<br />

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine<br />

You make me happy when skies are grey<br />

You’ll never know dear, how much I love<br />

you<br />

Please don’t take my sunshine away<br />

Rock each child, allowing them to feel your<br />

heartbeat/vibrations of your singing, or get<br />

each child to rock a soft toy or doll.<br />

Research shows the therapeutic and<br />

health benefits of discovering “beauty” in<br />

the arts. Music is one of the least invasive<br />

approaches to improving life. Being aware<br />

of how it can be used can help us to use it<br />

more effectively.<br />

Mastnak, W. (2020). Psychopathological<br />

problems related to the COVID‐19 pandemic<br />

and possible prevention with music<br />

therapy. Acta Paediatrica. https://dx.doi.<br />

org/10.1111%2Fapa.15346<br />

Musicaliti’s musical giveaway<br />

Frances Turnbull<br />

Musician, researcher and author,<br />

Frances Turnbull, is a self-taught guitarist<br />

who has played contemporary and<br />

community music from the age of 12. She<br />

delivers music sessions to the early years<br />

and KS1. Trained in the music education<br />

techniques of Kodály (specialist singing),<br />

Dalcroze (specialist movement) and Orff<br />

(specialist percussion instruments), she<br />

has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology<br />

(Open University) and a Master’s degree<br />

in Education (University of Cambridge).<br />

She runs a local community choir, the<br />

Bolton Warblers, and delivers the Sound<br />

Sense initiative “A choir in every care<br />

home” within local care and residential<br />

homes, supporting health and wellbeing<br />

through her community interest<br />

company.<br />

She has represented the early years<br />

music community at the House of<br />

Commons, advocating for recognition<br />

for early years music educators, and her<br />

table of progressive music skills for under<br />

7s features in her curriculum books.<br />

Frances is the author of “Learning with<br />

Music: Games and activities for the early<br />

years“, published by Routledge, August<br />

2017.<br />

For your chance to win one of 8 musical hampers, including a Musicaliti song<br />

book, cd, sets of musical instruments and puppets for either under 2s or over<br />

2s, answer this question and send it to marketing@parenta.com<br />

Q: What is the name given to the Monday in <strong>January</strong> when most people book<br />

holidays?<br />

Send your name, answer and preference of over 2s or under 2s before Friday<br />

28th <strong>January</strong> for the chance to win.<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 19

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5<br />

Sibling rivalry can often start from the day a new baby is brought home. The older child goes from being<br />

the centre of attention and the youngest member of the family, to being the older sibling who then has to<br />

share their parents and the attention that they get from them. Developmentally it can be a lot to handle, and<br />

behaviour can change dramatically if a child fears that this new baby could replace them in some way.<br />

Aggressive behaviour can be common, however, regressive behaviour such as bed wetting can also happen.<br />

This is often a child’s subconscious attempt to re-establish themselves in a dependent role with their parents.<br />

Either way, a new baby joining the family can have a huge impact and it’s important for us to be aware of this<br />

so that we can minimise any negative repercussions.<br />

Take action before the<br />

baby arrives<br />

By this I don’t just mean preparing the<br />

older child for the baby’s arrival. I also<br />

mean preparing family and friends for the<br />

moment that they meet the baby too and<br />

making them aware of how you want it to<br />

be.<br />

A big issue can be that the older child feels<br />

pushed out. Quite often, when people<br />

visit a newborn, they will fuss around the<br />

baby and give it their undivided love and<br />

doting attention. This is completely normal,<br />

however if we think of this from the older<br />

child’s perspective it is actually quite tough.<br />

They have gone from having all of the<br />

attention on them to then having a little<br />

person arriving and stealing the limelight.<br />

When my son was born, I spoke to every<br />

family member and friend and asked<br />

them to essentially ignore the baby and<br />

to go straight to my 2-year-old when they<br />

came to visit. I wanted her to feel like she<br />

was still the priority and that she was<br />

special, so I asked everyone to ask her<br />

about ‘her new baby’ and to let her show<br />

them our new arrival. This way she still<br />

had lots of attention and she also became<br />

an important role in the baby’s life by<br />

introducing the people that mattered the<br />

most to him. If anyone asked what we<br />

ways to reduce<br />

sibling rivalry<br />

Here are 5 ways to reduce sibling rivalry:<br />

wanted for the baby as a gift, I also asked<br />

them to buy my little girl a present rather<br />

than buying one for the baby. This worked<br />

a treat because she was not only excited<br />

to have a new baby brother to show off to<br />

everyone, but she was also getting gifts for<br />

being a new big sister.<br />

Give time to both<br />

children<br />

As children get older, they often fight<br />

for attention. By giving each child a<br />

set amount of undivided time and<br />

attention each day their need to fight for<br />

it will reduce. If a child feels seen and<br />

appreciated, they are less likely to feel<br />

threatened or insecure. Label the time (for<br />

example ‘Mummy and Noah time’ and<br />

explain to the children that this is something<br />

you will be doing with each of them every<br />

day. Even if it’s just 10 minutes, they will love<br />

this focused time with you, and it will make<br />

them feel special. Make sure there are no<br />

distractions like phones or TVs and just give<br />

100% of yourself to them for the set time<br />

you have agreed.<br />

Family time<br />

Having set family time all together is<br />

important too. Playing games, eating a nice<br />

meal around the table, going to the park<br />

and having a picnic are all ways in which<br />

you can all bond and make memories<br />

together. Times like this where both children<br />

get your undivided attention allow them to<br />

make positive memories together whilst still<br />

feeling that connection with you and each<br />

other.<br />

Don’t compare<br />

Every child is an individual and has their<br />

own strengths and weaknesses. When a<br />

person feels inadequate or insecure, they<br />

are more likely to overcompensate, fight for<br />

attention and/or try to prove themselves.<br />

If each child feels valued and appreciated<br />

for who they are, they are less likely to pull<br />

each other down. Quite often, if a person is<br />

acting negatively towards another person, it<br />

is linked to an insecurity inside themselves.<br />

By celebrating each child’s individuality,<br />

you build their self-esteem and confidence<br />

and reduce the chance of them craving<br />

attention and approval.<br />

Listen<br />

There are always two sides to a story. When<br />

siblings are fighting it is important to hear<br />

both sides. Once the situation has calmed<br />

down give each child the chance to tell you<br />

what has happened and then encourage<br />

each child to see the situation from their<br />

sibling’s perspective. Ask them questions<br />

like:<br />

• When you did that, how do you think<br />

that made them feel?<br />

• How did you feel when…?<br />

• What could you have done differently<br />

that might have had a better outcome?<br />

• Can you understand that when you<br />

did…, your sibling felt…?<br />

By listening to both sides, you are making<br />

each child feel valued and heard, but<br />

you are also encouraging them both to<br />

empathise and see the bigger picture.<br />

Quite often it’s the child who reacts and<br />

lashes out that gets punished. However,<br />

there is usually a reason for this. By calmly<br />

talking though the whole situation you can<br />

unearth some things that need addressing<br />

and help both siblings to be more aware of<br />

their actions and reactions.<br />

At the end of the day, siblings will always<br />

fight. However, if this is a constant<br />

occurrence, it’s important to get to the<br />

bottom of why. Children crave attention,<br />

acceptance and love. As parents, life is<br />

fast paced, and we are constantly juggling<br />

a million things at once. It can be easy to<br />

go on autopilot dealing with day-to-day<br />

routines and chores. However, it’s important<br />

to remember what truly matters and to take<br />

time to bond with our children individually<br />

and as a whole family. By doing this, even if<br />

it’s just 10 minutes per day, the need for our<br />

children to fight for attention will decrease<br />

and this will have a ripple effect with how<br />

they interact and engage with each other.<br />

Stacey Kelly<br />

Stacey Kelly is a former French and<br />

Spanish teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful<br />

babies and the founder of Early Years<br />

Story Box. After becoming a mum, Stacey<br />

left her teaching career and started<br />

writing and illustrating storybooks to help<br />

support her children through different<br />

transitional stages like leaving nursery<br />

and starting school. Seeing the positive<br />

impact of her books on her children’s<br />

emotional well-being led to Early Years<br />

Story Box being born. Stacey has now<br />

created 35 storybooks, all inspired by her<br />

own children, to help teach different life<br />

lessons and to prepare children for their<br />

next steps. She has an exclusive collection<br />

for childcare settings that are gifted on<br />

special occasions like first/last days,<br />

birthdays, Christmas and/or Easter and<br />

has recently launched a new collection<br />

for parents too. Her mission is to support<br />

as many children as she can through<br />

storytime and to give childcare settings<br />

an affordable and special gifting solution<br />

that truly makes a difference.<br />

Email: stacey@earlyyearsstorybox.com or<br />

Telephone: 07765785595<br />

Website: www.earlyyearsstorybox.com<br />

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/<br />

earlyyearsstorybox<br />

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/<br />

eystorybox<br />

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/<br />

earlyyearsstorybox<br />

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/<br />

stacey-kelly-a84534b2/<br />

22 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 23

Chinese dumplings<br />

Pinecone bird feeder<br />

This simple recipe is from BBC Bitesize. You could use this craft to celebrate<br />

Chinese New Year in your setting with the children.<br />

If you are planning to take part in The Big Schools Bird Watch, this pinecone birdfeeder<br />

might be the perfect activity, which has been inspired by the RSPB’s craft.<br />

You will need:<br />

For the dough<br />

• 140g plain flour<br />

• 125ml water<br />

For the filling<br />

• Finely chopped<br />

vegetables<br />

• You could include:<br />

spinach, spring<br />

onions, mushrooms,<br />

cabbage, carrots<br />

• ½ tbsp soy sauce<br />

• 1 tbsp cold water<br />

• salt and pepper<br />

Image source: Preschool Inspirations<br />

Instructions:<br />

1. Stir the water into the flour until mixed - add more water if the mixture seems dry.<br />

2. Knead the dough with your hands and add a little bit of flour if it’s sticky.<br />

3. Put the dough in a bowl, covered with a clean, damp towel, and let it rest for around 20 minutes.<br />

4. After resting, tear the dough into sixteen equal-sized pieces and flatten them into round flat pancakes.<br />

5. Add all of the filling ingredients into a bowl; and mix together.<br />

6. Place a spoonful of filling into of each pancake and add a little bit of water to the edges of the pancakes.<br />

7. Fold the dough in half and pinch the edges together with your fingers.<br />

8. An adult will then need to boil a pan of water, to then add the dumplings and put on the lid.<br />

9. Boil the dumplings for three to four minutes and then serve.<br />

10. *Optional* You could add a little dish of soy sauce for dipping, as seen in the image above.<br />

You will<br />

need:<br />

• Dried pine or fir cones<br />

• Bird seed<br />

• Raisins<br />

• Peanuts<br />

• Grated cheese<br />

• Suet or lard<br />

• A mixing bowl<br />

• Scissors<br />

• String<br />

Instructions:<br />

1. Make your bird mix with the bird seed, raisins and peanuts and grated cheese.<br />

2. Leave the lard out to warm up to room temperature and then cut into small<br />

pieces.<br />

3. Add the lard and the bird mix into the mixing bowl and use your fingertips to<br />

mix together until the fats hold the ingredients together.<br />

4. Get all of your cones and loop the string around the top of them so they are<br />

secure.<br />

5. Use your hands to pack the bird mixture around the cones. Try to fit as much in<br />

as possible.<br />

6. Once you are finished put your cones into the fridge for around an hour to set.<br />

7. After this, you can hang up your feeders on the trees and watch the birds<br />

coming to visit for a snack!<br />

24 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 25

CEO of the London Early Years Foundation (the UK’s largest<br />

charitable social enterprise) explains WHY the Government<br />

must bridge the attainment gap for disadvantaged children<br />

through an urgent reform of 30-hours nursery policy<br />

When the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) saw its most vulnerable children arriving at nursery<br />

hungry, anxious and developmentally-delayed as a result of lockdowns and the impact of living in poverty<br />

(exacerbated by the pandemic), we set up the Doubling Down programme in October 2020. This coincided<br />

with our Prime Minister asking leaders to come to Government with ideas to solve problems and improve<br />

local services using a place-based response.<br />

Click here to watch June O’Sullivan’s TedX Talk video “How nurseries tackle the injustice of poverty”.<br />

Our idea was to double the funded hours<br />

available to children from poor and<br />

disadvantaged backgrounds by increasing<br />

the standard funded 15 hours to 30 hours<br />

and also provide a proper cooked lunch.<br />

We targeted children returning from the<br />

pandemic whose development had been<br />

really set back. We know that high quality<br />

nursery education can help make a real<br />

difference to small children and get them<br />

into a position where they can thrive at<br />

home and at school. So, it seemed logical<br />

that we should provide 30 accessible<br />

hours for them.<br />

Between October 2020 and July 2021,<br />

97 children were offered an additional 15<br />

hours at nursery each week.<br />

It also seemed a sensible approach<br />

given the concern that so many children,<br />

especially those from disadvantaged<br />

families, were badly affected cognitively<br />

and socially by the lockdown.<br />

Organisations such as the Education<br />

Endowment Foundation appeared to<br />

confirm our concern.<br />

Their survey of schools and parents<br />

completed in May 2020 found that<br />

children who started school in autumn<br />

2020 needed more support than in<br />

previous years. The findings suggest<br />

that the greatest area of concern<br />

was communication and language<br />

development, in which 96% (55 out of<br />

57) of schools said they were either “very<br />

concerned” or “quite concerned”.<br />

Close behind were personal, social and<br />

emotional development (91%) and literacy<br />

(89%) – skills which are heavily reliant<br />

on the development of strong speech,<br />

language and communication abilities.<br />

Funded by generous donations from<br />

Permira Foundation and Barclays 100 x 100<br />

COVID-19 UK Community Relief Fund (plus<br />

our own public crowd funding campaign<br />

which is still on-going), analysis from<br />

Doubling Down research found:<br />

• Over 70% of parents and staff<br />

saw a positive impact on their<br />

child’s communication skills, social<br />

development and behaviour<br />

Percentage of children at expected level of development<br />

across EYFS areas of Learning & Development<br />

Physical Development<br />

Expressive Arts & Design<br />

Personal Social &<br />

Emotional Development<br />

Communication & Language<br />

Literacy<br />

Understanding the World<br />

Mathematics<br />

0%<br />

+9<br />

+7<br />

+12<br />

+7<br />

+3<br />

+9<br />

+8<br />

Pre<br />

Post<br />

20% 40% 60% 80% 100%<br />

• A profound positive impact on the<br />

mood, sleep, empathy, school<br />

readiness and nutritious eating<br />

amongst children<br />

• A reduction in the amount of screen<br />

time, especially as many of the<br />

children had spent months living<br />

in high rise flats with no access to<br />

a garden or opportunities to play<br />

outdoors<br />

The external evaluation of the ‘Doubling<br />

Down’ programme conducted by Rocket<br />

Science (between October 2020 to July<br />

2021) also highlighted improvement<br />

across ALL seven areas of EYFS learning<br />

and development by an average 8%. The<br />

largest improvement was a +12% increase<br />

in Communication and Language (from<br />

57% to 68%), followed by +9% across<br />

Mathematics (from 52% to 61%) and<br />

Expressive Arts & Design (from 67% to<br />

76%).<br />

Staff noted that by the provision of the<br />

extra hours at nursery also significantly<br />

benefitted parents, many of whom were<br />

caring for children with Special Educational<br />

Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Staff morale<br />

also benefited because they felt they had<br />

more time to support vulnerable children’s<br />

learning and development effectively.<br />

This is super important as many staff are<br />

reeling from the recruitment shortage<br />

and constructive feedback is the tonic. It’s<br />

imperative that they feel optimistic and<br />

confident about the significant part they<br />

play in making a positive difference to<br />

each child.<br />

Disappointingly, it came as no surprise<br />

that our Childcare Minister was not<br />

a fan of Doubling Down. He thinks<br />

30-hours risks children not benefitting<br />

from the Government’s own policy of 30<br />

hours. Quoting the SEED Impact Report<br />

from February 2020, the Minister and<br />

his advisers seem overly focused on a<br />

very small negative effect on children’s<br />

emotional self-regulation among children<br />

using nursery for more than fifteen hours<br />

per week between the age of two and the<br />

start of school.<br />

The research noted a very small<br />

unfavourable association between formal<br />

Early Childhood Education and Care<br />

(ECEC) use and children’s socioemotional<br />

outcomes but contrasted with the largely<br />

positive associations, the impact was<br />

negligible and the researchers wondered<br />

whether the reasons for these<br />

unexpected differences lay in the source<br />

of the socio-emotional measures. The<br />

age four socio-emotional measures were<br />

derived from parent report, whereas the<br />

later outcomes were derived from teacher<br />

report. The question will be considered at<br />

age seven in a later SEED report.<br />

The Sutton Trust’s recent report. ‘A Fair<br />

Start – Equalising Access to Early Education’<br />

and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) both<br />

argue for extending the 15-hours funded<br />

places to children from disadvantaged<br />

backgrounds. The estimated cost of<br />

universalising the 30-hour entitlement<br />

would raise spending by around £250<br />

million in 2024–25. Extending the<br />

entitlement to disadvantaged three-and<br />

four-year-olds would cost an extra £165<br />

million a year. This is compared to the<br />

roughly £735 million that the existing 30-<br />

hour entitlement will cost. But the benefits<br />

and the return on the investment would be<br />

significant.<br />

Our research provides a strong message<br />

to both the Government and to global<br />

investors, and demonstrates that we need<br />

to think carefully about how we respond<br />

to the fast-emerging problems we are<br />

seeing across the country as a result of<br />

the pandemic. We clearly need to reverse<br />

the alarming decline in the health, wellbeing<br />

and education amongst our young<br />

children. Access to these crucial extra<br />

Government funded hours is benefitting<br />

children now and can actually help them<br />

level up and reduce the attainment gap<br />

that emerges from 22 months in children<br />

from disadvantaged backgrounds. Doing<br />

nothing is simply not an option.<br />

So, back to Boris and his call for leaders<br />

to provide examples of good practice<br />

which we can learn from and drive<br />

levelling-up and systemic change. Failure<br />

to close the attainment gap continues to<br />

have devastating consequences for the<br />

1.3 million children aged 0-5 who live in<br />

poverty. Just look at the most recent report<br />

about disadvantaged white pupils.<br />

Our Secretary of State for Education,<br />

Nadhim Zahawi must put his money where<br />

his mouth is. He is right when he says<br />

June O’Sullivan<br />

June O’Sullivan MBE is Chief Executive of<br />

the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF),<br />

one of the UK’s largest charitable childcare<br />

social enterprises which currently runs 39<br />

nurseries across twelve London boroughs.<br />

An inspiring speaker, author and regular<br />

media commentator on early years, social<br />

business and child poverty, June has<br />

been instrumental in achieving a major<br />

strategic, pedagogical and cultural shift<br />

for the award-winning London Early Years<br />

Foundation, resulting in an increased<br />

profile, a new childcare model and a<br />

stronger social impact over the past ten<br />

years.<br />

@juneosullivan<br />

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn<br />

“… you don’t tackle inequality and poverty<br />

unless you tackle education.”<br />

https://leyf.org.uk/doubling-down/<br />

26 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 27

Chinese New Year<br />

supposed to take a shower on this<br />

day or get a haircut either since<br />

using scissors, knives or other<br />

sharp objects is thought to risk<br />

bringing in bad luck.<br />

On the 1st <strong>January</strong> each year, many cultures celebrate a New Year according to the solar-based Gregorian<br />

calendar, and this year, most countries will celebrate the birth of <strong>2022</strong> at the stroke of midnight. But did you<br />

know, that although this is the calendar used in the international standard for representation of dates and<br />

times, known as ISO 8601, it is only one of many New Year celebrations that people mark over the course of<br />

a year? You might have read our recent article about Diwali in November which is the New Year celebrations<br />

for many Hindu, Sikhs and Jains in India. The Bengali people in India celebrate New Year in April, Jewish<br />

people celebrate Rosh Hashanah in September or October, and many Celts and Pagans celebrate Samhain<br />

as New Year’s Eve on October 31st, starting their New Year on November 1st. In Islam, they use an calendar<br />

that is based on the phases of the moon and is shorter than the solar year used in ISO 8601.<br />

Celebrating in<br />

your setting<br />

Chinese New Year can be<br />

celebrated in different ways and<br />

we’ve given you a few suggestions<br />

below to help you make the most<br />

of this season. It also lasts just<br />

over 2 weeks so there will be<br />

plenty of time to try a few of our<br />

suggestions.<br />

8. “Happy New Year!”<br />

One of the most famous and longest New<br />

Year celebrations is that of the Chinese<br />

New Year which occurs around <strong>January</strong>/<br />

February each year, and in <strong>2022</strong> will be<br />

celebrated starting with New Year’s Eve<br />

on <strong>January</strong> 31st, followed by New Year’s<br />

Day on 1st February. The celebration, also<br />

called the Spring Festival, lasts for 16 days<br />

ending with the Lantern Festival on the full<br />

moon on February 15th. It marks the end of<br />

the coldest part of winter and the start of<br />

new beginnings. Like Easter, the exact date<br />

is based on the cycles of the moon and<br />

begins on a new moon day, usually the<br />

second new moon after the winter solstice<br />

(21 st December).<br />

During Chinese New Year, most Chinese<br />

people will get 7 days holiday at the start<br />

of the festivities and many people will<br />

begin thoroughly cleaning their houses<br />

before that to sweep out the old year and<br />

welcome in good luck for the new one.<br />

Factories are closed and people return<br />

to their families from the big cities. The<br />

Chinese zodiac has 12 houses like the<br />

Western zodiac, but whereas the Western<br />

Feb 1, <strong>2022</strong> –<br />

Tiger<br />

Feb 27, 2026 –<br />

Horse<br />

Feb 3, 2030 –<br />

Dog<br />

zodiac cycles last approximately one<br />

month, the Chinese ones last a year and<br />

are named after animals such as the<br />

pig, horse and dragon. The New Year<br />

starting in <strong>2022</strong> will be the year of the<br />

tiger and people born within that year<br />

are predicted to be competitive, brave,<br />

confident and unpredictable. Interestingly,<br />

when it is your Chinese zodiac birth year,<br />

(known as benmingnian), it is thought<br />

that people with that birth sign (i.e. the<br />

tiger) will have their unluckiest year rather<br />

than their luckiest one. The signs come<br />

around every 12 years, so the last<br />

year of the tiger was 2010. The<br />

12 signs of the Chinese zodiac<br />

are shown above with their<br />

corresponding New Year’s<br />

Day.<br />

How is<br />

Chinese<br />

New Year<br />

celebrated?<br />

Jan 22, 2023 –<br />

Rabbit<br />

Feb 6, 2027 –<br />

Goat<br />

Jan 23, 2031 –<br />

Pig<br />

Around the world, many people<br />

from China and other Asian countries<br />

Feb 10, 2024 –<br />

Dragon<br />

Jan 26, 2028 –<br />

Monkey<br />

Feb 11, 2032 –<br />

Rat<br />

Jan 29, 2025 –<br />

Snake<br />

Feb 13, 2029 –<br />

Rooster<br />

Jan 31, 2033 –<br />

Ox<br />

celebrate by gathering with their families,<br />

eating special foods and setting off<br />

fireworks although fireworks are banned<br />

in some places due to concerns about<br />

air pollution. Many children receive red<br />

envelopes containing money. Red is a<br />

colour that symbolises good luck and<br />

traditionally people prayed to their gods<br />

or their ancestors. If you’ve seen the film<br />

“Mulan”, you will know the importance of<br />

ancestors in looking after the people, even<br />

after death. In life, people visit their elderly<br />

relatives and pay their respects by doing 3<br />

‘kowtows’ to the elders. A kowtow is where<br />

people kneel on the floor and bow forward,<br />

putting their head on their hands which are<br />

on the floor. It is considered the ultimate<br />

mark of respect.<br />

Chinese New Year is also traditionally a<br />

time for fighting off demons and monsters<br />

such as a demon called Nian, and there<br />

are many myths and legends about people<br />

fighting these creatures and overcoming<br />

them. Red is supposed to be useful in<br />

fighting demons so many people also hang<br />

up red decorations such as lanterns, red<br />

chilli peppers or red paper during this time<br />

to ward off evil spirits.<br />

It’s traditional to eat dumplings every<br />

day, although you can have too much of<br />

a good thing! And since new clothes are<br />

also believed to bring good luck, many<br />

people will add some new red clothes<br />

to their wardrobes too. At the end of the<br />

festive season is the Lantern Festival or the<br />

Yuanxiao Festival, a night of partying and<br />

freedom.<br />

As well as trying to attract good luck, many<br />

Chinese people actively try to avoid bad<br />

luck by avoiding certain things during the<br />

New Year period. So people avoid saying<br />

negative words and don’t demand debt<br />

repayments. It is also thought to be bad<br />

luck to break a ceramic object or to clean<br />

your house on New Year’s Day. You’re not<br />

1. Make some red paper lanterns and<br />

decorate your setting<br />

2. Cut out some silhouettes of the<br />

different zodiac animals and make<br />

mobiles or pictures – you can introduce<br />

some new words by talking about their<br />

different qualities<br />

3. Make some Chinese dumplings –<br />

there is a child-friendly recipe here<br />

4. Introduce your children to the idea of<br />

different New Years through reading<br />

books and stories such as “Maisie’s<br />

Chinese New Year” by Lucy Cousins<br />

or tell the children some traditional<br />

Chinese myths and legends<br />

5. Make a paper plate Chinese dragon<br />

6. Run a movement session based on the<br />

12 zodiac animals getting the children<br />

to move in different ways<br />

7. Do some mark-making with a<br />

traditional New Year greeting<br />

Whatever you do, remember to send us<br />

your stories and pictures to hello@parenta.<br />

com.<br />

More information:<br />

• https://chinesenewyear.net/<br />

• https://www.eyalliance.org.uk/<br />

celebrating-chinese-new-year-ideasand-activities-early-years-settings<br />

• https://www.seriouseats.com/easykids-dumplings<br />

28 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 29

Egg-cellent advice:<br />

Twinkle toes<br />

If you are supporting people who enjoy the<br />

sensory world as I do, can you find times<br />

when they can be out of their socks and<br />

shoes so that they have four sources of<br />

information, not just two?<br />

(These words first appeared on Jo’s<br />

Facebook profile you are welcome to<br />

send her a friend request to watch out for<br />

more insight https://www.facebook.com/<br />

JoannaGraceTSP:<br />

Joanna provides online and in person<br />

training relating to sensory engagement<br />

and sensory differences, look up www.<br />

TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/online-college<br />

for more information. To view a list of her<br />

books visit www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/<br />

books Follow Jo on social media to pick up<br />

new sensory insights, you’ll find her at:<br />

@Jo3Grace on Twitter, www.Facebook.com/<br />

JoannaGraceTSP and https://uk.linkedin.<br />

com/in/joannagracethesensoryprojects<br />

I do not know how he came to acquire the nick-name Egg but ever since he came along that’s what my<br />

youngest son has been called. I run The Sensory Projects www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk (which should<br />

now really be called The Sensory Projects and Sons!) My work focuses on people with profound disabilities<br />

and sensory differences, but my son’s advice will apply to your work too.<br />

In this series of articles we are going to share his insights with you, if you are keen for more there is an ever<br />

growing collection on my Facebook profile: come and make friends. www.Facebook.com/JoannaGraceTSP<br />

Watching Egg before he could walk it<br />

was clear that he used his feet to explore<br />

materials as much as he used his hands.<br />

Of course this could be a consequence of<br />

having a sensory engagement specialist<br />

as a mother, who is prone to wrapping<br />

jangling belly dancer sarongs around the<br />

chair legs, but more likely it is simply to do<br />

This is article 3 out of a series of 10! To view the others click here.<br />

with the number of nerve endings.<br />

Our hands are very sensitive, lots of nerve<br />

endings = lots of sensation = a great tool<br />

for exploring. Tongues and lips are even<br />

better, so putting things in your mouth<br />

is a great way to explore the world. And<br />

feet! Feet too should join this party, their<br />

tickliness is a result of their many nerve<br />

endings, so providing things to explore<br />

with twinkle toes is a wonderful way to<br />

invite learning about the world.<br />

The belly dancer’s sarong was a great<br />

hit, providing texture to explore, and<br />

rewarding that exploration with a light<br />

show and a cacophony of jingles.<br />

My feet reach out for things just like my<br />

hands do.<br />

You may only use your hands to touch and<br />

explore, but feet seem just as good an<br />

option to me.<br />

When I am older more people will expect<br />

me to wear shoes. And I probably will<br />

because my feet will, likely, carry me<br />

around so I will need shoes to keep them<br />

safe.<br />

But if wheels carried me around. Or if I was<br />

inside in a safe space, it would be nice to<br />

feel with my feet again.<br />

If I had hands that did not work so well, my<br />

feet might be all the more important.<br />

Mummy gets teased for me not wearing<br />

socks now. Think what you would say to<br />

her if she encased my hands in leather<br />

and put hard rubber soles across my<br />

palms. When I have my socks and shoes<br />

on, I learn less about the world around<br />

me.<br />

Joanna Grace<br />

Joanna Grace is an international<br />

Sensory Engagement and Inclusion<br />

Specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker<br />

and founder of The Sensory Projects.<br />

Consistently rated as “outstanding” by<br />

Ofsted, Joanna has taught in<br />

mainstream and special school settings,<br />

connecting with pupils of all ages and<br />

abilities. To inform her work, Joanna<br />

draws on her own experience from her<br />

private and professional life as well as<br />

taking in all the information she can<br />

from the research archives. Joanna’s<br />

private life includes family members<br />

with disabilities and neurodiverse<br />

conditions and time spent as a<br />

registered foster carer for children with<br />

profound disabilities.<br />

Joanna has published four practitioner<br />

books: “Multiple Multisensory Rooms:<br />

Myth Busting the Magic”, “Sensory<br />

Stories for Children and Teens”,<br />

“Sensory-Being for Sensory Beings”<br />

and “Sharing Sensory Stories and<br />

Conversations with People with<br />

Dementia”. and two inclusive sensory<br />

story children’s books: “Voyage to<br />

Arghan” and “Ernest and I”. There is<br />

new book coming out soon called ‘”The<br />

Subtle Spectrum” and her son has<br />

recently become the UK’s youngest<br />

published author with his book, “My<br />

Mummy is Autistic”.<br />

Joanna is a big fan of social media and<br />

is always happy to connect with people<br />

via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.<br />

Website:<br />

thesensoryprojects.co.uk<br />

30 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 31

Supporting staff and<br />

Advice, advocacy and mental<br />

health<br />

apprentices with SEND<br />

Last year, we wrote about the different ways you can help children with SEND ranging from dyslexia,<br />

dyscalculia and autism to those with ADHD, social, emotional and mental health issues (SEMH), through to<br />

more complex needs such as those with a physical or learning disabilities. Children with SEND grow up to be<br />

adults with SEND as many of these conditions are lifelong. Adults need to find employment and independence<br />

(where possible) which means initially getting a job and then being able to operate at work without having<br />

the security and support that many educational environments offer. This can be problematic.<br />

According to The Labour Force Survey<br />

for the six months ending June 2020,<br />

employment rates in people with SEND<br />

were:<br />

• Depression, bad nerves or anxiety:<br />

54.3%<br />

• Mental illness or other nervous<br />

disorder: 33%<br />

• Severe or specific learning difficulties:<br />

26.5%<br />

• Autism: 21.7%<br />

People with a learning disability have the<br />

lowest employment rate amongst disabled<br />

people. Just 5.1% of people with a learning<br />

disability have a paid job, yet around 80%<br />

can work.<br />

For a lot of people with special educational<br />

needs such as autism, dyslexia and<br />

dyscalculia, some of the things they<br />

struggled with a school can become<br />

a positive attribute in a work situation.<br />

People with autism and ADHD can thrive<br />

in environments that suit their particular<br />

skills such as details and logical planning.<br />

Dyslexia has held many back at school<br />

but at work, people are able to focus more<br />

easily on what they can do well (such as<br />

caring for others or being creative), and<br />

work with their SEN, rather than constantly<br />

having to struggle to fit into educational<br />

‘norms’.<br />

The Government is committed to<br />

supporting people with SEND into<br />

adulthood and to help them secure jobs<br />

and thrive independently. It has introduced<br />

legislation to ensure that employers<br />

do not discriminate against anyone on<br />

the grounds of disability and has made<br />

it compulsory for employers to make<br />

‘reasonable adjustments’ so that it is<br />

easier for people with SEND to find work.<br />

However, there is no doubt that there are<br />

still many barriers to full employment and<br />

promoting a culture of inclusion, diversity<br />

and understanding at work will help your<br />

setting become part of the solution.<br />

So how can you support adults or<br />

employees with SEND in your setting?<br />

Leadership and management<br />

How you support your employees or<br />

apprentices will depend on each person’s<br />

needs but making a clear commitment to<br />

support any SEND staff you have is good<br />

start. It is important that this comes from<br />

the top and is written into your policies<br />

and procedures which might mean<br />

reviewing your policies on disability and<br />

inclusion, or making budgetary decisions<br />

and allocating money as necessary for<br />

any changes or adjustments you need to<br />

make.<br />

Communication and<br />

transparency<br />

It is vital that you also have good and<br />

honest lines of communication, and<br />

this means having a two-way dialogue<br />

and encouraging a culture of open<br />

communication and respect. You will<br />

obviously have to find out what the needs<br />

of your employees are, be they physical,<br />

sensory or supporting their mental health,<br />

so encourage staff to be open and honest.<br />

It also means being honest about what<br />

you can and cannot do within the law,<br />

but you should work towards a win-win<br />

solution if you can. It can be helpful to<br />

set up suggestion boxes to encourage<br />

new ideas and put SEND issues onto your<br />

weekly meeting agendas.<br />

Think too about how you issue your<br />

staff communications – are you<br />

accommodating all staff if they have<br />

dyslexia, hearing- or sight-loss or need<br />

extra time to process information?<br />

Changes to the environment<br />

The Equality Act 2010 makes it law for all<br />

public sector organisations and some<br />

employers such as shops, local authorities<br />

and schools to make ‘reasonable<br />

adjustments’ to remove barriers that some<br />

people with disabilities face, although it is<br />

not set out as to what these adjustments<br />

are and it depends on the size of the<br />

company, the cost of the changes and<br />

whether they are practicable to make.<br />

Employers and employee should decide<br />

but they can include things like:<br />

• Changing the physical environment<br />

such as steps and stairways<br />

• Providing ramps or wider entrances<br />

and exits<br />

• Changing internal doors<br />

• Making adjustments to lighting and<br />

ventilation<br />

• Installing noise reduction panels or<br />

providing noise reducing headphones<br />

Remember that small and simple changes<br />

can make a huge difference to people<br />

with sensory needs, which can boost your<br />

productivity, efficiency and staff loyalty.<br />

Think too about your other staff who may<br />

not have SEND but who may be aging<br />

as the age of the general workforce<br />

increases, who might welcome some<br />

adjustments to make their life easier.<br />

Be proactive and become a source of<br />

advice and information for your staff.<br />

Promote awareness days/weeks/<br />

months within your setting and take<br />

the opportunity to improve everyone’s<br />

awareness of SEND to promote inclusion<br />

and tolerance. You may be lucky enough<br />

to have an HR department if you work<br />

in a larger company, but many early<br />

years settings are small, owner-manager<br />

organisations where this is unlikely. You<br />

can still seek advice and information<br />

and there are many organisations who<br />

help people with SEND get into work<br />

such as Remploy, so do some research<br />

and see how you can help (see below).<br />

The Government runs an Access to<br />

Work scheme to help people initially<br />

apply for and get into self-employment,<br />

training or start working which you could<br />

promote at interviews or when thinking<br />

about CPD for staff. The Government’s<br />

Disability Confident scheme is designed<br />

to help employers make the most of the<br />

opportunities provided by employing<br />

disabled people. It is voluntary and<br />

has been developed by employers and<br />

representatives of disabled people to<br />

improve their employment prospects.<br />

Remember too that offering an<br />

understanding ear can go a very long way<br />

to make people feel included.<br />

CPD<br />

People with SEND also want to progress<br />

in their careers when they start them, so<br />

make sure you consider opportunities for<br />

CPD and career progression in your setting<br />

for people with SEND (and all staff for that<br />

matter). Many courses can be done online<br />

and remotely nowadays, removing a lot of<br />

barriers for people with SEND. <strong>Parenta</strong> run<br />

many CPD elearning courses through their<br />

training CPD webpage on everything from<br />

tissue viability to time management.<br />

More information:<br />

• Careers Enterprise Company: Working<br />

with young people with SEND<br />

• UK Government: Employing disabled<br />

people and people with health<br />

conditions<br />

• Citizens Advice: Duty to make<br />

reasonable adjustments<br />

• Disability Confident Employer scheme<br />

• Remploy<br />

• Access to work<br />

32 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 33

<strong>2022</strong> New Year’s Resolution:<br />

Get moving and help grow brains<br />

We all know about the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, fitness, and movement for adults,<br />

and we all make those New Year resolutions to hit the road or gym! Well, did you know that it is even<br />

more important to make movement and physical activity a priority in the early years as this is the most<br />

important time in our development?<br />

Felicity Gillespie, Director of Kindred, said:<br />

A child’s development at 22 months<br />

serves as a strong predictor of education<br />

outcomes at age 26. Most of the human<br />

brain is developed before we can even<br />

talk and in the first year of life, the brain<br />

literally doubles in size. The evidence of the<br />

massive impact our earliest relationships,<br />

environments and experiences has on our<br />

future development is incontrovertible.<br />

Did you know?<br />

Physical activity grows the brain through<br />

the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor<br />

(BDNF) release which stimulates the<br />

growth of new neurons. You are literally<br />

growing the brain through movement and<br />

physical activity.<br />

A few ways to spur you on, to keep this<br />

resolution, as physical activity is really the<br />

foundation of brain functioning.<br />

In the past, education has<br />

compartmentalised learning, at all levels,<br />

and all the neuroscientific research is<br />

giving us clearer evidence that everything<br />

is linked in the learning process.<br />

The paper “Physical Activity and Cognition:<br />

Inseparable in the Classroom” by Anya<br />

Doherty and Anna Fores Miravalles from<br />

the Faculty of Education, University of<br />

Barcelona is worth reading.<br />

We all know how active learning helps<br />

children improve their well-being, speech,<br />

language and communication skills,<br />

personal and social development, and<br />

their understanding of the world around<br />

them. But did you know how your actions<br />

and examples now, will have a long-term<br />

impact on your little ones in later life?<br />

By helping them now to create a healthy<br />

lifestyle will help them make good choices<br />

later in life.<br />

The immediate benefits of<br />

movement and activity<br />

1. You are helping them grow their brain<br />

through the BDNF release to stimulate<br />

the growth of new neurons<br />

2. You are building myelin on those<br />

connections of the brain each time<br />

you repeat a movement. Peek at<br />

“meeting myelin” from the August<br />

2021 edition<br />

3. Exercise and movement can reduce<br />

the risk of developing major illness in<br />

later life<br />

4. Helps children to build stronger bones<br />

and muscles which improves their<br />

posture and balance (core)<br />

Did you know movement<br />

literally grows the brain?<br />

?<br />

If you read “How Lifestyle Factors Affect<br />

Cognitive and Executive Function and the<br />

Ability to Learn in Children” it discusses<br />

lifestyle and its impact on cognitive and<br />

executive function. In their research on<br />

movement and physical activity, the<br />

researchers have seen that there are<br />

several changes in the volume of brain<br />

structure and that movement could<br />

enhance cognition and learning in<br />

children.<br />

For example, a difference in the volume of<br />

the basal ganglia (responsible for motor<br />

control) and additionally increased volume<br />

in the hippocampus, the hub of the brain’s<br />

memory network, has also been related to<br />

aerobic fitness and movement. The article<br />

suggests that increased aerobic fitness<br />

could enhance cognitive development in<br />

children by changing the volume in regions<br />

of the brain that are involved in cognitive<br />

function.<br />

Movement is also such a benefit in the<br />

learning process for children with additional<br />

learning needs and the paper “The effect<br />

of acute exercise on cognitive performance<br />

in children with and without ADHD” shows<br />

that exercise benefits all children.<br />

Cognitive development: benefits<br />

of movement and activity<br />

1. Improved co-ordination<br />

2. Improved memory and focus<br />

3. The improved speed with which<br />

information is processed<br />

On top of all that, movement and<br />

physical activity helps with well-being,<br />

vital for learning, by reducing stress and<br />

anxiety due to the release of moodboosting<br />

endorphins, increases children’s<br />

confidence and self-esteem and gives<br />

them opportunities to express and process<br />

emotions. Working and playing together in<br />

a group increases feelings of connection<br />

and being needed and wanted.<br />

A little something to think<br />

about…<br />

The neuroselection hypothesis paper<br />

“Early life cognitive function and health<br />

behaviours in late childhood: testing the<br />

neuroselection hypothesis” from the BMJ,<br />

suggests that higher cognitive skills in early<br />

life (3-7) is associated with the avoidance<br />

of hazardous behaviours (smoking and<br />

alcohol) but also the avoidance of sport and<br />

exercise.<br />

The article suggests that children with<br />

higher levels of cognition, particularly<br />

those with higher levels of verbal ability,<br />

need to be encouraged to participate in<br />

physical activity and movement to help<br />

them manage their health behaviours in<br />

the future.<br />

In a nutshell movement and activity is good<br />

for everyone, no matter what age they are,<br />

in so many ways. So, what are you waiting<br />

for make this part of your resolution for<br />

<strong>2022</strong> and beyond?<br />

Don’t worry about the weather or rain,<br />

wrap up well, and have lots of fun moving,<br />

whether indoors or outside, and actively<br />

grow brains.<br />

References<br />

• (2021). “New Research Highlights<br />

Importance of Early Years Development<br />

on Future Well-being”, Department<br />

of Psychiatry, University of Oxford.<br />

Available at: https://www.psych.<br />

ox.ac.uk/news/new-researchhighlights-importance-of-early-yearsdevelopment-on-future-well-being<br />

• Miravalles. F, Doherty. A (2019).<br />

“Physical Activity and Cognition:<br />

Inseparable in the Classroom”,<br />

Faculty of Education, University of<br />

Barcelona. Available at: https://www.<br />

frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/<br />

feduc.2019.00105/full<br />

• Jirout, J. et al. (2019). “How Lifestyle<br />

Factors Affect Cognitive and Executive<br />

Function and the Ability to Learn in<br />

Children”, Nutrients. Available at:<br />

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/<br />

articles/PMC6723730/<br />

• Pipemeier, AT. Et al (2015). “The<br />

effect of acute exercise on cognitive<br />

performance in children with and<br />

without ADHD”, The journal of<br />

sport and Health Science; Vol 4,<br />

issue 1. Available at: https://www.<br />

sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/<br />

S2095254614001264<br />

Gina Bale<br />

Gina’s background was originally<br />

ballet, but she has spent the last 27<br />

years teaching movement and dance<br />

in mainstream, early years and SEND<br />

settings as well as dance schools.<br />

Whilst teaching, Gina found the time to<br />

create the ‘Hi-5’ dance programme to<br />

run alongside the Australian Children’s<br />

TV series and the Angelina Ballerina<br />

Dance Academy for Hit Entertainment.<br />

Her proudest achievement to date is her<br />

baby Littlemagictrain. She created this<br />

specifically to help children learn through<br />

make-believe, music and movement.<br />

One of the highlights has been seeing<br />

Littlemagictrain delivered by Butlin’s<br />

famous Redcoats with the gorgeous<br />

‘Bonnie Bear’ on the Skyline stage.<br />

Gina has qualifications of teaching<br />

movement and dance from the Royal<br />

Ballet School, Trinity College and Royal<br />

Academy of Dance.<br />

Use the code ‘PARENTA’ for a 20%<br />

discount on Littlemagictrain downloads<br />

from ‘Special Editions’, ‘Speech and<br />

Language Activities’, ‘Games’ and<br />

‘Certificates’.<br />

• Aggio, D. Smith, L & Hamer, M. (2018).<br />

“Early life cognitive function and health<br />

behaviours in late childhood: testing<br />

and the neuroselection hypothesis”,<br />

BMJ Journal of Epidemiology &<br />

Community Health Volume 72, Issue<br />

1. Available at: https://jech.bmj.com/<br />

content/72/1/41.full<br />

34 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 35

RSPB Big Schools<br />

Bird Watch<br />

Winter days can be cold and unforgiving; sometimes there is snow and many of us loathe the additional<br />

time spent in the morning defrosting our cars so that we can drive to work, if COVID restrictions allow. But<br />

the vast majority of us move from one heated location to another, with food in our bellies and a hot drink<br />

to keep out the chill. Now imagine that all you have to keep you warm is a thin set of feathers, your food<br />

sources are covered in 3 inches of snow (2 inches deeper than the length of your legs) and all available<br />

water sources are frozen! Such is the plight of many of our birds in winter, where every winter day becomes<br />

a life and death struggle.<br />

Luckily, there are many of us who have<br />

pledged to assist our feathered friends,<br />

who put out bird food and clean water<br />

to help the birds keep the worst of the<br />

weather at bay and give them a fighting<br />

chance to survive the winter months. In<br />

return, we are rewarded with the sound<br />

of birdsong in our gardens, the beauty<br />

of seeing our garden full of life, and the<br />

satisfaction of knowing we have done our<br />

bit to give nature a much needed helping<br />

hand.<br />

We have even organised ourselves into<br />

groups and associations to be better<br />

able to advocate for our feathered friends<br />

through lobbying, fund-raising and<br />

conservation. This is the work of groups<br />

like the Royal Society for the Protection of<br />

Birds (RSPB) who have been passionate<br />

about nature and dedicated to saving it<br />

since its formation in 1889.<br />

A brief history of the RSPB<br />

The RSPB was the brainchild of Emily<br />

Williamson, who created an all-women<br />

group called the Society for the Protection<br />

of Birds in 1889. As the Victorian desire<br />

for fashionable exotic feathers grew, she<br />

became frustrated at the lack of progress<br />

from the all-male British Ornithologists<br />

Union in failing to protect birds such as<br />

the little egrets, great crested grebes, and<br />

birds of paradise who were being driven<br />

to the edge of extinction. Emily found<br />

others who shared her passion for birds<br />

and soon joined forces with Etta Lemon<br />

and Eliza Phillips and the movement<br />

grew in popularity, so much so that in<br />

1904, the society was granted a Royal<br />

Charter, becoming the RSPB. In 1921, the<br />

Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act<br />

was passed, and the RSPB had run its first<br />

successful campaign. They bought their<br />

first nature reserve in Minsmere in 1947,<br />

and have gone from strength to strength,<br />

as today they manage over 200 reserves<br />

across the UK.<br />

and counting the numbers of birds they<br />

see, and reporting this data back to the<br />

RSPB to help with their data collection and<br />

conservation efforts.<br />

What do they do with the data?<br />

Once the data has been collated, there<br />

are three categories, red, amber or green,<br />

that each bird can be placed in, in order<br />

of conservation importance. The birds<br />

whose plight is of greatest concern are put<br />

on the red list, and in 2021, there were 70<br />

species making up this list. This is nearly<br />

double the length of the first report in 1996.<br />

Some of our most popular birds such as<br />

the swift, house martin and greenfinch are<br />

now on the list along with cuckoos and<br />

puffins. The Society reported that birds who<br />

migrate to Africa for the winter, seem to be<br />

doing less well and the number of water<br />

birds who spend the winter in the UK,<br />

has also declined including the Bewick’s<br />

Swan, dunlin and the goldeneye. The<br />

red list species are globally threatened,<br />

and have experienced at least a 50%<br />

decline in UK breeding populations<br />

over the last 25 years. There have been<br />

success stories however, with the whitetailed<br />

eagle increasing in numbers and<br />

moving from the red to the amber list,<br />

but it is more crucial than ever that we<br />

begin reassessing our relationship with<br />

nature and taking part in the Big Garden<br />

Birdwatch is one thing that everyone can<br />

do to help.<br />

It’s easy to take part and the RSPB have<br />

put a lot of thought into how they can get<br />

everyone to join in. They have created a<br />

website full of information sheets, facts<br />

and resources about how people can<br />

get involved including some resources<br />

specifically aimed at early years settings<br />

that you can access here. You’ll find sheets<br />

to record your sightings in both English<br />

and Welsh, and in different number<br />

formats making them easy to use with<br />

younger children, as well as lesson plans,<br />

factsheets, colouring downloads, match<br />

games, story books and card sets, and a<br />

whole lot more. You’ll find ways to identify<br />

different birdsong, bird seed recipes and<br />

lots of fun crafts related to birds so there<br />

really is no excuse not to get involved in<br />

one way or the other.<br />

The bird watch part itself asks you to<br />

spend an hour counting the birds you see<br />

and report back to the RSPB. You need to<br />

register on their website and will receive a<br />

specially prepared pack to help everyone<br />

take part including differentiated resources<br />

in English and Welsh. If you take part, you<br />

can achieve a Wild Challenge award to<br />

display proudly in your setting too.<br />

Tips to help birds in winter<br />

1<br />

Feed the birds with a high energy bird<br />

seed mix and do this regularly, scattering<br />

seeds in sheltered places so they can be<br />

kept dry and accessible.<br />

2<br />

Put out fresh water - birds need it to drink<br />

and to bathe in so remember to refill it<br />

especially in freezing conditions.<br />

3<br />

Put up some bird boxes in your garden<br />

or outdoor space to encourage feathered<br />

tenants.<br />

4<br />

Remember that not all birds like to feed<br />

from a bird table – there are many groundfeeding<br />

birds too such as thrushes and<br />

blackbirds, so remember to create a<br />

ground-level feeding station too.<br />

5<br />

Clean your feeders regularly.<br />

More information is available<br />

at:<br />

• https://www.rspb.org.uk/<br />

• http://ypte.org.uk/<br />

• https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/<br />

discover/in-your-garden/birds<br />

• https://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/<br />

bwdsite/learn/top10/top-10-ways-tohelp-birds-in-bad-weather.php<br />

The Big Schools Bird Watch<br />

Each year, the RSPB organises a<br />

nationwide bird watch over the course of<br />

one weekend in <strong>January</strong> called the Big<br />

Schools Bird Watch. They use it to estimate<br />

the number of wild birds in the country<br />

and to spot changes and trends in their<br />

numbers. In <strong>2022</strong> the event runs from<br />

Friday 28th <strong>January</strong> to Sunday 30 <strong>January</strong>.<br />

People from all walks of life up and down<br />

the country are asked to spend an hour<br />

in, or looking at, their garden, identifying<br />

36 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 37

Together we are growing<br />

children’s brains –<br />

understanding brain development<br />

Your children are living in a three-dimensional world. Full of people, plants, animals… and a whole host of<br />

things to engage with and make sense of. Wherever you are located, whatever philosophies your setting<br />

follows, and whatever environments you have available, your children are surrounded by wonder. With<br />

voices to interpret, social skills to understand, dangers to be aware of and emotions to fathom.<br />

This is an awful lot of things to learn within<br />

bodies that are growing and developing<br />

daily. Changing how they feel, how they<br />

respond and how they can move. Because<br />

of this, they are born with a brain that is<br />

eager to learn and hungry to make sense<br />

of their world. This powerful motivation to<br />

learn will see them driven to explore and<br />

understand their surroundings, even when<br />

you wish they would not!<br />

Whether you consider pulling over the<br />

big pot of paint… again… a desirable<br />

experience or not, the learning<br />

opportunities for a child are just too rich to<br />

resist. A few years later, and they will have<br />

found other ways testing the boundaries<br />

of their environment and relationships. It<br />

is only when their efforts are fruitless or<br />

met with resistance that they learn not<br />

to bother, and frustration, boredom and<br />

difficult behaviours may follow. So, if you<br />

want to protect your floor, and keep this<br />

powerful motivation to learn in place,<br />

understand what is going on and provide<br />

them with experiences they can explore.<br />

So what is going on in that developing<br />

brain and why do our children behave in<br />

the ways that they do?<br />

It is amazing to think that as you look into<br />

the eyes of a new-born that they already<br />

have most of the 100 billion neurons or<br />

brain cells that you have contained within<br />

your adult brain. And yet at birth, a child’s<br />

brain will have been around a quarter of<br />

the size of yours. So, what is changing?<br />

Where is this growth and development<br />

coming from?<br />

It is coming from the connections being<br />

formed between these brain cells –<br />

somewhere in the region of 1,000 trillion<br />

connections to wire up an adult brain.<br />

And these connections are being made<br />

through every single experience a growing<br />

child is exposed to – whatever they may<br />

be.<br />

Children are born with some primitive<br />

structures already established in their<br />

brain. You will have seen this when a baby<br />

instinctively knows to grasp your finger, to<br />

turn their head as their cheek is rubbed,<br />

or the way they will fling out their arms<br />

and legs when they are startled. These are<br />

known as the primitive reflexes and are<br />

hardwired into every new life as a survival<br />

mechanism.<br />

Other kinds of knowledge, they must learn<br />

along the way, such as what happens<br />

to their toy when they can no longer see<br />

it, or why their friend is experiencing an<br />

emotion right now that they are not… their<br />

friend seems upset, but they are quite<br />

happy now that they have the red trike! So,<br />

how does brain development happen and<br />

what exactly is going on? How do we even<br />

begin to understand everything we need<br />

to? And how are these connections being<br />

made?<br />

Our mature brains have learnt to translate<br />

a multitude of sensory information. This<br />

comes from our eyes, our eardrums and<br />

our fingertips. Once our brain receives this<br />

sensory input, it systematically rearranges<br />

and transforms it, using memories from<br />

our past experiences to create a complex<br />

yet coherent interpretation that allows<br />

us to operate in this complex world. We<br />

can make out the face of a loved one<br />

in a crowd, we can make sense of a<br />

conversation in a noisy environment, and<br />

we can make decisions and act on them.<br />

Our brains have become so good at this<br />

complex process that we take it for granted<br />

– until something goes wrong. But just like<br />

many other skills we have learnt along<br />

the way; this takes lots of opportunities to<br />

practice.<br />

During early childhood, their young brain is<br />

around twice as active as yours, reaching<br />

a peak at around the age of 3 when they<br />

are more connected, and more flexible<br />

than at any other time of their life. From<br />

this point on, the brain becomes selective<br />

in the connections it keeps, with those<br />

connections triggered by the experiences<br />

they have more often, considered to be<br />

more important.<br />

While some of the basic wiring is<br />

predetermined, for all the rest… they<br />

are looking to those around them for<br />

guidance. And every opportunity they can<br />

find to explore. So how does this learning<br />

happen?<br />

At a fundamental level, children are<br />

basically experiential learners. This means<br />

that their knowledge and understanding<br />

of the world comes from every experience<br />

they have within it – the good ones and<br />

the bad! And as they strive to make all<br />

the connections they need, we need to<br />

remember that this is a learning process,<br />

and they will make mistakes along the<br />

way. How these opportunities are offered,<br />

and the way a child experiences them is<br />

then making a massive difference within<br />

this process. And the choices you make are<br />

essential.<br />

Everything from how you connect as<br />

you play, offering them choices as they<br />

explore their own ideas, or whether group<br />

times with predetermined expectations<br />

or planning, can dominate. Whether you<br />

explore your local environment, talking<br />

about the sounds and smells all around<br />

you. Even that time you took your shoes<br />

and socks off just to feel the wet grass or<br />

cool paint between your toes. Through<br />

these experiences you are changing not<br />

only the hardwiring of their brain, but also<br />

the ways in which they will react to any<br />

new experience and the new opportunities<br />

that come their way.<br />

They are learning to deal with every new<br />

situation, informed and enhanced by every<br />

previous experience they have had of<br />

something similar. They are learning what<br />

to expect from the people they meet, and<br />

the reactions they might expect from their<br />

own actions. And they are also learning<br />

about where their efforts and attentions<br />

are best placed. During these early years<br />

you are literally growing and shaping<br />

your children’s brains, defining them as<br />

a person in ways that will be with them<br />

for life. So, embrace every opportunity<br />

with your children as you play, engage<br />

and experience this amazing world of<br />

sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures<br />

together.<br />

Understanding children from the Inside<br />

Out is the first session in the new Nurturing<br />

Childhoods Accreditation, offering you a<br />

whole new approach to CPD that is tailored<br />

to the needs of your setting, and the<br />

Kathryn Peckham<br />

As Founder of Nurturing Childhoods,<br />

Dr Kathryn Peckham is a passionate<br />

advocate for children’s access to rich and<br />

meaningful experiences throughout their<br />

foundational early years. Delivering<br />

online courses, training and seminars, she<br />

works with families and settings to identify<br />

and celebrate the impact of effective<br />

childhood experiences as preparation for<br />

all of life’s learning. An active campaigner<br />

for children, she consults on projects,<br />

conducts research for government bodies<br />

and contributes to papers launched in<br />

parliament. Through her consultancy<br />

and research she guides local councils,<br />

practitioners, teachers and parents all<br />

over the world in enhancing children’s<br />

experiences through the experiences<br />

they offer. A highly acclaimed author and<br />

member of parliamentary groups, Kathryn<br />

also teaches a Masters at the Centre for<br />

Research in Early Years.<br />

Get in contact with Kathryn by emailing<br />

info@kathrynpeckham.co.uk<br />

children and families you work with. With<br />

its complete set of materials and guidance,<br />

it complements the resources available<br />

for your parents, and is underpinned by<br />

professional standards. Check out this<br />

great new website and together we can<br />

surround children with this level of unified<br />

understanding of who they are and what<br />

they need. And really begin developing the<br />

potential of all children in their early years.<br />

38 <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 39

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