Empathy Day was just a couple of days ago on 11th June. This day was founded in 2017 and was inspired by research which showed that humans are not born with a fixed amount of empathy and it is a skill that we can nurture and learn. Empathy means being able to imagine how others might feel in a given situation, and responding in a way that takes others’ feelings into account. It is a complex skill for children to learn and takes time to develop over a number of years. As outlined in the Little Wise Box of Emotions, there are many things that we can do to support the development of empathy in children. To name just a few in brief…
We can help children to learn to name and understand their own different emotions and feelings.
We can model empathy as little ones learn so much by how their parents respond to them when they are frightened or upset, and by watching our interactions with others.
We can regularly talk with our children about how they and other people might feel in different day-to-day situations.
We can read stories together which expose children to a wealth of new experiences, and give them the opportunity to practise seeing the world from the perspective of other people.
We can provide opportunities for children to engage in pretend play where they take on the role of different characters so that they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Small steps in lots of different ways can help to make such a big difference in nurturing the development of social and emotional intelligence in young children ✨🤸🏾♀️🌈✨
P.S. I was at my mum’s the other day for my birthday BBQ. I picked the crisp in the image out of the bowl. Just before I was about to pop it into my mouth it made me smile to discover that it was the shape of a heart. I thought it seemed like an appropriate image for a post about empathy 😊❤️
This blog looks at an example of how the Little Wise Box of Emotions can help little ones learn how to manage their emotions and feelings.
One of the benefits of the Little Wise Box of Emotions is the opportunity it provides for little ones to get really hands on and interactive in their exploration of social and emotional development. Not only does this make the whole process more engaging and fun, it can also empower kids (and parents) to be able to explore situations in more depth than they might otherwise do through talking alone.
As well as exploring social and emotional development more generally, the kit also provides a great opportunity to explore more specific situations. For example, it might be that you’ve noticed a particular event that regularly triggers big emotions in your child, such as worry, anger or frustration. Whatever the trigger might be, the Little Wise Box of Emotions provides a fantastic opportunity to explore things together.
If you have chosen a particular incident to focus on that makes your little one frustrated, for example, alongside other possible feelings, you could start off by looking through the different facial expressions/feelings in the kit and ask/help them to identify which ones are relevant to that particular situation. You could talk about how each of these emotions make your little one feel (not forgetting how they present themselves physically too). For younger children, this could also involve extending their vocabulary and introducing them to new names of different feelings (such an important part of developing children’s social and emotional intelligence). You could then validate their feelings, offer empathy and understanding, and reassure them that no emotions are bad, it is how we react to them that is important. You could then brainstorm together and identity different ways to handle the situation next time. And then of course praise them when you see them implement some of their new techniques.
Sometimes these conversations might need to happen several times before you start to see a difference. But, like sponges, bit by bit children are soaking everything up and are learning so much that they will benefit from for years to come.
This is a pretty powerful quote and so relevant to children’s mental health and emotional well-being. The wonderful thing is that there are so many things we can do to help give our children the foundations to help them to grow up into strong, confident, resilient and happy adults.
We can help our children to learn the names of different emotions so that they can learn to express themselves through words. We can talk openly with our children about emotions so that they know they can talk about theirs too, and know that emotions aren’t bad things that need to be suppressed. Instead they can learn that it is how we respond to them that is important. We can let children know that their feelings are important, even when it seems as though they are getting upset about something that might seem small, as it probably isn’t a small thing to them. We can teach our children about growth mindset so that they know that traits such as their abilities and intelligence are not fixed, but can grow and develop when we put the effort in and work hard at things. We can model behaviour by saying ‘sorry’ when we get it wrong, and we can talk with them openly about how we might try and manage our own feelings sometimes (‘I’m sorry I yelled at you. Next time I’m going to stop, take some deep breaths, and calm down before I speak’). We can help children to understand that how they think about something can affect how they feel, and subsequently how they react to a situation, and how ‘helpful’ thoughts can lead to more positive feelings and responses. Communicating positive messages to our children regularly (e.g. ‘I’m so glad you came into the world’) can do so much to help little ones feel loved and secure. We can lean down to our children, or pick them up, so that they can hug out hearts, and not our knees.
I could go on… And indeed I did go on in the way of writing the activity that comes in the Little Wise Box of Emotions. With this educational toy and travel toy, I wanted to put something together that is packed with tools, ideas and insight into different things we can do to help lay the foundations and support our little ones social and emotional intelligence. I hope that some of the ideas mentioned above offer some food for thought. A small thing every day can make such a big difference to a child for the rest of their life…
Wishing you all a happy Mental Health Awareness Week ❤️
Colour recognition is an essential building block in a young child’s development and will provide a range of life-long learning skills. Here’s a fun early years activity I’ve created to help little ones learn about their colours…
Firstly, you can develop a colour chart together. For this, you’ll need a range of different coloured pens or pencils and a piece of paper. The piece of paper needs two columns. The column on the left-hand side should be titled – ‘Colour’. On the left hand-side column you can then draw rows of different shapes in different colours, and colour them in together. Next to this, you can write the name of the colour. The right-hand column should be titled ‘Number’.
When you next go out and about, bring this piece of paper and a pen out with you. Keep your eyes peeled and see how many things you can spot together of each colour, and mark numbers on the colour chart in the ‘Number’ column. When choosing your colours for the colour chart, you could also use the same colour in different shades (e.g. a dark blue and a light blue) to further enhance children’s understanding of colour. The reason I wanted to draw the colours with shapes is so that we can also throw a bit of learning about shapes into the activity as well.
Little Wise Junior is seven now, and so has a great understanding of colours. Nevertheless, when I asked her to draw an example of the colour chart I describe above for this post, she became completely engaged in the exercise and really wanted us to bring it out with us on our trip out in the afternoon so that she can have a go as well. It just goes to show that one is never to old to have fun exploring colours.. Here’s to lots of fun learning through play
When creating the Little Wise Toys’ range for 3-6 year olds, part of the concept was to create a fun and interactive learning bridge between home and early years/early school settings. As part of this, and as a complimentary range of activities to the Little Wise Box of Maths, I would love to share some other fun maths activities that you can weave into your day using everyday objects. This blog post suggests some ideas.
When at home…
– Cooking together and letting children help with weighing and counting out spoonfuls and measurements.
– Sorting washing together by size and colour; and pairing up socks.
– Creating shapes out of different objects, such as coins or forks.
– Sorting and organising coins and notes into different piles.
– Cutting toast into squares and triangles.
– Model building with recycled breakfast cereal boxes etc and exploring different shapes and sizes.
– Marking everybody’s height on the wall and seeing who is the tallest, the shortest, and who comes in the middle.
– Writing a selection of numbers on a chalk board. When you call out a number they have to identify it and squirt it with water.
– Exploring position by moving an item into different locations and asking if it is on top of, underneath, in front of, behind, to the left of/or the right etc.
– Hunting for different things in your garden and counting how many you can spot (bugs, birds, stones, colours, trees and so on).
When out and about…
– Exploring the numbers on the number plates (e.g. see who can spot the number 2 on the parked cars while walking down the street; and have a go adding the numbers in the number plate up).
– Reading the numbers on the doors while walking down the street (and talking about different number patterns – e.g. odd numbers and even numbers).
– Getting the little one involved when out shopping – reading price tags, counting apples and other items, sorting coins and comparing weights (the heaviest and the lightest etc).
– Counting how many streetlamps, letter boxes, cats and so on you can spot on your walks; and how many steps you take getting from A to B.
I hope you find these suggestions useful and here’s to lots of fun exploring maths and learning through play.
The travel friendly Little Wise Box of Maths explores shapes, distances and sizes, amongst many other areas. It includes a range of tabs and images that children can use to help them learn. Here are some other ideas for exploring these areas using day-to-day items you’ll find at home or when you are out and about.
– Go on a treasure hunt to find as many objects of one shape you can around the house, and then sort the objects into different shape piles.
– Create different shapes using coins and other items you have lying around. Make large versions, smaller versions, and look at how close or far away the shapes are from each other.
– Cut out different shapes from a piece of paper and decorate each one in different ways with glue and paper, pens, pencils and paints.
– Find objects that you can paint one side of and stamp shapes lines onto paper (such as the end of a toilet roll or a pot lid).
– Play ‘eye spy the shape square (etc)’ when walking down the street and the other person has to spot as many things as they can of the chosen shape.
– Hide lots of different shaped items in a container with shredded paper and play lucky dip by pulling out the different objects and naming the shape that is picked.
– Cut out different sizes of the same shape and stack them on top of each other, starting with the biggest first and then getting smaller as you go on.
The Little Wise Box of Emotions explores a range of areas including naming, understanding and managing emotions and feelings; and building self-confidence and self-esteem, both in terms of abilities and with interpersonal skills and relationships. This blog post takes a look at some of the section that focuses on building children’s self-confidence in their abilities, and how some of these areas were applied in a recent climbing activity experience with Little Wise Junior.
As well as providing opportunities for children to discover activities that they are naturally good at to help encourage them to enjoy the process of learning, the kit looks at the benefits of stretching children’s abilities. Encouraging children to engage in age-appropriate challenges that they can rise to can help them to learn how to deal with small amounts of healthy stress. This, in turn, can help them to learn that if they put effort into things they can gain brand new skills and learn how to solve problems too. It can also be a great lesson in how to deal with and overcome frustrations.
I was super proud of Little Wise Junior when she did such a great job in rising to a new challenge. From when she was tiny, ask her to stand in front of a huge crowd in Covent Garden and join in with the street performance (which she did when she was three years old), her hand is straight up volunteering. When it comes to physical things, on the other hand, where she thinks there’s a chance she might hurt herself, she has always been much more cautious. She’s a very determined character and doesn’t like this to hold her back with things.
Little Wise Junior was super keen to try climbing for the first time. While she was very excited when waiting for her session, she was also feeling a bit nervous and apprehensive. When we were watching the other children in the session before hers she spent the whole time saying, with excited wide eyed nerves, ‘There’s noooo way I’m going to go that high’ etc. So, we decided to set a few goals while we waited (another area which the Little Wise Box of Emotions talks about). Starting off climbing low; then practising abseiling down from a low height; then going a bit higher next time; and then a bit more; and so on. She couldn’t believe it when she reached the top and abseiled all the way down. She was ever so proud. Not only did she gain a lot of confidence in her ability to climb and tackle physical challenges, she also had so much fun, and can’t wait to go back again.
Every child of course has different things that they might feel a bit more nervous or cautious about. Which new challenge do you think would be good for your little one to rise to and what goals do you think would be good to set to help them get there? Even if they don’t achieve the final goal at first, as long as they know that it’s the effort they put in along the way that is the important thing, this can help children to still feel proud of what they have achieved. I’ll be writing more about setting goals in another blog soon.
The act of colouring in can provide so many life-long benefits for young children. Here are just a few.
The act of colouring in can help improve fine motor skills in young children. The motions involved in holding the tools, and colouring with them, can help in the development of tiny muscles in the wrist, fingers and hands. This will, in turn, help young children to learn to write and manipulate other small objects.
Concentration, relaxation and patience
Colouring in requires lots of concentration and patience and the experience of focusing on the task can help a child develop his or her overall concentration levels. It can also be a calming activity that provides an opportunity for children to slow down for a while and relax while creating their work of art.
Whether children stay in the lines or not, colouring in is a great stimulant for creative thinking and self-expression. It provides children with an opportunity to develop a drawing style and enjoy creating an imaginary world. Children can also learn to plan as they make decisions about which colours they will use in their picture for different parts, and what order they will colour things in. As their confidence grows, they can start to take risks and experiment with things like colour, patterns, themes and special effects.
Hand and eye co-ordination
The act of holding crayons, choosing colours, and using the colouring tool in a specified area can all assist in the development of hand and eye coordination.
Colouring in gives children a wonderful opportunity to explore different colours and different colour combinations in a direct, hands-on, and engaging way.
Confidence and self-worth
Giving young children an opportunity to gain self-confidence and a sense of self-worth is never an opportunity to be missed. Colouring in and completing the task can help to boost a child’s sense of accomplishment and pride in themselves when they can see what they have achieved.
Don’t forget, when you subscribe to Little Wise Toys (via the subscription box), you will receive a welcome gift of four printable colouring-in sheets of the Little Wise Toys’ zoo, farm, sea life and farm life collages for your little ones to enjoy. The image in this blog is of the farm life sheet where my Artistic Director, Little Wise Junior, designed her colouring-in sheet to reflect some of the themes of the Little Wise Toys range (namely emotions, maths and phonics).
Happy colouring and here’s to the many wonderful benefits that it brings!
We all know that reading with children from an early age is a good thing. Just some of the many benefits include:
- a higher aptitude for learning;
- laying the foundations for learning phonics;
- enhanced speech and communication skills;
- a wonderful opportunity to explore life experiences, emotions and feelings; and
- a nurturing opportunity where you can slow down together for a while.
Here are ten things you can do to make the most out of your reading time, and help to make it a fun activity for children.
- Try and read every day, if you can, even if only for a few minutes. This helps to model reading as a daily part of life.
- Create a cosy reading spot together. You can use a comfortable chair, bean bags, floor pillows, or whatever helps to make a nice area for you to share reading time together.
- Keep books within reach. Your child may lose interest if their books are hard to reach. So, store books in an accessible place, such as a small bookcase, shelf or stand.
- Encourage children to choose their own books. They know what keeps their interest. It also helps them to feel important knowing that they can have the responsibility of helping to pick a book.
- Talk about the front and back cover of the book. This helps children to understand how the layout of a book works. It also provides plenty of opportunity for conversation (e.g. ‘Can you guess what this book is about?’; ‘What is the title of this book?’; ‘Do you remember reading any other books by the same author?’).
- Help to bring the book alive. This can really help children to become absorbed in a story. You can do this by changing your voice and facial expressions to go with the character and action.
- Ask some questions throughout to help children to explore and engage with the story (e.g. ‘What do you think is going to happen next?’; ‘What do you think he is feeling right now?’; ‘Do you remember a time when you felt like this?’).
- Point out the pictures throughout the story. This can help children to develop a deeper understanding and connection with the story; and the images can bring humour too.
- Children love to voice their opinions. When you have finished the story, ask them to let you know what they think of it by giving a thumbs-up, down, or in-between. Ask questions also such as ‘Would you change the story at all?’.
- Get your child a library card. Children can have lots of fun picking out their own books, and checking them out with their very own library card.
I’d love to hear of any other suggestions.
Happy reading… ????