7 ways to keep children active at school by The Children's Physio Ltd.

Written by: Ruth from The Children’s Physio Ltd.

With the final school half term looming just around the corner, give yourself and your little one a giant pat on the back and let out a big triumphant breath! You have almost made it through the school year and summer is within sight. Time Flies! 

School holidays are a great time to let your children have some fun, be more active and generally let loose after a busy school term. But what happens when the holidays are over? Here at The Children’s Physio we often hear how difficult it is to keep your children active whilst they are in school and doing long days and with ever increasing busy schedules how can you ensure your child is getting the right amount of exercise?

It is recommended that children aged 5-18 years should be doing 60 minutes of exercise every day to stay healthy and keep fit. An hour on top of an already hectic school routine can be hard to find the time for, but exercising everyday doesn't have to be a chore. Here are some ways you can encourage your child to keep active and exercise during the school day, whilst still having fun... 

Getting to School:

Avoid the dreaded school run! Instead of taking your child to school in the car or on the bus, encourage your child to walk or cycle to school. You could even talk to other parents who live close by and start a group so you can all stay fit and active and get to school together. After eating a healthy breakfast, exercising before school will help to stimulate brain cells and get your child alert and ready to learn. If the distance is too far, try getting on/off public transport one stop earlier than usual to get those important steps in.

 School Bags:

Here at The Children's Physio we are often giving out lots of advice regarding the correct school bag for your child's height and age. School bags filled with heavy books are often a major cause of back pain and fatigue in children. Do a quick check of your child's school bag to make sure it is no bigger than your child's back and that it has wide, adjustable straps. Make sure your child is only carrying what they need for each day to reduce the weight of the bag, you would be surprised how things can build up over time.

 Posture:

Being active keeps muscles fit and strong and protects your child's joints. Weak muscles can lead to poor posture, and poor posture can cause severe back pain. In school encourage your child to sit upright in their chair with a straight back. Not only will this help them stay more alert in lessons but it will prevent them getting stiff and sore.

(At London’s Little Thinkers they use the phrase PPP - when children hear this they need to consider their POSTURE, the POSITION of their paper/chair & make sure they are holding their PEN correctly)

 Make the most of Lunchtimes:

Lunch breaks should be fun and a chance for your child to take their mind away from the classroom. The complicated maths class or confusing science lesson does not need to be focused on during lunch. Getting active and doing some fun activities can help them relax and refocus ready for the afternoon. Ask your child's teacher what options there are during lunch breaks and encourage your child to take part.

No outdoor space?

No problem! Here in London there is an ever increasing demand on outdoor space and sadly lots of schools do not have a playground. Worry not, there are plenty of fun activities children can do indoors. Lots of schools are setting up lunchtime yoga groups, martial arts or using the school hall to allow for indoor play and games. Some London schools even organise daily walks to local parks. Have a chat with your child's teacher and see what can be arranged to provide your child with fun, stimulating, physical activity. 

 Sports Clubs:

These are a great way of keeping active, having fun, increasing self confidence and making friends. See what kind of clubs your school offers and sign your child up.

Movement/Brain Breaks:

It is advisable your child gets up to move and stretch during long lessons and homework sessions. This can help improve energy levels and prevent your child experiencing pain and stiffness.

Keeping your children fit and healthy can be more fun than you think. Do you have any suggestions that you have found work for you and your child? If so comment below and lets get sharing ideas to keep children fit, healthy and happy!

The importance of pretend play by Play.Hooray

Written by: Claire at Play.Hooray

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It’s good to pretend! Pretend play can be so powerful. Have you ever spotted your little one pretending to be you? It’s amazing what they pick up on! Your habits, phrases and the things that you do! That’s because children are always watching. They’re watching you because they are learning from you and learning what it is like to be a person in this world.

When children have the space to pretend, they can take on a new role or character from fiction or from real life situations. It allows them to practise and try to make sense of the world around them.

Pretend play is the most effective when children can relate to it. When they’ve experienced it for themselves. That’s why Early Years settings set up home corners because it is what young children have experienced the most. They know what to do in those situations and how to play.

Then if you want to introduce a new type of pretend play, it’s always best to go for something else they have experienced. Going to a shop or in my case it was always the Post Office as my son used to come with me everyday to take your orders!

Role Model/Scaffold their play

Keep your pretend play set ups simple and relatable. Oh and always remember, never assume they know how to play with it. No matter how many times they’ve been to the shops, it’s so important if you set up a shop, that you take the time to sit down and demonstrate how to play. How to be the cashier and how to be the customer. What do they do? What do they say? Take the time to model it for them and play with them. Trust me, they will thank you for it.

What does your little one like to pretend? And don’t worry if your child chooses not to engage in pretend play, not every type of play is for every child, and that is ok! and if you are looking for pretend play ideas your little one can relate to, don’t forget the pretend playPROMPTS are in the shop. Order here.

#Letthembelittle

Written by: Rebecca @ London’s Little Thinkers

As the wonderful Einstein said “Logic will get you from A – B. Imagination will take you everywhere” and here at LLT we couldn’t agree with him more. Sir Ken Robinson has always been a source of inspiration for me and I fully value his attitude towards enlightening imagination and creativity and moving away from the ‘production line of activity’ in education. It is time that we value each learner and support children to make mistakes, to think outside the box and to foster their imagination. You can probably understand now why I chose the name ‘Little Thinkers’ for my company. Children should be free to think, to explore and most importantly to dream and to be children! It is our role to allow them to be little whilst listening to and respecting them.

Our 5 top tips for Little Thinkers:

  1. Encourage them to ask questions, to dream, to think, to explore , to believe and most importantly to smile!

  2. Encourage them to appreciate the simple things especially in the world around them e.g. the people, the nature, the wildlife, the music, the food (the list goes on!)

  3. Read to them, read with them. Discuss, question, listen.

  4. Encourage PLAY. They need it and they are never too old for it. Let them be little.

  5. Praise mistakes and teach them how to learn from them. It is the best way to learn. I have always called them “marvellous mistakes'“ to the children that I teach.

The big screen time debate!

Written by: Rebecca @ London’s Little Thinkers

The question of ‘How much screen time should a child have?’ is a debated topic and one which does not have a definitive answer.

 In a new set of guidelines, the World Health Organization said that infants under 1 year old should not be exposed to electronic screens (unless for video calls) and that children between the ages of 2 and 4 should not have more than one hour of “sedentary screen time” per day but that “less is better”.

 However, these guidelines have caused a contentious reaction by UK experts who state that there is not enough evidence to back it up. What are your views as parents or educational practitioners on this?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say that there is not a “one size fits all approach” but that parent’s must be their child’s ‘media mentor’ ensuring that they create a healthy lifestyle where they encourage media as a tool to “create, connect and learn”. The AAP state that some media can have educational value for children starting at approximately 18 months of age, but it's critically important that this be high-quality programming. The AAP offers healthy media guidelines and recommend that parents prioritise “creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers”.

 Amongst all of the varied views, guidelines and recommendations, what we do know is that media usage must be monitored carefully, openly talked about and also balanced with other healthy behaviours which is what I will discuss in more detail below.

 Children develop rapidly in early childhood and it is important to develop a healthy balanced lifestyle so that they can reach their full potential.

4 areas to promote a healthier childhood for our Little Thinkers: 

Communication: Where possible, encourage media free times & zones including meal times and crossing the road. During media free meal times, take this time for conversation and talk. Ask questions, ponder ideas, discuss news and tell jokes! At LLT we love Nana’s Manners Conversation Cards & Would you rather cards; they are a fun way to generate imaginative conversation.  

Talk to your Little Thinker about what they are seeing and watching online. Teach them to talk to you if they see anything that makes them feel uncomfortable and encourage them to talk about online safety and respect. Face to face interaction is crucial in childhood so the more time you have without a device blocking that time the better.

Sleep: Encouraging media free zones, including inside your Little Thinker’s bedroom, will help to increase the amount of quality sleep that they have. It also limits the risk of children accessing information online which is not adult approved. Reading a bedtime story will not only develop your Little Thinkers language, communication skills, imagination and love of reading but also enhance the chances of a good night sleep.

Play: In the words of Fred Rogers “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But, for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” I couldn’t agree with this more. Working as a teacher/headmistress has meant that I observe childhood all day and the time where children are the most focused is when they are immersed in the world of their play. They are problem solving, they are communicating, they are imagining and they are learning and it really is a joy to observe. It is our role to encourage children to break sedentary activity and promote the world of play.

We often feel that children need to fill their free time with set activities and structured learning however it is often the simplest forms that create the most powerful learning opportunities and happiness. Last week I observed my nieces (both nearly 2 years old) playing; they spent hours in the wood finding bugs, looking at & listening to birds, picking flowers, playing hide and seek and running in the grass. . they were immersed in a world of simplistic yet powerful learning and it was all for free.

We often underestimate how simplicity can create the most engaging entertainment and effective learning.

I also recently observed the children in our nursery playing with a cardboard box. Some may say ‘a cardboard box? Is she mad?’ but it again leads to my belief that sometimes the simplest things can create the best imaginations. The interactions and communication that it created was magical to watch; they created their own theatre production using the box as the stage and then when their imagination was satisfied with this idea, the box was then transformed into a spaceship that took them to space to eat ice cream on the moon! A true representation of childhood at its best.

Exercise: Most often or not exercise is incorporated into play for children and it is our role as adults to ensure that the Little Thinkers in our care experience enough physical activity throughout the day. The quote “adults call it ‘exercise or working out’ but children call it play” has always resonated with me. Children are naturally drawn to physical activity, so it leaves it up to us to continue to encourage the time and passion for it.  Encouraging play/exercise means that children and young people reduce the time spent sitting for extended periods of time which has endless health benefits. The NHS states that children aged 5-18 should be active for least 60 minutes a day. This is linked to better general health, stronger bones and muscles and higher levels of self-esteem.

Although the evidence supporting screen time is often unclear and conflicting, what is consistent is the view that promoting physical activity, encouraging communication, play and sleep can only lead to a healthier and more positive childhood for our Little Thinkers.  

As featured in My Baba.