acepuppets

Archive for July 2015


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It is going to be so exciting when the children go back to school in September because they will find some new playground equipment in their school grounds.  The PTA and local business Make Us A Website have put money together to buy playground equipment from Playdale Playgrounds.  If my memory serves me correctly when we go back to school in September there will be a new Story Telling Chair, climbing wall and a bird table. These pieces of playground equipment will be great additions to the playground simply because of the play potential the children can have with them at playtimes.

The school playground is quite small really but the imaginative teachers have utilised the space to its fullest potential by having different activities in all of the nooks and crannies.  It would seem that apart from the sand pit and mud kitchen, the favourite playground activity is to build wobbly towers using crates and terrify any observing adult that they may just tumble when they reach the top.  Parts of the playground remind me of the concept of the, ‘The Land‘, in Plas Madoc in South Wales, where children are able to use every day junk to create their own play area.  Whereas only a minute part of Allithwaite school playground is dedicated to this type of play (it would look really awful otherwise) the whole play area in Plas Madoc is devoted to imaginative play.

Apparently when you approach, “The Land. A Space Full of Possibilities.” (Guardian) it looks like a dangerous junk yard and would send chills down the spine of any over cautious parent.  The whole point of the area is for children to learn about risk in their own way and explore activities that they may be prohibited from doing elsewhere.  Children who play in The Land recall exciting experiences where they have built amazing dens and furnished them with mattresses they have found.  Others remember building a huge water slide.   Inspirational youth worker Claire Griffiths set up The Land and with assistance supervises the children from a safe distance, broken bones and grazes are inevitable but that is all part of the learning process.  Play experts from all over the world have visited The Land to observe and gain inspiration from the project.

Plas Madoc is a town stained with deprivation, the local leisure centre has closed and play opportunities are few and far between for children.  The Land gives these children a sense of purpose and achievement that can not be acquired in a structured environment.  Apparently the risk assessment for The Land is huge and is based on risk verses benefits from the activity, the fire risk assessment is nine pages long.  I was lucky to grow up in a time where there was enough space to do all of the things that the children do in The Land before over protectiveness took hold.  Being left to your own devices to play and learn about pain and your limitations gives you a strength and independence that cannot be found in a text book.

As parents we really do need to loosen our apron strings and let our children find out for them selves what they can create.  It is very difficult though because when your child hurts themselves you can feel their pain and you want to protect them for ever – sadly this does not protect them as it make it difficult for them to deal with adversity in real life.


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The summer holidays provoke a mixture of reactions from parents, some embrace the time with their children and others dread the constant need to provide entertainment.  Without a doubt the summer holidays is expensive and even if you cut down spending to a minimum, if you are living in poverty it can still be too expensive.  Children still require feeding and tend to develop an insatiable appetite because they are outside a lot.  If you are a family that has relied on free school dinners to ensure that your children get the food they need the impact of the holidays on your food budget can be catastrophic. Yes there are food banks but the sheer humiliation of having to go to one is enough to reduce families self esteem to zero.   Just recently the very astute SNP MP Mhari Black quite rightly pointed out that “Food banks are not part of the welfare state, they are a symbol that the welfare state is failing” (New Statesman) whatever your political leanings are, you do have to agree that she has made a very valid point.

It is becoming more apparent that the establishment is making every effort to undermine families who have to rely on benefits to survive and the broadcasting companies seem to be in cahoots by producing belittling reality benefits programmes.  The shocking thing is how remarkably easy it is to go from a comfortable lifestyle to poverty simply through redundancy or ill health.  We are all part of the system and we are all at its mercy – maybe not today or tomorrow but sometime we will be, when we are most vulnerable. Getting out of the poverty trap seems to be like trying to climb out of a greasy pit and being pushed back in again once you see daylight.  People are having to apply for jobs in any sector of the workforce and can apply for hundreds of jobs just to be perpetually rejected.  Common sense tells us that it would be better if the Job Centre provided career guidance and directed people to apply for jobs they could be good at and enjoy rather than reduce self esteem to nothing and increase debilitating mental health problems.

Although the welfare of children is taken into account the emotional impact really is not, children suffer in every single possible way due to family poverty.  In April 2013 Caroline Hoggarth, headteacher of Greengate Infants School in Barrow, wrote an extensive report on poverty in the Furness area.  As Lead Commissioner of, ‘The Furness Poverty Commission‘, she lead a high calibre team on researching poverty in this area of Cumbria.  The research found that poverty is increasing and the impact on the town as a whole will continue the awful devastation caused by redundancy and lack of jobs.  The report includes quotes from people who had answered the questions and shows that they never aspired to be in the position they were in, it just either crept upon them or they were born into that lifestyle.

Living in poverty can be devastating for children as it deprives them of everything that is necessary to develop into rounded and confident adults.  When children go to school they are expected to spend their time learning and eventually applying what they have learnt to everyday life, in a perfect world this really does happen and a child does absorb themselves in their lessons.  However children who face the harsh truth of poverty and dysfunction are too distressed and tired to deal with learning, imagine trying to feel enthusiastic about capital letters if you have spent all night hungry, cold, listening to arguing  and feeling self concious because you haven’t had a bath.  The Furness Poverty Commission Report states. ‘The head of a junior school reported several children ‘unprepared for school- tired, hungry, struggling with emotional tensions at home. This dramatically affects their ability to learn’. A school adviser reported ‘the stress of family poverty seriously affects children’s ability to learn and to form supportive social relationships in school’

Every summer holiday children are uprooted from a routine that generally ensures that they are safe and teachers are making sure that they are well, they are receiving free school dinners and they are not alone.  As soon as they leave the school gate with their term’s work in their carrier bags they are at the mercy of their family circumstances.  For many they will enjoy days out, time with family and learning new exciting skills like how to swing as high as a bird.  Others will spend their holiday hungry, tired, lost and facing the reality of their situation.  Children are very much affected by their circumstances and suffering the effects of poverty and deprivation in your formative years can leave an emotional and educational scar that may never heal.


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I know that the Summer Holidays is all about making sure that children are entertained and not whining about being bored every five minutes but to me it is all about getting my son back.  I am really pleased with his progress in school and he has learnt an awful lot about a lot of things but now it is time for him to relax, enjoy playing and not have to do anything structured at all.  We have many plans to do simple things that are actually scientifically quite exciting like making butter and putting eggs in vinegar.  I am going to do a puppet show for him and his friend and no doubt we will go on adventures on the Estuary.  We will go on day outs and just enjoy being together.

I am so happy that my son is growing up to be such a wonderful human being and the fact that he is completely on my wave length is even more fantastic.  He has a thirst for learning, has an amazing imagination and is compassionate – yes he can be noisy, messy, whiny and just plain irritating at times, aren’t we all, but it never ceases to amaze me how much I fall in love with him more every single day.  When we first met I loved him because he was my baby and it is instinctive to love and protect him, now I love the person that he is and and am so proud of him.

The Summer holidays brings back memories of spending time in different playgrounds learning how to climb, slide, swing and look at the world around us.  Our shared experiences, when he was very young, have bonded us for ever and all of the times that I enjoyed like looking for fairies or messages in bottles he also remembers, we share the memory and become a little bit closer.  There have been times when I have taught him a lot of things and times where he has shown me that determination and never giving up is still a way to get there in the end.

I have learnt that true happiness comes from watching your child embracing life and confidently facing new experiences.  My greatest delight this summer is that my little boy has got a friend very close by to play with and have many adventures with.

The stellar speed at which time is racing past is the most important reason why I am going to make the most of being able to kiss and cuddle my son while he is still pocket sized because one day I will turn around and he will be man sized with children of his own.