As a home educator, I spend alot of time with my daughter. We play, talk, research and do activities together, or go to classes, out on adventures and meet up with friends. Aside from the usual parenting duties, I view my role mainly as learning facilitator and to support her development in all areas. However, for the most part, I don’t see it as my job to entertain her per se. But of course there are times when I do need to keep her entertained for one reason or another, or rather help her to entertain herself!
So how do parents choose to do this? Do you reach for a tablet, grab a book or get out board games? Or maybe you have a different approach? Rattan Direct are conducting a survey to find out more about how parents entertain their children. (Click here to complete the survey)
The survey asks questions such as which room in the house do your children spend the most and least amount of time; do they tend to hide out in their bedroom or do you all socialise in the living room together? Or perhaps they are most likely to be outside in the garden rather than in any room at all!
What do you prefer to use as entertainment at home for your children; books, board games, gaming or TV? How about on car journeys? Do you struggle to entertain your children or not? And what are your thoughts on technology; is it a good way to entertain your children, do you think it is educational and do you think it affects their sleep?
Personally I think technology can be educational and I think whether or not it affects sleep depends on the individual child. I do not personally use it as entertainment for Squiggle but that is down to our personal preferences and mainly due to her needs too.
We are most often in the living room or the garden. She often grabs a book or magazine to look at, or chooses to do some drawing or writing as an independent activity if I am busy for a few minutes, whereas games tend to be something that we play together. If we are going on a journey, she takes some toys to play with in the car and listens to music.
The final questions ask about furniture; for example, what do you look for in new furniture now that you have children? For us, there are alot of factors to consider but cost is important and durable is an absolute must!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this survey, leave your comments below!
*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Rattan Direct.
As it is Time To Talk day, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some facts about mental health.
Mental health can affect anyone of any age, at any time. In the UK alone, one in four adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year. (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001). Furthermore, one in ten children between the ages of one and 15 has a mental health disorder. (The Office for National Statistics Mental health in children and young people in Great Britain, 2005).
People of any age suffering from mental health issues need to be taken seriously and supported by those around them. The stigma that sometimes still exists around this subject in our society must be broken down, because people need to talk openly about mental health problems with the expectation of understanding and acceptance. Sufferers must never feel they have to hide their true feelings from the world, for that is the most dangerous thing of all.
However, as MQ Mental Health research suggests, the majority of young people are not in touch with mental health services and there is a serious lack of funding for such services too. In addition to this, around half of young people with mental illness are concerned about stigma and how they will be treated. This has to change.
As a parent of a child with an anxiety disorder, I know how important it is to talk about this subject and to ensure your child receives the treatment and support they need. Childhood mental health needs to be taken as seriously as adult mental health, and that also should be seen as just as important as any other health issue. But many people believe young children cannot possibly suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health issues; this is simply not the case. And having a ‘happy childhood’ does not guarantee against it either.
As an article from The Guardian explains “depression (like all mental illnesses) typically doesn’t take personal factors into account. Mental illness can affect anyone….
…Smoking may be a major cause of lung cancer, but non-smokers can end up with it. And a person’s lifestyle doesn’t automatically reduce their suffering. Depression doesn’t work like that…
…Perhaps none of it makes sense from a logical perspective, but insisting on logical thinking from someone in the grips of a mental illness is like insisting that someone with a broken leg walks normally; logically, you shouldn’t do that.”
I’ll leave you from the following message from Jason Manford, written shortly after the death of Robin Williams:
“If you feel alone and down, anxious and low. If you feel deep sadness but can’t find a root cause. If people tell you to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘things can only get better’ or ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, know that it’s simply not always true. Sometimes it does kill you. Please seek help. No one will think you’re being melodramatic, I swear. No one will think you’re silly or wasting people’s time. No one will say ‘what? But you’re always so happy, maybe you’re just having a bad day’. For some people, every day is a bad day and they get through it, but sometimes they stop getting through it.
If depression can (allegedly) kill Robin Williams, one of the world’s greatest funny men, well it can get any of us at any time. If the Genie from Aladdin can suffer and the DJ in Good Morning Vietnam can be affected by it, then so can you, or your child or friend or work colleague. I always remind myself of the quote from Watchmen: “Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.”
Please. Ask for help. If you have no one or if you don’t want to to tell them yet, then ring Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 for someone to talk to, or talk to your GP. The world needs you even if you don’t think it does. I promise, we need you here, now.” (Jason Manford, August 2014)
A UK longitudinal study carried out on over 11, 000 children by the Medical Research Council at the University of Glasgow concluded that:
Watching TV for 3 hours or more daily at 5 years predicted increasing conduct problems between the ages of 5 years and 7 years.
No effects of TV at 5 years were found on hyperactivity/inattention, emotional symptoms, peer relationship problems or prosocial behaviour.
Playing electronic games at 5 years was not associated with increased risk of problems.
The results are interesting but I do feel rather than take them at face value, it is important to think about the study itself. The original research paper can be found on the British Medical Journal website.
Firstly, the most obvious point is perhaps that it is carried out by survey and therefore relies on the parent’s perspective of their child, and also assumes they have tracked screen time correctly and recorded it accurately. Although the Strengths and Difﬁculties Questionnaire (SDQ) given to the parents to complete is described as “a widely-used survey instrument with high validity and reliability,” I have carried out the questionnaire personally and feel the questions themselves are rather subjective and the tick box answers very restrictive. In addition, each parent’s perspective on what the terms themselves mean, how the questions and answers are interpreted and parent’s perception of the children themselves will inevitably vary greatly. For example, one question states is the child “obedient”. Define obedience. Is the child obedient in which situations? What factors does it depend on and is this relevant? And how to then answer accurately with the limited options of not true, somewhat true or certainly true? Even the mood of the parent at the time of completing the SDQ or events taken place just prior could change the answers. Without a more holistic picture of the child, the questionnaires can not be assumed to be at all accurate, in my opinion.
Secondly, the study sets out to look at direct links between amount of screen time and mental health, ignoring the potential indirect affects. “Links between screen time and mental health may be indirect, rather than direct, for example, via increased sedentary behaviour, sleeping difﬁculties and language development.” If mental health is indirectly affected this should be equally noted in the conclusion in order to give a clear and unbiased presentation of the results. The other thing noted in the research itself and I feel relevant personally, is that the study was only carried out to show the effects on children up to aged 7. These are not long term results, there is no point of reference later in childhood or even into adult life. I think it is important to consider possible delayed effects that might not show up until later in life.
Also, the types of games played and nature of programmes watched were not taken into account and this is perhaps far more relevant than the amount of screen time. “There was also no information on weekend use, or the content or context of early screen time. Other research has indicated the importance of content for aggression and attentional problems in young children. Screen time in the context of parental restrictions or discussion of content may moderate negative effects.” The study itself suggests further study in this area is needed. “The study highlights the need for more detailed data to explore risks of various forms of screen time, including exposure to screen violence.”
In addition, studies should further examine the associated child and family characteristics which appear to account for most of the simple associations between screen exposure and psychosocial adjustment. What is appropriate for some is not appropriate for others, particularly in content.
However, the biggest point that the study itself mentions but that is not highlighted in reports of the findings, is the many factors that can affect how a child is effected by screen exposure. “For problem scores (conduct, hyperactivity/ inattention, emotional and peer relationship), detailed modelling (not shown) indicated that the set of maternal and family characteristics produced the greatest reduction in the effect of screen exposure; followed by adjustment for child characteristics. For prosocial scores, family functioning measures produced the greatest reduction in the effect of screen exposure.” This might seem obvious to many but I feel there can be a danger of oversimplifying the summary of results and not taking into account the other factors and, most importantly, the child themselves as an individual.
So do I think that there is a case for limiting screens? Yes and no. It depends entirely on the context. Limitations might be in time, or could be in content only. It might not be an imposed limitation necessarily, it could be mutually and respectfully agreed upon by the entire family. Sometimes the child might set their own limitations because they have decided for themselves that they are not comfortable with the content, or would simply rather do other things with their time. It might not be an arbitrary rule but rather stem from a very genuine and obvious need for it. The adults in the house may also limit their own screen time to meet the needs of the family. What works for one family may well be very different to another.
The fact is that everyone has different needs and I feel we need to be accepting and understanding of this in all aspects of life, screens are no different. Individuals are exactly that, individual, so the assumption that there is a right or wrong answer as to whether or not screens have any negative effects is, I feel, misguided. Families need to support their children in meeting their own needs rather than be guided by research one way or another. A million people can say they personally did or did not experience negative effects but if you feel differently and think it is causing any type of harm to yourself or someone you are responsible for, you are probably right.
In summary, according to the research paper “findings do not demonstrate that interventions to reduce screen exposure will improve psychosocial adjustment. Indeed, they suggest that interventions in respect of family and child characteristics, rather than a narrow focus on screen exposure, are more likely to improve outcomes.”It is not about reducing screen exposure or otherwise, it is about respecting individuals and how their needs vary.
Parenting is hard. And it is easy to focus on the mistakes we make, the things we haven’t done and the things we could do better. All too often we criticise ourselves, and give ourselves a hard time, rather than celebrating our own achievements as a parent, the things we did right and how much we actually rock! So I really appreciate both Mama Wilkos and The Baby Boat Diaries tagging me to write this post about the reasons why I am, in fact, rocking motherhood…
I know my child. Ok, this sounds like I am stating the obvious, I’ll admit. But she is a very complex child with some major additional needs, and I really get her. It doesn’t always make it any easier to deal with of course, but at least I understand exactly where she is coming from!
I am her mum, teacher, friend and therapist. I am her rock. I am even her business partner! I do my best to be absolutely everything she needs me to be.
I have taught myself the extra skills that I need to support her as fully as I possibly can with her needs, including CBT.
I have adapted our lifestyle and carved out our own path to better suit her unique needs, even though it isn’t always easy to go against the grain.
I support her in finding and developing her true passions in life, and to follow her interests.
I give her the freedom to learn at her own pace, and allow her the time and space to enjoy a raw simple childhood.
I teach her to be comfortable and confident with herself and who she is.
I make sure she is never afraid to fail or try out new ideas.
I help her to be a solution-focused, free thinker who throws away the box completely!
I nurture her sense of wonder and exploration of our natural environment and the world around us, and teach her how to protect it.
I tag the following awesome mamas to take part in this challenge too!
I first started blogging shortly after my daughter was born. I can’t even really entirely remember why I started blogging, I just felt inspired to write about my experiences as a new parent and wanted a platform to share. I think I also had vague ideas about one day writing a book and thought a blog might be a good place to start. But I didn’t really take my new mummy blog seriously, it was just a hobby, somewhere to release my thoughts.
A couple of years later, I then set up a separate blog to write parenting and SEND articles. However, once I started home educating I decided to focus on blogging about that and set up yet another blog! I toyed with the idea of merging the various blogs, and still do consider it often, but always decide against it, so far anyway. When the time is right I probably will do though!
So that’s my blogging story. And maybe one day I will finally write that book…
We love Kensington Gardens for a wander around the park and a play at Princess Diana Memorial Playground. This is a favourite of ours as it is a lovely natural playground with lots of sensory input opportunities. And it has wooden boats to play on, as well as a huge pirate ship! Squiggle is very interested in boats at the moment so she was particularly excited on this visit…
Here are our pictures from our visit last month too…
Sometimes I think the importance of playgrounds are undervalued. I have often included in my posts photos and information about our trips to playgrounds and it strikes me that some parents may wonder why this is even noteworthy. Yet everything around us can be considered of educational value in some way. Other than the obvious health benefits of this physical exercise, a trip to a playground also has another clear purpose as well as ‘just’ being fun. Playgrounds are highly beneficial for a child with sensory processing disorder (or any child without!) because they provide plenty of opportunities to organise the nervous system, especially through vestibular and proprioceptive input, which helps to integrate and rebalance the senses. In short, it has a calming effect and helps the child to be more focused and ready to learn. A playground is almost like an informal sensory integration therapy session, with the added benefit of being readily available and often entirely free!
Personally we love going out alone to quiet playgrounds during school hours for some unrestricted and unhurried therapeutic play. When we meet up with friends at playgrounds it tends to be a very different experience compared to going alone, both beneficial for Squiggle but in different ways. Whilst one provides a lovely social opportunity, she gets less out of those trips in terms of sensory ‘therapy’ because she tends to play differently at playgrounds when with others, rather than spend as much time on the range of equipment. So she particularly enjoys the opportunity to focus on the environment itself sometimes too.