Family Day ticket – Summer 2017

Exclusive online Family Day Ticket – Summer 2017!

£20 admits 4 people, one of which must be an adult.

Enjoy a whole day’s play at any 360 centre.

Valid for use from July 22nd to September 5th 2017

To buy your tickets CLICK HERE

For Ts and Cs  click here

You can also buy a Quarterly Pass for £55 which lasts the whole of the summer holidays.

Our Annual Play Pass is £125 for a year’s unlimited play, which works out as only £2.40 a week!

Classes Update

School’s Out – no classes until September!

During the summer holidays most of our classes are taking a break. Please check with your local centre to see if your favourite class will be taking place.

Our Messy Play activities will of course be continuing every day and the classes will be starting again in September.

Remember to pick up your Coffee Loyalty Card

Our coffee loyalty card rewards you for drinking our delicious coffee, or, if you prefer a tea or hot chocolate. Collect a stamp for every hot drink you buy.

Surrender your loyalty card to receive a FREE hot drink after 5 stamps or carry on saving to 10 stamps for a FREE hot drink and a FREE cake.

As well as serving Wicked Coffee, we serve fresh food throughout the day from a snack to a full meal. Take a look at our menus.

T’s & C’s:

  • Free drink is a small size coffee, or tea or a standard hot chocolate.
  • One stamp per each hot drink purchased.
  • Cannot be exchanged for cash or any other alternative.

Fun Language Learning for Kids

Try Fun French or Spanish for little ones for FREE at 360 Play with Kidslingo

At Kidslingo it’s all about fun language learning for kids! Learning a second language at a young age has huge benefits for little ones & can be enormous fun in the process. In Kidslingo classes we use songs, games, actions, songs, stories & let’s pretend to inspire the little linguists of tomorrow to love languages from a very early age.

Kids get all of the benefits of a fun & entertaining class with bubbles, songs, musical instruments, toys and of course a parachute, but the added benefit of instilling basic second language skills which will stay with them for life.

Our baby classes are a musical & multi-sensory experience with a flavour of French or Spanish – children under the age of 3 have an innate ability to hear sounds that diminishes after that age – so exposure to a second language before that age is key. The adage of ‘they are like sponges’ has never been so true as with language development.

In our preschool classes – starting from around 18 months – the children are encouraged to start to speak the language and after just a few classes little ones are able to say their names, count to 10 & know a range of basic vocabulary. This grows & develops over time, setting a fantastic foundation for language learning later in life.

A headline in the Times last week was ‘Bilingual children often excel at school’. The article discusses how research has proven that children exposed to two languages from an early age have better learning capabilities, problem solving and memory skills.

At Kidslingo we are currently the only kids’ language class provider to have gold level accreditation from the Children’s Activities Association (CAA). The assessor, Dr Amanda Gummer PhD, one of the UK’s leading experts in child development and Founder of Fundamentally Children, said:

 “I was impressed with the holistic development opportunities within the sessions. The children were active, with kinaesthetic learning being a particularly strong feature. I was very impressed and didn’t realise language learning could be so much fun!”

So if you’d like your little one to come along to a fun French or Spanish class & give them a skill for life, please get in contact with your local 360 Play Centre or contact email info@kidslingo.co.uk. The first session is FREE & once you sign up you receive ½ price entry to the 360 Play centre after the class.

Learning Through Play

At 360 Play, one of our core values is all about making learning fun and accessible through play. It may seem like a slightly far-fetched idea to some, but in recent years especially, many studies have proven how effective simply playing with your child (at any age) can be as a learning tool.

From the moment your baby is born he/she is searching for answers about the world around them. From the sound of your voice to the simple scent of you, your child picks up on these small clues to make sense of the world. When interacting with and communicating with your baby, they learn about reading facial expressions to understand meaning, tone of voice to indicate playtime or quiet time and the feel of your skin for comfort and reassurance.

Early Years Matters (earlyyearsmatters.co.uk) states:

Babies and young children are learning all the time. They learn through looking, listening, touching, tasting, investigating, exploring, experimenting and through playing and talking. This means that young children need to have opportunities to

  • look at interesting things such as birds, animals, plants, trees, mobiles, shells, stones, boxes, tubes, mirrors
  • listen to a range of sounds such as songs, rhymes, jingles, stories, music
  • touch a variety of objects – hard, soft, bumpy, smooth, rough, cold, warm
  • taste a range of flavours such as those in fruit, milk, vegetables, bread
  • investigate things that open, close, float, sink, twist, turn
  • explore objects such as large boxes, things that make noises, things that move
  • experiment with water, sand, clay, dough, paint, glue, felt pens
  • play for uninterrupted periods of time, alone or alongside others, with help from adults, and in their own way
  • talk to other children and adults and to have their efforts rewarded

In general, by toddler age (3-5yrs) playing has become second nature and imitating real life through role play is a fun and interesting development. Children don’t always need to have the same ‘tools’ that adults use in order to understand their purpose. For example, a rectangular block can act as a ‘phone’ when put to the ear, or a cuddly toy could be used as a cushion – the possibilities are endless when imaginations are fresh and growing all the time.

Rolling over to get to a wanted toy or reaching out to grasp an object just out of reach are both physical activities which help your child to understand how their bodies work, how the space around them can be used to their benefit and how to think about solving problems. Physical activity is just as important as traditional learning methods such as reading, counting and spelling as it teaches your child about themselves and the elements around them. By running a race together, you can give real examples of how forces work with and against the body, how biologically, we need to breathe in the air and drink water to fuel ourselves and experiencing the thrill of achieving a goal – “I’m going to win”!

Bounty.com has this to say:

Different kinds of play will fire up different connections and promote different skills. Shaking a rattle will promote hand-eye co-ordination, ‘fine motor skills’ (small movements), and the understanding of cause and effect. Reading a board book will help with cognitive development, language, fine motor skills (from turning the pages), visual perception and attention span.

It’s by giving them a good mix of play that we will give them the best chance of developing a healthy mind.

Setting up a learning-focused play time for your children needn’t be time consuming or costly – basic, everyday items can be used as ‘props’ and toys and it all really comes down to the example you set. Parent involvement in play can be crucial to enhancing self esteem and your child will pick up on your reactions and responses to help them make their own judgements about activities they choose to engage in. You can also establish boundaries of safety and time when needed.

The main focus areas of learning through play can be concentrated into four categories –

Physical activity

Emotional development

Social play

Imaginative play

Try to come up with one or two activities a week from each category and make time to play with your child, exploring all of the different ideas that come up. Remember when your child is playing, it is their world you are entering so don’t be afraid to let them make the decisions and guide where the play goes next.

Some useful things to keep handy:

‘Treasure Baskets’ – baskets or boxes full of everyday items that can be used for heuristic play. Each basket should be a unique collection of objects – e.g. soft brushes, material and cloths in one, cardboard tubes and boxes in another, metal spoons/pan lids/bells…. the list is endless and it is super easy to create a basket as most things are already lying around the house!

Sensory/Messy Play items – this can be as easy or as detailed as you want! Simply cooking spaghetti with some natural food colouring can provide hours of fun or putting some brightly coloured paint inside a clear, plastic zippy bag to squelch and swirl about. Other messy play activities can be found on http://www.learning4kids.net/list-of-sensory-play-ideas/.

Outdoor games – from a football to giant chess pieces to a bat and ball to a hula hoop – so much fun can be had by getting outside and getting active! It can be even more fun when new toys and objects are introduced but if this isn’t an option for you, don’t forget that hide and seek, grandmother’s footsteps and hopscotch are just as fun and don’t require anything other than yourselves!

Autism Awareness Week UK

27th March – 3rd April is Autism Awareness Week UK. Below is a blog by Steph Curtis from stephstwogirls.co.uk which highlights just some of the challenges and experiences that a mum of a child with a form of Autism encounters from day to day. Let us know about your experiences by writing a comment on our Facebook Page.

Challenging behaviour is a phrase which has been mentioned at quite a few of the events I’ve been to lately, and every time I hear it, I want to stand up and ask if anybody has considered Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).

To help others understand PDA, I often use this description from the PDA Society:

‘The central difficulty for people with PDA is their avoidance of the everyday demands made by other people, due to their high anxiety levels when they feel that they are not in control. Many children avoid demands to some extent, but children with PDA do so to a far greater level than is considered usual. This is why it is called pathological.’

I’m planning to cover the second sentence above in a separate blog post but have left it in for now to explain the term. Some would have preferred PDA to be called Newson’s Syndrome, as the ‘pathological’ seems to be often misunderstood, but demand avoidance alone doesn’t explain the full extent of this condition. So Pathological Demand Avoidance is where we are at.

This basic chart shows that PDA is a sub-type of Autism Spectrum Disorder, in the same way that Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) or classic autism are. There’s a slight confusion over terms in society now, as the word ‘autism’ seems to have become an umbrella term for ASDs. So it may be said that ‘PDA is a type of autism’, but what is actually meant is that PDA is a type of ASD.

There are few children or adults with a straight forward PDA diagnosis so far, mainly because the term is relatively ‘new’ in medical terms. I say relatively, because this term has in fact been around since the 1980s when Elizabeth Newson published early research on PDA. If we compare that timescale to that of Asperger’s Syndrome though, which was first diagnosed in 1944, but not recognised in diagnostic manuals until the 1990s, then we probably still have a few more years to go for wider recognition of PDA.

I strongly believe that there are more children out there who should be diagnosed with PDA, and that many of them would currently be classed as children with challenging behaviour. Some will have been given a diagnosis of ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and I discuss that more in a previous post (The Difference between ODD and PDA).

The truth is that the more you try and make a child with PDA fit into the system, by following typical parenting or education strategies, the more likely they are to feel forced into behaviour which challenges. I’m not naive enough to think that every child classed as ‘challenging’ should have a PDA diagnosis, but I am convinced that more children have it than has yet been acknowledged.

Of course, as with all types of Autism Spectrum Disorder, there’s a spectrum (the clue is in the name). That doesn’t mean that everyone of us is on that particular spectrum (I’m not a fan of the ‘we’re all a little bit autistic’ phrase that I’ve heard before, and there’s a great blog post over at Unstrange Mind which describes it perfectly) but it does mean that some children with PDA are able to hide their difficulties in school and work extra hard to conform when there. What that leads to though, is the pressure cooker effect – as soon as they are home, the lid flies off because they have to release that stress and anxiety somehow. For some, that can happen at the school gate on their way out; for others the comfort of home is what can enable them to feel comfortable enough to let rip.

I’ve always counted myself lucky that our girl is ‘constant’. She doesn’t mask at school, her struggles are obvious. She’s not violent or aggressive when unhappy or anxious; instead of ‘fight or flight’ she tends to freeze. As a young child she would ‘mushroom’ – by that I mean crouch down on the floor and become as heavy as a sack of potatoes. These days she is more likely to stay sitting at her desk but with her head on the table, as a way of withdrawing from it all when it becomes too much. On the school days which have not gone so well for any reason, I have to go in and collect her from the classroom, where I will find her in this position. It always seems strange that she doesn’t want to just run out of the school doors to get home where she knows everything will be OK and comforting, but it’s as if she is rendered incapable of functioning properly.

The children who struggle with the build up of everyday demands and who lash out are seen as challenging. People wonder how to ‘deal with’ them. I’m a strong believer in ‘all behaviour is a form of communication’ and tend to think it’s whatever has caused that behaviour in the first place which needs to be understood and worked on.

In the case of PDA, there are different strategies to use which will be totally alien to most parents – going round my head is that famous line ‘this is parenting, Jim, but not as we know it’. Typical parenting strategies involve showing the child that the parent is in control. With PDA, the child needs to feel like they are the ones in control – which involves some pretty exhausting forward planning and game playing (that those with PDA must never find out about….). I’ll come back to strategies another time, as I could fill pages with them, but for some quick reading try the PDA Society suggestions, or the Autism West Midlands advice.

A man who has spent a lot of time with children and young adults who have behaviour which challenges is Dr. Ross Greene. His belief is that kids do well if they can. There are a lot of free resources on his website which I’d heartily recommend – start with the Walking Tour for Parentsor for Educators. His strategies are not specifically for those with PDA, and many can benefit from them. As adults, I believe we need to look at the cause a bit more often and help find a solution, rather than opt for the generic carrot and stick approach which really doesn’t work for a whole group of children.

If you know of a child with challenging behaviour (and I really have refrained from using that word ‘naughty’), then please pass on information about PDA and Dr. Ross Greene to whoever works or lives with them. It might just change the life of the child and of all those involved with them. The PDA Society website www.pdasociety.org.uk is the first place I’d point them to, and for young children up to the end of primary school age there’s a great booklet to download here. I’m always open to questions too!

Steph Curtis from stephtwogirls.co.uk

Thank You Mum

It’s worthwhile remembering that sometimes, the most special present of all is telling someone why they are special.

It’s difficult to think beyond what we take for granted – that extra 5 minute cuddle, yet another episode of your favourite cartoon, sneaking ‘just one more’ biscuit into your hand… these are the little things Mums do which we can easily forget but often, they mean the most. That’s why we are taking the time to say Thank You Mum, this Mother’s Day. Here’s our guest blogger LittleBandMe and her tribute to her Mum.

Mum,

You’ve always stood up for me, you would lie to make sure I didn’t get in trouble with dad.

You did every job under the sun to make sure you had enough money to treat me to nice things & take me out every single day of the six weeks holiday.

You are beyond kind mum, sometimes even to those who don’t deserve it.

You give people so many chances & you always manage to try & see the best in them. I’m pretty sure you could see at least one positive in nearly everybody in the world.

You gave me freedom to learn, you were never overbearing but you didn’t let me roam free causing trouble.

You have become a fantastic grandmother to Bryson & you do everything in your power to please him. Even when you are tired & desperately craving sleep.

You protected me when I needed protecting.

You’ve never stopped loving me,

Mum these are just a few reasons why you are special.

Money doesn’t need to be spent to prove how much I love you. Money comes & goes, words & actions stay with you & you’ll always remember them.

Thanks for those early weeks when you calmed B down so I could get a few hours extra sleep, Thank you for taking him of a morning so I could sleep for those few extra precious hours.

You’ve taught me that it’s not always grand gestures that show love, it’s watching the same episode of Mario for the fifth time in an hour, the patience shown when you are asked for the same item you’ve been offering for the past hour.

You showed me all of this,

So I’m trying my best to do the same for B. I want him to appreciate the small gestures, the kind words & of course any present he ever receives.

Reader,

Take heed of everything I’ve said,

Please appreciate every single moment!

Embracing the Mess

The other day, Nancy (3) asked to go into the garden.

Ok, I said.  I was watching her like a hawk. Like one of the guards in a prison like Orange is the New Black. “Don’t touch this, don’t touch that!” “You’ll get MESSY!” I threatened, panicky and nervous that I would have to clean up, re-dress, re-change.

It’s the same when she gets her felt tips out, I feel my blood pressure rising.

“Put the caps on!” “Write on the paper!” “Argh you’ll do something in a minute to ruin my carpet!”

She got Play-doh for her birthday, which I hid.

She started to get funny about dirt, or food or pen on her hands, wanting to wash it off instantly.

Then it hit me: Where’s the fun in this? 

She needs to explore, and learn, and get messy.  She shouldn’t be afraid of getting messy, of having dirt on her hands. She should be playing in the mud, picking up worms, learning about the world around her. At nursery she is always rolling around in shaving foam and bits of pasta. Why can’t I do the same with her at home? What’s my problem?

Because it is my problem. I am stopping her doing things because I am worried I will have to clean up or sort out the mess. Granted, I don’t want her painting with Nutella all over my walls, and there has to be limits, but can’t I do some messy activities with her?

So, I embraced it. I set her free into the Garden, and I went with her. I took a big deep breath and I let her get muddy, and messy.

We planted seeds and dug up mud in the flower bed. We watered the garden. We spotted worms and watered the garden a bit more. She had a fantastic time. I had a good time. Yes, she got a bit muddy, yes our hands were filthy, but when we came in we stripped off and we washed our hands, and that was it, done. It felt good to have been out in the fresh air, to see her face as we explored the garden and when she found things such as the worm. Her face when she tried to weed my flowers and her delight at watering the garden.

Then another day, she found a big tub of crafty bits I’d bought ages ago, and asked if we could use them. I must admit my heart sank a little.

“Nnnnnno…” was on my lips, but then I stopped myself. I said “Yes” instead and we got out the crafts and we got out the glue and we got out the glitter and we made a little picture. And it was good, and fun. It was a bit messy, and things got everywhere, and at times I felt like saying “stop!” but she loved it. I loved it.

Ah, and then the Playdoh. I relented and got out the playdoh. We got out some cookie cutters, a fork, anything to make some pretty prints and marks in the play doh. We made pretend food and we made wriggly worms to her delight. She ‘fed’ her toy baby playdoh pasta, which was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. I tried not to think about the state of my floor or the inevitability that a minute speck of playdoh will soon reach my carpet and that’ll be it.

I am starting to say Yes, I am starting to embrace the mess, embrace the fun.  It means that we have spent quite a few hours now doing some lovely things together, with no TV, no ipad. It has been positive, and happy and I haven’t been moany old mum who’s scared of a pair of muddy jeans.

I clean up, happy that we have spent fun time together, that we have made (sometimes quite literally) some memories. Every mark on my carpet has a story to tell, every pen mark I wash from my hands remains there invisible, a mark of a time I spent playing with my girl. I quite enjoy it really. Apart from touching worms, coz that’s a bit icky.

Thank you to Emily @ emilytealady.com (http://emilytealady.com/embracing-the-mess/) for this blog.

Boost your child’s self confidence at your local soft play centre

Guest Blog by Little B and Me

Soft Play is a place some parents take their children to let off all that excess energy while they get to have some time to enjoy a coffee or cake. Maybe even both sometimes! It’s far too easy to forget that soft play can provide so much more for children; whilst it can be used to let off steam it can also be a fantastic tool to boost a child’s self confidence.

Independence

Let’s start with independence; soft play is a fantastic and most importantly safe place to boost your child’s independence.

Soft play offers a safe and open environment where a child can run around completely carefree.

Its bright & interesting colours, hidden places, slides and wacky stairs make a tempting sight to children, somewhere that entices exploring and is welcoming to a child’s eyes.

Their independence may not increase straight away but with a few visits to the same soft play a marked difference in your child will be noticeable. Don’t push them; let them work at their own pace. Enjoy the time when they want you to run around and play with them! Too soon it will be gone.

My son’s independence took off on a recent trip to 360 Play in Stevenage, he went from a boy who begged me to follow him everywhere & cried if I didn’t, to a boy who wanted to try new things & cried if I dared to follow him around! This was all in one soft play trip.

Social Skills

Next up, social skills. This isn’t such an issue for children of school age but toddlers like my son sometimes find it difficult to find other children their own age to socialise with, especially ones that are into the similar things.

This is where soft play can come in exceptionally handy. Depending on what time you go you’ll figure out the type of age group that will be there, we usually head over around 11am & it’s all toddlers! Perfect for my son to interact with. Time is how you will gauge what age range will be in there.

You will tend to notice that when another child see’s a child their own age playing with something they tend to be drawn to it, this in turn usually means they will interact in one way or another. Age dependent this could be talking, sharing or making up games. My son, for instance, quietly engages & shares with other children at the ball vacuum at our local 360 Play.

Remember, ‘social skills’ doesn’t mean just talking so YES your baby could thrive at soft play as well!

Experimentation

Now for experimentation. Some children are less open to trying new things or experimenting with things that they can already do. Being in a situation where they see plenty of other children doing different things encourage them to try.

For instance, my son flat out refuses to go on slides; however once he has seen a few children happily going on the slides he is far more open to trying it.

You would be surprised of exactly how much of a boost it is for your child to see another child doing something they are hesitant of trying or have never thought about trying before. Even as an adult, we are more tempted to do something if we see someone else doing it.

We are exceptionally lucky to have such an amazing local soft play, 360 is where my boy plucked up the courage to try out new things. He now has a huge love of carousels; unfortunately I don’t share the love due to a balance problem.

Make sure to be aware though this may not always be a good thing, my son has watched other children walk up slides & now he tries it. Be aware of this fact and let your child know when the thing they are doing isn’t a good idea.

Problem Solving

Last but certainly not least, problem solving. Lots of soft play venues have activities dotted around that have a problem solving element to them or indeed you could make your own situation up for your child.

Being able to solve something all by yourself is a huge confidence boost, it gives you hope & belief in yourself. Imagine how much of a boost that will be for your child.

At my local 360 play there are lots of problem solving activities to take part in. If you don’t have a soft play that offers problem solving activities I recommend making your own up.

For instance, tell your child that they need to get a ball from the top of the play frame all the way to the bottom without using their hands.

There are a few ways they can complete this task, it’s fun for them to decide which one suit them best & it’s a fabulous boost for them when they solve the problem you’ve given them.

Whichever problem you choose let your child solve it on their own, advise them along the way if they need it but when they realise they solved the problem alone it will be a huge boost to their self confidence.

Little B and Me was inspired to write this blog after a visit to 360 Play and we are really proud to be mentioned. We hope you enjoyed reading it. You can find more great parenting blogs over on the Little B and Me website  www.littlebandme.co.uk

Deadbeat Dad and Promises of Bogey Burgers

When I promised my son a bogey burger, I thought there was an understanding that I neither have the sufficient stock of bogies to actually make the burger and that even if I did I would not actually give it to him.

So when he and his friend came for their much planned dinner (which seemed to require the type of cross-parental co-ordination normally reserved for an SAS mission), they were presented with chicken nuggets rather than the much vaunted green patties and as soon as I placed that beige feast in front of them, I could see their faces melt into disappointment as they looked on their feast a little like you’d view a pair of socks unwrapped on Christmas morning (useful but ultimately not what the gig is about).

‘Look, guys, bogey burgers, they’re not real,’ I said, covering my back.

Like being on the end of an argument you’re never going to win, the response came….

‘BUT YOU PROMISED!’

Instant crushing guilt!

What made me make a promise to one so young and then so wilfully break it without missing a heartbeat? Am I becoming another lazy deadbeat dad that all of those Hollywood films have told me not to be? (Okay, let’s glaze over the fact that it was chicken nuggets for dinner and not hand reared avocado, free range broccoli and Greenpeace endorsed chicken breast).

It made me think about what we promise and what we deliver for our children. A passing word here, a phrase there, it might seem fleeting, but words stick and actions (or lack of them) are remembered.  I still recall being promised a fishing trip with my dad; the chance to play with the fantasy fishing rods I’d long admired in the pages of the Argos catalogue. It was a small promise, nothing major, just a few words said in passing and quickly forgotten – but one that was never fulfilled (I know, I need to get over it thirty years on).

The promise to my boy was easy to fix. Baked avocado on the next dinner menu (the better choice vs my initial idea of green iced burger) and chocks away, one happy kid (not that he ate it of course – he was never going to).

But what is a promise between a parent and child? When does it become a bond, a bind between two people? Should it be that a promise only counts when that child reaches the age of 18 and can understand the full weight of what a promise means?  Surely promising a bogey burger doesn’t count as a real promise?  Or does it? A child’s understanding differs wildly from that of the fully evolved version of the species, so who knows what weird logic goes through those little heads. Besides, I’m constantly let down by own child’s promises to me (he promised not to come into my bed in the night and steal the duvet  being the latest), so is it not fair that this is returned?

Sadly not, a promise in this arena is sacred because it is the first steps in teaching trust. Sure, a promise missed here or there can be explained away or usually resolved with a touch of green icing, but be careful how many you break, particularly if you want them to believe in your word. Next time I will be a little more careful in my language, replacing ‘promise’ with ‘we’ll do our best’ (surely the motto for any parent). And as a final thought, avoid bogey burgers this Halloween; there are easier and tastier gruesome food tips!

See www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/halloween