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When it comes to under fives there are a lot of bad news stories – rising obesity, the effects of increased ‘screen time’ on social development, children reaching school age without basic skills required for learning. So you may think that serious early years educators don’t have time for fun stuff – like dancing around to silly songs!

 

Music is Fireworks for The Brain

Luckily for music-lovers like me, 20 years of neuroscience has shown that music is very good for us!  More than virtually any other activity, active music making – music making that involves seeing, hearing, touching, moving – engages all of our senses providing one of the richest learning environments that there is. In fact cat scans show that music activates the whole brain, with each component of music affecting a different part of the brain. So here are my top 5 reasons for making music part of your everyday life.

  1. Music Is Fun Fun: Let’s be honest. This is why we actually love music. It’s so much fun! Whether you’re singing along to the radio, waving your arms at a festival or singing a lullaby to your toddler, music makes us feel good. Why? Research shows that dopamine, a “feel-good hormone” is released every time you listen to music you like. Music has actually been shown to alleviate depression. And we have probably all experienced a bad day that was made better by listening to a song we love.
  1. Music Creates Togetherness: Yes,release your inner hippy! I’m sure we all have lots of special music moments: My favourite is from when my youngest daughter was around 5 years old. She had learned to whistle and we used to spend car journeys whistling our favourite tunes in harmony. It was hysterical and we never did get to the end of a song without collapsing into giggles. You may have sung in a choir, as part of a football crowd or in the car like me and my daugheter. Wherever it was, we have all experienced the bonding that occurs when we share music.  Scientists put it down to the release of prolactin, a hormone that bonds people together.
  1. Music Boosts Language Development: The very earliest exposure to music increases your baby’s mental age, communication skills and language development. A pioneering study in the benefits for babies was the first fully controlled study to assess the effects of music on babies (McMaster University Canada 2012). Within 4 months the babies in the music group were significantly more advanced in communication and social skills. In another study (Johanella Tafuri, Italy, 2008), babies that were sung to by their parents daily were compared to those who were not. It was found that the music babies developed vocalisations at a rate previously unimagined by developmental psychology researchers themselves.
  1. Music Helps Us Move: As soon we can move we respond physically to music: babies sway, toddlers march, pre teens work out their dance routines, some of us pretend to be Beyonce in the evening aerobics class…or is that just me! There are major international corporations making huge amounts of money out of the fact that music encourages us to move…and if it’s good enough for Zumba it’s good enough for us. Walking, marching, jumping, balancing, swaying: all of these physical skills can be developed through actions songs that focus on each particular movement.
  1. Music Develops Confidence One of the wonderful things about music is that it allows children to participate in their own way. One child may love to dance, another may focus on keeping the beat by clapping, another on singing. Children’s self-esteem is directly connected with their perception of themselves as competent. Music allows a child to be express herself in a way that is right for her, encouraging competence and confidence in her skills and providing a context in which those skills can be nurtured and celebrated.

If Music Is So Great, Why Aren’t We Doing It With Our Children Every Day?

I’ve only just scratched the surface of the many benefits that music making has for young children. If you want to know more, check out this video by researcher Anita Collins – it’s very entertaining as well as enlightening!

But here’s the problem…many of us just aren’t confident to do music, either at home or in the setting. We think that music is for just for musicians. This is wrong. Music is for humans. (And musicians are human too you know!)

So just to prove to you that YOU CAN DO IT here is a really fun music activity for you to try. There are 3 steps

  1. Watch the ‘How To Make A Shaker’ video here

(This is easy, cheap and fun to do together!)

  1. Watch the ‘Shakey Shakey’ video here
  2. Download your ‘Shakey Shakey’ song here and listen to it whenever you and your child want to boogie…which is everyday, right?!

Have fun and keep on boogie-ing!

 

 

 

 

The papers are full of stories of radicalism and terrorism on a daily basis and there have recently been articles regarding the failure of the authorities to prevent young children from being taken to Syria and becoming radicalised, as they pose in IS ‘uniforms’ and become part of the propaganda war. The Prevent Duty which was introduced to try and keep children and young people from being radicalised has taken some stick, with headlines about how we should be alert even with the youngest children.

Nurseries are now expected to explain to OFSTED inspectors how they are complying with the Prevent Duty, and this still causes some concern for practitioners. At a staff meeting last week we focussed on exactly what it means to us in early years and agreed that if we know our children, family and colleagues well and take time to listen, we are a long way to meeting our duty. We embrace a framework of tolerance and celebrating different cultures and since July 2015 the Early Years Foundation Stage has required us to promote British Values. This does not involve displaying pictures of the Royal Family (despite what some supplier catalogues would have us believe!) but does involve making decisions together, taking turns, being fair, respecting each other and understanding different cultures.

If any parents want to know more about how we promote British Values or how we fulfil our Prevent Duty, do ask your nursery manager or drop me a line. This article in Nursery World is also an interesting read. http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/nursery-world/opinion/1155379/nurseries-uniquely-placed-to-spot-radicalisationScreen Shot 2016-02-01 at 15.56.40

Reducing sugar in our diet

January 31st, 2016 by Sarah Steel

As January draws to a close, many of us will have made some new year resolutions to eat and drink less, or exercise more. However, there has also been a lot in the media about sugar and how bad it is for us. We’ve been focussing on sugar in drinks with our pre-school children in nursery, showing them pictorially how much sugar is in some soft drinks, including those directly targeted at children. A small carton of Capri-sun, which some might think was ‘healthy’ as it is fruity, contains 10g of sugar in just one serving. A 471ml bottle of Friij toffee milkshake contains an amazing 12.9g of sugar.

At nursery we serve only milk and water and encouraging toothbrushing after lunch. There are some great public health resources for anyone interested in cutting down on sugar, do have a look at: http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/change-for-life.aspx

Our display may at least make you think twice, or help when you are explaining to your child why water is so good for them in so many ways!Sugardisplay

Good quality pre-schools are start of lifelong learning

December 14th, 2015 by Sarah Steel

There was an interesting article in the Sunday Times yesterday about a research project at Oxford University, which follows on from previous research on pre-school provision. The study shows that children who are ‘turned-on’ to learning in their pre-school years will go on to achieve greater academic success. The Early Years Foundation Stage now has a real emphasis on practitioners looking at how children learn, as well as what they learn, which we describe as ‘characteristics of effective learning’. It’s always good to know we’re on the right track!

Have a read of the article for yourself:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-3507098520151021_091151

A to Z of attachment

December 2nd, 2015 by Sarah Steel

This is a lovely document for parents and carers explaining how we can all help children to benefit from the most secure attachments, which will help them to flourish right from the start. As a company we’ve had a real focus on attachments this year, with training carried out by Suzanne Zeedyk and a review of how we work with children and families, particularly during times of transition. Do let me know what you think…….AtoZofAttachmentandResilience2014SouthLan_tcm4-843853 20151105_140407

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