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Top tips

Navigating friendships & social interactions – unlocking the power of reframing

By | Top tips

While navigating friendships and social situations can be a fun experience for children and young people (C&YP), it can also be a challenging one at times.  We can play a crucial role in supporting our children as they develop the skills and confidence to navigate these encounters effectively.  One powerful tool that can help with this is the practice of reframing – the ability to shift perspectives and view situations in a more helpful and empowering light.  There are many different areas explored in the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkits for 6-12 year olds and for teenagers that can help C&YP with approaching social situations, including with challenging peer interactions.  This blog post explores some of these areas.

  • C&YP encounter a variety of social challenges, from making new friends to dealing with conflicts and rejection. These experiences can sometimes leave them feeling discouraged or insecure about their social skills.  Acknowledging and validating their feelings, while also providing them with the tools they need to navigate these situations successfully can be invaluable.  Just feeling heard can help to make such a difference.

  • The Reframing Your Thoughts toolkits introduce C&YP to a growth mindset.  Applying this to friendships and social situations, we can help them to learn that social skills are like any other skill where they can improve with practice and effort.  As part of this, we can emphasise that making mistakes along the way is absolutely normal and OK; and mistakes are actually an important part of the learning process.  We can help them to see setbacks as opportunities for growth where they can nurture all sorts of skills, such as resilience.

  • Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of a social interaction, we can recognise and validate these, while also encouraging C&YP to identify a more positive perspective.  For example, if a child feels nervous about approaching a group of peers, reframing the situation might involve highlighting the chance to make new friends or practice their communication skills.

  • We can help C&YP to identify, recognise and enhance their focus on their strengths and unique qualities that they bring to social interactions and friendships – such as loyalty, kindness and humour.

  • We can nurture empathy in C&YP and encourage them to consider the perspectives and feelings of others in social situations.  By understanding that everyone experiences insecurities and challenges (even though some might be good at hiding this), C&YP can feel more connected and empathetic towards their peers.

  • Setting realistic expectations is also important.  To help with this, we can remind C&YP that social interactions don’t always go perfectly, and that’s OK.  We can encourage them to focus on enjoying the process of connecting with others rather than striving for perfection.

  • In challenging peer interactions such as in times of conflict and/or bullying, reframing can be very helpful.  The reframing toolkits explore with C&YP how most problems have solutions.  With this in mind, it can be helpful to encourage C&YP to approach these challenging situations with a problem-solving mindset, rather than feeling defeated.  As the toolkits point out, while we might not be able to control others, we can control how we respond to situations and help to shape our experiences.  We can encourage C&YP to consider alternative perspectives and brainstorm helpful ways to respond.  For example, if someone says unkind things and/or is bullying another child, rather than thinking – ‘Why are they being mean to me/what’s wrong with me?’ – reframing the situation might involve recognising that the child who is being unkind might be doing this because they are struggling with their own insecurities.  Whatever the reason, as the toolkits also highlight, it’s good to let C&YP know that bullying is never OK; they have every right to stand up for themselves (e.g. ‘The way you’re treating me isn’t right and I’d like you to stop’); and they never have to face situations alone if they are experiencing a hard time.  There will always be someone that can help.

  • It’s also worth letting C&YP know that, sometimes, a friendship doesn’t work out how they had hoped as the friend often does things that don’t make them feel very good about themselves (e.g. by regularly leaving them out).  And sometimes it’s a good idea to walk away from these situations and focus on forming new friendships.

  • One effective way to help C&YP practise reframing is through role-playing and scenario-based learning. Here you can create either hypothetical social situations, or use real life ones, and explore together different ways to approach them in helpful ways. This hands-on approach allows C&YP to build confidence and develop problem-solving skills in a supportive environment.  Each card in the toolkits come with a question at the end that can help to spark conversations.

  • The reframing toolkits also emphasise the importance of focusing on progress and effort.  As C&YP begin to apply reframing techniques in real-life social situations, celebrating their progress and effort along the way can play a really valuable role in nurturing their reframing mindset.  For example, we can recognise their bravery in stepping outside of their comfort zone (no matter how big or small the steps might be) and commend them for their resilience in the face of challenges.  Even if things don’t go to plan, giving it a go is already a huge achievement within itself.

  • Another really important and relevant area highlighted in the toolkits is letting C&YP know that ALL emotions and feelings are OK – including the more challenging ones.  They are not things to suppress and are all part of what makes us human.  It’s absolutely OK if things feel hard sometimes.  The good thing is that most problems have solutions and all big feelings are temporary and pass in time – just like the clouds do in the sky.

Navigating peer interactions is such a big part of childhood development.  By teaching them the power of reframing – the ability to shift perspectives and find helpful ways to view social encounters, including with challenging peer interactions – we can help to equip C&YP with invaluable tools.  Through patience, encouragement, and lots of practice, we can help our children to navigate the complexities of social relationships and develop skills that they can continue to develop and use throughout their lifetime.

Managing anger & the Reframing Your Thoughts Toolkit for 6-12 year olds

By | Top tips

Managing anger. Children’s emotions. Helping my child to manage their emotions

✨Managing anger…✨

A lot of the gems in the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkit are in the small-print on the back of each card.  Here you will find a wealth of insight and practical support that children can use to help them to bring each reframe on the front of each card to life.  I’d like to share more about what is on the back of the anger card to give you an example.

The front of the anger card has the following reframe – ‘I’m feeling really angry and it’s all your fault’ vs ‘I’m feeling really angry right now. I’m going to calm myself down. Then I will think about what I can do’.

The back of the anger card starts off by letting children know that anger is actually a normal emotion that everybody feels and, when expressed in a healthy and positive way, it can provide opportunities for learning and change (e.g. it can be useful as it can let us know different things, such as when something doesn’t feel OK).  In other words, it’s not an emotion that we need to suppress or feel ashamed of.  It’s how we manage and react to it that’s important.

The card then goes on to explain how different things can happen to our bodies when big emotions such as anger arise because our body is preparing itself to protect us (e.g. faster breathing to give us more oxygen and sweating to help keep the body cool).  A sense of understanding what is happening when big emotions arise can be such a big help.

With this in mind, this is also why the back of the anger card then goes on to talk about how lots of other emotions and feelings are often hidden beneath the surface of anger and how it’s worthwhile thinking about what underlying feelings might be causing the anger.

The card then explores different practical things that children can do to help them to manage their anger when it arises.

Finally, a couple of questions are then asked to help children to think about how they can apply the relevant reframe to situations that happen in their own lives, and think about how they can apply the learning.

One of the things I’m really delighted to be hearing is how the toolkit is opening up lots of conversations and offering a valuable insight into what’s going on in children’s minds. As well as helping children to think about and approach things in life in a different way.

Here’s to helping children to open up and lay those all important foundations of social and emotional intelligence that they can benefit from for years to come.

Word games

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My nine year old daughter and I love playing different word games that we have made up when out and about walking.  We played these long before the big C came into all of our lives.  I thought I’d share three of the games with you in case you might enjoy them too while you are looking for different ways to fill the time.  They offer a nice relaxing idea for homeschooling too, which many of us have taken on at this time.  So, here goes…
The first game we play we have called The Animal Game.  Here, one of us picks a random letter from the alphabet. It’s really important to pick the letter out quickly without thinking any further than this (my daughter always wants me to pick the letter out as she says she can’t help but think ahead of the answer).  Then, the first person who comes up with an animal that begins with that letter wins that round.  You can pick the same letter more than once, BUT, you have to come up with a new animal each time a letter is repeated.  You can of course have other things as the theme for this game too.  Yesterday, I said let’s do it with flowers. Little Wise Junior said, ‘Nooooo, I hardly know any flowers’.  I persuaded her to give it a go and she surprised herself at how many flowers she did actually know.
Another game we play we have called The Letter Game.  Here, one of us picks a letter and the other person has to come up with a certain number of things they can see during the walk that begin with that letter.  The rule is that both players must be able to see the words they choose, and they have to be nouns (a person, place or thing) rather than an adjective (a describing word).  We usually go for around five words with each letter, but we tweak this a bit depending on how well used the letter is.
The final game I’d love to share with you we have called Speed Letters.  Here, one of you chooses a letter, and then the other person has to come up with as many words as they can within a minute that begin with that letter.  We’ve ended up in fits of giggles playing this game when we get all flustered towards the end desperately trying to come up with more words.
I hope that these offer nice relaxed ideas you can use for home learning when heading out together for your next walk. 🙂

How can I help my child develop empathy?

By | Top tips

empathy, social and emotional intelligence, children's mental health, children's well-being

Empathy Day takes place each year in June 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 ?❤️

Managing Emotions

By | Top tips

Managing emotions

This blog looks at an example of how the Little Wise Box of Emotions for 3-6 year olds can help children to 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.  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 these feelings present themselves physically too, such as a knot in the tummy, feeling hot and so on and so forth).   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.

Often 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.

Supporting Children’s Mental Health

By | Top tips

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.
  • We can communicate positive messages to our children regularly (e.g. ‘I’m so glad you came into the world’) which can do so much to help children feel loved and secure.
  • We can lean down to our children, or pick them up, so that they can hug our hearts, and not our knees.

I could go on, and indeed I did in the form of the Little Wise Box of Emotions for 3-6 year olds, the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkit for 6-12 year olds and the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkit for teenagers.

Wishing you all a happy Mental Health Awareness Week ❤️

Colour recognition

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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 

Maths Activities

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Everyday activities for learning about maths

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.

Learning about shapes

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shapes, early years, early learning, maths

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.

Happy shape learning ??????

Children’s confidence in their abilities

By | Top tips

Building children's confidence.

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.