Nativity plays – What do you mean my child’s not Joseph?

Nativity plays. One of my favourite things about being a mum is seeing my little ones perform in their nativity plays. It makes Christmas special for me. On that evening, I sit there, tall and proud, camera glued to my child, smiling like a wholly along with every other mum and dad there, however as every parent knows, the run up to that crowning moment of glory is never smooth.

Preparing for a nativity play can be pretty stressful, if you let it become so. From the moment you find out their role (a cow for my 4 year old this year, I mean, please! don’t they know how talented he is!) you’re creating costumes, practising songs and soothing performance anxieties not to mention listening to other parents gloat that their child is playing Mary or Joseph. Oh the pressures that many parents feel at this time of year in amongst other Christmas ‘to do’s, and I find myself asking, can this whole thing be a lot more simple?

The key, I have found, is to not take it too seriously and if at all possible, enjoy the process. When you are dealing with a whole class of five year olds, things are not going to run 100 per cent smoothly – in fact, far from it. Yes, be prepared and make the best costume for your little one that you possibly can, but then let everything else take its course. The teachers will do the rest and you can then just turn up on the day and hope for the best and know that be it Joseph or a cow (!) you’re going to love seeing them on stage doing their performance.

One thing I’ll never forget about my eldest son’s performance, in the nativity and one or two other primary school performances, was his timing. If arms had to be waved in the air, for example, his were always the last ones up there (and the last ones down), while his distinct lack of interest in performing and his reluctance to really get into the part, was plain for all to see. He’d rather have been playing football! I thought it was highly amusing, although I kept that to myself, but I realised that at that age such an attitude isn’t overly important so I didn’t stress about it.

So this year as my 4 year old takes to the stage, I will be as chuffed as every other person in there. No matter what his timing, commitment or believability as a cow (and eventually I’ll get over the cow thing and the world will see the talent his mum sees in him!) I am just going to enjoy the ride, laugh, probably shed a tear and capture every moment on camera to tease him with as a teenager!

Let those parents who want to take it seriously just get on with it and shower your young one(s) with praise after the event no matter what. Then enjoy a glass of something when you get home to celebrate the milestone. After all, it is Christmas!

360 Play looks for new Charity of the Year for 2016

Children’s play centre 360 Play is looking to link up with another local children’s charity for 2016 to help support the chosen organisation over a 12 month period as its ‘official’ Charity for the Year.

 

We are already very active in our local communities, donating over 700 family passes to raffles this year alone. Each year we choose one special children’s charity to become our Charity of the Year and they get our special focus and attention during that period.

360 Play will work with the chosen charity on a variety of fundraising initiatives which could include charity events held by 360 Play itself, with profits going to the supported organisation, the use of the 360 Play premises for a fundraising event and the provision of raffle prizes for further fundraising activities, among others.

 

So, if you are involved in a local charity and would like to register your organisation’s interest in becoming 360 Play’s officially supported charity for 2016, please email communitytickets@360play.co.uk in the first instance, stating the reasons why you feel your charity should be considered and also including a contact name, telephone number and details of fundraising achieve to date. Photographs would also be welcome. The last day for receipt of applications is Friday, December 18th.

Half term already? 5 ways to tackle the Half Term Terror!

Just as we are getting back into the routine after a long summer holiday, half term shows up!

It’s a tricky time for parents with young children, youngsters aren’t quite yet fed up with the school routine and learning and with the nights drawing in and the crisp bite in the air creating a weeks worth of activity can prove challenging.

So here are 5 tips from 360 Play to help you and your children through this half term.

1 – Baby, it’s cold outside!

As the weather starts to turn colder we all tend to stay indoors for longer periods of time. A child’s imagination can only last for so long in the same environment, so take every opportunity to get out and about, even if it’s cold. Wrap up warm and go for a walk, a particular favourite of my family this time of year is leaf jumping! Like puddle jumping but more autumnal.

If it is too cold though you could always come down to 360 Play where we specialise in stimulating young minds with a host of great activities.

2 – They miss their friends.

During the first half of term your youngsters have just rekindled many friendships after the summer holiday, so they’re probably not ready for a break from them yet. Why not invite a friend or two round for a play date? It’s sure to keep them happy and will pass an afternoon or two with no boredom factor.

3 – Eager, bright minds!

Try new things and keep their minds active. Children, especially under 10’s, love to learn. Learning comes in a variety of different formats.

Younger ones will do this through play while older ones will want to challenge themselves in various ways. Why not create a project for them to do? With Halloween coming up they could design their own costumes or masks, or maybe research different pumpkin styles on the computer and then create a pumpkin lantern for real. And of course it’s always fun to make some tasty Halloween themed treats, with lots of easy recipes available on the net.

4 – Time for some new toys?

Most children seem to have an endless supply of toys these days, that’s a given, but it’s been a long time since Christmas, and maybe birthdays too, so they are probably looking for some new things to play with. Charity shops are a good source of supply for some less expensive treats or with a bit of work on the internet, there will be lots of ideas for ‘make your own’ toys too.

5 – Kids like a routine.

At half term children go to bed a little bit later than on a school night but will get up at the usual time as their body clocks are still in school time mode. The days are therefore just as long but with no structure, so try and keep things predictable so they know what to expect, rather than letting the days just drag on with no plan.

Happy half term to all!

Avoiding the morning ‘rush hour’ (that’s the one at home!)

By Mum of 2 and 360 Play member.

As the new term started I began to wonder if I was the only one completely disorganised and late on school mornings, often losing it at certain pressure points. My usual morning script is this – ‘finish your breakfast’, ‘brush your teeth’, ‘stop jumping on your brother and find your socks’ and the worse one of all ‘Get your shoes on we are going to be late!’ Then after finally leaving the house and despatching the children to school I would feel instantly guilty at starting the day this way, promising myself I would find a better way of doing things in the morning!

So I asked the mums at the school gate. They all guiltily confessed to the same raised voice protocol and not really having a plan to combat this pressure. We all agreed there must be a better way. So I started asking around.

I started with my partner in crime, my children’s father, who helpfully stated the obvious ‘These things should not be done minutes before leaving for school but should perhaps be sorted the night before’.  Of course, if only I had thought that! Maybe I should put the kids to bed in their school uniforms dear. He is right, although I hate to admit it; a certain number of things can happen the night before, but short of dressing each child myself, brushing their teeth and spoon feeding in the Cheerios, how do I handle those things that just can-not be prepared?

My mum suggested I get everyone up earlier. No! Modern life is a busy affair and I refuse to sacrifice anymore of my sleep. I have been a mother for 8 years and I still haven’t got used to not having my Sunday morning lie in each week.

So I turned to Google. Google knows everything and I found lots of articles on teaching your children to handle their own time. Really? Can kids do this? I read on and it seems like yes they can. I was dubious but I gave it a try.

Firstly I made 2 charts that super nanny would have been proud of, one for each child, that looked something like this:

  • Have breakfast.
  • Shower
  • Get dressed.
  • Brush teeth and hair.
  • Get book bag, shoes and PE bag.

YOU ARE READY FOR SCHOOL!MorningYawn

I then brought my 7 year old a watch, handed it to him at the breakfast table and said we need to leave at half past 8 and you needed to do everything on your list by then. He can tell the time but I still showed him where the hands need to be.

Then with my 4 year old, I walked him through it, ticking the chart as we went. Amazingly we were all ready by 8:15, shoes on, book bags in hand and not one voice raised. Success! I felt triumphant. I told my mummy friends who all had success using this method too. In fact after a week of walking it through with my littlest man he started to do a lot of it on his own and felt really chuffed with himself. So as the term continues, how is it going now? Mostly great actually. I think I have had to shout the shoe message 3 or 4 times but nothing like before. It really has made a huge difference to our morning routine– and didn’t half help reduce the mummy guilt levels!

360 Play comments: We love this idea. We can see it enables children to grow their confidence through being independent and capable, something which reigns king in our centres and of course anything that makes a happy mum makes a happy child. I’m sure many mums will find this useful.

We should let our children try and fail – they’ll thank us in the long run

We all want our children to succeed and be the best at everything at school, in sport and in all sorts of other activities.

To want the best for our offspring in all aspects of life is only natural and while not everyone is good at everything, there are of course those youngsters who just seem to excel, no matter what it is they do. I remember when I was at school, even from quite a young age, there were those kids who just seemed to be good at whatever they did, be it in lessons, in various sports, in music and more.

But the majority of us as kids aren’t super heroes at everything we try (unless we are playing superheroes of course!), much as we’d like to be, so we have to learn to deal with that. And sometimes we have to learn the hard way, by maybe not being picked for a team, not scoring well in a test or exam, or away from the school environment perhaps not being able to fix something on a bike or a toy or losing at a game.

And it’s just the same for the very youngest of children as it is for older ones. We learn through trial and error, success and failure, no matter what we are doing and at no age is this more apparent than during our formative years. We explore, we ask questions, we try pretty much anything and everything all in the daily process of learning, developing and shaping our character, personality and individuality.

These days parents are often overprotective and go to great lengths to ensure their children, of whatever age, avoid failure. But is this not undermining the development of an independent character that has the strength and wherewithal to stand up to whatever setbacks, disappointments and mistakes they may come up against in life?

No-one intends to teach their children to be fearful of failure, but we do it more and more these days. We therefore need to let them take more risks, to try things from the off and to encourage them if and when they fail. They’ll be stronger for it and more confident, competent and resourceful later in life.

Meet up Mondays

For parents of pre-school children looking for somewhere to take their youngsters on a Monday morning, 360 Play is delighted to announce the launch of Meet up Mondays!

Meet up Monday’s is a time for parents to bring their toddlers down to the centre, meet other parents, and make friends whilst combining some great toddler developmental opportunities with a couple of equally great FREE offers.

As stated by the experts and outlined in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)  toddlers need positive relationships and enabling environments to enhance their development.

All our toddler areas are designed so that mums and dads can join in too, another key aspect of child development, while we also ensure peace of mind with a safe, clean environment by sterilising our toddler areas each night which makes 360 Play an enabling environment with lots of opportunity to reinforce those positive relationships.

Mums and dads can often find themselves on their own with very young children, particularly at the beginning of a week, so we have created an ideal opportunity to meet up with friends and make new ones at 360 Play, as well as providing pre-schoolers with a place to help further their physical, mental, social and emotional development.

And for those attending these special sessions, our offer includes a FREE hot drink for adults and a FREE art class for the youngsters.

The Meet up Monday sessions will run from 10am to 12pm every Monday throughout September as well as during the first half of October, finishing on Monday, October 19th.

So why not take advantage of this wonderful new opportunity and bring your pre-schoolers to 360 Play on a Monday morning?

Back to school in eight easy steps

It’s always a bit of a downer when the holidays end. After the freedom and enjoyment of the summer holidays, when school was a distant memory for most children, it’s often difficult to get them back into the ‘school’ way of thinking and the necessary routine this inevitably involves.

Hopefully you will have had lots of fun, imaginative, outdoor play, lots of family time together and a family holiday, either here in the UK or to warmer climes overseas.

But now it’s time to get back to the routine. When the new term begins it can be a challenging time for many reasons for both children and parents, so here are a few ideas to get the youngsters into the right frame of mind and to ease them from holiday mode back into school mode.

Tip 1:

Reconnect with school friends

Often, for younger children in particular, they’ve spent time with family and family friends during the holidays so a few play dates with friends from school are always a good way to kick off the school mindset.

Tip 2:

Talk about school

Start talking about school to see how the children are feeling about going back. Highlight any exciting things to look forward during the coming year – Christmas plays, school discos, sports teams and so on – and tease out any anxieties or worries they may have.

Tip 3:

Reset the family’s body clock

Bed times and getting up times are always more lax during the holidays, so start bringing them more into line with the normal term times. Children – and mums and dads too – will need to get back in the routine so everyone gets the sleep they need – and gets up on time in the morning!

Young girl in front hallway fixing shoe and smiling

Tip 4:

Shop for school uniform

Involve the kids in shopping for their school uniform to get them further into ‘school mode.’ Obviously this isn’t a highlight for them but make it more acceptable by allowing them a choice in shoes or T-shirts within the realms of what is affordable for you and acceptable dress code for the school. And maybe let them have the latest or coolest back pack or lunch box as a bit of a ‘back to school’ treat if budgets allow.

Tip 5:

The big bedroom tidy up

During the summer holidays there will have been lots of opportunities to get out all the toys, including those long forgotten treasures hidden at the bottom of the toy box. Why not spend a day having a good sort out, getting rid of what is no longer used. This will help create a calm, organised environment when school starts and give children the satisfaction of achieving something positive.

Tip 6:

Create an Achievement Tree

This is a quick summer art project that can serve an important purpose all year long! Plus it puts a positive focus onto the academic year ahead.

Draw a tree with lots of brown branches on poster board and create a handful of ‘leaves’ on strips of green paper. Each time your child accomplishes something he or she is proud of they can record it on a leaf and tape it to the tree. By the end of the school year, they will have created a full, lush tree!

Tip 7:

Keep playing outdoors once term time has begun

Outdoor play is a key element of the summer holidays so while the weather is still warm enough, encourage your children to keep on playing outdoors when they get home after school. It will be another way to help ease the transition from holidays into school time at the start of term by still providing them with something they loved to do during the holidays. And why not invite a couple of school friends to join in.

Tip 8:

Stay connected

The beginning of the school year naturally brings with it a host of related activities, including homework, music classes, swimming lessons, PE and games, and much more.

With so much going on it’s important to make some one-on-one time with your child each day. It’s tricky to fit in, but a little goes a long way so try an extra story for toddlers, making up stories at bedtime for pre-schoolers or perhaps gazing at the stars with older children when their younger siblings are in bed. They will all definitely savour such precious time each day and everyone will benefit from simply making the effort at the end of the day for a bit of quite time.