Home education – an alternative to the norm

There are no official figures available to show how many children are currently being home educated in the UK but it is estimated that the number is approximately 80,000 and growing – rapidly each year.

Education for children between the ages of five and 16 is compulsory in the UK, but sending them to school is not. As the figures prove, many parents are deciding to educate their children at home for a variety of reasons and they have a right to do so under UK law. Additionally, families who home educate do not have to follow the National Curriculum as schools do and there is no single correct way laid down as to how to educate your child at home.

In the hectic lifestyle we all seem to lead these days it’s hard to imagine taking on the role of ‘teacher’ for your children, but increasingly parents are seeing many benefits to choosing this route. There is often a particular reason or reasons behind the decision, with some parents deciding on home education some time before their child reaches school age and others taking the decision when they see that school education, or school generally, is not suiting their child. This might be down to all sorts of things, such as a child being bullied, being anxious about aspects of school, finding it hard to fit in, maybe having special needs or simply finding that school does not fit a child’s particular way of learning. Being unhappy or distressed at school can also impact on a child’s behaviour at home to the detriment of family life and impacting on other family members.

Many parents considering home education (HE) therefore feel they are in a better position to cater for their child’s individual needs. Naturally there will be a period of getting used to the fact that mum or dad is now the ‘teacher’ but that aside, along with getting over the fact that the kids are still at home, with a suitable work area and carefully planned and organised timetable, many parent are finding it’s a very successful way to educate their youngsters.

Our research shows, for example, that the ‘one to one’ scenario means they get through a lot of work, while in doing so it frees up time to incorporate other activities, such as attending HE groups to socialise and make friends or doing more outdoor and physical activity time.

Many HE children go on to higher education and we came across numerous examples of those who have been taught at home going on to university, so it can clearly be a very positive and successful way of educating children. The more you delve into it the more intriguing and interesting an option it becomes – as more and more parents are finding out!

‘Team 360 Play’ 50 mile cycle ride raises £3,000 (and counting!) for charities of the year


A team from local family entertainment centre operator 360 Play has raised over £3,000 so far for the company’s four 2016 charities of the year following a successful cycle ride on Sunday, March 20th, as part of the Sport Relief event.

Led by Managing Director Duncan Phillips the team was made up of several members of the head office staff at DP House in Milton Keynes, with the tough 50 mile route beginning and ending at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s iconic Lee Valley VeloPark, part of the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

IMG_2274On a windy and occasionally showery day, the circuit took riders up and down lots of hills around beautiful Essex countryside and along some busy main roads around central London, but everyone completed the task unscathed – apart from a few aches and pains which came on after the event! And the participants were ably supported by a support team, who ensured everyone was well hydrated and provided for with energy boosting food along the way.

Funds raised to date through individual sponsorships total over £1,500 and with 360 Play operating company DP Leisure match donating to the final figure, over £3,000 has been raised so far. The funds will be split between the four 360 Play centres’ charities of the year – Harry’s Rainbow in Milton Keynes, Polly Parrot Children’s Appeal in Basildon, Tracks autism in Stevenage and the Phoenix Children’s Foundation in Leicester – which will all gain valuable support from this event.

IMG_2262“We’ve supported local charities and the wider communities in all the areas in which we operate for many years and the idea to add to this with a cycle ride around this year’s Sports Relief appealed to several of us at head office,” said group sales and marketing manager Billie-Jan Humphries. “It was tough going at times but really worthwhile and the money raised by each member of the team, which is being matched by our operating company DP Leisure, will enable us to provide a real boost to this year’s 360 Play charities of the year.”

IMG_2276IMG_2278IMG_2281The 360 Play team’s efforts also reflect the company’s philosophy for young children. Providing fun activities designed to encourage physical, active, imaginative and creative play is key to the 360 Play concept, enhancing and supporting children’s development. Its centres are packed with a wide range of elements to ensure this is achieved among its young visitors who may one day themselves take part in a Sport Relief event.

Keeping the toddlers entertained during the holidays

It’s amazing how quickly the years go by. The older you get the faster they go but one of the most unbelievably quick periods of adult life is without doubt your children’s younger years. If you have young kids now, in a few years’ time you’ll look back and think ‘where on earth did those first few years go.’ Having been there we know – it’s quite scary!

The period when kids are toddlers up to when they start school is a special time. Yes, it’s hard work as you never seem to get a break all day, every day, but it’s a fabulous time for doing whatever you like with them, be it planned or spur of the moment, while at the same time watching them develop and learn every day as they take in so many new sights, sounds and experiences.

At this age the school holidays obviously don’t mean that much (unless you’ve got older siblings too of course), but even when you’ve just got toddlers to entertain things can still be impacted upon, with clubs and other activities closing for a week or two, prices for lots of things rising and everywhere getting much busier.

So what can you get up to with your youngsters?

The chances are pre-schoolers will be up and about pretty early so why not take advantage of this and visit places earlier in the day when they won’t be so busy? Play centres such as 360 Play are quieter early on – and we also offer breakfast if you fancy a hearty start to the day – while swimming pools will more than likely be quieter at this time too and therefore much more suitable for the very young.

The park is always a great place to go, weather permitting, while the same can be said of going for a walk somewhere nice. You can try smelling different flowers, search for insects, do some bird spotting and just take in the fresh air.

And of course mums and dads can simply enjoy a time when there’s no real agenda or timescales involved, no rush to get the kids somewhere or to pick them up from a club or similar. It won’t be long before you are having to do all that – the many years of being a taxi driver – so make the most of the early years now, because for sure they’ll be gone quicker than you think.

Coffee time and play time rolled into one

It’s not easy when you’ve got little ones to find places to go for a coffee and a chat with friends. At best the youngsters might sit still for five or ten minutes if they have a drink and a snack to keep them occupied, but if they get noisy or throw a tantrum in a restaurant or a coffee shop it can become decidedly awkward and uncomfortable for parents.
Of course we can’t expect the under four or fives to stay still for long – it’s not in our nature at that age – but most parents of pre-school or slightly older children don’t want to spend every day on their own at home. They want to get out and continue doing things like meeting friends for a coffee or at least go somewhere where they can meet and talk to others in the same position.
A current trend in some towns and cities are play cafés where coffee shops also incorporate small play areas for very young children with toys and perhaps some soft play items to keep them busy while mums and dads enjoy a drink and maybe food too. But in addition to such places, a good quality play centre such as 360 Play can also offer some respite for parents and a genuinely comfortable place to meet up with friends with a place for the kids to play nearby.
We’ve carefully studied and researched all areas of play centre operation over the years and not surprisingly, as is apparent in the design of all our centres, mums and dads want to take their children to a warm, safe, clean environment which offers comfortable places to sit while the youngsters play. They also want a good cup of coffee and decent food, both for them and their kids, something else we have always provided.
Okay, 360 Play isn’t your high street coffee shop, but we have an F&B offering in all our centres that matches or betters many such outlets and provides a great alternative if you are looking for somewhere with a pleasant environment that will give you and your friends the coffee and chat experience you want, while at the same time letting the children use up some energy.
It’s hard enough as a mum or dad with young kids and it’s important you get out and mix with friends and peers. So if you haven’t already, give us –and our brilliant baristas – a try when you and your friends next arrange to meet for a coffee. You won’t regret it!

5 secret things mums do that they will never tell you about

With a lot of love, comes a lot of exhaustion, so it’s hardly surprising us mums have found a few life hacks to make life a little easier.
Recently I asked a panel of 360 mums to admit to the things they do in secret, those things that they wouldn’t ordinarily admit to. This was the result.

• Lying about the time to get the kids to bed earlier

Not by hours of course (because they would notice – trust me if I’ve tried) but 30-45 minutes earlier.
It’s not that we don’t love being around our dear children but by 6pm, when coffee no longer works, when you can no longer stand another re-run of Peppa Pig and when you have ‘brummed’ cars until the sound echoes around your head, you are so desperate to sit down and zone out you would resort to anything!
We know it means they will be up earlier, we know this is not going to feel good in the morning but for the love of god, please, let us just have a break!

• Eating the party food at birthday parties when no one is looking

We are respectable ladies for 95% (ish!) of the time but put us in a room with hundreds of kids (well about 25) and a buffet table of onion rings, cheese sandwiches and tea cakes and we lose our resolve.
We know we shouldn’t, but we lurk, we ‘help’ distribute the food to the kids and we wait. Then as the last of the children leave we casually start stuffing our faces!

• Pretending to need to toilet for 5 minutes peace

Every single mother I know has done this!
For me it normally comes after I have had to referee the 18th argument, had the 29th battle of wills with a 4 year old, made breakfast, lunch, prepped dinner, done 2 loads of washing and I hear another battle beginning, off I go (with my phone) to the loo, lock the door and sit. When I hear ‘MUUUUUUM’ I say ‘Just in the toilet’ and pray they don’t camp outside and wait or talk through the door!
5 minutes later I am back out with my game face on. It’s like a power nap for my mind!

• Eating chocolate in the kitchen so you don’t have to share

Really we are saving our sweet children from being overloaded with sugar and looking after those pearly whites (honest), so I don’t see a problem with this one!

• Boarding the guilt train almost every single day!

Everyday as a mother you just hope for your children to be happy, it really is that simple. However most days, amongst the chaos, noise and exhaustion, when you have screamed, they have screamed and everyone has had MacDonalds for tea, you tuck them up into bed, kiss their little heads, tell them you love them and feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. ‘I promise I will be a nicer mummy tomorrow. I promise I will do better.’
Motherhood and guilt go hand in hand but the most amazing thing about mummies is they are always trying to do their very very best! So what is a few life hacks, cheats and secrets here and there!

Happy Mothers Day to all of you amazing mummies from us at 360 Play

‘Team 360 Play’ set for 50 mile cycle ride in support of Sport Relief 2016

The UK fundraising event Sport Relief takes place once again in March this year – and the team at family entertainment centre operator 360 Play will be doing their bit to help raise money for this very worthy cause.

Managing Director Duncan Phillips will be joined by several members of the head office team at DP House in Milton Keynes for a sponsored cycle ride over a distance of 50 miles on March 20th. The route begins and ends at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s iconic Lee Valley VeloPark, part of the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games, and the 360 Play team will be hoping their efforts raise lots of money for Sport Relief.

Each team member will ride the 50 mile route and as well as funds being raised through individual sponsorships, 360 Play itself will be adding its own contribution to the pot!

Sport Relief has been running in the UK every second year since 2002 and of all the money raised by the public, 50 per cent is used to make a difference to people’s lives in the UK while the other 50 per cent goes towards transforming  lives across the world’s poorest communities. Just under £72m was raised through a wide range of sponsored events and activities in 2014.

“Supporting charities and the wider local communities in all the areas in which we operate is something we’ve done for a number of years,” explained 360 Play sales and marketing manager Billie-Jan Hills, “and when it was mentioned in the office that we should do something for Sport Relief this year the idea inspired quite a few of us. The 50 mile cycle ride is one of the official events organised by Sport Relief so we decided to have a go at that. We are doing some serious training so hopefully we’ll raise lots of money for this great cause.”

The 360 Play team’s admirable efforts also reflect the company’s philosophy as far as young children are concerned, in that the company believes strongly in providing fun activities designed to encourage physical, active, imaginative and creative play, enhancing and supporting children’s development. Its centres are filled with elements to ensure this is achieved among its young visitors who in being encouraged to enjoy physically active pursuits at a young age may one day themselves take part in a Sport Relief event.

For more information on 360 Play visit www.360play.co.uk For more information on this year’s Sport Relief visit www.sportrelief.com

29 things to do with the extra day in a Leap year

Pretty much everyone by now will know that 2016 is a leap year, with the date of February 29th. providing us all with an extra day in the year. It falls on a Monday this time round, so for many it will be a work day, but here at 360 Play we’ve been thinking about what you could do with that extra day and have come up with ‘29’ suggestions for both adults and children, with lots that families can enjoy together too. Why not take a look and see if any take your fancy!

  1. Get together with your children and find out why leap years happen. Or if you already know, share it with them
  2. Get kids up and active with some jumping and hopping contests – after all it is a ‘leap’ year
  3. Play musical lily pads – just like musical chairs but get the kids to cut out lily pad shapes which they can then use in the game
  4. Have a frog croaking contest – loudest or longest wins
  5. For teachers, have a science lesson around frogs and teach the kids about their lifecycle
  6. It’s pretty crazy to see February 29th on the calendar so do something ‘crazy’ on the day. Wear a crazy hat or have the kids wear their clothes the wrong way round!
  7. Make a list of things you hope to achieve over the next four years
  8. Plant some seeds with the kids that are easy to grow, such as sunflowers
  9. Go on a bike ride
  10. Go to the park for a walk
  11. Feed the ducks
  12. Look for ladybirds and count how many you find
  13. Fly a kite
  14. Clear out your wardrobe
  15. Have a leap year party with friends
  16. See what’s on at the theatre or cinema
  17. Go ten pin bowling
  18. Go to an arboretum and check out all the different trees
  19. Do some stargazing
  20. Do something you’ve never done before
  21. Go to a craft centre and try pottery or another craft
  22. Go out for a meal to a place you’ve never tried
  23. Go to a specialist ice cream shop and try a flavour you’ve never had before
  24. Do some baking and make something different – like frog faced cupcakes
  25. Wear something ‘frog like’ all day – or play leap-frog
  26. Go to the beach (would you usually do this in February?)
  27. Take a break from your regular chores – and have some ‘me’ time
  28. Pay a visit to your local 360 Play family entertainment centre
  29. And finally, of course, for the ladies – there’s the traditional one of getting down on one knee and proposing

Whatever you choose to do on the extra day this year brings, have fun!

Using tech to have fun and get creative!

So half-term is with us and no doubt many readers of this blog will be trying to think of things to do to keep the young ones happy and occupied over the next week or so. You don’t want them sitting in front of a screen all day, but technology is a part of everyone’s life these days whether we like it or not, so we thought we’d suggest some half-term fun and games that involve tech in creative and physical ways and not necessarily the ‘couch potato’ kind!

  • Let the kids become ‘digital animators’ with the free Stop Animator app. Through a super simple interface, this clever app allows you to create stop action videos. You can get creative and paint scenes on large pieces of cardboard, use toys as characters and get the kids to do voice overs as you create an animated video. It’s simple to use and gives hours of fun.
  • Make a TV! A bit ‘old school’ for sure but again great, simple fun. Get a large cardboard box and get the children to decorate it like a TV with all the different buttons and so on. Then ask them to create a TV programme to put on for you by getting inside the box or, if it’s not big enough for that, they can put it on a table and kneel behind the ‘screen’ as they talk through it. And the best part? You get to sit down with a cuppa and watch as they entertain you (and themselves!)
  • Go geocaching. This is a great way to get out and about and adds some real fun to a walk, which all the family can take part in. It’s basically a treasure hunt which uses GPS or mobile devices to find containers called ‘geocaches’ or ‘caches’ – literally anywhere. A typical cache will contain a logbook and the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it. After signing the log, the cache must be put back in exactly the same place as it was found. Larger containers may also have items for trading, such as toys or trinkets, so you can take items to swap. There will be geocaching opportunities somewhere near where you live so a search on the internet should provide the necessary details.
  • A Powerpoint project for Key Stage 2 children. Come up with a few fun topics that your children would enjoy looking into and talking about, ask them to choose one and get them to find out as much as they can about it. Then ask them to create a Powerpoint presentation on it to show you what they’ve come up with.
  • Do a time trial. Weather permitting, take the kids to the park or somewhere similar and set them some timed tasks, like races, obstacle courses or ‘find three red things’ (or whatever) in a minute. Then use the stop watch on your phone to time them. Alternatively, if you have children who don’t do well with competition pressure, then change this to a kids v. grown-ups game – find three red things before me – in which you can control who wins and how often.
  • Read a book on a kindle. We all love a physical book but the odd time sitting with your child and reading a kindle book or ibook is time well spent too and a good excuse to use some tech.

A special year for ‘leaplings’ – and a special 360 Play offer to go with it!

2016 is a leap year and with just under 5 million ‘leaplings’ worldwide, people born on the rare date of 29th February, there will be lots of happy leap day children who can truly celebrate their birthday this year.

Why do we have a leap year?…

The leap years keep everything in sync, most notably the seasons. For example, if we didn’t have them those of us who celebrate Christmas in the winter would eventually end up doing so in the summer. It’s all related to the solar system, but we won’t go into the technicalities of that here. Suffice to say it’s a necessary thing for us to be doing and as noted, keeps everything nicely in sync with the solar year.

Leaplings…

Children born on this date find their birthday can have an impact on a variety of every-day things. Firstly parents need to choose when to celebrate their child’s birthday, while for young leapers themselves they are often teased by their peers who wrongly think they only have a birthday every four years. When they are older, it can be as annoying as application forms that require their date of birth to be entered, as some computer services and software programmes still don’t recognise the date.

Parents of leaplings…

Many questions arise for parents of leap day babies (On that, a very important point, you must refer to people born this day as leap day babies, not leap year babies. Anyone can be born in a leap year!) Questions like, when will my child become of legal age? How old are they? How do I explain it to them? When should we celebrate their birthday when it’s not a leap year? Of course, for all questions these days there is a virtual answer. We at 360 HQ quite like this website:

http://www.leapyearday.com/content/parents-page

It’s also important for parents of leaplings to understand all about leap day. If you take the time to learn as much as possible about it, when your youngsters are old enough to discuss it properly and have things explained to them, it will make it much easier on you as the one doing the explaining. And of course when they get questions asked of them, they will then also know what the right answers are.

This year, 360 Play is helping your leaplings celebrate their special day with a special offer!

We are offering a 50% discount to leaplings who book a party at 360 Play for February 29th.

So if your child was born on this special date, why not let us help them make it especially memorable in 2016 with a fun time at your nearest 360 Play venue.

And just for fun, here are 6 fascinating facts about leap year:

  • ‘Bachelors day’ where women can propose to men was apparently down to Queen Margaret of Scotland, who was apparently just five years old when she came up with the February 29th proposal trap,  (sounds a tad too young, we agree, but that’s what the tradition states!).
  • If a man refused a proposal, he would be fined a kiss, a silk dress or 12 pairs of gloves.
  • Tradition also shows that women can propose on February 29th but they must wear either breeches or a scarlet petticoat to do so.
  • One in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid getting married in a leap year as they believe it’s bad luck.
  • If you are on a fixed annual wage you work for free on February 29th. (think about it)
  • The frog is a symbol associated with February 29th.

How will your little ones celebrate the New Year?

With Christmas almost upon us and the excitement building to a crescendo for most youngsters, no doubt all the usual things families do in the lead up to the big day will by now have been done. Shopping, seeing the Christmas lights in your local town, a visit to Santa, the school nativity play and more are all probably ticked off.

So looking ahead another week or so to New Year, here at 360 Play our thoughts have turned to how young children might celebrate the beginning of another year. New Year’s Eve is, of course, usually more of a time for adults to ‘get the party started,’ with the youngsters being tucked up in bed. But there are some things children can do too which although they may not include staying up until midnight are a good way for them to mark the start of another year.

We’ve come up with the following which might help you help them to make more of New Year and have some fun at the same time.

1) Get them to write out a list of promises to themselves for next year. Yes, basically a list of ‘resolutions’ but they could stick it on a wall and tick them off as each one is achieved.

2) Make a time capsule. This is always fun, particularly when it’s opened up of course, and they can have a great time choosing what to put in it.

3) Throw a small party for a few friends and have a ‘fake’ midnight countdown to New Year at, say, 9pm. They’ll love it!

4) Put together something traditional for the first visitor to your home after midnight. To ensure good luck for the home, the Scots traditionally leave out symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky (although not all these items are readily available these days!), but whatever tradition you choose to follow, it’s fun for the kids and teaches them a bit about the ways of old!

5) And finally, what about planting a tree or shrub? Again it’s a lovely tradition and the whole family can watch it grow over the coming years.

However you decide to celebrate the New Year, everyone at 360 Play wishes you a wonderful and happy 2016.