I have to say that I truly love my son’s school, they never cease to amaze me with their desire to promote natural learning as much as possible. The school has a shiny new website that is updated regularly allowing parents to see exactly what their children are getting up to. My latest visit to the Allithwaite CE School website informs me that they have developed a lovely quiet area with raised beds for planting food to harvest, a mud kitchen, outdoor games tables, benches and lots of wood chippings. This information was reinforced when I picked my son up from after school club and he ran into the quiet area and with great excitement told me all about how they were going to grow food and how you can sit and relax with your friends.
I am a firm believer that children need to find their own way to calm down, relax and find inner peace in their own way. Learning to let go and let the chaos of the world clatter around you is a skill that is necessary in this technical age where everything is quantifiable and has to have been done yesterday. The education system has forced schools to be concious of testing children so that they can gain a good OFSTED result so that pressure does inadvertently filter down to the children. As someone who finds it impossible to switch off and truly relax I have been trying to encourage my son to develop these skills while he is young by allowing him to be a bit slobby at the weekends, not making a big deal about homework and spelling tests. I have told him that the holidays are a time to rest so that he can look forward to a break from intensive learning.
The outdoor games tables, which are similar to these by Playdale have made the quiet area look like a potential picnic area, where children can gather round and be sociable. Even if there are not always dice and counters available the children will be able to look at and trace the numbers on the snakes and ladders board. My son has a great sense of ownership in regards to the school playground equipment and would quite happily sleep there if it meant that he could play with his friends even longer.
I am a little envious that they have installed a mud kitchen because making mud pies and playing with mud and soil was something I really liked to do when I was my son’s age. My mum informs me that I when I was a child I could never wear my best clothes until just before we went out because I just got muddy and messy so easily.
It is going to be so exciting at Harvest time to see the vegetables they have grown. My son just finds the world so very exciting and it is a joy to watch him learn and grow.
When I ask my son what he has done at school each day I feel really sorry for the teachers because all he remembers is everything he has done at playtime and who he has fallen out with. What he doesn’t say is that he enjoyed the English lesson that the teacher spent hours planning last week or that he felt fulfilled by the fact that he finally understood a mathematical concept that had been difficult to grasp. At the moment the most exciting thing about school is the new sand pit and swing that has been fitted in the playground. I am actually delighted that my son gets excited about such simple pleasures because it just goes to show that however enthralling a computer game is there is nothing like swinging in the air or sculpturing a fantasy land in a sandpit.
My son is a very cautious child who didn’t fall over very much when he was a toddler, however he seems to be collecting a lot of grazes and bruises on his legs at the moment indicating that he is getting more adventurous and daring. I asked him if he could swing by himself and apparently he can swing three times by himself, which is fantastic. If you look at the science of swinging it is amazing how much the body benefits from such a pleasurable activity. Children also learn how to take turns and how to encourage each other to swing higher. If you also add the feeling of flying into the mix you can see why swings are still such popular pieces of playground equipment.
My son is also raving about the sandpit, which is pretty big and covered when not in use so that the local cats don’t contaminate it. If there was a sandpit club after school my son would be first to put his name on the list, he totally loves constructing fantasy worlds, digging and covering himself with the little particles. When my son started school the thing that made him very happy was the fact that the reception class could still play in sand during the day and on a visit he told the teacher that they needed to put more sand in the sand box. He is in year one and sand play is not part of his curriculum so the sand pit in the playground is like a dream come true for him.
My son loves school and is always excited to arrive in the morning and reluctant to leave at the end of the day. I only hope that he finds learning fun for the whole of his life.
Spring has finally sprung the sun is shining and finally the rain is holding off long enough for us to enjoy the great outdoors. When I pick my son up from school we will be spending time in the playground with all of the other parents and children. Having a wonderful playground so close to the school is wonderful because it allows the children to expel the pent up energy they have saved while working hard at school. My son and his friends are definitely ready to spend after school running around outside climbing on the playground equipment and digging holes in the mud. Hopefully being able to play in a more open and freer environment will help him and his best friend to stop bossing each other about and getting each other’s backs up.
Play England have devoted a whole section on the benefits of outdoor play because they believe that it is important that children learn skills that cannot be learned easily in the classroom. Apart from the obvious health benefits of climbing on playground equipment and getting lots of exercise, children also learn how to interact with others and deal with conflict. Playground equipment also offers the opportunity to conquer fears about height and balance. Children also enjoy the freedom to abandon the playground equipment and find parts of the playground where they can hide and play imaginative games.
Visiting the playground as a parent can either be a sociable occasion where you chat to other parents or you find a quiet place to catch up on some work you need to do on your mobile phone. Leaving the playground generally involves lots of time warnings and watching your reluctant child clamber on every piece of playground equipment before they reach the gate, only to forget their shoe and spend the next ten minutes looking for it.
Often we read statistics in the press as to how much a mother should be paid, if her role was a job rather than a labour of love. It is always concluded that a mother would earn a healthy sum of money, in the region of 30 to forty thousand pounds, due to the amount of work that goes into the job of being a parent. Many parents find their role challenging but rarely consider time spent caring for their children to be a job. When your child is young it seems that your role of a parent is pretty straight forward but as children get older their emotional needs increase and our input is even more important. Often time or lack of it prevents us from being the ideal parents that we would like to be.
Saatchi & Saatchi conducted a survey of 1,022 women in December 2014 and surveyed a further 1,800 mothers through Mumsnet to find out how mothers perceive their role. They looked specifically at the eight emotional roles of parenting which include; carer, coach, hero, safe house, friend, partner in crime, fan and rule breaker. When questioned almost 100% of the mothers agreed that all of the roles were extremely important but admitted that they rarely spent more than 10% of their time with their children fulfilling these roles. The graphs below show that being a carer outweighs all of the time spent carrying out all of the other emotional roles.
The survey also found that 51% of mothers fulfil all eight roles all by themselves, so it is hardly surprising that being a mother feels a bit pressurised at times. Ideally mothers would like the role to be shared more equally with their partners giving them time to have more breathing space. We don’t live in an ideal world, but children do need to know that we are there, come hail or shine, and that we are human too. If we were to perceive the role of parents as a job then we would probably perform badly, where targets are concerned, because a lot of what we do for our children is not quantifiable.
I have to admit as my son is getting older I find that my role is becoming much more complex and more often than not, it is hurt feelings rather than hurt knees that I am having to put a metaphorical plaster on. I miss the simple days of going to the playground and watching him explore the playground equipment without a care in the world. Now I have to make sure that he does his homework, looks presentable and help him to find ways to deal with bossy children without falling out with them. In the morning when I take him to school I sometimes feel like the worst mother in the playground but that is probably how we all feel.
Interactive playgrounds aren’t something you see every where yet so when you do find one it can be quite a treat! The mix of traditional play and a new, exciting interactive element gets kids really eager to try it out. Interactive play is both challenging AND fun, and offers another encouraging way to get children fitter!
Another good aspect of it is that sometimes competitive sport can really only nurture the natural first team players and others can get left out or left behind. But equipment like this is much more inclusive and gets everybody involved in a more relaxed way. Physical exercise for children is obviously hugely important, especially with the current obesity rates. This is a great way to get kids moving without them even really realising they are exercising.
Hopefully they will make a welcome change to video games. It will be great when more of our playgrounds include some interactive equipment!
Last night I watched a pretty shocking and sad documentary on Channel 4. ‘Junk Food Kids: Who’s To Blame?’ . It would seem that now one third of British children are overweight or obese. Also, stemming from this, which you might not really think about is the number of kids who are having to undergo drastic dental treatment due to rotten teeth caused by their diet.
The show, unsurprisingly, sparked a lot of activity on social media. Twitter was filled with people angry that ‘Who’s to blame?’ was even a question that needed to be asked and I have to say I agree with them. Parents must take responsibility for their child’s health.
The basics of it are that junk food is cheap, quick and easy. Alongside that, for some people taking their kids outside and entertaining them rather than leaving them infront of the tv may seem like all too much hard work. Small amounts of exercise do wonders of good whether it’s running around the garden, a quick trip to the playground or something more structured like a sports club or class.
Did you see the documentary? Here’s a trailer if you missed it. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1159782/Watch-trailer-Junk-Food-Kids-Whos-To-Blame.html
Over the weekend while my son had been evacuated to my parent’s house I undertook the challenge of putting my son’s new bed together. With my husband tactically unpractical it was left to me to digest the instructions figure out which bits go where and identify the correct screws and Allen keys. I choose this mid sleeper bed from Argos and it arrived in two boxes with plenty of plastic wrapping and an annoying block of polystyrene that decided to shed its ball everywhere.
The build was easy enough – I only really needed help when putting the safety bars across because I needed an extra pair of hands to support it. Basically the whole deal was to screw bits of metal to other bits of metal but not too tightly until it was complete, just in case you cocked it up.
I chose this particular bed because it gave floor space underneath it and the option for a tent. My son had said that it was a shame that there wasn’t a slide attached to the bed so he could slide out of it in the morning like a real climbing frame from Playdale. It sounded like a fantastic idea except that his bedroom just isn’t big enough to accommodate such a great construction. I think he would have liked a climbing frame like this in his bed room.
I excitedly set the tent up underneath the bed and added a wind up lantern so that my son could pretend that he was camping. I mistakenly told him that he could sleep in the tent during weekends and holidays so last night he slept in a sleeping bag on an old mattress underneath his brand new bed. I have yet to see him to find out whether he slept well in his new tent.
I just wish that I was small enough to enjoy sleeping in his tent – although I have plans to hide there when it all gets too much and hope that I am not found for a while.