Reasons to walk to school

5 brilliant reasons to walk to school

I have to be honest.  I don’t think I’ve ever walked my children to school.

We’ve walked home from school a handful of times.  And when Nerys was just doing half days at school I would walk her home fairly regularly when the weather was nice.

But for the most part now, with both children in full time school, we drive to and from school.

We live 1.2 miles away according to google maps, and it takes us about half an hour to walk there.  So realistically we could do it if we really wanted to.

There are quite a few good reasons to consider walking to school rather than driving, and here are my top five:

 

1. No worries about traffic or parking

I can’t be the only one who finds the drive to and from school quite stressful at times.

The traffic can be crazy some days, and it feels like we spend the whole journey stop/starting with traffic and various sets of lights on the route.

As for the parking, well I just avoid our school’s car park altogether.

It is absolute bedlam, with people blocking other parents in all over the place.  So I go for a spot on the side of the road, a little bit further away from the school.  And even then, some days, it can be a fight to not end up miles away.

So walking to school instead would be quite nice when it means avoiding all that stress every day.

 

2. It teaches great life skills

Walking to school for us involves crossing several pretty busy roads.  So it would be a great way to reinforce road safety ideas with the children.

A report from the AA found that children starting secondary school were less likely to be involved in accidents on the road when they’d had past experience of walking to school.

So practising walking to school when they’re younger can be great for gearing them up to do it on their own, safely, when they’re older.

It also lets the children learn some basic navigation skills that they just don’t really pick up sitting in the back of the car.  Letting them take the lead in saying which way to go and telling you when they think it’s safe to cross roads can really help build their confidence.

 

3. You’ll save money

Think of the money you could save on petrol (and wear and tear on the car) if you walked to school every day instead of driving.

A quick google tells me that the average family could save a couple of hundred pounds a year, which is quite impressive.

 

4. Walking to school helps children learn 

Regular exercise is known to have a load of amazing benefits.  It lowers stress levels and is great for our mental health all round.

It also helps to improve our children’s capacity to learn.

Walking to school can help boost their memories and improve their problem solving skills and their ability to pay attention.  Various studies have found that children who walk to school show better cognitive performance, better reading fluency and improved executive functioning.

All very good reasons to skip the car and start walking to school more.

 

5. You get extra social time together

As much as I try and chat with my children on the drive to and from school I’m aware that, obviously, I’m not giving them my full attention.

When you walk to school together though you can focus on them so much more.  And with the walk taking a bit longer than the drive would, you have more time together to chat and enjoy each other’s company.

When I used to walk Nerys home from school when she did half days it would take us quite a while, but I loved it.  I knew that before long she would be in school full time and that stage of our lives would be over, so I relished those walks home when we could just be together.

 

Writing this has made me so much more tempted to ditch the car and walk with the children to and from school.

I think I’ve just got so used to taking the car, it’s become a habit and has started to feel like the only way to do things.  Really though with the children the ages they are now we could easily enough walk at least once or twice a week.

I’d just have to get a bit more organised so we could leave early enough to get there on time.

Do you walk your children to school?  If you don’t, what is the biggest issue that’s stopping you?

Creative writing with children

Exploring creative writing with your child

Most school subjects depend on your child’s ability, whereas creative writing is more about who they are, rather than what they know.

Of course, there are skills involved in creative writing but they aren’t learned by revision and memory, which makes it all the more challenging. There are things parents can do to help their children explore the art of creative writing, as explored below by a Hertfordshire independent school

 

There are many benefits to creative writing for children.

It allows them to develop a strong sense of self and links academia to well-being. The first thing you can do is help your child feel inspired through their own experiences. Do you take them to museums or art galleries? Are they part of a drama or music club? Do they take long strolls through nature? If your child experiences a variety of different activities, the more inspiration they will find to write. Encourage them to write a diary in which they can jot down any exciting sights, sounds or general ideas. This will provide a basis for their creative writing in the future.

 

Another way to get your child into creative writing is through their reading.

If your child explores a range of genres and authors, they will soon get to know the main features of an excellent novel. Avid reading also helps children with their spelling and grammar; key ingredients to good writing. Games like Scrabble will have a similar outcome with regards to vocabulary. 

 

As with most great skills, creative writing can be a lasting pursuit, so the earlier your child starts to explore it, the easier it will become in their later life. You will likely be the first audience for your child, so try to always enjoy what they have written and point out the elements you thought were particularly great.

However, it’s also important to bear in mind that not all writing is created to be shared, so if your child doesn’t want to show you what they’ve written then don’t take it to heart.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

help your child at school

How to help your child succeed in school

All parents want their children to do well in school, but not everyone knows how they can help. The truth is, there are actually lots of things you can do to help your child with their education, even if you’re not a maths genius or a science whizz.

Simply being curious about their school work is a great place to start, because it lets your child know how valuable it is.

Here are some more tips from an independent college in London.

 

Be sure to praise your child whenever they do well on a piece of work as this will encourage them to keep up the enthusiasm.

However, don’t always focus on grades because it’s the effort that’s more important. Remind your child every now and again how proud you are of them for trying hard. You could even consider taking them out for a treat after you’ve seen them put in a lot of effort on a project or some revision. 

I always make a point of making sure that my children know that it doesn’t matter if they get questions wrong at school, as long as they’ve tried their best.  This keeps the focus on the process of learning, rather than making it all about the end result.

 

Make sure your child has a quiet and organised space in your home to do their homework.

There shouldn’t be any distractions, like the TV, and all their stationery and other school supplies should be in reach so that they don’t have to waste time looking for a ruler or a particular book. It’s also wise to ensure you’re not too far away during homework sessions because then your child can ask you questions if they get stuck. 

 

Try and set a good example for your child when it comes to working hard and putting in the effort.

When they’re doing their homework, you could use it as a good opportunity to work on your emails. You are your child’s first teacher, so always think about how to be a good role model and display the behaviour you expect them to display. 

The same goes for things like reading.  If you want your child to read more, then let them see you read more at home too.  Read together with them, and let them know that you read for pleasure by yourself too.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

How often do you say be careful

How often do you tell your child to be careful?

I’ve lost count.

My children are 8 and 5 and I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve said the words “be careful” to them.  I know it’s a phrase I’ve said many, many times over the years though.

The thing is, as time has gone on, I’ve started to wonder how useful those words actually are.

 

The thing is, it’s a natural instinct as a parent to want to protect our children.

To keep them safe, out of harm’s way.

When we can’t keep them close by our sides any more we tell them to be careful, to keep themselves safe when we can’t do that for them.

 

The problem comes when we say it too much.

When every activity is started with a ‘be careful’ ringing in our children’s ears.

If we’re not careful our words will start making our children fearful.  Too worried about potential risks and dangers to try anything new.  We’ll end up with children who sit on the sidelines and stay small rather than being bold and taking steps out of their comfort zones.

It’s a balancing act between teaching them to not be reckless and letting them take calculated risks and make mistakes.

 

I think that part of the issue is that ‘be careful’ is such an open phrase that it ends up meaning everything and nothing at the same time.

It means so much that it can make our children feel that danger is all around them and they should be scared of getting hurt or getting things wrong.

And at the same time, it’s so vague that it means nothing.

We’re not giving our children any specifics about what they should be looking out for.

 

What we need to do is be more mindful of the words we’re using with them.

When they’re coming up to a busy road we need to give them specific instructions about slowing down, looking both ways and listening out for traffic before stepping out to cross.  This is so much more useful than a generic warning to ‘be careful’.

And sometimes, that warning isn’t needed at all.

When they go off to play with their friends, try waving them off with a call of “have fun” instead.  Let them have the freedom to mess up, to make mistakes, even to get hurt.

It’s all part of life.

The hardest part of being a parent is gradually letting your children go, but we have to let it happen.  We can’t keep our children wrapped up in cotton wool.  We can’t protect them from the world.  We can’t stop them from ever getting hurt.

What we can do is give them the skills to cope when bad things happen.

And they’ll never learn those skills if they never try anything new, if they never push themselves because we’ve told them to “be careful”.

 

So next time you find yourself about to say those words, stop for a second.

Ask yourself if there’s a better way of saying it, that explains to your child specifically what they need to think about.

Maybe you’ll find that you don’t need to say anything at all, other than “have fun”.

 

couple time as parents

Making time to be a couple and not just parents

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again.  Having a baby changes everything.  It really does.  Some of those changes you can kind of prepare for and others take you completely by surprise.

One of the biggest things to be affected by the addition of a baby is your relationship with your partner.

When you go from it just being the two of you to suddenly having a third person around, who needs you constantly, it can be a real shock.  Throw in the extreme tiredness that comes with a baby and it can be really hard to stay connected.

Once you’re out of the really early days that are basically just about survival, it’s so important to make time for your partner.  To reconnect.  To enjoy each other’s company.  To remember who you both are away from your roles as parents.

 

If you’re struggling with finding time to be together away from your children, or looking for ideas for things you can do together to have fun and reconnect then look no further.

Here are a few ideas for ways to find the time for each other and things to do when you manage a date night together.

 

Really short on time? Try micro dating

If your children are still really young and you’re really struggling to find a few hours to get away together then give micro dating a go.

This is basically taking 5 minutes when you can just stop and ‘be’ with your partner.

If your baby is happy in their cot for a few minutes in the morning, then cuddle up together for a bit before crawling out of bed.  Enjoy a little treat together in the kitchen while your baby is happy playing in the jumperoo.  Take 10 minutes to just sit down and talk about your day in that precious window of time after the baby goes down for the night.

It’s all about finding those little pockets of time to just focus on each other and make sure you’re staying connected.

 

Team up and play an escape room together

When you get to a point that you can leave your child with a relative, friend or babysitter for a few hours then think about avoiding the usual meal, cinema combo (not ideal choices when you’re sleep deprived) and do something different. Escape rooms for instance are a great way to bond and boost your brain cells, which lets be honest could probably do with a workout. 

Experiencing something new together can also help you rebuild your connection as you need to get thinking and working together.  

What is an escape room?

If you’ve ever watched The Crystal Maze you will get the gist, basically it’s a themed room with a series of puzzles and clues you need to solve to escape the room. There’s so many great rooms popping up across the UK with anything from Crystal Maze itself in London to Harry Potter themes and science labs. For bonus anti-adulting vibes you could go to Poppa Plock’s Wonky workshop (pictured), an Escape room in North London that is perfect for any Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fans, with twisted toys and melted dolls. There’s even a robotic ventriloquist dummy called Oki to guide you along your way. Lady Chastity’s Reserve is also a good shout and available at a range of pubs across London and Brighton. And for anyone in my old neck of the woods in Kent, you can check out this list of top escape rooms in Kent.  

If you’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from each other then this type of challenge is a great way to get back on the same page.

 

Try date day instead of date night

If you find it hard to get out in the evenings, then try taking a few hours during the day to go on a date together.

You could make an arrangement with friends who also have little ones, where you watch their child for a few hours one week and they take care of yours the next.  Then you can head out for lunch with your partner, wander round a museum, enjoy a film at the cinema or chat over a coffee at the local cafe.

Get cosy and just stay in

You don’t have to go out to have a date night.

Put the baby to bed then make an effort to make things a bit special at home.  Turn off your phones so you can be more present with each other.  Cook a nice meal, or order something from your favourite restaurant.  Find a film you both want to watch on Netflix and cwtch up together to watch it.

If you know your baby is likely to wake up before too long, then make your plans around that.  Watch an episode of something rather than a whole film.  Just make a point of being together for that window of time.

 

Go for an adrenaline rush

When you get the chance to go out for date night, try doing something that’ll get your hearts pumping.

The early stages of a relationship are often filled with adrenaline.  Our hearts beat faster and we get those butterflies in our tummies when we’re around each other.  So doing something together that gets the adrenaline pumping again is a great way to reignite those feelings for each other.

You can really go for it and sign up for a bungee jump together, or keep it simple and head to the cinema to watch a particularly scary film.  Or you could find a middle ground with something like surfing lessons or indoor rock climbing.

 

Every little moment counts…

The thing to remember is that the stage of life you’re in at the moment is just that, a stage.

Things won’t be like this forever.  You baby will get older and won’t need you as unrelentingly as they do right now.  And more time will pass and they’ll grow up and get started on their own lives.  And then it’ll just be you and your partner again.

So make the time now to do what you can to keep connected to each other.  To remind yourselves how much you love each other.  To keep in touch with the people you were before your baby arrived and everything changed.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Boost child's self esteem

3 ways to boost your child’s self-esteem

When our children start school they’re suddenly introduced to a whole new world.

There are new social expectations to learn about, new relationships to navigate and new challenges to face.

For a lot of children these things can give their self-esteem a bit of a knock, and leave them feeling a bit down on themselves.  If you’re worried about this with your child, then here are three things you can try to help give their self-esteem a boost.

 

1. Help them develop a positive mindset and positive self-talk

When you talk to your child about their day, encourage them to focus on the positives.  And if they faced any issues, talk them through with them and work together to come up with solutions and ways to move forwards.

Be careful of the way you talk about your child too.  Let them hear you describe them in positive terms.  Talk to them about how strong they are, how hard they work, how great it is that they’re kind and thoughtful.  The way you talk to them will play a huge part in how they talk to themselves.

You also need to be very careful of the way you talk to yourself in front of them.

If they hear negative self-talk from you, like ‘I’m useless at this’, ‘I look awful’, ‘I can’t do this’, then they’ll start to think that it’s ok to talk to themselves negatively too.

 

2. Keep an eye on who they spend time with

There’s a saying that you become the average of the five people you spend your time with.  And while I’m not sure how true this really is, I do know that most of us are influenced by the people we hang out with.

So keep an eye on the friendships that your child is forming.

Encourage them to spend time with people who are positive and who build them up, rather than knock them down.  Teach to stand up for themselves and to walk away from friendships that don’t feel healthy and supportive.

 

3. Encourage them to try new things

One of the best things we can all do to boost our self-esteem is to try new things.

It’s scary at first but we get so much out of realising that we’re improving and making progress with something as we learn more about it.

So encourage your child to try new sports, to go along to different clubs at school, to have a go at a new craft activity.  Groups like the cubs are also great for giving them the chance to try out all kinds of new activities.

Work on developing a growth mindset, so that they learn to think about challenges and new things in a positive way.  It’s all about them realising that they can’t do something YET, but with time and effort they’ll crack it.

When they realise what they’re capable of their self-esteem will get a real boost, and they’ll find it easier to step out of their comfort zone next time.

 

Which of these things do you think would have the biggest impact on your child’s self-esteem?

What’s interesting to keep in mind is that our children are all different, and what will really help one child won’t have anywhere near as much impact for another.

I think trying new experiences will help Nerys develop a good sense of self-esteem, while encouraging a positive mindset and positive self-talk will be really important for Rhys.  If one approach doesn’t seem to help much with your child, then move on and try something else that might work better with their personality and their nature.

Build resilience in children

5 ways to build your child’s resilience

As my children get older I’m so aware of them taking more and more steps away from me, and out into the world on their own.

It’s wonderful and scary and bittersweet.

I hope that I’m doing enough to give them the skills they need to cope out there.  One of the big things that’s on my mind lately is resilience.  It’s such a key skill to be able to cope with all the knocks and troubles that life can throw at you.

So I’ve done a bit of research and found these 5 things that we can work on to help our children become more resilient.

 

1. Encourage a sense of humour

Laughing can be a great way to relieve stress, and actually has a lot of the same benefits as exercise.  As well as reducing stress it boosts our overall sense of well-being.

A study carried out in 2011 found that people in a ‘humour’ group showed a significant increase in self-efficacy, optimism and perceptions of control, compared to those in the ‘social’ group and the control group.

So having a good sense of humour can help us feel more in control of things, as well as being more optimistic about everything.

Make a point of joking with your children, tell them silly stories, laugh at their made-up jokes to encourage them to keep telling them.  You can also lead by example and find the humour in potentially stressful situations.

Laugh with them about how ridiculously long the queues are at the supermarket (and the fact you always pick the ‘wrong’ one!).  Tell them knock knock jokes when you’re stuck in traffic, rather than being stressed about being late.

Being able to take a step back and find humour in a situation is a great tool for children to learn to use, and will be a big help in boosting their resilience.

 

2. Let them explore and express their feelings

Emotional awareness is a big part of resilience.

If you’re feeling sad or stressed or disappointed, it’s really important to be able to understand what those emotions are, and why you’re feeling them.

So make time to talk to your child about their day, and how they felt about different parts of it.

Name emotions for them, and discuss times that you’ve felt the same way.

As they get older you can encourage them to write in a diary or journal regularly to express their feelings, to get them out on paper and to work through them.

 

3. Get them moving

There are so many benefits to regular exercise, from improved sleep to lower stress levels.  But exercise also makes us more resilient.

Studies have shown that exercising regularly boost stress resistance and our ability to cope with stress.  It’s mainly thanks to the feel-good hormones that are released when we exercise, but there might be even more to it than that.

Regular exercise reduces our baseline levels of stress hormones, like cortisol.  It also lowers our hormonal response to sudden psychological stress.  So when something happens that would normally send our stress levels through the roof, we don’t react in the same way.  Our bodies would normally release a load of hormones like norepinephrine when something suddenly startles us or makes us feel scared.  This hormonal response has been found to be reduced though, in people who exercise regularly.

So encouraging our children to move around, to run, to practice yoga, to swim, will help them have a more controlled response to stressful situations and make them more emotionally resilient.

 

4. Help them develop an internal locus of control

We all naturally tend to have either an internal or external locus of control.  Meaning we either believe that we are in control of our lives and what happens to us, or we believe that most things are out of our hands.

What’s good to know though is that you’re not stuck being one way or the other.

If your child seems to naturally feel that things are out of their control then you can help them develop an internal locus of control.  This way they’ll learn to believe that they are in control of their lives.

People with an internal locus of control tend to be happier, and feel more free and less stressed.  They know that they have control over how they react, even if certain circumstances are out of their control.

 

5. Encourage the right attitude

The way we think about life, the world and everything really, is incredibly powerful.

Working with your child to develop an optimistic view of life is a great way to help them cope better with whatever life throws at them.  An optimistic world view will help them see difficulties as challenges, rather than problems.  They’ll face them with ideas and actions, rather than feeling defeated and helpless about them.

Talking with your child about how strong they are, how capable they are, and generally encouraging a growth mindset will really help them become more resilient and better able to face anything.

 

There’s a quote that I read ages ago that really stuck with me, about how the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

When it comes to resilience I think one of the best things we can do is talk to our children.

Remind them often how strong they are.  Discuss problems together and encourage them to come up with solutions and actions they can take to make things better.  Talk about your feelings and let them know it’s safe for them to talk with you about theirs.

 

Do you worry about your child being resilient enough to cope as they get older?

What do you think would have the biggest impact on boosting their resilience?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday