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Fire Prevention Week

Fire Prevention Week

One of the things that we as practitioners worry about a lot is how we can keep the children in our care safe. You can see our Safeguarding article on page 34 for more information about how to look after safeguarding more generally in your setting. But in this article, we are going to look into the issue of fire and how we can use this year’s Fire Prevention Week to not only keep our children safe, but spread the word about fire and some of the danger it holds for younger children.

Fire Prevention Week runs from the 3rd – 9th October 2021 and is an American week aimed at fire prevention. In the UK, a national fire prevention week has been superseded by an array of specific awareness days and weeks such as Fire Door Safety Week, Electrical Fire Safety Week, as well as Chimney Fire Safety Week.

It doesn’t really matter however, because fire safety is important to everyone wherever they are in the world, and the recent tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire should be enough to alert us all to the very real dangers that fires still pose, even in modern Britain. Following investigations into Grenfell, there have been changes to legislation related mainly to residential buildings which require more rigorous fire safety checks and risk assessments for different materials on these buildings. And although they mainly relate to residential buildings, you cannot be too careful when if comes to fire safety, so it may be time to revisit your settings’ fire risk assessment as a matter of course.

Why teach fire safety?

Many young children do not recognise the dangers that fire poses to them, and children are one of the groups with the highest number of fire-related deaths each year with approximately 500 deaths a year in the under-14 age group. Many deaths are caused by smoke inhalation where little lungs are more affected than adults. Children under 5 may not be able to escape from a fire themselves and may instead, head to a favourite place of ‘safety’ such as under a bed or in a cupboard instead of leaving the building. Older children may feel the need to return to a building if they have left something like a favourite toy or pet behind. For all these reasons and more, children need to be taught about fire safety early – what they can do to prevent fires, and what they should do in the event of a fire.

If you visit the US Fire Prevention Week website, you will find lots of useful information and advice on how you can introduce the topic into your setting and although they have an American focus, there are still many useful resources and games that you can adapt for UK settings.

Some basic fire checks and procedures you should do regularly

  1. If you hear a fire alarm, get out and stay out – dial 999!
  2. Ensure all your fire exits are well signposted, have backup power lighting and are not obstructed in any way
  3. Teach children how to raise the alarm in the event of a fire
  4. Test smoke alarms regularly, at least once a month – most fire brigades recommend a sealed ten-year unit so that you don’t need to change the batteries, but if you don’t have a sealed unit, you need to remember to change the batteries once a year
  5. Keep paper stacked neatly and try to avoid having too much waste paper in one place so empty bins regularly
  6. Run fire drills especially at the nursery and make sure everyone knows where to meet – ensure too that you have dedicated fire marshals, readily available registers and people to take them, as well as escape plans for anyone who may not be ale to walk out easily, such as a wheelchair users or those with impaired mobility
  7. Ensure that you have a fire drill procedure for children with special needs – this might involve have a code word/visual signal rather than a loud alarm or ensuring that there are ear defenders for children if they need them
  8. Encourage your families to have a plan and to practice fire evacuation procedures at home
  9. Check fire doors – make sure they close properly and never prop them open
  10. Teach children about the risk of fire or burns/scalds in a kitchen and keep all hot items out of reach of children
  11. NEVER leave children alone with a fire risk
  12. Teach children what to do in the event of a clothes fire such as “stop, drop and roll” technique and the dangers of smoke
  13. Don’t overload sockets and check plugs and sockets for electrical fire safety. It’s best to turn electrical items off at night rather than leaving them on standby – it’s safer and also uses less energy
  14. Use a childproof fireguard in front of an open fire or heater
  15. Teach children about the dangers of playing with matches and ensure all fire hazards are safely locked away from little fingers
  16. Cover all plug sockets with safety covers
  17. Ensure your staff are trained in how to treat paediatric burns and scalds with first aid and keep their training up-to-date with regular revision sessions
  18. Make sure you keep children away from dangerous items by locking these items in cupboards with childproof locks
  19. Remember to check doors for heat before opening them
  20. Crawl near the ground if in a fire to avoid toxic smoke and fumes

These are just some of the things that you might consider teaching or going over in your setting, but there are a lot more things that you can cover too. Think about:

  • Candle safety
  • Bonfire night fire safety
  • Garden fire safety
  • Christmas lights fire safety
  • Burn and scalds awareness

There are some good ideas about how to engage children in fire safety at the website fireangel.co.uk including a list of some child-friendly videos. Your local fire station will also be involved in prevention advice and you may be able to arrange a visit to your setting along with some useful educational sessions or fire alarm checks.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

It’s hard to imagine but in this day and age, there are still two women each week who are killed by a partner or former partner in England and Wales. In the Northeast, the area with the highest recorded rate of domestic abuse, there are an average of 253 incidents every day. Over the course of the pandemic, cases of domestic abuse have increased globally by approximately 20% as many women have been trapped at home with their abusers with no escape. But it’s not just women who are victims; many men can be victims too, and in the UK, three quarters of a million children witness domestic abuse each year, which itself can be a form of emotional abuse on the child.

Each year, October is internationally recognised as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It began in the USA in 1981 and aims to raise awareness of the problem and highlight the help and support that are available to victims, women and men. Domestic violence is a problem that affects people from all religions, races, culture and status, which is why it is so important to highlight the issues.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic abuse/violence is defined as a “systematic pattern of behaviour on the part of the abuser designed to control his or her partner.” Anyone who is forced to change their behaviour, or who changes their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner or ex-partner’s reaction, is experiencing abuse. The abuse can take many different forms and can happen to anyone regardless of gender, sexuality, religion or status, although, it is also important to acknowledge that most domestic abuse is carried out by men and is experienced by women.

Physical violence is often the first type of domestic abuse that people think of, but domestic abuse can also be emotional, psychological, financial or sexual and it can start at any stage of a relationship. Domestic violence is also rarely a one-off event, and many victims report incidents becoming more frequent and more severe over time. What’s also important to remember is that domestic abuse and domestic violence are illegal, and they are never the fault of the victim, who will often need a lot of support, understanding and a safe place to live in order to escape the bonds of a violent domestic situation.

Domestic abuse is associated with anxiety, depression, substance misuse and PTSD, and studies suggest that women experiencing domestic abuse are more likely to suffer from a mental health condition; and women with a mental health condition, are more likely to experience domestic abuse.

Children are also affected by domestic violence

Whilst we can understand that physical or sexual abuse can severely affect the physical and mental health of the victim, we need to also understand the effect that domestic violence can have on any children living under the same roof. They can react in many different ways, for example, they may:

  • Feel frightened, insecure or confused a lot of the time
  • Keep their feelings to themselves
  • Struggle to cope with their emotion or experience emotional outbursts themselves
  • Become withdrawn and socially isolated

Children who witness domestic violence are themselves victims of a type of emotional abuse and need our help to safeguard them too. All children who experience domestic abuse will be living under high levels of stress for much of the day and these adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can impact on their own behaviour and well-being. As nursery professionals, we should be trained to look out for changes in behaviour as part of our safeguarding training and to report any concerns to our DSL (Designated Safeguarding Lead).

Some of the behavioural aspects you may notice in children can include:

  • Bullying or aggressive behaviours
  • Tantrums
  • Speech problems or difficulties with learning
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Attention-seeking behaviours
  • Nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • Bed-wetting
  • Extended periods of illness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irrational fears
  • Withdrawal

Some people mistakenly believe that all children who experience domestic violence will themselves grow up to be perpetrators or victims later in life, but this is not true. With love and support, a lot of children can transcend these early experiences and lead happy and fulfilled lives as adults. Others may need more sustained or specialist support over a number of years.

Help is available

In 2020, the Home Secretary announced a new campaign to tackle domestic abuse and provided an additional £2 million to help support domestic abuse helplines and online support in response to increased demand. They set up the Refuge helplines and website where people can find out more about help services. There is also a free-phone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. The campaign uses the hashtag #YouAreNot Alone, aiming to reassure victims that help will be available when they need it.

What is less well known, is the time that it takes for victims to come forward. According to the charity SafeLives, high-risk survivors live with domestic abuse for over 2 years before getting help, and medium-risk survivors for 3 years. They report that on average, people experience a staggering 50 incidents of abuse before seeking effective help.

How can you help in your setting?

There are a few ways that you can help in your setting, which fall under different categories of support.

  • Be alert to the signs and symptoms that children, parents or even staff members may be experiencing domestic abuse, and offer them guidance and support, referring any safeguarding concerns to your DSL immediately
  • Raise awareness of the issue of domestic abuse within your setting or community by joining in a campaign or setting up your own event.
  • Raise money for a related charity or helpline so that more people can receive support.
  • Collect and donate goods and toys to a local women’s/men’s refuge.
  • Be sensitive to any child, adolescent or adult you know who may have experienced domestic abuse in the past.
  • Remember, if you think or know someone is being abused, it is better to speak up than say nothing. If you are wrong, then there’s no harm done, but if you are right, you could save someone’s life.

Help and support

Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk (access live chat Mon-Fri 3-10pm)

https://domesticviolenceuk.org/

https://safelives.org.uk/

Safeguarding children

Safeguarding children

The safeguarding of children comes before all other requirements in childcare and education and should not only be a fundamental part of your practice, but embedded throughout everything you do as childcare practitioners. Safeguarding is not an optional extra – it is a statutory requirement that all adults working with children should safeguard the children in their care. Where there are lapses in safeguarding practice within a setting, at best, professional judgement can be called into question; but at worst, children can suffer extreme abuse and die. Safeguarding children is therefore extremely serious and your staff need to understand this properly.

Section 3.1 of the new EYFS states: “Children learn best when they are healthy, safe and secure, when their individual needs are met, and when they have positive relationships with the adults caring for them”.

Anyone working with children will know that if they are not healthy, or do not feel safe and secure, then they will not be responsive to learning, socialising or education until those fundamental things change. They are the 2 basic layers on Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” model. When they do feel safe and secure however, they can thrive.

What’s the difference between child protection and safeguarding?

Safeguarding is an umbrella term which covers a range of things in relation to children. In the Government’s published document “Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018)”, safeguarding means:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • Ensuring the children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

Safeguarding actions are usually things that you and your staff do every day to make sure that the children you look after are kept safe and well and that you are always looking out for their safety and well-being.

Child protection refers to a more specific process of “protecting a child identified as suffering from, or potentially suffering from, significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect.” This usually involves other agencies as well as the childcare provider, such as social services, healthcare services or the local police to ensure the child is protected from harm.

Underlying safeguarding principles

There are some key underlying principles in regard to safeguarding that everyone needs to be aware of:

  • The child is the most important person, and their needs should always be the first priority
  • Safeguarding is EVERYONE’S responsibility – it does not just mean the managers or qualified practitioners, but everyone who works in the setting including the facilities staff, office staff and volunteers
  • You should assume that “it could happen here” rather than “it would never happen here” so that you are always alert to the possibilities and dangers
  • All safeguarding issues should be identified and reported as soon as possible to protect children and ideally prevent them from escalating into more serious issues
  • Each person in a child’s life may hold one small piece of the jigsaw; it is when these individual jigsaw pieces are brought together that the true situation can emerge

Your statutory duty

As a childcare provider, you must ensure that:

  • You have a designated safeguarding lead (known as a DSL) who is responsible for all the safeguarding in your setting and who is trained in child protection. In the case of childminders, they act as their own DSL
  • You have robust written policies and procedures which are in line with your local safeguarding partners (LSPs) and which clearly state how you will deal with any safeguarding concerns. They should outline the actions you will take if you are concerned about a child; if an allegation is being made against a member of your staff; the use of mobile phones and cameras in the setting; and how you will keep children safe online
  • You must ensure that all your staff are adequately trained in safeguarding issues and understand how to respond to any safeguarding concerns quickly and professionally. This training needs to be updated regularly, at least once a year
  • All staff must understand the four categories of abuse – physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect, and they must understand what the signs and symptoms are for each category so they can watch out for them
  • All staff must understand how to respond if they are concerned about a child and how to make referrals to their DSL or other child protection agencies. It is NOT the remit of most practitioners to investigate safeguarding issues, but it is most definitely their remit to be alert, be aware and be proactive at passing their concerns on to their DSL
  • All safeguarding matters should be recorded securely and confidentially and passed on to the relevant people when necessary, such as at times of transition

Whilst safeguarding and child protection can seem intimidating to many at first, there is plenty of guidance and support available for settings. The government has produced several documents that are important to read and understand including:

These explain the national framework for how all agencies working with children should work together in partnership to safeguard children effectively. You may also be interested in reading the Ofsted advice to its Inspectors about inspecting safeguarding in the early years.

There are other aspects to safeguarding which are also important for early years settings to consider too. These include:

  • Due diligence in the recruitment of personnel including making relevant checks (such as enhanced DBS checks, references and qualifications) as part of a safer recruitment process
  • Effective use of risk assessments to reduce accidents or other problems
  • Any special safeguarding provisions for SEN or other vulnerable children (such as looked-after children, adoptees etc)
  • The provision you make for the well-being of children under new EYFS framework 2021 such as nutrition, exercise, and which now includes oral health
  • Your policies for the administration of medication in your setting
  • The use of ICT and how you keep children safe online
  • Your policies around anti-bullying
  • Any use of reasonable force policies you have

Your safeguarding actions and child protection policies are important and could ultimately, save a child’s life.

Don’t underestimate the power of high-quality imagery on your website!

Don’t underestimate the power of high-quality imagery on your website!

Your fabulous new website is built, you have the back-office login details in your hand, and now you can access your site to make changes yourself… hooray!

But… when you’re making these changes, are you giving enough thought to the quality of your page or gallery images you are placing on your site?

When updating your nursery website, you may be forgiven for thinking that content is the only aspect to focus on. However, all images and photos you add have a greater impact than you think.

  • High quality, compelling and relevant images will not only help improve the layout of the page but encourage parents/prospective parents to stay on your site for longer - boosting conversion to sales and decreasing your ‘bounce’ (emails returning to you undelivered) rate.
  • Studies have shown that online content with high quality images receive a higher percentage of views than those with poor or no images at all. This will boost your SEO (search engine optimisation).
  • The images that you place on your website reflect your setting and can show parents/prospective parents how you showcase your business. You don’t want people to see a blurry/pixelated image as this does not look professional.
  • Google rates high quality imagery and will reward your site for this.

 

If you have a social media account, please make sure you link your website to this to help drive traffic. Social media is a great place to ‘like and share’ to increase your reach. People are more likely to ‘like and share’ high quality images than pixelated ones!

If you have any questions about your website or would like further advice, please get in touch with us at websites@parenta.com.

 

The importance of hugging in child development

The importance of hugging in child development

“Hi, I’m Olaf, and I like warm hugs!”

Remember the little snowman from “Frozen”, who, contrary to his cold exterior, admits freely that he loves the feeling that a warm hug gives? Hugging comes naturally to most of us, and is one of the things that we have all missed so much in the pandemic. But do you know why hugs are important and the science behind their role in child development?

Research on hugs is not as bounteous as we might expect, perhaps because we feel it’s a natural thing that most of us do without thinking. However, recent research is now deepening our understanding of the role of hugs in child development, and early years practitioners need to be aware of this and use it in a practical way.

We all know how comforting it is to receive a hug, especially if we are upset or are physically hurt. Having someone else take some of the strain, and physically wrap you up in a safe, warm genuine hug is like nothing else. Our stresses melt away and somehow, it calms our mood and puts us into a better state of mind. But researchers have recently revealed that children who get more hugs, also have more developed brains, compared to children who receive fewer hugs.

As long ago as the 1950s, John Bowlby’s research pointed to the importance of a mother’s touch, and his experiments were fundamental in forming his theories of attachment, showing the negative effects that being deprived of physical affection can bring.

Touch is one of the first senses we use. Our sense of smell, taste, sight, and hearing function, but we need time to understand what the inputs mean for us, for example recognising the difference between our mother and a stranger. However, the sense of touch can have a calming influence from birth.

In an article on the benefits of hugging1, Dr Susan Crowe, an obstetrician from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, explained that as soon as it is physically safe for the mother and baby following birth, doctors and midwives place the baby on the mother’s chest, often with skin-to-skin contact, guiding the baby towards the breast to start the process of breastfeeding. However, regardless of whether breastfeeding is possible at this stage, the fact that the baby is being held by its mother within the first hour, can help normalise the baby’s body temperature, heartbeat and breathing pattern. The mother’s body releases hormones that cause more relaxation for her too after the exertions of birth.

This is the beginning of parental bonding and is not confined to the mother. If other partners hold the baby at this time, then their bonding with the infant starts too. The article also explains some of the benefits of infant massage for babies and how this can bring a wide range of benefits including:1

  • Better sleep patterns for the baby
  • Baby appears more aware of being loved, secure, and accepted
  • Improved digestion and bowel movements
  • Babies demonstrate more comfort by less fussy behaviour
  • Weight gain improves
  • Mother and baby appear more relaxed
  • Neurological function in babies is improved

Another review published on PubMed, outlining the results from various studies, showed that children in orphanages who had been deprived of positive touch, had detrimental effects, but when they received only 20 minutes of daily tactile stimulation, over 10 weeks, they increased their developmental scores.3 Premature babies who had their limbs stroked and mild limb movement, gained weight, had longer alertness, and more mobility. After one year, these premature infants scored high on growth and motor skills.4

One reason that researchers believe that positive touch and hugs are beneficial is to do with the release of oxytocin, which is a hormone and neurotransmitter produced in the hypothalamus and released from our pituitary gland. Oxytocin is responsible for the bonding between mother and baby. During breastfeeding, orgasm, and hugs, the levels of oxytocin rise leading to participants feeling trust, a maternal instinct and care, and it has sometimes been dubbed the ‘love’ hormone. Oxytocin has complex physiological interactions, and other physical effects in the body (such as aiding contractions in labour), but in the brain, is now thought to have beneficial effects on our emotional and social behaviours, affecting in some way, who we trust and see as safe. So hugging children can help them to feel safe and cared for by people they trust.5-11

This link between development and positive touch sensations extends into early childhood too, and children who have less tactile contact with their mother (either through a touch aversion on the part of the mother or the child), can lead to a condition known as ‘failure to thrive’ or FTT.12 However, when the children receive more hugs and positive touch, (which could be through interactions during play sessions such as a hand on an arm or a touch on a shoulder), the children can move from having FTT to being healthy and thriving, very quickly. Again, this is thought to be a result of the complex interactions of oxytocin which can also stimulate the release of growth hormones.

As well as affecting physical development, children’s emotional development is affected by hugs too as hugging has been shown to stop tantrums13-14. Many adults think that hugging a child having a tantrum will reinforce unwanted behaviour but as we understand the reasons behind children’s emotional outbursts better, and are beginning to see them as communication, this view is being challenged.

Children who are hugged when they are upset and cannot express their feelings, need reassurance and to feel safe again. A hug can be the quickest way to calm their fears and help them regain a balance in their emotions that they have not yet learned to control in other ways. Outbursts and temper tantrums are a sign that the child is stressed, which releases cortisol into the body. Too much cortisol has negative implications but a hug in difficult times can trigger the release of oxytocin, to counteract this. A hug will also teach them that you are there as a trusted adult, so can help them develop trust and resilience, knowing that ultimately ‘everything will be alright’.

So appropriate hugging is important in child development and can really make a difference to a child’s physical and emotional development.

References

  1. The benefits of touch for babies and parents. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2013/09/the-benefits-of-touch-for-babies-parents.html
  2. Origins of attachment theory. https://cmapspublic2.ihmc.us/rid=1LQX400NM-RBVKH9-1KL6/the%20origins%20of%20attachment%20theory%20john%20bowlby%20and_mary_ainsworth.pdf
  3. Casler L. The effects of extra tactile stimulation on a group of institutionalized infants. Genet Psychol Monogr. 1965;71:137-175. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14279691
  4. Preterm Infant Massage Therapy Research: A Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844909/
  5. https://www.exchangefamilycenter.org/exchange-family-center-blog/2020/4/2/the-science-behind-hugging-your-kids5-benefits-for-you-and-your-child
  6. Smith AS, Wang Z. Salubrious effects of oxytocin on social stress-induced deficits. Hormones and Behavior. Published online March 2012:320-330. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.11.010
  7. Uvnas-Moberg K, Petersson M. [Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother. 2005;51(1):57-80. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15834840
  8. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Turner RB, Doyle WJ. Does Hugging Provide Stress-Buffering Social Support? A Study of Susceptibility to Upper Respiratory Infection and Illness. Psychol Sci. Published online December 19, 2014:135-147. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4323947/
  9. Saphire-Bernstein S, Way BM, Kim HS, Sherman DK, Taylor SE. Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is related to psychological resources. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online September 6, 2011:15118-15122. doi:10.1073/pnas.1113137108
  10. Buchheim A, Heinrichs M, George C, et al. Oxytocin enhances the experience of attachment security. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Published online October 2009:1417-1422. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.04.002
  11. Kosfeld M, Heinrichs M, Zak PJ, Fischbacher U, Fehr E. Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature. Published online June 2005:673-676. doi:10.1038/nature03701
  12. Role of the Mother’s Touch in Failure to Thrive: A Preliminary Investigation: https://www.jaacap.org/article/S0890-8567(09)64114-9/fulltext
  13. The science behind your child’s tantrums. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/15/parenting/kids-tantrums-advice.html
  14. Infants Show Physiological Responses Specific to Parental Hugs. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589004220301802

 

 

 

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