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Reveal pictures – part 2

Reveal pictures – part 2

This craft is in relation to the “Celebrating difference and neurodivergence – part 3” article by Joanna Grace, and was created with her son imagining what his baby brother might be thinking about. This is similar to the activity associated with the previous article.

 

These reveal pictures are great for making displays out of. (We would love to see your displays if you do make them, tweet us at @Jo3Grace and @TheParentaGroup). If you’ve been able to do them on cardboard (some delivery boxes are perfect for it as I discovered) then they may well be durable enough to display at child height. This is a great thing to do because then children, as they explore: seeing the pictures of their friends and revealing the thoughts that lie within them, can have a hands on experience of hidden differences. They see the array of faces: here are my friends we look alike in some ways and we look different in some ways. And inside my friends, inside their brains, where they think, are different things. Some of my friends like the same things as me, some of them like different things to me.

What do you need?

  • Paper

  • Pens/crayons/coloured pencils 

  • Glue sticks 

  • Optional: Cardboard (some packaging boxes that books or DVDs are delivered in are perfect for this as we discovered)

Instructions

1. Fold an A4 piece of paper so that the two end quatres meet in the middle of the length, hiding half of the page.

2. Take a second piece of paper and attach it to the first so that it folds down covering the half page.

3. You now have three layers: 1) the folded outside, 2) the covering flap 3) the inside.

4. Draw the outline of a head on the first and third layer. On the middle layer draw a brain or alternatively, print a brain drawing. We have a free template you could download here.

5. Ask the children to draw their own face on the outside layer.

6. Invite them to colour in the brain that is revealed when they look inside their heads:

7. Ask them what their friend might be thinking and have them draw this below the flap.

Refugee Awareness Week

Refugee Awareness Week

Most of us have suffered during the pandemic in one way or another: we’ve been in lockdown, perhaps lost some income and have been prevented, temporarily, from seeing friends, and family. But what if that was a permanent change? What if we had lost everything we ever owned, had travelled thousands of miles to find a safe place for ourselves and our children, and had left behind all our family and everything we knew, with little or no prospect of ever seeing them again? Understanding this dilemma is going some way to understanding the challenges faced by the tens of thousands of people who become refugees each year through no fault of their own. 

It would be easy to think that the life of these refugees is one of misery and suffering, and there is no doubt that many people suffer as a result of being a refugee. But refugees often have incredible strength, resilience, and fortitude and can use their experiences to help others through telling their stories, finding their voices, and expressing their creativity. 

Refugee Awareness Week is a week-long, UK-wide festival, coordinated by Counterpoint Arts, which seeks to go beyond the stereotype and celebrate the “contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.” It was founded in 1998 and is held every year around the 20th June, which is World Refugee Day. This year in the UK, the week runs from the 14th – 20th June with the theme “We cannot walk alone”. This is a reference to a line from Martin Luther King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech, which describes the interconnectedness and interdependence of all humans. During the pandemic, we have heard the line “no one is safe until we are all safe”, which also underlines a fundamental fact of human life – that we must all ultimately, rely on each other to thrive; for by making the world a better place for our fellow humans, we also make it a better place for us. 

The organisers understand that we are also not all the same; that there are still differences in experience and access to power and resources that exist, but that these different experiences are part of a ‘bigger us’ which we can use to our advantage. Refugee Awareness Week is, therefore, as much about celebrating the stories of refugees through the arts, culture, sporting, and education events, as it is about raising awareness of their plight, fighting negative stereotypes, and educating people about the reasons why people become refugees in the first place. As the website states:

“Refugee Week is a platform for people who have sought safety in the UK to share their experiences, perspectives, and creative work on their own terms.”

It is a partnership project coordinated and managed by Counterpoint Arts, working with many national organisations such as the British Red Cross, the NEU teaching union, UNHCR, Refugee Action, various national refugee organisations, and Amnesty International, to name but a few. 

How to get involved in your setting

There are many ways to get involved in Refugee Week, and you do not have to have refugees in your setting in order to take part. The idea is that you are making people aware of the refugee issue and celebrating their contribution; this could be locally, nationally, or internationally. As lockdown eases, it is becoming easier to hold events again so you might want to organise something or plan to visit another event. You can find out what’s on in your locality by looking on the website at the events calendar or you can upload your own event as well. There are also lots of promotional posters, postcards and downloadable resources you can use on the official website which can be downloaded here. 

Simple acts

One of the things that the organisers want people to promote are some ‘simple acts’ that everyone can do, such as starting a conversation or reading a story. These are things that could easily be adapted for an early years setting by simply doing the things you normally do, but focusing on refugee stories or the theme of “We cannot walk alone”. We’ve listed these acts below and adapted some of them for pre-school children. 

The simple acts are:

  1. Sing a song – learn and share a song related to togetherness such as “The More We Get Together” which you can find on YouTube here or a song about saying “Hello” in different languages, which you can find here
  2. Watch a film – you can hold a film event for adults and watch some of the films recommended on the website or find some younger age-appropriate animations that introduce children to the plight of refugees
  3. Have a chat – start a positive conversation about some of the things that refugees can bring to a new country – think of things like food, art, clothes and culture and stress the benefits for everyone of cross-cultural collaboration
  4. Read a book – use your storytime to read some related stories such as “Lily and the Polar Bears” by Jion Sheibani or “My Name is Not Refugee” by Kate Milner
  5. Say it loud – create a message board with messages of support and welcome – it could be a physical board in your setting for people you know, or it could be an online version that can reach everyone
  6. Play a game/learn something new – play some games which encourage everyone to join in or are ice-breakers – it could be a circle game (see here for a list), or you could learn a new dance from another country
  7. Walk together – on 20th June, one of the events is the ‘Great Walk Together’ where you can join others celebrating inclusion and togetherness either as a setting or as different families
  8. Join the movement – extend the week to last all year by planning other events at different times and make sure that you are promoting tolerance, understanding and inclusion throughout the whole year 

Remember, ‘refugees’ is a collective term but each person is different and their experiences are unique, and as such, each will have a unique insight and different gifts to offer, so celebrate those. And whatever you decide to do, remember to tell us your news and send us your stories and pictures to hello@parenta.com.

Drowning Prevention Week

Drowning Prevention Week

Death has been in the headlines continually in the last year. However, one statistic you might not have heard, is that on average, 402 UK and Irish citizens die each year of accidental drowning, deaths which the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) argue are completely preventable, stating that “Even one drowning is one too many”. And they are on a mission to change it.

From the 19th to the 26th June, the RLSS is organising Drowning Prevention Week as part of their mission to help everybody enjoy water safely. The campaign encourages schools, parents, leisure centres, water sports providers, and the wider community to use water resources safely and to take the time to teach people the skills they need to enjoy a “lifetime of fun in the water”. The campaign is needed more than ever this year because a lot of time and education has been lost during the pandemic with swimming pools closed and swimming lessons cancelled, revealing a large education gap in water safety. 

What is even more worrying is that in some communities, where engagement with water safety activities and swimming has been traditionally low, this gap seems to have increased and there needs to be a large and more focused effort to reach out to these communities and get the messages across. 

Some of these under-represented communities include the Black community where 80% of children and 95% of adults do not swim. Other groups where the society is keen to get safety messages across are in younger people, particularly males since over 80% of those who drown accidentally are male and 23% are aged between 16-30, with a massive 46% reported as never intending to go in the water. 

Sharing is caring!

On July 31 last year, a ten-year-old boy, Ravi Saini survived for more than an hour using floating advice he had remembered seeing on a BBC TV documentary, after being swept out to sea whilst enjoying a day out at a beach near Scarborough. His RNLI rescuers praised him when they found him floating on his back, with his arms and legs spread, shouting for help, and were convinced that his ‘Float to live’ technique (see below) had saved his life. 

One of the best things you can do to help the campaign, therefore, is to spread the simple water safety messages, and to raise awareness of the issue among your staff, parents and friends.

Last year, the RLSS educated nearly two million people with essential water safety advice, and this year, they are hoping to reach many more. You can show your support by downloading and sharing images, templates and banners from their website to add to your social media accounts, and use the following hashtags and Twitter tags with messages of support:

  • #drowningpreventionweek
  • #enjoywatersafely
  • @RLSSUK

The society is also producing a range of educational materials and a toolkit to use in your settings and there are resources aimed especially at pre-schoolers, primary, and secondary schools too. The toolkit includes suggested social media posts, example emails, and blogs to advise parents about the week, so a lot of the work has been done for you. It is just a matter of getting the message out to the people you know. And there’s a prize draw for everyone who uses the hashtags/tags, giving them the chance to win a Dryrobe changing robe, so there’s an extra incentive to get the message out. 

What are the main messages?

This year, there are 3 main messages:

  1. Throughout 2020 and 2021, young people have vitally missed out on the opportunity to swim, leaving a dramatic gap in school swimming and water safety education
  2. Drowning is preventable – even one drowning is one too many
  3. Through free, accessible education and training, everyone can enjoy water safely 

Follow the Water Safety Code 

The Water Safety Code is a simple code to follow whenever you are near water and is the backbone of all water safety education. Its messages are simple and aimed at helping people make the right, early critical decisions around water, as well as telling them what to do in an emergency. 

However, water safety is not just about going swimming and their advice extends to keeping people safe at home, using the bath, paddling pools, swimming pools and aquaparks, and whilst walking near water in winter too. Check out the website for lots of helpful advice for families and people of all ages, and you can even learn how to gain lifesaving qualifications or participate in lifesaving competitions. 

Below are some of the main messages and advice to follow. 

‘Float to live’ advice from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)

People are urged to follow this potentially lifesaving advice if they find themselves in trouble after falling into cold water.

Fight your instinct, not the water – meaning don’t try to swim hard or thrash about as this can lead to breathing in water and drowning, especially if people are suffering from cold water shock

Instead, relax and float on your back, spreading your arms and legs out like a starfish until you have regained control of your breathing

You can find more advice on the RNLI’s website including videos on how to teach children to float. 

Celebrating Summer Solstice

Celebrating Summer Solstice

June is the month of the year when we all look forward to enjoying some warm weather, lighter evenings, and a long-awaited summer holiday. It is also the month of the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year which officially marks the start of summer. 

A little bit of astronomy

Our earth revolves around the sun once every 365.25 days, which we know as a year. However, as well as orbiting the sun, the earth also spins on its own axis (the imaginary line running from the North to the South Pole), taking 24 hours to complete a full rotation and creating hours of daylight and darkness, which we call day and night. But that doesn’t explain why we get seasons (spring, summer, autumn, and winter), or why we have some days that have more daylight (in summer) and some days that have less daylight (in winter). 

This happens because the earth is not in an upright position relative to the sun, but is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees from the vertical. As the earth revolves around the sun, the tilt of the axis remains the same. So, when it is summer in the northern hemisphere, the northern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun, whilst the southern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, thereby experiencing winter. When the earth gets to the opposite side of the sun in its orbit, the situation is reversed, and it is winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere. That’s why the Australians can enjoy their Christmas lunch on the beach, while we build snowmen and snuggle up with a hot cocoa! The earth’s tilt also explains why we have seasons and why the amount of daylight we get varies throughout the year. There’s a good video for children which explains the movement of the earth and why we have seasons here.

So, what is the Summer Solstice?

The Summer Solstice marks the point in the year where the earth reaches its closest inclination to the sun (which is not the same as its closest distance from the sun, however). In the northern hemisphere, this will be on Monday, June 21, 2021. This will be the Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere. It is also the day that the UK receives the most hours of daylight during the year, but the exact amount of daylight we get varies according to location. The North Pole has constant daylight at this time of year as it is angled towards the sun, whilst the South Pole experiences continual darkness. Daylight at the equator is constant throughout the year with equal amounts of daylight and darkness. 

At Stonehenge in Salisbury, thought by some to be an ancient astronomical calendar, Midsummer’s Day will see the first rays of sun at 04:52 and say goodbye to them at 21:26 giving almost 17 hours of daylight. Although, as we well know in the UK, daylight hours are not the same as sunshine hours, as our weather, clouds, and rain can get in the way of that, but even if this happens, the sun is still out there….somewhere!

How to celebrate Summer Solstice in your setting

Summer Solstice is the perfect time to celebrate everything warm and sunny with your children, so here are 17 different ideas to help your little ones celebrate  – one for each hour (or part hour) of daylight on Midsummer’s Day!

  1. Make a sun and earth mobile using pom-poms or simple circles of coloured card
  2. Plant some seeds – cosmos, dianthus and nasturtiums are easy to grow, and should do well if planted at this time of year
  3. Make some sunshine headdresses or masks or use some face paint to create representations of the sun and the earth – then create a dance or act out the earth moving around the sun and spinning on its axis
  4. Listen to some classical music – Vivaldi’s “Summer” from his “Four Seasons” is calming and evokes long summer days
  5. Celebrate with a Midsummer fete or festival – make sure you serve the quintessential British summer treat of strawberries and cream
  6. Press some summer flowers and make them into a solstice greeting card
  7. Create some sunrise or sunset pictures – you can use different shades of paper cut out in increasing sized semi-circles to create the sunrise/sunset
  8. Watch the sunrise live at Stonehenge via a live link on Facebook here (if you are up early enough) or watch it in your setting later on YouTube (so you can have some extra time in bed!)
  9. Make some fairy peg dolls and have the children create a dance on Midsummer’s Day – in folklore, Midsummer is traditionally a day when magic is strongest, and fairies and pixies can get up to mischief!
  10. Make a simple sundial by using a long stick and some coloured or painted stones. Push the stick into the ground outside in the full sun and use the stones to mark where the shadow falls each hour. You can find some instructions here
  11. Make some summer-inspired treats such as lemon fairy cakes, butterfly cakes or decorate some pancakes with sunny faces using bananas, strawberries, grapes, and raisins
  12. Learn some English country dances based on the idea of circles and rotation 
  13. Tell a simplified version of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in storytime or read some educational books based on summer such as “What can you see in summer?” by Sian Smith, or “A Perfect Day” by Lane Smith
  14. Make a daisy or dandelion chain, or a flower headdress to mark the occasion
  15. Meditate with your children, giving thanks for the day, and incorporate some simple yoga poses to strengthen balance and body awareness
  16. Sing some songs that celebrate summer – a YouTube search using “summer songs for kids” brings up many favourite songs as well as some new ones you might like to try
  17. And finally, sit around a small bonfire (following all safety precautions, of course) and toast some marshmallows – the perfect end to a perfect summer’s day! 

And if all that fails, and it does rain…. make a colourful fake fire inside and eat the marshmallows anyway!

SEN: dyslexia and dyscalculia

SEN: dyslexia and dyscalculia

Dyslexia and dyscalculia are two separate learning difficulties that can cause children to have problems with literacy and writing, or with numeracy, and are relatively common in children. It is estimated that 10% of people have some degree of dyslexia. Although these are not the same condition, they both come under the umbrella of neurodiverse conditions and there are similarities. Some dyslexic people also have dyscalculia and vice versa.

Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a lifelong problem and although there is no ‘cure’, there are strategies that people can use to help overcome some of the difficulties they face. Having a diagnosis of dyslexia does not mean people cannot succeed, although many may not do as well as their peers at school, due to some of the problems they face with reading and writing. However, there are many very successful people who are dyslexic, such as Sir Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, Jamie Oliver, and Stephen Spielberg, and many people with dyslexia have skills and abilities in other areas such as creative thinking and problem-solving.

Dyslexia often comes to light when children first begin to learn literacy or writing skills. They may confuse the order of letters in words and put letters the wrong way round such as writing “b” instead of “d” or “p” instead of “q”. However, many younger children also do this when they are first learning letters or mark-making, so identifying it can be tricky in the early years. Problems with phonics and spelling may come to light later, and as with other special educational needs, children with dyslexia may have problems following a set of instructions or may seem disorganised. 

There are a number of different types of dyslexia such as:

  • Phonological dyslexia (difficulty breaking speech into individual sounds)
  • Surface dyslexia (takes longer to process language)
  • Visual dyslexia (the brain does not receive the full picture of what is seen)
  • Primary dyslexia (an inherited condition)
  • Secondary dyslexia (occurs as a result of a brain problem in the womb)
  • Acquired or trauma dyslexia (occurs as a result of brain trauma or disease)

Some children present with delayed speech and language and this would need further help. If you suspect a child may have dyslexia, it is important to tell the parents and your SENCo so that testing can be arranged. Extra help may then be given and if this is insufficient, then it may be possible to gain a more in-depth assessment from a specialist dyslexia teacher or an educational psychologist, either through the setting/school or directly through the British Psychological Society or via a voluntary organisation, such as a local branch of the British Dyslexia Association.

These tests may examine a child’s:

  • Reading and writing abilities
  • Language development and vocabulary
  • Logical reasoning
  • Memory
  • Visual and auditory processing speeds
  • Organisational skills
  • Approaches to learning

Although quite difficult to pick up in the early years, the earlier that a diagnosis is made, and help becomes available, the more effective help is likely to be. Strategies can be implemented so the child does not miss out on learning which can include 1-1 teaching support and help with phonics, as well as technology such as the use of speech recognition software which can help children record their thoughts and answers instead of using traditional writing. Some people use coloured overlays over typed text which helps the words to stop ‘jumping around’ on the page. 

Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia is a condition that affects a person’s ability to acquire arithmetical and mathematical skills. People with dyscalculia may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts and lack an intuitive grasp of numbers. They may struggle to learn number bonds to 10 and 20 and the mathematical things they are able to do are often done mechanically and without much confidence. In comparison to dyslexia, dyscalculia is less prevalent, occurring in 3% – 6% of the population. Dyslexia is sometimes missed in schools, but dyscalculia is often even more overlooked. 

In the early years, a child with dyscalculia may struggle to count and/or connect a number to an object such as knowing that the number “4” can be applied to the number of wheels on a car, or the number of legs a cat has, for example. They may also struggle to recognise patterns or shapes so they may not be able to 

re-arrange blocks in order of size. In Reception class, they may display difficulty in recalling basic number bonds and understanding the four basic maths functions (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication). Dyscalculia is not the same as maths anxiety, however many children with dyscalculia can develop maths anxiety too. 

How to help

In an early years setting, it can sometimes be more difficult to recognise some of the symptoms and signs of dyslexia and dyscalculia because of the development stage of the children, and the basic nature of the maths and literacy taught at this stage. However, settings can look out for students who they feel may be falling behind their peers in simple literacy or number tasks, and alert parents to any concerns as soon as possible. There is a list of some simple signs to look out for on the BDA website, and practitioners should also be looking out for speech and language difficulties that can be a precursor for literacy problems later on. Looking out for children who have difficulty in counting or in recognising different values or patterns, is also important. 

What is vital though, is to remain patient with children and focus on the progress they are making with their effort rather than simply their attainment. Praise children for trying rather than just achieving an outcome (e.g. count to 10), and you will be developing a growth mindset in the children, rather than reinforcing a negative belief that they ‘just can’t do’ maths or reading. The biggest strategy you have at this age is to guard against imprinting children with a fixed mindset about a particular issue, which can lead to low self-esteem and cause further anxiety.

For more information, see:

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