For many children, the idea of climbing a vertical climbing wall seems totally impossible and dreadfully scary. However, getting children to try climbing walls and physical apparatus is a great way to boost their confidence, as well as help with hand-eye co-ordination and concentration. This doesn't mean to say you should rush out to your nearest climbing wall and get them heading into the sky. Instead, try out a few climbing activities at home and see how they get on.
Stepping stones at the park are a great way to start off if you have any near your home. If not, make a few using sheets of paper on your lawn!
Climbing a tree is fun and even getting a little height by themselves (or a little help) can be very rewarding for the children, make sure the child is supervised at all times to avoid danger.
Walking along a low wall is great for balance and gross motor skills.
Stepping over huge tree roots can be tricky and a good practice activity for balance and concentration.
Traversing walls have become more popular recently and many children's centres and community centres have low, easily accesses climbing holes and stones so children can move along the wall from right to left rather than climb upwards. This is ideal for little ones scared of being too high off the floor.
It's all good physical practice and great fun for all ages children. Just take care not to believe those who think they can do it alone until you see it for yourself so stay close by!
A few kind words can mean everything to a child; a few misplaced criticisms can wound them - so, how do we nurture happy children? Here are a few tips.
Assure: at every opportunity tell your child about what they do well. If they sing nicely or walk well to nursery or show kindness to another, make a point of telling them.
Give them the stage: let them show you things whether it be a new song sung at school or a dance they learned at ballet. Allow them to have a little attention now and then.
Encourage: if they are struggling with something, be kind and calm and encourage them to keep trying and to achieve. Don't pester or push too hard, but give them confidence enough in themselves to try hard and achieve whether it be riding a scooter or throwing a ball.
Give them independence: if they want to help sweep the floor or get dress on their own, don't pester them, let them try it out for themselves, even if you know you are going to have to go round behind them and sort it out afterwards. Having a belief that you can do something yourself is very important.
Mistakes: are not always intentional so try not to get angry if they do something wrong. Give them the confidence to try again!
Praise them!: make them feel good about themselves by telling them how much you enjoy their singing, or love their scribbles. Display work even though you might think it a little less than perfect. Make sure you display it low down so they can see too!
For some children, no matter how cute the dog is, or how "friendly" you say it is, they are just too scared to even approach let alone stroke it. For dog lovers, and owners who are used to animals around the place, this is just beyond belief and seems entirely unreasonable. But for children, being afraid of a dog whether in the park or at someone's home is a real problem.
Of course, if its a huge, drooling Alsatian, we can see why is is scary. It's probably taller that the child themselves. But how can they be scared of tiny, waggy tailed dogs too? And, some children are petrified even if the dog is 100 metres away in the park or even the sound of a dog barking!
Why are children afraid of dogs?
As with most phobias, the fear is learned. It could be because they witnessed a parent being afraid in front of a dog Even if nothing was said, or no warnings given, if a parent jumped, or scuttled away in the presence of their child, that fear can be "taught" to the child. If could be that they were once bitten or pushed over by a dog when they were very small even if you think they may not recall the incident. It also could be because they have seen a "scary" dog on television or someone on TV act scared in front of a dog. It only takes on incident to register dogs as dangerous and then the fear is in place.
How to overcome the fear of dogs?
Dogs are everywhere: in the street, in the parks and even walking to school or nursery you are likely to encounter a dog walker.
The best way to overcome the phobia is to gently expose your child to trusted, calm dogs in a very slow and gradual manner. Just being in the same room as a calm dog will assure them. Then gradually bring the child nearer to the dog over time and slowly try to encourage them stroking them or holding their lead etc.
Watch a dog film together that shows dogs as funny or friendly or saving the day. Try Just an excerpt of the film to start with. Lady And The Tramp has lots of positive scenes in and is a gentle film in most parts, or try a live action film such as 101 Dalmatians to show "real" dogs in a positive light... although look through the film first and choose the happy bits rather than any dog aggression!
Take your child to meet some puppies. Tiny new pups are cuddly and often calm. Choose your pups carefully and check with the owner they are not jumpy or snappy. Your child may even hold one. (Try to do this away from the mother as she may get possessive a growl or bark which would defeat the object entirely!).
If you know any local people with guide dogs, have a chat with them one day and see if, at a convenient time and with their approval, you can introduce your child to their dog. They are so well behaved that they are guaranteed to be a great example of how lovely dogs can be. Although do chat with the owner first as guide dogs are working dogs.
Don't force them to be close to dogs or tell them not to be silly etc. Fear of dogs is a genuine fear and needs to be handled carefully to avoid a long term problem.
You may not have your own pets, but at some point you and your children are likely to come into contact with other people's pets. Even if you don't own a dog or cat, here are a few ground rules to set out for your children to ensure they are safe and calm around other people's animals.
- Don't encourage small children, not familiar with animals, to handle pets by themselves without supervision
- Don't allow them to hit or shout at an animal. Teach them respect and show them how to speak to the animals in a calm and sensible voice.
- Don't allow children to disturb dogs or cats (or indeed any animals) when they are sleeping, feeding, or playing alone. Animals need quiet time too, so they should be left alone sometimes.
- Don't let animals lick children's faces (or indeed let children lick or kiss animals' faces.) Just think about what they lick to keep clean!
- Don't let children feed pets with their food ie. sweets, chocolate etc!
- Double check that the animals you visit have been wormed and checked over for fleas. It may be embarrassing to ask, but it's worth it to know for sure!
- Insist on washing children's hands ofter playing with or handling animals, especially if cleaning out cages!
- Show your child how to approach, speak to and address with animals. Don't just tell them... show them so they can see for themselves.
- Explain that animals may not want to do what the children want them to do and have an opinion of their own.
Children love a run around and it's so good for them; we should encourage them at every stage of their development and at all ages. Research shows that children who are active at a young age tend to stay active later as teens and then show a greater desire to remain active in later life. These are the children who are less likely to develop heart disease or become obese when they are older.
But why get involved in sport?
Sport and exercise helps children in all sorts of ways; it assists their academic, social, mental and of course physical development.
How does physical activity contribute towards academic development?
If a child is not active, they will probably have low muscle tone. With low muscle tone, a child's ability in school can be inhibited. They may not have the stamina to keep up with activities involving fine motor skills (writing, making and creating) and friends will be ahead of them. As they grow older, they may not have the stamina to keep up in an exam situation, because they are physically weaker.
If they are active, they are working on muscle tone, doing lots of activities means they are using their muscles to make them stronger. There is also research to suggest physical fitness and ability in the classroom are related and that more active children do better at school. Healthier children are more ready to learn, it seems. There is a discipline involved with sports and physical activities which will effect a child's attitude to school work and their desire to do well.
How does physical activity help with social skills and confidence?
Children playing in teams work together and build on the idea of team work and sharing the defeats and successes of sport. They gain confidence and learn about trying, practicing and improving a skill. This confidence and teamwork effects how they treat their fellow classmates and makes them more happy and confident with themselves.
How do team activities and sport help with life skills?
...they can make children more self-disciplined and more self assured, they improve social interaction and working with others. Team activities establish the idea of being a good sports person, being a member of a team and being honourable. They help with attention span and determination to succeed. They introduce the idea of commitment and being accountable for your actions and build strength and improve gross motor skills to help children become more courageous and bold to try new things.
If your little one is 2-3 what can they do to start with?
Learn about the body and what it can do! Name body parts, discover how they move. You can crawl, run, skip (perhaps!), jump, hop (maybe?) and all these skills are basic but vital before moving on to the next stage of physical development and competence. Balancing, moving with apparatus and being in control are the key things to learn about.
If your little one is 3 - 4?
It's all about being in control and having lots of fun! Use balls to roll, throw and try to catch! Use big balls, small balls and all sorts of other things instead of balls to throw and catch with. Give lots of praise and have a laugh together whatever you are doing. Be supportive both mentally (ie. encouraging) and physically (ie. hold them when they climb a tree) while their confidence grows.
If your little ones are 4 - 5?
Practice and practice some more! Work on skills that they are good at and the ones they are not so good at. Practice balancing on logs, climbing trees, running and doing obstacle courses to improve and build on their strengths.
So, get out there! Join a club, go for walk, scoot along the parks, swim in the local pool, run around the garden and have fun!
ToucanLearn presents lots of fun game, craft and fun activities for toddlers and preschoolers, but have you ever wondered what the benefits of craft for toddlers are?
You probably realised that ToucanLearn is a pun on Two Can Learn, and this highlights our first benefit - supervising craft with your little ones helps strengthen the bond between you and your children. This can be especially useful for working parents who miss out seeing their children every day, undertaking craft with your young children will ensure that you dedicate quality time to them!
Craft offers an excellent way for your babies to explore the world and learn. Every ToucanLearn activity promotes child development and in the early years this is all about learning through experience. Craft comprises a diverse range of materials, tools and techniques, all of which will introduce new experiences to your preschoolers whilst developing their analytical and problem solving skills.
Most craft activities promote precise motor skills - the ability to hold a crayon, being able to direct it carefully around the page for colouring and writing, the ability to squeeze small dots of glue, to bend pipe cleaners into shape, to stick googly eyes onto fur balls; making pictures and models requires precision and as toddlers practice and practice craft, so their motor skills will improve.
Craft activities help to build confidence and self-esteem in your little ones. Craft gives them the confidence to interact with materials, to make decisions about how their craft develops, to learn to use tools and to choose what tools to use in different situations and to build self-esteem when they present you with a masterpiece!
While you're undertaking craft activities with your toddlers you'll be talking with them too, and the more they hear and communicate with you, the more their language will develop - that's all part of the quality time you're spending with them.
There are so many benefits to doing craft activities with your babies. They're never too young to start learning, even the youngest baby can begin just by touching and exploring materials, and you are never too old to undertake craft, perhaps you'll enjoy learning new techniques too!
Leaving your children with a babysittier can be a nervewracking experience - how do you go about finding a suitable babysitter? The obvious fears are whether your children will be safe left in the care of a complete stranger, and whether they will be settled with someone that they don't know.
If you're lucky, you might have family living locally who you can call on, but failing that there are a number of avenues to explore. Local authorities usually maintain a list of vetted and regular babysitters. You can ask them for details of a professional child minder in your area, and they often come with specific qualifications.
You may have neighbours that you have got to know well enough to entrust with your children and who are willing to stay with them in your home for a few hours. Your children may also attend a nursery or playgroup, and there could be staff here that are willing to do care out of hours.
If you are to leave your children with someone that they haven't met, then it would be a good idea to have an introductory meeting so that your children can get to know the person and recognise that they are trusted by you. The older your children, the easier it is to explain the situation, that you'll be gone for a short time and that this carer will be here to make sure that they are OK.
The first night away is difficult because you'll be nervous, but once youve done it for the first time, you'll find it becomes more natural to leave your children in someone else's care - this is after all what you do when they attend preschool or nursery, and as they grow older, your children will gain confidence and independence through instances where you are away briefly.
Starting at nursery, or moving to a new class, can be a daunting time for your little ones, follow our advice to make the transition easier. Nursery represents a whole new and unfamiliar enironment for your babies and toddlers - there are a lot of new faces both of staff and other children, and you are in new surroundings. The other children are too young to offer pastoral support as older children might offer to welcome a new child to school, so you really are reliant on your little ones gaining familiarity and confidence through you and the staff.
Before you start at the nursery, you need to make several trips there, with your children, so that you are confident with the buildings and with the staff who will look after your little ones. This will also grow familiarity in your babies, and if you are relaxed in this environment, your children will take their cue and this help help them relax into it.
As time to start properly approaches, start leaving your child, initially just for half an hour or an hour, and stay somewhere nearby but out of sight, so that staff can call on you if there are any problems. Steadily increase the amount of time that you leave your toddler for, and work up towards a whole morning away from them. Eventually they'll be able to go through the whole session, whether it is a half or whole day, without any problem.
Outside of settling at nursery you can also prepare them for the experience at home. Their clothes and, bags and other items that will go backwards and forwards to nursey will all need name tags; undertake naming with them and explain that they'll be taking these clothes and items with them to nursery. During meal times talk about the food that they'll eat at nursery, and who will be there to help them with their eating. Tell them that they'll have lots of different toys to play with, and that they will get to play outside in the nursery playground or garden.
Talking generally about nursery will help to bolster their whole experience, settle them more quickly, and grow familiarity with the environment and routine. Even if your baby is too young to talk to you, it's very likely that they will pick up signals from you and gain an understanding of what is likely to be their first independence from you.