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Issue 109<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Fixing recruitment<br />

challenges at<br />

Fledgelings<br />

COVER<br />

Festive gardening<br />

fun ideas to share<br />

with parents<br />

Exploring <strong>December</strong>’s<br />

multicultural festivals<br />

and celebrations<br />

+ lots more<br />

EYFS activities<br />

inside!<br />

This month…<br />

Expressive<br />

Arts & Design<br />

“Snow is falling” - snow<br />

painting in the early years<br />

How to skyrocket your occupancy levels with an affordable website<br />

Discover new opportunities for growth and success with<br />

a FREE diagnostic quiz!

6<br />

26<br />

18<br />

Hello<br />

Welcome to our family<br />

As the holiday season approaches, we are thrilled to present a special <strong>December</strong> issue that captures the enchantment of<br />

this magical time of year! At <strong>Parenta</strong>, we believe in celebrating not just the season, but the spirit of togetherness, family, and<br />

camaraderie and resilience that echoes through the corridors of the early years sector.<br />

In this edition, you can enjoy festive tips and exclusive features that showcase the incredible journey of early years educators,<br />

parents, and little ones alike. From Christmas Jumper Day and festive gardening to making gifts on a budget and celebrating<br />

the many different religious festivals around the world, this month’s issue resonates with the essence of the festive season.<br />

Join us as we share the joy of learning, and embrace the magic that <strong>December</strong> brings to our lives. Our beloved publication is<br />

a festive adventure waiting to be explored! All our content is lovingly created to help you with the smooth and efficient running<br />

of your setting and the development and well-being of the children in your care.<br />

Don’t forget to share the magic of our magazine with your friends, colleagues, and parents alike. They can receive their own<br />

copy in digital or printed format by signing up at www.parenta.com/magazine.<br />

Allan<br />

12<br />

Regulars<br />

10 Write for us<br />

36 EYFS Activities: Expressive Arts & Design<br />

News<br />

Advice<br />

22<br />

4 Congratulations to our <strong>Parenta</strong> Learners<br />

6 Enhancing early childhood education at Fledgelings<br />

with <strong>Parenta</strong>’s support<br />

8 Childcare news and views<br />

14 International Volunteer Day: celebrations and<br />

opportunities<br />

22 Affordable and thoughtful gift ideas: easy to<br />

make and buy<br />

26 Join in the festive fun on Christmas Jumper Day<br />

30 How furry friends transform early years<br />

34 Beyond Christmas: exploring <strong>December</strong>’s<br />

multicultural festivals and celebrations<br />

Industry Experts<br />

30<br />

12 I think they have sensory needs what can I do?<br />

Be curious<br />

18 Every setting needs an emotional well-being library<br />

20 Unmasking child anxiety: understanding, nurturing<br />

and recognising the signs<br />

28 Fostering community cohesion through a<br />

child’s perspective<br />

32 “Snow is falling” - snow painting in the early years<br />

38 Embrace storytelling - enchantment of mythical<br />

beings & magical kingdoms<br />

2 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 3

What do our customers<br />

say this month?<br />

“So far I feel really positive about the service I am<br />

receiving. I feel as if Kaye is very supportive and<br />

provides beneficial feedback and opportunities.”<br />

Leanne Watson<br />

“Couldn’t be happier with the support provided.<br />

Always checking in and so patient. I’m so looking<br />

forward to learning with <strong>Parenta</strong> and starting a new<br />

chapter. Thanks to a lovely lady Denise McGuire who<br />

has been so wonderful and on the phone if and when<br />

I needed help.”<br />

Natasha Leahy<br />

“I am writing this review to thank Yvonne Pickin<br />

(my extra support tutor for professional discussion)<br />

for her two sessions supporting the Professional<br />

discussion exam. After Yvonne’s two sessions, which<br />

was just one day away from the second professional<br />

discussion exam, I finally passed the exam. Yvonne<br />

has demonstrated a high-quality professional skill<br />

for supporting learners get ready for the professional<br />

discussion exam. Her encouragement has promoted<br />

my confidence which has helped me relax without<br />

being nervous during the exam.<br />

I felt like I am so lucky and so glad to have Yvonne<br />

support my study. If I can have the opportunity to<br />

recommend a tutor for learners, Yvonne would be the<br />

first highly recommendation tutor for them. I wish more<br />

and more learners benefit from her teaching support<br />

towards the professional discussion exam.”<br />

Deli He<br />

“Amazing, since getting Ayse she has been nothing but<br />

understanding. I have a sick family member, Ayse has<br />

been nothing but supportive and has helped me figure<br />

out how to be there for my family member while also<br />

getting my assignments in on time.”<br />

Kaira Gowers<br />

“Kaye has done a fantastic job taking me on as a<br />

student after I transferred from my previous tutor. She<br />

was able to pick up a lot of unique information about<br />

me as a learner, responded quickly to a lot of my<br />

questions and queries and got me right up to speed.”<br />

Andi Taylor<br />

“I can’t recommend enough my last tutor, Naomi<br />

Paternoster. Without her, I would not had the courage<br />

and confidence to finish the course and passed my<br />

exams. Many thanks for incredible support and your<br />

diligence and warmth.”<br />

Sebastiana Medina Santana<br />

“I think Kaye has done an amazing job of helping me<br />

get to where I am on the course especially as she only<br />

took over as my tutor a couple of months ago. She<br />

has always been there when I have needed to contact<br />

her about an assignment and is always very good at<br />

explaining things to me in a way that makes it easier<br />

for me to understand. We have regular reviews which<br />

helps me to see where I am on the course and where I<br />

can raise any concerns I may have.”<br />

“I had a really good professional discussion with my<br />

tutor Sarah O’Dwyer and I have moved from 28% to<br />

“Amazing! Kaye has been so supportive throughout<br />

52%, all thanks to my tutor who is the best.”<br />

my course, always offering me aids, keeping me up to<br />

Javine Phillips<br />

date, pushing my knowledge."<br />

Luanne Cridland<br />

“As always, <strong>Parenta</strong> support team are so helpful<br />

with any issues that I have.<br />

“Charlotte went into details and often paused to ask if<br />

we had any questions. The training was quick<br />

Thank you as always!"<br />

and thorough.”<br />

Nemos Nursery<br />

Alpha Nurseries,<br />

Middlecoat House<br />

Congratulations<br />

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

Massive CONGRATULATIONS to all our <strong>Parenta</strong><br />

learners who have completed their apprenticeships<br />

and gained their qualifications!<br />

4 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

Faryal Malik<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 5

Enhancing early childhood<br />

education at Fledgelings<br />

with <strong>Parenta</strong>’s support<br />

G O<br />

F<br />

V<br />

U<br />

E<br />

N<br />

R N M<br />

D<br />

D<br />

E<br />

E N<br />

T<br />

Introduction<br />

Fledgelings Day Nurseries, with four<br />

settings across Essex, is dedicated to<br />

providing exceptional childcare and<br />

early years education for children in the<br />

community. The nurseries, located in<br />

Hornchurch, Romford, South Hornchurch,<br />

and Rainham, cater to a combined total<br />

of 260 children and employ 78 dedicated<br />

staff members. Nursery Owner, Salma<br />

Khodabaksh reports on how the <strong>Parenta</strong><br />

solutions Fledgelings is using has<br />

transformed the way they work.<br />

The challenge: staffing woes<br />

Like many childcare providers, Fledgelings<br />

Day Nurseries faced challenges in the<br />

recruitment and retention of qualified staff.<br />

Hiring and training competent childcare<br />

professionals who could deliver topquality<br />

education and care were critical<br />

concerns for the owner of the settings,<br />

Salma Khodabaksh. The need to recruit<br />

and nurture apprentices to support the<br />

staff was paramount to maintaining the<br />

nursery’s high standards.<br />

Discovering <strong>Parenta</strong><br />

The journey with <strong>Parenta</strong> began when<br />

Fledgelings Day Nurseries chose the<br />

early years education solutions provider<br />

to develop its website. It was through<br />

this engagement that they discovered<br />

<strong>Parenta</strong>’s full range of services<br />

and solutions, including childcare<br />

apprenticeship recruitment and training.<br />

<strong>Parenta</strong>’s contribution<br />

<strong>Parenta</strong> played a crucial role in addressing<br />

Fledgelings Day Nurseries’ staffing<br />

challenges and provided vital support to<br />

enhance its day-to-day operations:<br />

Website development: <strong>Parenta</strong>’s<br />

expert website team built and maintains<br />

a responsive, professional website,<br />

strengthening Fledgelings’ online<br />

presence, and making them more<br />

accessible to parents seeking childcare<br />

services.<br />

Apprenticeship support: <strong>Parenta</strong>’s<br />

involvement extended beyond web<br />

development. They provided essential<br />

support in the hiring and training of<br />

childcare apprentices, ensuring they could<br />

seamlessly integrate into the nursery’s<br />

workforce and created individual learning<br />

plans for apprentices to fit the setting’s<br />

business needs.<br />

The transformative impact<br />

Since partnering with <strong>Parenta</strong>, Fledgelings<br />

Day Nurseries have witnessed numerous<br />

positive changes:<br />

Operational improvement: The<br />

nursery’s day-to-day operations have<br />

improved significantly. With a focus on the<br />

hiring and training of apprentices, they<br />

have enhanced their staff’s capabilities<br />

and the quality of childcare provided.<br />

Better staffing: <strong>Parenta</strong>’s involvement<br />

has directly contributed to more efficient<br />

and effective hiring, enabling Fledgelings<br />

to maintain their reputation for excellence.<br />

Enhanced childcare: The dedicated staff<br />

members, empowered by the support<br />

of <strong>Parenta</strong>, have excelled in providing<br />

high-quality childcare and early education,<br />

ensuring a nurturing environment for the<br />

children.<br />

Recommendation<br />

Fledgelings Day Nurseries’ experience with<br />

<strong>Parenta</strong> has been overwhelmingly positive.<br />

When asked if they would recommend<br />

<strong>Parenta</strong>’s services to other settings with<br />

similar challenges, their response was<br />

a resounding “yes.” The improvements<br />

in staffing, operational efficiency, and<br />

the quality of childcare delivered are<br />

a testament to the invaluable support<br />

provided by <strong>Parenta</strong>.<br />

For settings seeking solutions to their<br />

staffing concerns, Fledgelings Day<br />

Nurseries serves as a testament to<br />

the transformative impact of <strong>Parenta</strong>’s<br />

services.<br />

Courses available now with<br />

achievements of up to 96%<br />

EPA pass rate:<br />

Level 2 Childcare (EYP)<br />

Level 3 Childcare (EYE)<br />

Level 3 Team Leader<br />

Level 5 EYLP<br />

Did you know...<br />

An impressive 75% of employers consistently choose <strong>Parenta</strong>, reaffirming our<br />

unparalleled excellence in childcare training!<br />

Call 0800 002 9242 and quote ’<strong>Magazine</strong>’<br />

6 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com

Childcare news<br />

and views<br />

Retention and return:<br />

Delivering the expansion of<br />

early years entitlement in<br />

England<br />

Over three-quarters (77%) support<br />

the removal of the single-word Ofsted<br />

grading<br />

In the past year, around two-thirds<br />

(67%) suffered with anxiety, fatigue<br />

(65%) and loss of motivation (64%)<br />

A third (35%) are considering leaving<br />

the sector due to stress and mental<br />

health difficulties<br />

The Alliance is calling for a review of<br />

the Ofsted inspection process and<br />

administration demands on providers,<br />

alongside the consistent provision of clear,<br />

plain-English early years guidance for<br />

the sector, and resources to help support<br />

discussions around mental health and<br />

well-being – all underpinned by adequate<br />

funding and a comprehensive recruitment<br />

and retention strategy.<br />

You can read the report here: Minds Still<br />

Matter | early years alliance (eyalliance.<br />

org.uk)<br />

In the <strong>2023</strong> Spring Budget, the Chancellor<br />

announced a substantial increase in<br />

government-funded childcare support,<br />

aiming to provide 30 hours of ‘free’<br />

childcare to specific eligible parents by<br />

2025. While the announcement primarily<br />

addressed the funding aspect of this<br />

expansion, there was limited discussion<br />

about the workforce responsible for its<br />

implementation.<br />

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

have caught our eye over the month<br />

A recent study conducted by the Early<br />

Education and Childcare Coalition, the<br />

University of Leeds, and the Women’s<br />

Budget Group integrates modelling<br />

focused on the anticipated additional<br />

demand resulting from the expansion. This<br />

modelling is coupled with an examination<br />

of the working conditions and experiences<br />

of both current and former employees in<br />

the sector.<br />

The objective of this new report is to gain a<br />

deeper understanding of the current early<br />

years workforce (including those in group<br />

settings and childminders), assess the<br />

implications of the extended entitlement,<br />

and identify the necessary measures<br />

to ensure the successful expansion of<br />

access while maintaining the high-quality<br />

provision that children deserve.<br />

number of professionals considering<br />

leaving our sector has to be a wake-up call<br />

for ministers.<br />

“Our research with the sector showed that<br />

75% of providers would need more staff<br />

to be able to increase their capacity but<br />

with high turnover, this research shows<br />

the scale of the mountain that needs to<br />

be overcome. It is disappointing that the<br />

Government has not taken forward the<br />

Education Committee’s recommendation<br />

for a workforce strategy which was echoed<br />

by experts in NDNA’s Blueprint this year.<br />

Early Years Alliance publishes<br />

new report on mental health<br />

and well-being pressures<br />

The Early Years Alliance has published a<br />

new report shining a light on the mental<br />

health and well-being of the early years<br />

workforce.<br />

Minds Still Matter provides a<br />

comprehensive analysis of the results<br />

of an Alliance survey of early educators,<br />

conducted earlier this year, which found<br />

that:<br />

More than eight in ten (81%) were<br />

regularly stressed about a workrelated<br />

issue during the month before<br />

the survey, with Ofsted inspections,<br />

sector-specific government policy<br />

and pay listed as the most common<br />

causes<br />

Do you have an early years news story you’d like to see featured in the <strong>Parenta</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong>?<br />

Send one in today to marketing@parenta.com to be featured in next month’s edition!<br />

We can’t wait to read all about it!<br />

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of<br />

NDNA said: “NDNA has been warning of<br />

the growing workforce crisis for a number<br />

of years and we are now reaching a critical<br />

juncture as this research shows. If early<br />

education and care settings are to offer<br />

more funded places to children, it’s clear<br />

the workforce needs to grow, but at the<br />

moment, recruitment and retention remain<br />

the number one issue for providers. The<br />

“Investment in the workforce through<br />

better funding rates and more training are<br />

urgent requirements but without a clear<br />

workforce strategy there is no direction, no<br />

plan and the Government’s policy will be<br />

undeliverable.”<br />

You can read the report here:<br />

earlyeducationchildcare.org/early-yearsworkforce-report.<br />

PVI settings invited to take part<br />

in early language trial<br />

PVI and state-maintained nurseries are<br />

being invited to take part in a trial of the<br />

Nuffield Early Language Intervention<br />

(NELI) programme.<br />

www.nurseryworld.co.uk/news<br />

Ongoing early years staffing<br />

challenge highlighted in Ofsted’s<br />

annual report<br />

Ofsted’s latest annual report states that<br />

the ongoing recruitment & retention<br />

challenges in the sector are putting the<br />

quality of early years provision at risk.<br />

www.eyalliance.org.uk/news<br />

More than 1/2 of teachers<br />

worried about keeping up with<br />

household bills<br />

More than half of teachers are ‘very’<br />

or ‘extremely’ worried about keeping<br />

up with household bills and finances,<br />

according to new findings.<br />

www.nurseryworld.co.uk/news<br />

8 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 9

Write for us!<br />

We continuously seek new<br />

authors who would like to<br />

provide thought-provoking<br />

articles for our monthly<br />

magazine.<br />

If you have a subject you’re eager to explore<br />

in writing, why not submit an article to us for a<br />

chance to win?<br />

Every month, we’ll be awarding Amazon<br />

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

You can access all the information here:<br />

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

Congratulations<br />

to our guest author competition winner, Paloma Forde!<br />

Congratulations to Paloma Forde, our guest author<br />

of the month! Her article, “Early screening and<br />

intervention for dyslexic children: Breaking myths<br />

and ensuring success” explores the critical role<br />

of early dyslexia screening and early intervention<br />

while providing insights into how these practices<br />

can support dyslexic children in today’s schooling<br />

system.<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 />

Call 0800 002 9242 and quote ’<strong>Magazine</strong>’<br />

10 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com

Joanna Grace<br />

I’m Jo Grace: a Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist and Founder of The Sensory Projects. In this series of 10 articles, I am going<br />

to share some of my passion for understanding the sensory world with you.<br />

The first three articles of this series<br />

focused on why sensory engagement<br />

is so powerful for supporting learning,<br />

engagement and mental health. The next<br />

three looked at the sensory landscapes<br />

that surround us in our settings, now it is<br />

time to think about particular children.<br />

When you work in early years settings,<br />

quite often you are the first people to<br />

notice that a child has a need that is<br />

slightly other than what is considered<br />

the norm. A child at home is just them,<br />

they are known for being themselves and<br />

accepted and loved as who they are and<br />

how they are. I have often heard parents<br />

use their child’s name in their explanation<br />

I think they have<br />

sensory needs<br />

what can I do?<br />

Be curious<br />

of a quirk in their behaviour that they had<br />

noticed but not questioned: “We always<br />

just thought that was Jake being Jake” or<br />

“We just took that as Amira being Amira”.<br />

There is something beautiful about these<br />

explanations. They say we saw the person<br />

and we accepted the person as they are.<br />

In this article, we are thinking about that<br />

child in your setting who appears to have<br />

quite different sensory needs from the<br />

other children and what you might seek to<br />

do about it.<br />

First off, be curious. It is likely something<br />

unusual that they are doing that has made<br />

you think about possible sensory needs.<br />

Are they moving a lot? Do they seem to<br />

need to bite down hard on things? Are<br />

they repeatedly moving things in front<br />

of their eyes? Do they vocalise oddly?<br />

Sometimes people’s first move is to try<br />

and stop whatever the odd behaviour is.<br />

Just telling them not to do it is essentially<br />

asking someone not to sense the world<br />

as they do. Imagine telling a blind child<br />

to stop bumping into objects they cannot<br />

see! It is ridiculous, but when what you<br />

are witnessing is a result of sensory<br />

differences, just demanding that it stop is<br />

akin to making this demand.<br />

Be curious and think sensory. What is<br />

it that they get out of that activity at a<br />

sensory level? Maybe explore a little with<br />

them: if they are making loud noises, do<br />

they like activities that involve making loud<br />

noises in other ways? If they are moving<br />

things about in front of their face, do<br />

they enjoy for example, brightly coloured<br />

spinners? Think about their behaviour and<br />

try to articulate it in a sensory way. View it<br />

as reasonable.<br />

It is worth chatting with their family about<br />

it, not raising it as an issue or a cause<br />

for concern. Just noticing it together. “He<br />

enjoys things that spin”, “She loves to<br />

make loud noises when we are all having<br />

our snack”. Do this so that parents know<br />

that you have seen these behaviours too<br />

and do it so the communication channel<br />

is open. Parents can be worried by their<br />

children behaving in ways that are viewed<br />

as unusual, there is always someone<br />

within a family willing to put their foot in it<br />

and address the anomaly in a less than<br />

tactful way: “Why does he always do that?<br />

Why don’t you tell him to shut up?”<br />

Carry on being curious, after you’ve<br />

thought about what they are getting out<br />

of the experience (is it visual stimulation,<br />

auditory stimulation, is it the blocking<br />

out of other stimulation?) Think about<br />

the where and the when of what they<br />

are doing. Is it something they do all the<br />

time? Or are there specific times of the<br />

day when they seem to do it more? What<br />

is different about those times of day, is it<br />

when they are hungry, is it when everyone<br />

is together, is it when another child does<br />

a particular thing? Where do they do it?<br />

Are they only doing it when they’re inside<br />

and stop when they’re outside, do they<br />

take themselves to a particular place in the<br />

room to do it?<br />

These curiosities can lead you to new<br />

understandings: Amira seems more<br />

agitated when waiting for food, when<br />

other children make noise, or when the<br />

chairs are pulled in and out she begins to<br />

shout random words. Jake loves to twiddle<br />

things in front of his eyes and seems to<br />

get lost doing that, he does it inside and<br />

outside but will stop if there is another<br />

activity he is interested in like storytime or<br />

snack time.<br />

Carry on chatting to their families about<br />

your curiosities: “Jake was enjoying<br />

twiddling the sparkly string we got him<br />

today but he stopped when we were<br />

telling our story about the frog.” (Make<br />

sure not to celebrate the stopping,<br />

your aim is not to block the child from<br />

addressing their sensory needs or to<br />

indicate that their withholding from<br />

activities that serve to comfort or orientate<br />

them in the world is good, it is just<br />

interesting to notice when that comfort is<br />

needed and when it is not). “I think Amira<br />

gets agitated when everyone brings their<br />

chairs over for a snack, she shouts quite<br />

a bit. I’ve asked the other staff if tomorrow<br />

the adults can lift the chairs for the children<br />

so they’re not dragging over the floor, we<br />

are going to see how she is with that.”<br />

If the families seem at ease with the<br />

conversation, extend your curiosity into the<br />

time the child spends outside your setting.<br />

“Does she shout much at home?” “Has<br />

Jake got things he likes to spin at home?”<br />

You are not there to diagnose these<br />

children, but if your recognition of their<br />

sensory needs makes you think that<br />

they might be neurodivergent, it is worth<br />

mentioning this to their families. Not as<br />

a cause for concern, just as a provider<br />

of information: “Lots of children who are<br />

autistic like to twiddle things”, “Sometimes<br />

children with neurodivergent conditions<br />

process sensory information in different<br />

ways to neurotypical children and this can<br />

mean they do things that seem different.”<br />

You are not telling them they need to get<br />

their children diagnosed, it is not your<br />

role to decide that, you are sharing the<br />

information you have. If you do this in a<br />

non-judgemental and open way, you will<br />

be a wonderfully steadying presence for<br />

that family.<br />

Parenting in the early years is a<br />

bewildering and sleep-deprived<br />

adventure. When your child is other than<br />

how you expected them to be, it can be all<br />

the more disorientating. Being supported<br />

by staff who recognise your child’s<br />

differences but aren’t flustered by them<br />

can be deeply reassuring. Better still if<br />

those staff have ideas about how to begin<br />

to support your child even before things<br />

like formal diagnosis or assessments<br />

and the like... which leads me to my next<br />

article.<br />

In my next article we will look at ways<br />

you can support a child you think might<br />

have particular sensory needs. Until<br />

then, do feel free to connect with me on<br />

social media to watch my current sensory<br />

adventures unfurl. All the connection links<br />

can be found on my website<br />

www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk<br />

Scan here for<br />

more resources<br />

from Joanna:<br />

12 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 13

International Volunteer<br />

Day:<br />

celebrations and<br />

International Volunteer Day, observed<br />

on <strong>December</strong> 5th each year, is a global<br />

celebration that provides an opportunity<br />

for governments, non-governmental<br />

organisations, community groups,<br />

and various organisations relying on<br />

volunteers to recognise and commemorate<br />

the invaluable contributions made by<br />

volunteers worldwide.<br />

Many countries and organisations<br />

globally rely on volunteers to bolster their<br />

workforce, and many could not exist<br />

without the service and support of these<br />

dedicated people.<br />

Some of these include:

M O N E Y<br />

B A C K<br />


M O N E Y<br />

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Stacey Kelly<br />

Throughout my parenting and teaching<br />

journey, I have used storybooks as a tool<br />

to teach and guide children. However, over<br />

the years, I’ve come to realise just how<br />

powerful they are and how much they can<br />

enhance children’s development and most<br />

importantly, support their emotional wellbeing.<br />

Here are the 2 main reasons why I<br />

think storybooks are the best resource we<br />

have in early years:<br />

Every setting<br />

needs an<br />

emotional<br />

well-being<br />

library<br />

They can instil values<br />

As a parent and teacher, I have always<br />

placed importance on nurturing emotional<br />

well-being and tried to instil important<br />

values and life lessons that will give my<br />

children, and others, an internal blueprint<br />

that is programmed for success and<br />

happiness. I’m a big believer in leading by<br />

example and have always demonstrated<br />

the behaviour and attitude that I want<br />

to see in them, but no matter how much<br />

I do this, I find that sometimes, children<br />

still need extra reinforcement with these<br />

concepts.<br />

Seeing how much my own children doted<br />

on characters in everyday storybooks<br />

and how much they held them in high<br />

regard, gave me the idea to create a<br />

range of storybooks about characters<br />

who personify and teach a key life lesson<br />

or value. I had witnessed how much my<br />

children absorbed the storyline in their<br />

favourite books and how they would bring<br />

the imaginary characters and narrative<br />

into their own reality whilst playing - and<br />

this made me wonder if the same would<br />

happen with fun characters who taught<br />

important concepts and values. I started<br />

creating storybooks teaching the main<br />

values I wanted to instil in my children like:

Unmasking<br />

Managed well, this can positively impact<br />

their growth, confidence and resilience<br />

with effects that will last a lifetime, building<br />

the foundations upon which our children<br />

shape their identities and navigate the<br />

world.<br />

Dr. Kathryn Peckham<br />

Childhood, often synonymous with<br />

innocence and carefree exploration, is<br />

increasingly marred by anxiety - a mental<br />

health condition that profoundly affects<br />

a child’s well-being. With an alarming<br />

number of children today grappling with<br />

anxiety at levels that can significantly<br />

impact their overall well-being, we must<br />

look to unravel the factors contributing<br />

to child anxiety and provide insights and<br />

guidance for all the adults in their lives.<br />

So where does anxiety come<br />

from in young children?<br />

Children’s mental health is a multifaceted<br />

issue influenced by a combination of<br />

genetic, environmental, and social factors.<br />

However, when we are mindful of these<br />

factors, we can create a supportive and<br />

nurturing environment for our children.<br />

A family history can make a child more<br />

susceptible to anxiety if they have<br />

experience of it, with heightened sensitivity<br />

child anxiety<br />

Understanding, nurturing and<br />

recognising the signs<br />

and a greater vulnerability to stress. The<br />

environment in which a child grows up<br />

also plays a significant role in emotional<br />

well-being. A chaotic home life, family<br />

conflict, neglect, abuse or exposure<br />

to violence can all contribute to the<br />

development of anxiety.<br />

But so too can excessive pressure to<br />

perform well, even when this may be<br />

intended as encouragement and drive.<br />

Overprotective styles of care, excessive<br />

control or a lack of autonomy can also<br />

hinder their ability to develop coping<br />

skills and manage stress. Conversely,<br />

consistently ignoring a child’s emotional<br />

needs can also lead to feelings of<br />

insecurity and anxiety.<br />

Experiencing traumatic events, such as<br />

accidents, natural disasters or witnessing<br />

a violent act can also put children at<br />

higher risk of developing anxiety disorders.<br />

Disrupting their sense of safety and<br />

security can lead to persistent feelings<br />

of fear, helplessness, and anxiety. Don’t<br />

forget, what might not seem that traumatic<br />

to you may have been a frightening<br />

experience and persistent worry for a<br />

child.<br />

In a world of constant exposure to<br />

technology, children are being exposed<br />

to unrealistic expectations and negative<br />

images from increasingly younger ages,<br />

impacting their self-esteem, and fostering<br />

anxiety and self-doubt. No matter how<br />

much we think we monitor what our<br />

children see and get pulled into, as soon<br />

as you give a child access to a device,<br />

these images will often find a way.<br />

Why is a child’s self-esteem<br />

so important?<br />

Supporting early years, we play a<br />

vital role in nurturing children’s selfesteem,<br />

shaping their self-perception<br />

and cultivating their overall well-being.<br />

Self-esteem also provides our children<br />

with a cushion of resilience that helps<br />

them bounce back from the setbacks<br />

and challenges that are an inevitable<br />

part of life. When children believe in their<br />

abilities and self-worth, they develop<br />

a growth mindset, viewing obstacles<br />

as opportunities for growth rather than<br />

insurmountable barriers. They are more<br />

likely to persevere, problem-solve and<br />

learn from their mistakes, as this too<br />

fosters resilience and adaptability within<br />

them. They are more likely to approach<br />

challenges with confidence, believing<br />

in their abilities and embracing new<br />

opportunities.<br />

A child with a healthy level of self-esteem<br />

is more likely to form positive relationships<br />

and communicate and express their needs<br />

effectively, as they surround themselves<br />

with stronger and healthier relationships.<br />

A healthy self-esteem empowers children<br />

to step out of their comfort zones, embrace<br />

new experiences and pursue their dreams<br />

with determination and enthusiasm. While<br />

it is not the only ingredient, imagine trying<br />

to do these things with a self-esteem that<br />

is hurting.<br />

Lastly, fostering healthy self-esteem can<br />

also promote a positive self-image. By<br />

cultivating an environment of acceptance<br />

and appreciation for their uniqueness,<br />

we can help our children develop a<br />

strong sense of self-worth. This can<br />

protect them from the negative impact of<br />

media influences and promote a healthy<br />

relationship with their bodies, which sadly,<br />

is lacking in many of our children in today’s<br />

media-rich world.<br />

Identifying the signs of<br />

anxiety<br />

We all feel anxious about things from time<br />

to time, this is simply a natural system<br />

within the body letting us know that there<br />

is something we need to be aware of.<br />

However, feeling anxious in ways that<br />

impact our day or feeling this way a lot<br />

of the time is detrimental to our health.<br />

At this stage, it is becoming anxiety and<br />

something we need to be aware of in<br />

our children of all ages. It can manifest<br />

in various physical symptoms such as<br />

frequent stomach aches, fatigue, muscle<br />

tension, restlessness, difficulty sleeping,<br />

changes in appetite or unexplained<br />

physical complaints.<br />

Children may try to avoid situations or<br />

activities that trigger anxious feelings or<br />

express strong desires to stay within their<br />

comfort zones. They may become easily<br />

overwhelmed, irritable or have frequent<br />

emotional outbursts. All these symptoms<br />

may indicate an underlying anxiety<br />

that they may not have the words or<br />

understanding to express to you.<br />

Early years anxiety can also manifest as<br />

perfectionism or a strong fear of making<br />

mistakes. They may display an intense<br />

desire to please others, or they may look<br />

to set excessively high standards for<br />

themselves and be overly self-critical. So<br />

pay close attention, especially if this has<br />

come on suddenly or they are looking to<br />

avoid things that they used to enjoy.<br />

Witnessing any child experiencing anxiety<br />

can leave you feeling concerned and<br />

desperate to help but by recognising<br />

the signs early on, you can provide<br />

the necessary support. Through open<br />

communication, empathy and a supportive<br />

environment, you can nurture children’s<br />

mental health in the early years as you<br />

develop healthy coping strategies.<br />

Remember, if you observe signs of anxiety<br />

that interfere with a child’s daily life,<br />

consult with a healthcare professional or<br />

mental health provider. Early identification<br />

and intervention are vital tools in helping<br />

our future generations navigate anxiety.<br />

Together, we can forge a world where<br />

children grow up with a sense of security,<br />

resilience and mental well-being. So<br />

whether you are a parent, practitioner or<br />

family worker join me at the Nurturing<br />

Childhoods Academy where you can listen<br />

to talks and access lots more tips and<br />

suggestions. There are also materials for<br />

you to print out and keep handy, giving<br />

you all the key bits of learning at your<br />

fingertips.<br />

If you become a member of the Nurturing<br />

Childhoods Community, you can come<br />

and talk with other parents and carers<br />

about the experiences you are having. You<br />

might like to swap a funny story or ask<br />

for some advice. You can also read all the<br />

new blogs or have a go with a Childhood<br />

Challenge!<br />

Scan here for<br />

more resources<br />

from Kathryn:<br />

20 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 21

Affordable and<br />

thoughtful gift ideas:<br />

easy to make and buy<br />

As the holiday season approaches, our<br />

focus naturally shifts towards sharing<br />

heartfelt gifts with our loved ones.<br />

Considering the persistent cost-of-living<br />

challenges, we’ve curated a selection<br />

of simple yet delightful DIY gift ideas for<br />

young children. Explore a handful of our<br />

favourite suggestions from the wealth of<br />

inspiration available online.<br />

Christmas wreaths<br />

We all know the traditional Christmas<br />

wreath made of pine leaves, holly, and ivy,<br />

but how about extending your creativity<br />

this year and making your wreaths and<br />

decorations from less traditional materials?<br />

Here are some ideas for you:

Lee Connelly<br />

As we get into the colder months, let’s dive<br />

into the wondrous world of gardening with<br />

toddlers. Who says the garden is only for<br />

summer? Let’s debunk that myth and start<br />

creating festive memories and connections<br />

right in your garden.<br />

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s<br />

talk about setting the stage for our<br />

winter gardening adventure. Picture this,<br />

your garden transformed into a winter<br />

wonderland, adorned with twinkling<br />

lights, festive decorations, and a sprinkle<br />

of holiday magic. Creating a festive<br />

ambience not only sets the mood but also<br />

enhances the overall experience for both<br />

you and your little ones. We often think<br />

about decorating the front of our homes,<br />

but this year how about looking out back<br />

Festive gardening<br />

fun ideas to share<br />

with parents<br />

too? By creating a winter wonderland,<br />

it sets up a space where incredible<br />

memories can be made.<br />

Once you have a garden ready for<br />

magic, we are ready to kick off our<br />

festive gardening extravaganza with<br />

some hands-on DIY Christmas planters.<br />

Gather pots, soil, and a variety of winterloving<br />

plants like holly, ivy, or miniature<br />

evergreens. Involve the children in the<br />

process of arranging these plants in the<br />

pots. It’s a fantastic sensory activity that<br />

stimulates their creativity and connects<br />

them with nature. I often get my daughter<br />

to paint or decorate the pots first, then<br />

together we explore our outdoor space<br />

to gather the materials needed. We also<br />

head to the garden centre to see what we<br />

can find, which makes for a great day out<br />

together. As you plant, share some facts<br />

about the chosen plants, their resilience in<br />

winter, and what they bring to the garden.<br />

These little moments of learning and<br />

exploration lay the foundation for creating<br />

memories together and bring a closer<br />

connection to nature for you all.<br />

To bring some education into the garden,<br />

let’s talk about mulching. It may not<br />

sound like the most glamorous gardening<br />

activity, but trust me, it’s a game-changer,<br />

especially during winter. Get the children<br />

geared up with their mini gardening tools,<br />

and let’s take the first step to the magic of<br />

mulching. Mulch is like a protective layer<br />

that we put around plants in the garden. It<br />

can be made of different things like wood<br />

chips, straw, or even leaves.<br />

When we spread this cosy mulch around<br />

plants, it helps them in a few amazing<br />

ways! Explain the importance of mulch<br />

in protecting plants from the winter chill.<br />

As you work together to spread that cosy<br />

blanket of mulch around the plants, you<br />

are teaching the importance of caring for<br />

plants even in the colder months.<br />

Now, let’s add a dash of excitement with a<br />

festive scavenger hunt.<br />

Create a list of Christmas-themed items<br />

hidden around the garden, such as<br />

candy canes, mini baubles, or even tiny,<br />

wrapped presents. Equip the children with<br />

a little basket and watch their eyes light<br />

up as they discover each hidden treasure.<br />

This activity not only brings a sense of<br />

adventure to the garden but also helps<br />

develop essential skills like observation<br />

and problem-solving. I love this idea as it’s<br />

an excellent way to reinforce the idea that<br />

the garden is a magical place, brimming<br />

with surprises, no matter the season.<br />

Christmas is a time of giving, and what<br />

better way to instil this value than by<br />

hosting a bird feeding party in the back<br />

garden? Craft simple bird feeders using<br />

pinecones, lard, and bird seed. Let your<br />

toddler take charge of spreading the lard<br />

and rolling the pinecones in the seeds.<br />

It’s a messy make, but a really fun one<br />

to create in the warm. You can pop this<br />

in the fridge overnight and then hang<br />

these festive bird feeders in strategic spots<br />

around the garden, creating a feast for our<br />

feathered friends. Place them somewhere<br />

in the garden that toddlers can see from<br />

the warmth of the home and then sit back<br />

and watch the party happen.<br />

As it gets dark and the garden transforms<br />

into a glittering wonderland with fairy<br />

lights, gather your cosy blankets and<br />

snuggle up for a storytime under the stars.<br />

Choose a garden-themed or Christmas<br />

storybook and let the magic of storytelling<br />

unfold amidst the enchanting outdoor<br />

setting. We are lucky enough to have a<br />

trampoline that we do this on when it’s dry<br />

outside. With the stars above us, it makes<br />

for an incredible experience, although with<br />

the cold temperatures, not a long one.<br />

This simple yet profound activity reinforces<br />

the idea that the garden isn’t just a place<br />

for physical activities but also a haven for<br />

imagination and bonding.<br />

The Skinny Jean<br />

Gardener’s top tips<br />

for winter gardening<br />

success<br />

1. Choose winter-hardy plants, look<br />

for plants that thrive in colder<br />

temperatures, such as winter pansies,<br />

heather, or ornamental cabbages.<br />

These additions ensure your garden<br />

remains vibrant even in the chilliest<br />

months<br />

2. Invest in child-sized tools, make<br />

gardening accessible and enjoyable<br />

for your toddler by providing<br />

them with their own set of pintsized<br />

gardening tools. This not<br />

only enhances their sense of<br />

independence but also makes the<br />

activities more manageable and<br />

safer. Look out for tools that look just<br />

like adult-sized ones, so that toddlers<br />

feel part of the gardening action, and<br />

that it’s not just another toy<br />

3. Celebrate small achievements,<br />

whether it’s successfully planting<br />

a bulb or spotting a robin in the<br />

garden, celebrate these small<br />

achievements with the children.<br />

Positive reinforcement teaches and<br />

encourages continued engagement<br />

4. Embrace messiness, gardening is<br />

a hands-on activity, and it’s okay to<br />

get a little messy. Embrace the dirt<br />

and the joy it brings to the children’s<br />

exploration. After all, a dirty hand is a<br />

happy hand in the garden!<br />

5. Create a year-round calendar,<br />

plan seasonal gardening activities<br />

throughout the year. From spring<br />

planting to summer harvesting,<br />

autumn leaf collections, and winter<br />

preparations, having a year-round<br />

calendar keeps the excitement alive<br />

and the garden relevant in every<br />

season<br />

In the world of children’s gardening, the<br />

garden is not just a summer affair; it’s<br />

a year-round haven of discovery and<br />

connection. By embracing the magic of<br />

Christmas and infusing your garden with<br />

festive spirit, you’re creating a space where<br />

memories blossom alongside the flowers.<br />

So, wrap up warm, don your favourite<br />

festive sweater, and step into the winter<br />

wonderland that is your garden. With<br />

a little creativity and a lot of love, you’ll<br />

discover that the garden is not just<br />

for summer, it’s a canvas for endless<br />

possibilities, even in the heart of winter.<br />

Happy gardening, everyone!<br />

Want a great Christmas gift to<br />

continue the gardening journey?<br />

Me and my daughter have put all<br />

our ideas into the “How to Get Kids<br />

Gardening” book. Over the years<br />

we have created memories by<br />

making and growing with upcycled<br />

and recycled ideas. It’s available<br />

this Christmas for just £10 (RRP £12.99)<br />

signed and ready for Christmas at<br />

skinnyjeangardener.co.uk/shop/<br />

how-to-get-kids-gardening-book or<br />

with the QR code below.<br />

Scan here for<br />

more resources<br />

from Lee:<br />

24 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 25

Join in the festive fun on<br />

Christmas Jumper Day<br />

Are you ready to embrace the holiday<br />

spirit and bring a touch of festive magic<br />

into your early years setting? As the days<br />

grow shorter and the world is illuminated<br />

by twinkling lights, it’s time to embark<br />

on a jolly journey with your little ones to<br />

celebrate Christmas Jumper Day in style!<br />

This heartwarming tradition is not just<br />

about wearing cosy and quirky sweaters;<br />

it’s about creating an enchanting<br />

experience for children while making a<br />

positive impact on the world. So, gather<br />

your elves, dust off those Christmas<br />

jumpers, and let’s make the season bright!<br />

The origins of Christmas<br />

Jumper Day<br />

Back in 2012, Save the Children had a<br />

brilliant idea: what if we could make<br />

the world better, one sweater at a time?<br />

That’s how Christmas Jumper Day was<br />

born. It’s not just a day to showcase<br />

your most outlandish holiday attire; it’s<br />

a day to draw attention to the millions of<br />

children worldwide who face poverty and<br />

hardship. This heartwarming initiative<br />

uses the slogan “Make the World Better<br />

with a Sweater,” and over the years, it<br />

has garnered support from countless<br />

celebrities and generous souls. Together,<br />

over £35 million has been raised to help<br />

children in the UK and across the globe.<br />

Who can join the festive<br />

frenzy?<br />

The beauty of Christmas Jumper Day<br />

is that anyone can join in the fun! Even<br />

four-legged friends can get in on the<br />

action. Last year, around 15,000 schools<br />

and four million people participated in this<br />

heartwarming event. So, whether you’re<br />

an early years educator, a parent, or a pet<br />

lover (or all three!), you can play a part in<br />

spreading joy and making a difference.<br />

Why Save the Children?<br />

We all know that Christmas is a time<br />

of joy, togetherness, and celebration.<br />

However, for many children, this season<br />

can be anything but magical. It may bring<br />

feelings of loneliness, fear, and isolation.<br />

Some families struggle to make ends<br />

meet, especially when the pressure to<br />

buy presents adds to their burdens. The<br />

current cost-of-living crisis has made these<br />

difficulties even more pronounced.<br />

This is where Save the Children steps in.<br />

The money raised on Christmas Jumper<br />

Day goes toward helping children living in<br />

poverty. The charity provides emergency<br />

food, shelter, and education, offering hope<br />

for a brighter future. It ensures children<br />

have access to medical services they<br />

may otherwise go without. In 2022, £5<br />

million was raised for children, including<br />

£2 million of match funding from the UK<br />

government and over 2 million school<br />

children and 24,000 workplaces took part<br />

in Christmas Jumper Day last year.<br />

How to make a difference<br />

Participating in Christmas Jumper Day is<br />

as easy as decking the halls with boughs<br />

of holly.<br />

Here’s how you can get involved:<br />

1. Wear a Christmas jumper:<br />

Christmas Jumper Day is on Thursday<br />

7 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> - but you can take<br />

part any day you want! Remember,<br />

you don’t need to break the bank for<br />

an expensive one. Get creative and<br />

upcycle an old sweater into a festive<br />

masterpiece<br />

2. Make a donation: While wearing<br />

your Christmas jumper, consider<br />

making a donation to Save the<br />

Children. A suggested contribution<br />

is £2 for adults and £1 for school<br />

children, but any amount is<br />

appreciated<br />

3. Craft your own Christmas<br />

jumper: Get the children involved<br />

in the festivities by creating their<br />

own Christmas jumpers. There are<br />

plenty of resources available online,<br />

including upcycling ideas to turn<br />

ordinary jumpers into extraordinary<br />

ones.<br />

Fun ideas for decorating<br />

Christmas jumpers<br />

Boost the holiday cheer by crafting your<br />

own unique Christmas jumpers. Here are<br />

some simple ideas to get you started:<br />

1. Tinsel magic: Add tinsel to the neck<br />

and cuffs of an old sweater and<br />

attach tree decorations (ensure they<br />

are child-safe)<br />

2. Felt festivities: Cut festive shapes<br />

like snowflakes, Christmas trees,<br />

reindeer, and presents from felt and<br />

pin them onto a jumper<br />

3. Christmas pudding chic: Turn<br />

a brown jumper into a Christmas<br />

pudding by cutting out a jagged white<br />

collar<br />

4. Santa’s helper: Transform a red<br />

sweater into a Santa costume with<br />

large black buttons, white faux fur<br />

cuffs, a black belt, and a cushion for<br />

extra ‘Santa volume’<br />

5. Stocking surprise: Sew an old<br />

Christmas stocking to the front of a<br />

jumper and add a soft toy inside for<br />

an authentic touch<br />

6. Gifted jumper: Tie a large ribbon<br />

around your waist in a bow and<br />

create a large label to wear like a<br />

necklace, turning yourself into a giant<br />

Christmas present<br />

Spreading festive joy in<br />

your early years setting<br />

Getting everyone in your early years<br />

setting involved in Christmas Jumper Day<br />

is a fantastic way to teach children about<br />

empathy, giving, and the joy of helping<br />

others. Here are some engaging and<br />

budget-friendly ideas to infuse the spirit of<br />

Christmas Jumper Day into your setting:<br />

1. Design your own jumpers:<br />

Download or draw a plain jumper<br />

template and encourage children and<br />

staff to design their own Christmasthemed<br />

jumpers. It’s a creative and<br />

collaborative activity that’s sure to<br />

spread joy<br />

2. Jumper mobiles: Use a scaled-down<br />

jumper template and coat hangers to<br />

create a festive mobile. Hang these<br />

adorable decorations around your<br />

setting for a touch of holiday magic<br />

3. Fashion show extravaganza: Host<br />

a Christmas jumper fashion show or<br />

competition. Invite parents to join in<br />

the fun and add music, face paint, fun<br />

wigs, and commentary to create an<br />

unforgettable experience<br />

4. Bake sale bonanza: Organise a<br />

bake sale in your setting to raise<br />

money for Save the Children. It’s a<br />

delicious way to make a difference<br />

5. Bring and buy sale: Encourage<br />

families to donate goods for a<br />

Christmas bring and buy sale. This<br />

event not only raises funds but also<br />

promotes a sense of community and<br />

sharing<br />

Remember, every little effort counts,<br />

and together, we can light up the<br />

lives of children in need. Share your<br />

festive endeavours and heartwarming<br />

moments with us at hello@parenta.<br />

com. Let’s make this Christmas truly<br />

magical for all, one jumper at a time!<br />

Scan here for<br />

more references<br />

& information:<br />

26 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 27

Mona Sakr<br />

Children are at the heart of community<br />

cohesion. In this article, I explore what<br />

community cohesion means from the<br />

child’s perspective and how children’s<br />

everyday interactions contribute to our<br />

sense of local connectedness, belonging<br />

and pride.<br />

I am lucky enough to lead an amazing<br />

research team of psychologists,<br />

sociologists, network analysts and<br />

historians on a project called Beyond<br />

School Gates: Children’s Contribution to<br />

Community Integration, which is funded<br />

by the Nuffield Foundation and the British<br />

Academy. Through our research, we<br />

want to rewrite the narrative around<br />

community cohesion by helping people<br />

see just how important children’s everyday<br />

lives are to the cohesion experienced in<br />

neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Our<br />

founding belief is that children’s day-today<br />

interactions and friendships are a<br />

launchpad for adults to connect across<br />

diversity.<br />

Fostering community<br />

cohesion through a<br />

child’s perspective<br />

What is community<br />

cohesion?<br />

Community cohesion revolves around<br />

connection. For communities to be<br />

cohesive, individuals need to feel that they<br />

can connect with others and that these<br />

connections happen across diversity.<br />

Community cohesion is strong when<br />

people feel able to comfortably interact<br />

with others who have a different ethnicity,<br />

language or religion to them.<br />

As researchers, we can measure<br />

community cohesion by plotting the<br />

connections that people make on a dayto-day<br />

basis. For example, we could ask<br />

you to reflect on the day you’ve had so<br />

far and to plot the social connections you<br />

have had up until this point and who these<br />

connections have been with.

How furry friends<br />

transform early years<br />

Britain, renowned for its love of animals,<br />

showers nearly £10 million a year on<br />

our beloved pets, a testament to our<br />

nation’s deep affinity for furry (and not<br />

furry!) companions. A staggering 57% of<br />

households in the UK welcome creatures<br />

as pets into their homes, adding up to a<br />

whopping 38 million pets nationwide. The<br />

joy and happiness they bring resonate in<br />

the hearts of children and families across<br />

the country.<br />

The wonders of having pets extend far<br />

beyond companionship, with numerous<br />

documented benefits. Imagine the<br />

possibilities for the children in your care<br />

as you advocate for the magic of pet<br />

ownership. Whether you encourage your<br />

little ones’ families and friends to embrace<br />

the joy of pets or contemplate bringing<br />

some into your setting, you’re not just<br />

fostering relationships with animals –<br />

you’re unlocking a world of transformation<br />

for the early years.<br />

The benefits<br />

Some of the benefits for children include:<br />

Immune systems and educational<br />

attendance<br />

Studies suggest that children who keep<br />

pets at home have stronger immune<br />

systems and show higher attendance<br />

rates at school. In some studies, children<br />

who have pets at home were less likely to<br />

develop allergies and asthma.<br />

Comfort and support<br />

Pets can give physical and emotional<br />

support when we are feeling at our lowest<br />

– many people believe they intrinsically<br />

know when we are going through a<br />

bad time and can recognise this. They<br />

can help children develop empathy<br />

and understanding about non-verbal<br />

communication, and children can learn to<br />

self-regulate their own emotions by caring<br />

for pets.<br />

Loyalty and friendship<br />

Pets can make the most loyal friends; they<br />

never judge you and will listen to your<br />

problems for hours on end.<br />

Reduced anxiety and improved<br />

mental health<br />

Pet ownership has been shown to reduce<br />

anxiety and depression in children, reduce<br />

stress and improve symptoms of PTSD.<br />

Some charities use animals such as horses<br />

and dogs as therapy to help improve<br />

mental health in children.<br />

Life lessons<br />

Pets can help teach people about the life<br />

cycle and how to care for other sentient<br />

beings. They can also be the first occasion<br />

that children experience loss and grief but<br />

if this is the case, children will need careful<br />

support to guide them through the loss of<br />

a beloved pet.<br />

Links to natural science<br />

Animals can help teach about the natural<br />

world, different environments, and<br />

habitats, and be an introduction to the<br />

natural sciences.<br />

Teaching children how to nurture<br />

Learning how to care for a pet helps<br />

children understand responsibility, the<br />

needs of others, and the role we all have<br />

in creating a compassionate world where<br />

everyone can thrive.<br />

Self-discipline and the value of<br />

routine<br />

Looking after a pet can also help children<br />

learn about self-discipline because they<br />

may have to feed the pet or clean its cage<br />

at various times. This will depend on the<br />

age of the children involved as adults will<br />

need to teach and oversee the processes<br />

to ensure the safety of the pets and the<br />

children.<br />

Cognitive development<br />

Research from Proresky et al made<br />

an association between the bond that<br />

children have with their pets and improved<br />

cognitive development. It has also been<br />

suggested that owning a pet can help<br />

facilitate language acquisition and<br />

enhance children’s verbal skills.<br />

How to introduce pets<br />

into your setting<br />

If you want to introduce a pet or pets<br />

into your setting, then it must be done<br />

properly because it is not without risk.<br />

However, with careful planning, governor/<br />

staff and parent buy-in, and robust risk<br />

assessments, the benefits will far outweigh<br />

any potential disadvantages.<br />

Some of the things that you might need to<br />

consider include:

Frances Turnbull<br />

A Finnish study, (Lehikoinen, <strong>2023</strong>)<br />

considered 6 different ways to explore<br />

early years creative activity for 1- and<br />

2-year-olds. The focus was on successful<br />

engagement as this age is known to be<br />

tricky, with limited ideas for under 3s in the<br />

arts. To achieve this, 6 early years activities<br />

were devised, specifically for this age<br />

group:<br />

❄ Dance-painting – paint feet, move to<br />

song<br />

❄ Magic dough – create playdough<br />

objects from songs<br />

❄ Digital drawing – taking pictures or<br />

creating pictures using technology<br />

❄ Musical drawing – drawing or<br />

painting while listening to music<br />

❄ Balloon painting – painting using<br />

balloons, and paint-filled balloons<br />

❄ Snow painting – painting using snow!<br />

This month, we are focusing on snow<br />

painting.<br />

Snow painting is literally that – painting<br />

on snow! It looks great and is easy to do<br />

“Snow<br />

is falling”<br />

Snow painting in the<br />

early years<br />

This current 6-part series of early years music articles features a new activity each month from a number of arts activities trialled for 1-<br />

and 2-year-old children, along with musical suggestions, with recordings on YouTube.<br />

– and if it’s too cold to stay outside for too<br />

long, bring it in on trays or tubs, and keep<br />

going!<br />

For this early years painting idea, it is<br />

useful to use:<br />

❄ Liquid watercolours in pots/tubs –<br />

diluted in cold water (so that the ice<br />

doesn’t melt)<br />

❄ Small containers/trays (bring snow<br />

inside if children get cold)<br />

❄ Different size paintbrushes<br />

❄ Pipettes/droppers<br />

Make sure the colours are bright enough,<br />

and be aware that colours will run into<br />

each other as the snow melts. Then drip<br />

colour or paint it onto the snow and watch<br />

a picture appear! Bonus tip: make snow<br />

creatures to add to your snow picture!<br />

It is this simple and needs no further<br />

explanation, so as a painting activity for<br />

children, it is perfect for this age group!<br />

Weather can be so magical, and the songs<br />

this month celebrate it. This is also a great<br />

creative way to develop awareness of how<br />

the weather changes through the seasons.<br />

Frosty weather<br />

Frosty weather<br />

Snowy weather<br />

When the wind blows we<br />

All stick together<br />

This song can be used as a circle dance<br />

or a free movement song, depending on<br />

the confidence of the children in the group.<br />

1) As a circle song, children hold hands,<br />

walking around in a circle as they sing the<br />

first three lines, “Frosty weather, snowy<br />

weather when the wind blows, we ...” As<br />

they start the next line, children run to the<br />

middle of the circle to “stick together”.<br />

As a free dance, use words to create the<br />

imagery of soft, gentle leaves, blowing<br />

where the wind takes them, as children<br />

move freely to the first three lines of the<br />

song. In both situations, the last line<br />

could become chaotic, so it will help to<br />

emphasise beforehand that leaves blow<br />

together gently, they don’t bump and bash<br />

each other, but gently touch and move<br />

away.<br />

Rain Rain<br />

Rain, rain go away<br />

Come again another day<br />

Rain, rain go away<br />

All the children want to play<br />

This is a lovely song for a few reasons.<br />

Songs that involve chanting to rhythm are<br />

wonderful ways to get new or unfamiliar<br />

groups working and singing together. This<br />

song only uses two notes, so it is a great<br />

way to get children to hear the difference<br />

between high and low notes – this is a<br />

lovely way to develop their ability to sing in<br />

tune. Finally, once children can hear and<br />

copy the high and low notes accurately,<br />

they will be able to play the tune on<br />

simple tuned percussion instruments –<br />

xylophones or glockenspiels, chime bars,<br />

and even ukuleles (the two middle strings).<br />

Twinkle Twinkle<br />

Twinkle twinkle<br />

Christmas Star<br />

How I wonder<br />

What you are<br />

Up above the<br />

World so high<br />

Like a diamond<br />

In the sky<br />

Twinkle twinkle<br />

Christmas Star<br />

How I wonder<br />

What you are<br />

Singing along to this Christmas variation of<br />

“Twinkle Twinkle” is a magical way to get<br />

children exploring the paint and ice/snow<br />

while keeping them focussed on different<br />

ways to think of stars: multiple pinpricks in<br />

the sky, bright guiding lights, ornate and<br />

fancy shapes, or a burning streak of light<br />

shooting across the sky! Creating a few<br />

different examples for children to imitate<br />

often leads to some children creating their<br />

fanciful ideas of stars, while it gives other<br />

children a starting point to copy and begin<br />

to develop their imagination.<br />

Snow is falling<br />

Snow is falling<br />

All around me<br />

Children playing<br />

Having fun<br />

It’s the season<br />

Of love and understanding<br />

Merry Christmas<br />

Everyone!<br />

The first verse of this popular Christmas<br />

song is perfect for this time of year,<br />

celebrating snowfall! Dance around and<br />

sing if you are lucky enough to be together<br />

in snowfall or use indoor ways to explore<br />

playing in the snow. If you are “being”<br />

snowflakes, it is helpful to remind children<br />

that snowflakes never crash into each<br />

other, never knock each other, but gently<br />

blow up into each other and away. Play<br />

scarves are fantastic reusable items that<br />

can gently float if you’re indoors.<br />

Alternatively, a box of white tissues or<br />

sheets of kitchen roll could be used, giving<br />

children the opportunity to develop their<br />

hand-eye coordination as well as fine<br />

motor control. This is as they practise<br />

keeping tissues uncreased and level<br />

so that they can gently float to the floor.<br />

Clean-up tip: once the floor is covered with<br />

white tissue, announce a “snowball fight”,<br />

gathering up tissue to throw, first gently at<br />

each other – and then in the bin!<br />

Snow is such a magical experience<br />

for children, turning the world into a<br />

completely different environment. Not only<br />

the appearance but the sounds and the<br />

smells, change everything, making the<br />

whole world different when it snows. Enjoy<br />

this musical exploration!<br />

Scan here for<br />

more resources<br />

from Frances:<br />

32 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 33

<strong>December</strong>, in the Western world, has long<br />

been synonymous with the enchanting<br />

spirit of Christmas. Yet, amidst the<br />

shimmering lights and festive carols, this<br />

month also hosts a tapestry of diverse<br />

religious celebrations, each weaving its<br />

own unique tale of faith and festivity.<br />

Saint Nicholas Day (6th)<br />

Beyond Christmas:<br />

exploring <strong>December</strong>’s<br />

multicultural festivals<br />

This day remembers the birth of Saint<br />

Nicholas, the inspiration behind the<br />

concept of Santa Claus or, as we know him<br />

in the UK, Father Christmas. Saint Nicholas<br />

is believed to have secretly given gifts to<br />

the poor and children in some European<br />

countries leave a shoe outside their<br />

bedrooms on the eve of St Nicholas Day.<br />

Legend has it, that if they have been good,<br />

Saint Nicholas will leave them a treat, and<br />

if not, they can look forward to receiving a<br />

lump of coal or a stick!<br />

and celebrations<br />

You can celebrate Saint Nicholas Day in<br />

your setting by getting the children to<br />

put out a shoe or sock on the night of<br />

<strong>December</strong> 5th and have them come in on<br />

the 6th to find a treat… hopefully!<br />

Bodhi Day (8th)<br />

This is the day that is observed in<br />

many Buddhist communities across the<br />

world marking the day that Siddhartha<br />

Gautama, a wandering religious teacher,<br />

and the founder of Buddhism, (the<br />

Buddha), finally attained enlightenment<br />

and the state of nirvana. He described<br />

reaching this state in three stages:<br />

the realisation of his past lives; the<br />

knowledge of the laws of karma; and the<br />

understanding of the laws of, and true<br />

nature of the universe. The day is also<br />

celebrated as Rōhatsu in Japan, and Laba<br />

in China.<br />

Why not celebrate Bodhi Day in your<br />

setting by having a meditation/relaxation<br />

session, listening to some calming music<br />

and asking the children to notice how their<br />

body feels in the moment? They could<br />

also draw pictures about what makes<br />

them happy to represent the states of bliss<br />

obtained in nirvana.<br />

Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast<br />

Day (12th)<br />

The 12th of <strong>December</strong> is the Feast Day of<br />

Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the Patron<br />

Saint of Mexico. According to tradition,<br />

in 1534, Mary appeared several times<br />

to a Mexican peasant called Juan Diego<br />

and once to his uncle, Juan Bernardino.<br />

Mary asked them to build a chapel on<br />

the site where she appeared. Juan told<br />

the archbishop of Mexico City who was<br />

initially sceptical, but when a miraculous<br />

image of Mary appeared on Juan’s cloak,<br />

the archbishop agreed, and a chapel was<br />

erected, now known as the Basilica of<br />

Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited<br />

Catholic shrine in the world.<br />

You could celebrate this day with an<br />

art project to either draw the Lady of<br />

Guadalupe (you can find images online)<br />

or you could do a craft making red<br />

roses, which were also said to appear<br />

miraculously.<br />

Hanukkah (7th - 15th)<br />

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday,<br />

the Jewish Festival of Lights. Many Jewish<br />

households celebrate by lighting a special<br />

candlestick (a menorah). Traditionally, this<br />

represents how a small group of Jewish<br />

people were able to survive in a temple<br />

during a siege after their dwindling supply<br />

of lamp oil lasted 8 days instead of just<br />

one. After this time, the group emerged<br />

from hiding victorious in their war with a<br />

powerful Greek/Syrian army.<br />

People celebrate by lighting one candle a<br />

day and you could mark Hanukkah in your<br />

setting by creating a battery-operated tea<br />

light display in one corner of your room to<br />

mark this time.<br />

Yule (21st)<br />

Yule is also known as Midwinter’s Day and<br />

has the shortest amount of daylight and<br />

the longest period of darkness. Wiccan<br />

and Pagan people have celebrated<br />

this time for centuries, with feasts and<br />

celebrations to mark the time of the year<br />

when the days begin to grow longer<br />

again. One tradition is to burn the Yule log<br />

to remind people that the sun will return.<br />

Yule is one of the oldest winter festivals<br />

and is commonly celebrated by Germanic<br />

and Scandinavian people wherever they<br />

are in the world.<br />

In your setting, you could collect sticks,<br />

leaves, pinecones, and other natural<br />

elements to make a display showing our<br />

connection to the natural world. You could<br />

also make a sun/ moon/stars mobile and<br />

hang them around the setting to remind<br />

you of the cyclical nature of day and night,<br />

as well as the seasons.<br />

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day<br />

and Boxing Day (24th - 26th)<br />

In the Christian tradition, Christmas Eve<br />

marks the night on which Jesus was born<br />

in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph. The<br />

Christmas story tells of how the Romans<br />

ordered all the Jews to return to their<br />

home village for a census. Joseph and his<br />

heavily pregnant wife, Mary, journeyed<br />

to Bethlehem where they could find no<br />

place to stay since the city was full of other<br />

travellers.<br />

An innkeeper took pity on them and<br />

offered them his stable for the night.<br />

Mary gave birth to Jesus during the<br />

night and tradition tells of multitudes<br />

of angels appearing to shepherds in<br />

nearby fields, proclaiming the birth of the<br />

son of God. Christians around the world<br />

celebrate this time with feasts and by<br />

exchanging presents. Some cultures such<br />

as Germany, Scandinavian countries and<br />

Spain celebrate Christmas Eve more than<br />

Christmas Day, gathering to sing carols<br />

and dance around a Christmas tree.<br />

Boxing Day is a British tradition sometimes<br />

attributed to Queen Victoria and the British<br />

gentry who gave their servants a rare day<br />

off after the toils of Christmas Day. Others<br />

believe that the term derives from early<br />

churches opening their charity boxes to<br />

distribute to the poor on the day after<br />

Christmas.<br />

You can celebrate the run-up to Christmas<br />

by creating Christmas cards, baking<br />

Christmas cookies, offering a ‘secret Santa’<br />

or making Christmas decorations and<br />

putting up a Christmas tree.<br />

Zarathosht Diso (26th/27th)<br />

Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest<br />

monotheistic religions and was founded<br />

by the Prophet Zoroaster in Iran more<br />

than 3,000 years ago. Zarathosht Diso<br />

falls around the 26th or 27th of <strong>December</strong><br />

depending on the Iranian calendar and is<br />

when Zoroastrians mark the death of their<br />

prophet, Zarathustra. The day is marked<br />

across the global Zoroastrian community<br />

by reflecting on the prophet’s life, praying<br />

at the temple, or studying religious texts.<br />

You could celebrate this day by talking<br />

about the different beliefs that people have<br />

and showing the children a map of the<br />

world, explaining that different countries<br />

have different beliefs. You could make a<br />

display showing the origins of some of<br />

the world’s religions, marking Iran as the<br />

origin of Zoroastrianism.<br />

Scan here for<br />

more references<br />

& information:<br />

34 November <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 35

EYFS activities:<br />

Bubble wrap painting – a sensory sensation!<br />

Expressive Arts &<br />

Design<br />

Expressive Arts and Design activities are a crucial aspect of the EYFS curriculum and encompass a range of creative<br />

and imaginative experiences, including art, music, dance, and drama. These activities contribute to the holistic<br />

development of children, nurturing their physical, emotional, social, and cognitive aspects, including:<br />

• Creativity and Imagination<br />

• Communication and Language Skills<br />

• Cultural Awareness<br />

• Fine and Gross Motor Skills<br />

• Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem<br />

• Problem-Solving Skills<br />

• Preparation for Later Learning<br />

You will need:<br />

• Plastic sandwich bag – one that has been<br />

used and washed<br />

• Bubble wrap<br />

• Paint<br />

Preparation:<br />

• Cut a small square of bubble wrap and<br />

slide it into the sandwich bag, laying it flat<br />

Adding the Paint:<br />

• Add a squirt of paint onto the bubble wrap<br />

inside the sealed bag<br />

Exploration:<br />

• Let the children push and squeeze the bag,<br />

causing the bubbles to pop and the paint to<br />

splatter<br />

Sensory Experience:<br />

• Enjoy the sensory experience of exploring<br />

the texture of the bubble wrap and the<br />

colours mixing<br />

More on this activity and others can be found<br />

here: theottoolbox.com/mess-free-bubblewrap-painting<br />

Shaving foam marbling - great for messy play!<br />

You will need:<br />

• Shaving foam<br />

• Liquid food colouring<br />

• Watercolour paper<br />

• Tray<br />

• Ruler<br />

• Stick or pencil<br />

Getting ready:<br />

• Cover the tray in shaving foam, ensuring<br />

there are no gaps<br />

• Add drops of different food colouring over<br />

the shaving foam in a random pattern<br />

Creating patterns:<br />

• Use a stick or pencil to swirl the food<br />

colouring around in the shaving foam,<br />

creating patterns and effects<br />

Paper placement:<br />

• Place a piece of watercolour paper on top<br />

of the colourful shaving foam and press<br />

lightly to cover it<br />

Reveal the Image!<br />

• Gently peel the paper off the shaving foam<br />

and place it to the side<br />

• Scrape off the shaving foam using a ruler to<br />

reveal the transferred image<br />

Drying:<br />

• Allow the artwork to dry<br />

More on this activity and others can be found<br />

here: rainydaymum.co.uk/shaving-foammarbling-fun-art-activity-for-toddlers-andpreschoolers/<br />

Magic paper towels – a favourite with the children!<br />

You will need:<br />

• A dye<br />

• Markers (permanent and washable)<br />

• White paper towels/kitchen roll<br />

• Water in a small tray<br />

• Child-friendly scissors<br />

Preparing the paper towels:<br />

• Take a square of paper towel and fold it<br />

in half<br />

• Cut the paper towel to have a small square<br />

with another small square behind it<br />

Designing pictures:<br />

• Use a marker pen to draw an image on the<br />

top layer of the folded paper towel<br />

Colouring and bleeding:<br />

• Lift the top layer to reveal the outline on the<br />

layer below<br />

• Colour in the outline or add more details<br />

using washable markers that bleed in water<br />

Magic reveal!<br />

• Place the paper towel into the water and<br />

watch as the colours from the bottom layer<br />

appear through the top layer, creating a<br />

magical effect<br />

More on this activity and others can be found<br />

here: messylittlemonster.com/2020/04/magicpaper-towel-art-science.html<br />

36 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com

Gina Bale<br />

Embark on a captivating journey into the<br />

historical origins of fairy and folk Tales,<br />

discovering their timeless influence on<br />

storytelling and sparking early years<br />

imagination. From the inception of the UK’s<br />

first printed fairy tale, “Tom Thumb”, to the<br />

ancient “The Smith and the Devil” these<br />

tales have left an indelible mark across<br />

diverse cultures. Are you ready to explore<br />

the educational significance of these<br />

enchanting narratives and understand<br />

their pivotal role as powerful tools for<br />

fostering creativity and imagination in<br />

children? Dive into the magic now!<br />

Fairy tale vs folk tale<br />

The term ‘fairy tale’ grew out of ‘folk<br />

tales’ which were an oral tradition across<br />

all cultures. Folk tales are filled with<br />

characters that are generally animals that<br />

can talk and have human characteristics.<br />

The tales are rooted in human scenarios,<br />

Embrace<br />

storytelling<br />

Enchantment of mythical<br />

beings & magical kingdoms<br />

not magic, to relay a moral and are not<br />

credited to an author.<br />

Fairy tales are written folk tales that include<br />

mythical creatures and magical kingdoms.<br />

Fairy tales unlike folk tales are rooted in<br />

magic and accredited to an author.<br />

There is so much evidence now that some<br />

fairy tales accredited to authors such as<br />

Johnson, Perrault and the Brothers Grimm<br />

go further back than classical mythology<br />

and have been told before English, French<br />

and Italian languages even existed.<br />

The earliest surviving printed fairy tale<br />

in the UK “Tom Thumb” was published<br />

by Richard Johnson in London in 1621.<br />

This makes it, according to Nottingham<br />

University, the first printed fairy tale native<br />

to the UK.<br />

History of our fairy and<br />

folk tales<br />

Research by anthropologist Dr Jamshid<br />

Tehrani and the New University of Lisbon<br />

social scientist, Sara Graça da Silva,<br />

has determined that “The Smith and the<br />

Devil” is the world’s oldest fairy tale. They<br />

believe that this tale spread throughout<br />

the Indo-European-speaking world from<br />

India to Scandinavia. They believe it was<br />

possibly first told 6,000 years ago during<br />

the Bronze Age.<br />

“Jack and the Beanstalk” also evolved from<br />

a group of stories and can be traced back<br />

to when the Eastern and Western Indo-<br />

European languages split, making this a<br />

tale from over 5,000 years ago. “Beauty<br />

and the Beast” and “Rumpelstiltskin” are<br />

thought to be about 4,000 years old.<br />

Dr Tehrani in his research also found that<br />

the tale “The Wolf and the Kids” originated<br />

in the 1st Century AD and “Little Red Riding<br />

Hood” appeared 1,000 years later. The<br />

best-known version of “Little Red Riding<br />

Hood” was published by the Brothers<br />

Grimm 200 years ago, based on the 17thcentury<br />

story by Perrault. This story has<br />

two endings and fortunately, the version<br />

with the huntsman saving Red Riding<br />

Hood is the most popular. There are times<br />

when a happy ending is needed.<br />

“Little Red Riding Hood” teaches children<br />

not to trust strangers (even elderly wolves),<br />

give out personal information, learn that<br />

appearances can be deceiving (someone<br />

or something is not what it appears to be),<br />

and of course, care for the elderly. There is<br />

a subtle message in the fairy tale as well<br />

for parents - don’t let your child go into the<br />

deep dark woods as you never know who<br />

or what could be lurking!<br />

A variant of this “The Wolf and the Kids”<br />

is a story about a wolf impersonating a<br />

nanny goat and eating her kids, and is<br />

also popular in Europe, the Middle East,<br />

Africa, and Asia. When Perrault was<br />

writing about “Little Red Riding Hood”<br />

the Chinese poet Huang Zhing (1644-<br />

1912) was writing another variant “Tiger<br />

Grandmother” which is popular in China,<br />

Korea and Japan.<br />

The benefits of fairy<br />

and folk tales<br />

All these stories and beliefs help to lay<br />

the foundations for creative thinking and<br />

problem-solving. The stories show them<br />

the differences between good and evil,<br />

right and wrong, punishment and reward,<br />

moral and immoral, male and female, and<br />

birth and death. Folk tales and fairy Tales<br />

are valuable for cross-cultural comparison<br />

and human behaviour.<br />

Our use of mythical and indigenous<br />

fairy and folk Tales can be a powerful<br />

tool that enables children to explore<br />

the world around them. The belief in<br />

mythical creatures and magical worlds<br />

provides children with so much exciting<br />

and engaging context for imaginative<br />

play, ranging from small world play to<br />

adventures in Forest School.<br />

These tales spark a curiosity that can offer<br />

strong moral lessons through the mistakes<br />

of the characters they are introduced<br />

to including modelling behaviour. For<br />

example, a ‘wicked witch’ probably doesn’t<br />

have many friends but the character that<br />

is kind and thinks of others has many. This<br />

helps to provide children with a context to<br />

evaluate their own and other’s behaviour<br />

and decision-making and facilitate<br />

emotional and social development. When<br />

children immerse themselves in a magical<br />

world, they take on different roles and<br />

experiment with emotions. This helps them<br />

to understand their feelings and those of<br />

others better.<br />

When children are encouraged to imagine,<br />

they engage in processes that involve<br />

memory, problem-solving and abstract<br />

thinking. Their belief in mythical beings,<br />

and magical worlds opens a world of<br />

possibilities. This encourages them to<br />

ask questions, explore and create their<br />

narratives, which in turn helps to develop<br />

critical thinking skills and intellectual<br />

curiosity.<br />

The use of these tales creates a languagerich<br />

environment, enhancing their<br />

vocabulary and communication skills.<br />

Storytelling, no matter the genre, is a vital<br />

part of language development but fairy<br />

tales allow children to enter a magical<br />

world of possibilities that help them to<br />

express themselves and communicate<br />

with their peers and adults.<br />

Belief in fairies, mythical creatures, and<br />

magical kingdoms can instil a sense of<br />

wonder and curiosity in children. When<br />

they believe in their existence, they see the<br />

beauty and mystery of the world around<br />

them. This sense of wonder and curiosity<br />

will extend into other areas of learning<br />

and can help them think outside the box,<br />

developing their skills for innovation -<br />

a vital skill set for all our children in the 21st<br />

century.<br />

As educators in early childhood settings,<br />

it is so important that you nurture creative<br />

thinking and imagination. Let fairy and<br />

folk tales be part of your creative toolkit<br />

and remember they don’t all have Happy<br />

Endings!<br />

Just think of all the fun the children can<br />

have by creating a magical small world.<br />

Making gooey messy magical potions<br />

together or ‘chilling out’ by forest bathing<br />

with mythical fantastical creatures and<br />

fairies?<br />

In conclusion, imagination and the belief in<br />

mythical creatures and magical kingdoms<br />

are invaluable tools in early years teaching<br />

and they have been part of our culture and<br />

oral history since the Bronze Age. Their use<br />

in education provides a way for children to<br />

express themselves within the confines of<br />

the story and resolve conflicting emotions.<br />

What is your favourite fairy or folk tale and<br />

how do you incorporate the story when<br />

parenting or teaching? Do let me know.<br />

References:<br />

✨ “The phylogeny of Little Red Riding”<br />

Hood, Tehrani, J., PLOS ONE,<br />

November 2013, Volume 8 Issue 11.<br />

✨ ancientpages.com/2017/08/30/<br />

worlds-oldest-fairy-tale-smith-devilsurvived-several-millennia/<br />

✨ nbcnews.com/sciencemain/suchdeep-roots-you-have-how-little-redriding-hoods-2d11591047<br />

✨ debeysklenar.wordpress.com/tag/<br />

the-tiger-grandma/<br />

Scan here for<br />

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from Gina:<br />

38 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> | parenta.com<br />

parenta.com | <strong>December</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 39

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