Saturday, 16 May 2020

Homebased activities part two: 22 more activity ideas to help keep your little (and big) ones busy

If you are starting to run out of activity ideas or need some more inspiration, look no further. Lucy Rogers (Set 33), Newly Qualified Nanny (NQN) Consultant and a Norlander, has compiled 22 suggestions to help keep little ones entertained at home. Lucy has split these into morning and afternoon activities, to help you incorporate them into your day, but of course you can do these at any time to fit the natural rhythm of your child and what’s needed in the moment.

“Before we start, a quick reminder. It’s important when we go out for exercise, and as lockdown restrictions are eased, that children continue to understand the importance of washing their hands properly. It is tricky to know sometimes whether older children are washing their hands when they have their own independence and privacy. This BBC CBeebies video showing how soap keeps germ away is a useful visual reminder that I would recommend showing toddlers, children and even teens. Singing while you wash your hands together is a helpful tip as children love catchy songs! Here’s a simple how to wash your hands song from the NHS or you could try making up your own words to your child’s favourite tune.

Fun activities for the morning

1. Wake up and shake up!
We are not moving about as much as we normally would, which is not good for us. Some schools run a daily morning wake-up activity to get children going and ready for the day ahead. Try out this wake-up dance by Out of the Ark at the start of your day and you are certain to end up with the song in your head by the end of the dance!

2. Recreate PE lessons
Exercise is important both for our physical and mental health. Have a look online for a routine video that you can participate in together. The Body Coach Joe Wicks, for example, is running free PE classes from his YouTube channel on Mondays to Fridays at 9am. Or try out one of the many child-led Zumba videos online together. I would highly recommend joining in as children really enjoy doing this with adults, and if you are as uncoordinated as I am, then they will also find it very funny!

3. 'In every job that must be done there is an element of fun, you find the fun and snap, the job’s a game!’
With many of us still at home, there are more chores that need doing and these should not just fall to one person to do. It is important to help each other out and know that not everything is going to be done for you. Sometimes it can be difficult to encourage children to tidy up or help out with chores. Try turning cleaning into a game or adding a fun element to it to inspire children to help out. For example, use fun music to dance to while cleaning, sing a clean-up song to a familiar tune, or race to see how quickly they can put all the toys away. Cleaning is a great way to get moving, so you can have fun cleaning up and exercising at the same time!

4. Write a letter
Writing a letter is something that you don’t see very much, it is a lot easier to send a message, pick up the phone, facetime or email our friends and family. These are great ways to stay in touch with your family, but there is nothing like receiving a handwritten letter, it is so personal. Asking children to write a letter or draw a picture to send to a family, friend or neighbour will help them feel less alone during isolation. It is also a good way to get children to practice their letter formation or develop their fine motor skills by giving them a specific aim.  If the child is too young, role model by writing it for them.

5. Craft a picture with objects from your garden or local park
If you are lucky enough to have a garden or access to a park, get the children to go out and find some natural objects to create a picture, such as leaves, flower petals, small twigs and grass. Please be aware of any plants that are poisonous and keep an eye on your children. Once you have collected your objects you can arrange what you have collected to create a collage picture using child friendly PVA glue. Seek inspiration from the artist Andy Goldsworthy and you’ll be surprised at what’s possible. If you can’t get outside, try creating a new picture from torn up magazines or flyers.
6. Homemade bread
Making soda bread is an easy baking activity to do with children, and you should have the ingredients in your cupboard. If you’re having difficulty getting hold of flour, you might find that wholemeal, spelt or rye flour is more readily available. Soda bread does not need yeast, which means it is easier and quicker to make. Children really enjoy baking and it is a good life skill. Learning to cook at an early age will help children gain confidence and prepare them for when they are older and having to fend for themselves as young adults. There are plenty of simple recipes online. I find this BBC Good Food recipe simple and easy to follow.

7. Make a cotton bud picture
Try using cotton buds to create pictures with paint. You could draw an outline or cut out a shape for children to fill in, or you could trace letters for them to fill. Think about seasonal objects, or a favourite animal or character from a book. Remember to keep a close eye on children using cotton buds. If you don’t have any cotton buds, you could always have a go at thumb printing.

8. Meditation
Being able to relax is important during stressful times and it is a good technique for children to learn as it will help them in later life. It is good for adults too. Search for an online meditation exercise to try out together. Alternatively, there are many helpful free apps out there that can help guide children through meditation, for example Calm, which offers a one-week free trial, or Breathe Kids.

9. Create a cosy corner
Create a cosy corner together where your children can have quiet time. We all need parts in the day where we can enjoy five minutes peace. Try placing a sheet over a table to make a calming den, add a blanket, duvet, some cushions, and books and toys that can be played with quietly. Ask your children to select these items, explaining that this is a cosy corner for them to enjoy when they want to have some quiet time. Children love a place to hide and make their own; creating this space themselves will also help to spark their imagination and creativity.

10. Express your artistic skills
Art is a great way to express yourself and relieve stress. Of course, you can get the colouring books out or paint and let your children express themselves. Or if you would like to turn it into an art lesson, you could look at different artists and choose one to try and recreate the pictures. Abstract art featuring bold, bright shapes of colour is fun to copy, or you could have a go at trying to create your own picture in the style of the artist.
11. Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic
There is nothing better than a picnic lunch, especially if you can bring along your favourite cuddly friend or favourite toy. It doesn’t have to be sunny outside, it doesn’t even have to be outside, just get out the picnic rug and enjoy a picnic! Children can help to make sandwiches and set out the picnic spread ahead of time as part of the fun.
Fun activities for the afternoon

          1. Mud pies
If you are lucky enough to have a garden or a patio with some pots and soil, this is a great space to use where you can. I would advise appropriate clothing as this is traditional messy play! Take out some pots and spoons, collect some soil and hold a competition to see who can make the best natural mud pie. You can add bits of grass, leaves, twigs and stones. Depending on age, you will need to be careful that the mud pie or anything that goes in the mud pie doesn’t get eaten! This activity will get their creative juices flowing, and it is also a great sensory activity. You can talk about different textures and how it feels, which will help younger children with their language development. You could follow up this activity by making an edible mud pie or brownies!

 2. Band practice!
For this activity you don’t need to have any instruments! It’s all about using your imagination and finding things around the house you can make noise with. So, get out the pots and pans, wooden spoons, tins, boxes, lunchboxes, plastic cups and so on. You could also have a go at making your own instruments from your recycling. Fill clean empty bottles with a little bit of rice or put some elastic bands across a tissue box or jar lid. Carefully glue some bottle caps on a folded piece of cardboard, and you have a castanet. See what you can make before getting the band together for a good old sing song! Play to the beat of the song, sing songs that you know and make up new songs!

3. Make pizza
Pizza is really simple to make, and you’ll find a lot of the ingredients in your kitchen cupboards. There are plenty of recipes online. You can get really creative with your toppings, depending on what you have in the house, and you could use bread as your pizza base if you’ve run out of flour. If you’re feeling really creative or would like to extend this activity, you could make a pizza menu and pretend you’re going to a restaurant and use some money or make some pretend money and price the pizzas. You could use weighing the ingredients and counting money as a fun way to do maths. 

4. Can you floss it? Yes, you can!
Learning a new dance move, or even learning a whole dance to a song, is great fun. There are lots of videos of dance crazes online that you can use for this, from the floss to the moon walk. If you want to try and limit the time spent looking at a screen, you could teach some old school simple dance moves of your own, such as the Macarena, YMCA, Cha-Cha Slide, 5-6-7-8, Las Ketchup, Eye of the Tiger, Gangnam Style, Cotton Eye Joe, Oops Upside Your Head, the Fast Food song, the Twist or the Mash Potato, and many more!  My seven year-old nephew particularly enjoyed learning all the dance moves to Eye of the Tiger, and then he taught the moves to the rest of the family. We all had great fun doing it and he loved being the teacher! Dance is a fun way to exercise and release those all-important endorphins.

5. Story time
Story time is lovely time where you can cuddle up with your children’s favourite stories and spend quality time together. Stories can help expand your child’s vocabulary, interests, imagination, develop literacy skills and many more developmental areas depending on what you are reading.
6. Spa time
Self-care is important and is a great way to relax and unwind from the stresses of everyday life. This is a useful calming and bonding activity ahead of bedtime, or you could add it to your bath time routine. All you need is some hand or body cream. Then you can rub it into their hands or feet if they want you to. You can talk about the different smells and describe the texture of different lotions, and then ask them to choose the one they’d like to use. You could take turns brushing each other’s hair or use different items in the house to gently brush their skin, such as a clean makeup brush or a soft toy. Ask them to describe how it feels, soft, tickly etc. Let them gently brush your skin as well.

7. Make a papier mâché bowl
All you need for this activity is newspaper or paper along with a mug of plain flour and a mug of water… and that’s it! Simply tear your paper into strips, soak in the flour and water mix, then create your masterpiece. Once it has fully dried you can paint it. Then you can fill it with bits and bobs. If you are feeling really creative, you could make some masks using a bowl or balloon as a mould.

8. Bake some scones
Scones are easy to make and will use up some staples you might have, such as soured milk. You may not have clotted cream, but a warm scone from the oven with a bit of jam is a lovely afternoon teatime treat. If you want to avoid sugar, try out a savoury scone recipe with cheese or herbs instead. These are delicious warm with a little bit of butter. Weighing the ingredients helps with numeracy, and everyone can get involved rubbing the butter in, stirring to make the dough and then cutting out the scones with different dough cutter shapes.

9. Create a home cinema
Putting on a film is a nice way to spend some quiet time together. A film normally lasts an hour and a half which means that you can sit down with your children and rest too. To further this activity, the children could make cinema tickets, you could pop some popcorn or prepare a different snack together for your cinema experience, for example, fruit kebabs, homemade lollies, cupcakes, vegetable sticks and dip. Don’t forget to talk about what happened in the film afterwards together to help with language development or ask the children to draw pictures of the characters afterwards, to extend the activity.

10. Kim’s game
For this game you need to find lots of random objects from around the house and put them on a table or tray. Give your child one minute to memorise all the objects before covering them up. Then spend another minute trying to remember as many objects as you can. For younger children, use fewer objects. For older children, add more objects to make it trickier. 
A similar game that doesn’t require objects is ‘I went to the shops and I bought a…’. For this game, each player has to come up with an object or food that they bought from the shops using each letter of the alphabet. The first person will say ‘I went to the shops and bought an apple.’ Then the person has to repeat everything the last person says and add their own, for example ‘I went to the shops and I bought an apple and a banana.’ Take it in turns working your way through the alphabet until you get to z. The longer this game goes on the harder it is to remember all the items that came before!

11. Make up a story bag
For this activity you will need to choose some random objects and put them in a bag or box. Then make up a story by pulling each object out of the bag. For example, you could have small world characters and other toys. The story could be ‘Once upon a time there was a little girl who found a magical key that led her to a secret kingdom where she found a talking unicorn…’ Or you could collect some objects that link to a story and make a story sack. You could also try making story stones by finding and cleaning some large, smooth stones or pebbles and drawing simple pictures on them. Then draw these out of a bag one by one as you create your story (be careful if using with younger children as these could be choking hazards).

I hope that you find these activities and ideas helpful for keeping you and your little ones busy. If there is nothing here that you think will interest your child, please check out Pinterest. It is a great resource with thousands of activities that you can tailor for your child’s age and stage of development. Remember keep safe during these uncertain times and make the most of this time together to have as much fun as possible!”

There are more activity ideas on our ideas for entertaining children at home and 125 seasonal activities posts.

Stay in touch with Norland on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest advice and support. 

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Top tips for establishing a routine for young children

Establishing and maintaining a routine can be tricky for families struggling with young children in a confined space without the usual schedule centred around nursery and school. Julia Gaskell, Head of Consultancy and Training and a Norlander has compiled her top tips to help families create a new routine or adjust an existing one as restrictions evolve.

"Establishing a routine during these challenging and uncertain times can be beneficial to our health and wellbeing. Our brains don’t always cope well with uncertainty and we can often interpret change as a potential threat. We thrive on predictability because then our brains don’t have to work as hard to keep us feeling safe and secure.

This is especially true for children because a routine can help them to feel safer, especially during times of change, and will help them to orientate themselves throughout the day. Being able to predict events can be comforting and helps us to be more ‘in the moment’ as we are not worrying about what might be happening next.

Routines for babies and young children has been much written about and there are many theories out there about the best ways to approach instigating one. This article is going to consider young children, whose normal routine of going to school or nursery has already been disrupted and now may be facing further change as restrictions evolve.

Here are my top tips:

1. Think about the important stuff first. What time does your child generally wake up? How much sleep do they need? What are their mealtimes and bedtimes? Consider the healthy habits you wish to encourage such as brushing teeth and washing hands. This will form the template for your routine. It is easier to establish a routine that follows your child’s natural rhythm.

2. Now make a list of other things you want to fit into your and your child’s day. If your child is old enough, include them in your planning so that they have a voice within the process.

3. Do not worry too much about timings as these can be flexible. The order that you do things in is more important than how long they last as it is this bit which helps your child to predict what is happening next and helps them to feel more secure.

4. It might be too difficult or unsettling to do everything all at once so you might want to introduce the routine gradually.

5. Give your child time to move from one part of the routine to another via a five-minute warning or playing music in order to indicate a transition. This gives your child time to adjust and prepare for the change.

6. You could use symbols, objects or pictures to represent activities on a timeline so that your child can see where they are within the routine and what is coming next, especially whilst it is new. You could create these objects or pictures together.

7. Think about how you deal with change yourself. It can affect our behaviour and children are no different. It can be scary and challenging, but a routine can help us all with this. You are always a role model for your child; how you cope will give them a narrative for their own approach.

8. Remember to try to make the routine fun. It’s meant to be a positive thing, not a list of chores to be completed.

9. Don’t worry about adapting or changing the routine if needed. Make changes in a structured way by preparing your child for the change and involving them in the process either by talking through what will be changing or asking for suggestions of what you can do differently. Try giving them a choice between two options so that they feel involved and can express their growing autonomy.

“Start where you are
Use what you have
Do what you can”
Arthur Aste"

You may also find our articles on supporting and guiding children during stressful times and activity ideas useful.

Stay in touch with Norland on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest advice and support.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

“Slow down and press the pause button”: advice on homeschooling during lockdown

Norlander, mother of nine and home school educator for ten years Vicki Goldby (Set 19) shares her tips for homeschooling. Vickis family was recently featured in Channel 5s A Country Life for Half the Price with Kate Humble. View the programme from the Channel 5 website.  

With the Easter holidays behind us and school doors remaining closed, we face the challenge of home educating our children while the lockdown continues. As a Norlander, mum of nine children aged one to seventeen years and as a home educator for the last ten years, I would love to share with you some ideas that I hope may make the road ahead smoother.

We need to bear in mind that these are not normal times, and this is not ordinary home education. We are educating in a crisis situation and we, therefore, need to relax some of our expectations in order to get through the next few weeks without causing ourselves unnecessary stress.  

It is worth noting that many countries begin formal education at seven years, for example Finland, which also has a reputation for excellence in education. So, if you have a young child, maybe now is the time to take the pedal off and allow them the time to learn without the confines of academic expectation. This doesnt mean they wont still be learning. Children are natural explorers and creating a learning environment that works with their interests and needs will still provide opportunities to develop their learning in an active way.

Children of all ages learn best when they love what they are learning.  Parents need to consider themselves at this time to be facilitators, not necessarily teachers. Take time, where possible, to watch your child, and ask yourself questions. What does my child love? What activities hold their attention? What are they drawn to? Then create opportunities to incorporate academic subjects into those activities.

Let me give you a couple of ideas. Lets say a child loves playing with sticks in the garden. Use those sticks for counting (maths), create mini houses (design and technology), read Stickman and write your own stick poem (Literacy) or make a cake and decorate with stick-shaped matchmakers (food technology). This framework, of project-based learning, can be used with many ideas: gardening projects, cooking, kitchen science, the list is endless.

If this all sounds too much, take it back a gear, simply live with your children and teach them life skills. Money maths, reading recipes, writing greeting cards, writing shopping lists, telling the time, playing board games, reading stories; these are all very educational and reinforce concepts they will have learnt at school. You may find that when they go back to school these concepts will be more easily understood because they have learnt with their hands as well as their minds.

Children thrive when given routine, they know what is coming next and in times like these when their life is changing so quickly, a framework to the day will give them much needed stability. Keep meals and bedtimes consistent but try to consider the education side more as a lifestyle of learning, rather than school at home. A strict timetable rarely works and often causes family stress. There does need to be a rhythm to the day, but timings can be fluid.

You may find that a couple of hours in the morning of table work is more than enough to complete any work that school has sent, age depending. Although this work has been set by teachers trying to help your child, if it is causing conflict then speak to the school, they are there to help you. Its also really important to note that its not worth being a slave to a routine, routine is your servant, not your master. In our family we find our life is best structured around meals, so we aim to do most of our academic study before lunch. But we are also realistic and some days we start school after lunch because the morning was busy or full of emotions.

I would suggest that you consider your workday first. Many parents are still trying to work full time from home. If you are trying to home educate as well, that is a huge challenge, and not a situation most home educators have to deal with. Schoolwork can be fitted around your routine. If your only completely free time is in the evenings, then just do an hour then with your child, of reading, a little writing and some age appropriate maths. They are very unlikely to fall behind if these basics are covered. They will also have matured, learnt life skills and had less pressure from tests, you may find lockdown has in some ways benefitted your child.

Home educated children are often very successful at university, because they have learnt self-led learning from the beginning. Schools are brilliant at teaching, but the thrust of home education is to encourage independent learning and a child who is fascinated by the world around them. With this encouragement, we can go forward helping mixed age groups to learn side by side. It looks different to school and that is as it should be. It is about making your environment stimulating as much as it is about providing book work.

If your child has work set (which many schools are already providing), then you can encourage them to work through this as independently as possible and come to you with any difficulties. Schools will not generally be requiring children to learn new concepts during lockdown, but rather to revise what they have done this year. So, your child may well be able to be self-led. Maybe organise a fun activity for afterwards to help speed them along.

This is the ideal of course, but children are not robots and sometimes they throw us a curve ball and we must roll with it. When times are tough and emotions run high, I try to remember relationship first, academics second. At the end of this lockdown we all still want to get along with our children more than we need them to know their times tables. Maybe teach things in a more surreptitious way, by sneaking fractions into cake eating and telling the time into when they are allowed screen time. On that point, I limit screen time each day to about an hour, but, in this current situation, that shouldnt include talking to friends over video on the computer.

Children, like adults, need to socialise. Normally, as home educators, we would go to groups and meet up with other home educated children or join in with evening clubs. Like everyone else at the moment, my children are not socialising with anyone outside their family, and this can bring its own challenges. Thankfully there are many wonderful ways technology can help us to stay connected. Live video enables our children not just to see their friends but to play games together, cook recipes at the same time from different houses or even learn sign language, the possibilities are endless.  

This may be a time when children are struggling with their feelings, but we can help them to feel empowered, by helping them to serve those who are in different situations to themselves, by taking food to the food bank, taking some food to a neighbour, writing letters to care home residents or sending photos of pictures to hospitals, for their walls.  

Although this is a difficult time for many, we can look on this lockdown as an opportunity. For many it is a gift of time, a chance to slow down and press the pause button. Education can happen anywhere, not just in a classroom. Everything has the potential to be a learning experience for your child. When you take time to see the world with the wide eyes of your childs discovering mind, you will have unlocked the door to home education.

Stay in touch with Norland on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest advice and support.

Friday, 17 April 2020

17 strategies to help your child develop good behaviour

We are living through an extremely stressful time, which is impacting on us all in different ways. It’s important to keep in mind that children learn how to behave and respond to different situations by copying the adults around them. Julia Gaskell, Head of Consultancy and Training and a Norlander has put together 17 strategies that will support your child to develop good behaviour.

1. Be a positive role model

Children will do as you do, they look upon you as their guide and an example of how to deal with the world. Your behaviour therefore can be a positive example of how to react in positive and negative situations. As a role model, you must try to ‘walk the walk’ not ‘talk the talk’, therefore, what you do can be more important than what you say. For example, if you want your child to read more, then let them see you read and regularly read with them, if you would like your child to say “please” and “thank you”, then say it yourself at every opportunity.

2. Notice when your child is behaving well

Be on the look-out for any positive behaviour that you can comment on. This will encourage them to continue behaving well. The aim is to help young children seek attention in a positive way, so by spotting it early you are sending a message that they will get noticed and praised for positive, rather than negative, behaviour. Be specific about what you are praising so instead of saying “you are a good boy” try saying “I really liked the way you cleared up your toys before lunch”. Timing is important too. Make sure you praise straight away and don’t delay it, that way the child fully understands what you are pleased about within that moment. Have you heard of Gottman’s magic ratio? You can YouTube it – Gottman argues that in order to maintain emotional wellbeing we need to make sure that we give six positive comments to a child for every negative one! Think of it like coins in a purse. Does your child have enough coins?

3. Avoid nagging

How often do you repeat yourself to your child? If you keep nagging, your child will learn to tune you out and stop listening. Try to say things once, clearly and then move on. The aim is to be focused and to keep the instructions simple with an end goal. Assume that they will do what you have asked them. If they don’t, you could remind them a short while later making it clear that you have already asked them once. If they still do not comply, you might say “I have asked you to do this twice now, but I see you’re not listening. I will ask one more time and if you don’t do it, we will have to put this away”. If you give them a consequence for not cooperating, make sure it is one that you can follow through on (you should always follow through). Some children need more time to process instructions, so wait before assuming they are not complying.

4. Share your feelings

Do not be afraid of showing your child how you feel and how their behaviour can affect you. Remember you are their role model, so how you cope with your feelings will provide a template for your child to copy. By explaining how you are feeling and why, you are helping your child to develop empathy which is key to successful relationships. You are also sending the message that it is ok to be sad, angry, excited etc, which will help your child to feel more comfortable expressing these feelings in an appropriate way. Remember there is no bad feeling, only a bad way of expressing it! For example, you might choose to say “when you shout, I cannot hear my own thoughts and it makes me feel confused”. Using “I” statements makes it clear how you are being affected and avoids blaming and shaming.

5. When communicating with your child get down to their level

By physically moving down to their level, you are giving a powerful positive message because you are giving them your full attention. You are more able to read their body language and give eye contact and they will be better able to read yours. This will allow both of you to be able to tune into each other and gives the child time to focus in on what you are communicating. It is not helpful to insist that your child look at you if they are avoiding eye contact. Remember to role model positive eye contact and your child should naturally follow over time.

6. Active listening

Active listening means giving your child your full attention and acknowledging what you are hearing, particularly with your body language. By repeating back what they have said to you and acknowledging and empathising with what has been communicated, your child will feel heard and understood. This will help relieve tension and possibly even a temper tantrum! You will also be clarifying your understanding of the situation. By labelling feelings, you are helping a child to understand and identify their own emotions and giving them tools to be able to express themselves more easily. For example, you might say “I can see that you are cross that Johnny has that car. I get cross when I can’t have something I want too. Let’s go talk to him and see if he will share it with you once he has had a play”.  By acknowledging that you feel these feelings too, it helps the child to understand feelings and manage them more successfully.

7. Choose your battles carefully

When you get involved in something your child is doing or not doing, stop and consider whether it really matters. By keeping instructions, requests, and negative feedback to a minimum you create less opportunity for conflict and bad feelings. This way your child is more likely to listen when you need them to. Can you win the battle? If you can’t then ask yourself if it is worth it. Rules are important, especially safety rules, but keeping them to a minimum will ensure they are more easily followed. Make sure your child understands why there is a rule in the first place. Would you follow a rule if you didn’t understand it?

8. Keep it simple and positive

Where you can, try to keep your interactions, but particularly instructions, simple and positive. Are you being clear about what you are asking your child to do? Check for understanding i.e. asking them to repeat the instruction. Try not to give too much information at once. Use positive language.  Instead of saying “don’t leave the door open”, try “please shut the door”.

9. Actions have consequences

As children mature and their understanding develops, you can give them more responsibility for their own behaviour. This includes experiencing the normal consequences of their actions. An example of this could be a child who does not want to put on their coat to go outside. You might allow this, if appropriate, so that they then feel cold themselves and return to get their coat. This means that you do not have to nag all the time and the child feels a sense of autonomy, as well as recognising that actions have consequences – some good and some bad. If we protect children too much from the consequences of their actions, we may miss opportunities for them to learn via trial and error or come to their own understanding through direct experience. Of course, this flexibility doesn’t apply when you have to stop a child from doing something because it is dangerous or unacceptable, such as running into the road. In these cases, it is best to explain the consequences appropriately and help your child to understand them.

10. Look at your surroundings through the eyes of a child

Take a moment to look at your environment. What might be tempting for a child to play with? If you do not want a child to touch or play with something, try to remove it from their sight. This way your child won’t be tempted to play with it, especially during these potentially boring times at home. Children are sensory learners so it can be hard for them to remember not to play with certain things. They are also naturally driven to explore. You can avoid battles and nagging by removing or concealing items that are precious or breakable and avoid potential catastrophes.

11. Pinky promise

Keep your promises and agreements. Do not make promises if you can’t keep them! In this way your child will learn to trust what you say and respect you. It also sets a good example for them to follow themselves in life. It is particularly important when you apply a consequence for poor behaviour, for example leaving a party because they are misbehaving. If you say that you are going to do something but don’t follow through, they are less likely to comply next time. Be matter of fact about it and don’t over explain. By being able to trust what you say, your child will feel safe and secure.

12. Being valued

We all love to feel important. Children love to feel that they can make a positive contribution to the family. Think about some jobs and practical tasks you could involve your child in. Try not to make it too much of a chore or a punishment. They might need time to practice and get it right, so use lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement. This will help build your child’s self-esteem and sense of responsibility and might even help you out a little too! A good strategy is to allow your child to overhear you praising them to someone else, this can be a very powerful way to encourage good behaviour.

13. Difficult times

Life does not always go to plan and we must all face challenging situations in our lives. If something difficult happens, if possible, plan it around your child’s needs. Explain what is happening honestly and in a way that is developmentally appropriate for your child. Do not sweep it under the carpet as your child will find this more worrying than the truth. Explain why you need their cooperation and what they can expect. Wherever possible children benefit from time to adjust to any transition, even simple ones during the day like mealtimes and bedtimes. Remember that what affects one member of the family unit affects all members, especially children, so being honest is important.

14. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you

Try and maintain your sense of humour. This can be difficult, but it can also be helpful for relieving tense situations. Try not to laugh at your child as this could hurt their feelings and self-confidence (although it’s ok to laugh at a child if they are attempting to make you laugh). It is about sharing jokes or finding the humour in situations with your child. By trying to make things fun and light-hearted, your child will be more relaxed. Family jokes can be especially helpful and encourage a sense of unity and belonging, especially during challenging situations.

15. Give choices

Giving children choices can be a helpful way to secure their cooperation. It makes them feel more empowered and more willing to engage with what needs to be done. It can be particularly useful for those activities they struggle with, such as brushing teeth. You could ask “what colour toothbrush do you want to use today” or “shall we brush our teeth before or after your bath”?

16. Focus on the behaviour not the child

Avoid personalising the behaviour. Be clear that certain behaviours are unacceptable, but don’t shame the child. Say “it’s not ok to hit your brother”.  Don’t say “you’re a bad child”.  Label the behaviour, not the child. This also works for more positive messages.  Instead of saying “you’re a kind child”, say “that’s a kind thing to do”. This avoids putting too much pressure on a child to live up to certain expectations, but still promotes positive attributes and behaviours.

17. Consistency is key

One of the most important messages is to make sure you’re consistent about what you expect from a child’s behaviour and what you will allow. This consistency should be shared amongst all the adults in the family to avoid mixed messages. There’s always room for some flexibility but changing the boundaries too much or too often is confusing and disruptive for a young child.

Read our related blog on supporting and guiding children during stressful times and a recent Dad Blog UK interview with Principal Dr Janet Rose on emotion coaching for more advice and guidance on responding to children who are feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

Stay in touch with Norland on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest advice and support.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Activity ideas for entertaining children at home

Keeping little ones entertained, active and stimulated during isolation is extremely challenging but also crucial for everyone’s wellbeing! Here is a selection of activities that Norlanders Julia Gaskell, Head of Consultancy and Training, and Elspeth Pitman, Newly Qualified Nanny (NQN) Manager, have compiled from ideas contributed by staff, Norlanders and students. We’ll be sharing more activity ideas over the coming days and weeks, so keep an eye out!

  • Create a routine. Keep activities alive and fresh. Plan out your days and stick to a new routine by ensuring there are regular times for physical, creative, fun and calming activities throughout the day. Think about ways to give old toys a new lease of life, for example setting a 30-day Lego Challenge – use one of the many available planners online or create your own together. Check out Living Montessori Now for activity ideas and free resources. 
  • Stay active. Children have lots of energy and staying at home will reduce the opportunities for exercise that would have been part of their normal daily routine. Children under five need around three hours of physical activity every day. Think up fun activities you can do together and build this into your new daily routine. Do some exercise together every morning in the house or in the garden if you can.

Useful resources:
o    The government’s Hungry Little Minds resource has plenty of ideas for activities for entertaining young children from newborn to five years old
o    The NHSChange4Life campaign offers lots of fun ideas for keeping healthy, including 10 minute shake-up games to get your children moving
o    Active for Life provides 49 fun and varied physical activities for children aged two to five years
  • Bubble painting. Add bubble solution (or washing up liquid and water) together with a large squirt of paint. Put a piece of paper over the top of a cup/ bowl/ pot with the mixture inside. Put a straw into the pot and blow, creating a bubble effect which will be apparent when you have finished blowing and the image you have created will be seen on the paper. This is a simple fun activity for children; ensure that they know how to blow before you try this!
  • Junk modelling. Collect together your unwanted ‘junk’ from around the house, such as buttons, cotton reels, thread, yarn and fabric scraps, plastic bottles, cartons and cardboard tubes, boxes, jar lids, tissue paper, foil and bubble wrap. Ensure that the junk is clean and safe. You’ll also need some child friendly PVA glue and sticky tape. You could paint your creations too if you wish. You could base this on a child’s favourite theme, e.g. transport, animals, Easter etc. They could then build on this theme and make some cookies or other craft to go with it. For older children, look up some facts about your theme online or link it to science and see if they can make an aspect of the junk modelling move. You’ll be amazed at what young imaginations can dream up!
  • Scented gloop. This is a very easy activity with household items. You simply mix 2 cups of cornflour to 1 cup of water. You will also need a spoon, a base, and various scented materials such as vanilla and peppermint extract. Put the gloop into a base – this could be a tray, plastic box or across a wipeable table. Put the cornflour in the centre of the base and pour the water (slowly!) into the cornflour, stirring gently. When you pour in the water, you will feel the mixture changing as you mix! To make this mixture scented, just add peppermint or vanilla extract. You can also add lemon juice, a sprinkle of cinnamon, different colours (using food extract or children’s paint) or glitter - to add an extra sparkle! Remember to keep reminding young children that gloop is not edible.
  • Make a flower bouquet. Create a pretty flower bouquet by placing two circular pieces of tissue paper in different colours on top of each other, then screwing them up into a rose or flower shape. Attach a pipe cleaner to the base (doubled over for strength if needed). You can put them in a vase or tie them like a bouquet as a special gift. A great alternative to real flowers, and they last forever! You may not necessarily have these exact items to hand, but there will be plenty of alternatives around the house, such as paper that you can colour in together and cut out to make flower petals – this is the time to get creative with what is available! 
  • Box Fun. Do you have any old boxes in the garage or spare room? Could they be transformed into a space rocket, a racing car, a dolls house or even a fairy tale castle? Children love boxes and you will be amazed at what their imagination can come up with.
  • Recipe for simple-to-make salt dough. Making salt dough is a fun and easy activity for children and you are very likely to have the ingredients ready and waiting in your kitchen cupboards. Please remember to keep reminding young children that salt dough is not edible. All you need to do is mix together a cup of plain flour with half a cup of table salt and half a cup of water. Stir until it comes together into a clean ball. You can add food colouring dyes to create different coloured doughs. Use a floured surface to create any shapes you want with your dough, then pop your finished items onto a lined baking sheet and pop in the oven on its lowest setting for about 3 hours. Once your creations are cool, you can paint them.
  • Travel the world without leaving your house on an international adventure. Create a country theme to explore. Look up where the country is, what food they eat there and make the food if possible. If they use different utensils for eating and you have these in the house, then give it a go. Learn some of the language, for example what is ‘hello’ in that country’s language. Do they have a national dress or animals that could be drawn, coloured or made out of a craft. You could choose a country that you had been planning to visit and recreate that visit at home.
  • Shadow drawing. Place some toy animals in the sunlight on that their shadow is cast onto some white paper. Then ask your children to trace around the shadow to produce the animal shape, which they can then colour in and decorate.
  • If you have access to a garden or a park, set a treasure hunt challenge. Make a list of treasures to find, then ask the children to go and find these objects and place them into their bucket, for example a brown leaf, a yellow flower, a stone, something that makes them smile, etc. You may need to remind them to stay away from other people. Once they have found everything on their list, they come back in a circle and show everyone what they have found. You can treasure hunt in different locations to see if you can find a variety of treasures. You can make the treasure hunt as simple or as detailed as appropriate to the ages of the children, and it’s a great way to develop language and observation skills. For example, you could set an alphabet challenge and ask them to find objects beginning with a particular letter. If you don’t have access to a garden, then create an indoor treasure hunt.

  • Create a wish jar. Every time each member of your family wishes they could do something, go somewhere, treat themselves, see someone they love, visit a new place, invite people to visit you, write it down on a post-it note and put it in a jar. When all this is over, this will be your bucket list and you can work your way through the jar and be more grateful than ever for the little and lovely things in life. Until then, you can all enjoy watching the jar filling up with magical things to look forward to.
Don’t forget some of the good old games, like hide and seek, squashed sardines, making dens, playing shops, and being pirates on a ship (the sofa).

Check out Norland’s 125 seasonal activities for more ideas and keep an eye on this blog as we’ll be sharing more ideas over the coming weeks.

Stay in touch with Norland on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest advice and support.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Baking cookies without eggs and flour

With many families with young children looking to bake during the weeks ahead, some of us might not have or be able to buy the ingredients that we usually would. Malandra, a Set 42 (second year) student, shows how resourceful Norland students can be and has shared a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe that doesn't require eggs or flour, and can be adapted to be dairy-free too.

I love to bake and decided to bake chocolate chip cookies as a sweet treat for my family, but when I looked in the cupboard I realised we had very little flour. This recipe is great for the current circumstances, when it might be more difficult to get hold of certain ingredients. Blended oats make a creative substitute for flour and this recipe replaces the eggs with oil. I used olive oil, but sunflower or rapeseed should work just as well. Unrefined sugar such as honey could be used if you don't have sugar. Chopped nut or dried fruit can replace chocolate chips and a dairy-free milk alternative such as soya milk could be used instead of cow’s milk.

  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt (left out if baking for children)
  • ½ cup sugar (any type of sugar should work)
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips (could be replaced with nuts, dried fruit or a mixture)
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used olive oil; however any should work)
  • 2 tbsp milk (you could use a dairy-free alternative such as soya, to make dairy-free)
Makes 15 cookies
Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas mark 5
Cooking time: 6-8 minutes


Combine the oats, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processer and pulse until it resembles flour texture.

Pour this over the remaining ingredients, mix until combined.

Prepare a lined baking tray and set the oven at 190C/fan 170C/gas mark 5.

Using a scoop for your hands, form mixture into small balls.

Place them onto the baking tray and flatten slightly. Make sure the cookies are spaced well apart as they spread dramatically in the oven.

Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on baking tray. When they've cooled slightly and aren't as soft, remove to a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container.

How can children get involved?

These cookies are great and simple to make. Children can get involved with measuring out the oats, pouring ingredients, mixing the ingredients together, and even rolling the mixture into balls before pressing gently onto a baking tray.

A simple and delicious recipe, suitable for children and adults!

Food and Nutrition is taught on the prestigious Norland Diploma, which students study alongside the degree. This unique qualification teaches the practical skills it takes to become a Norland Nanny. Find out more about this practical qualification.

Using leftover vegetables to make a delicious homemade soup

Over the coming weeks, we're going to need to be resourceful with the food that we have in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. Laura, a Set 42 (second year) student, has shared a recipe that is fantastic for using up any short-dated and leftover vegetables.

I created this recipe to use up any vegetables that are close to their best before date. Therefore, you can adapt it to suit the vegetables you’ve got at home; the recipe is very versatile. Also, vegetable soup is highly nutritious and a good source vitamin C, which is great for the immune system. This recipe is also great for families with different dietary requirements as it is vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free.


  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 3 sticks of celery 
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bell peppers 
  • 2 tomatoes 
  • 600ml passata 
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1tsp dried basil 
  • 1tsp dried oregano 
  • Pepper to taste 
  • 1tbsp olive oil

Serves five adults
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes


Finely dice the carrot, celery, and onion.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the vegetables, sauté for 2/3 minutes.

Mince the garlic cloves and add to the saucepan, continue to sauté the vegetables until soft and golden, roughly another 10 minutes.

Finely dice the tomatoes and peppers and add to the saucepan, cook for another 5 minutes.

Once all the vegetables have softened, add the passata, stock and dried herbs to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer.

Simmer for roughly 20 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth, you can use a hand blender for this if you prefer.

Season with pepper to taste.

How can children get involved? 

When making vegetable soup, children can help at many stages. Firstly, children can help chop the vegetables using a suitable knife as long as there’s adult supervision. Secondly, children can help stir the vegetables in the saucepan as well as pour in the liquids. Children can also turn on the blender once the soup has been poured in but be careful as the blender jug may be hot.

Food and Nutrition is taught on the Norland Diploma, which students study alongside the degree. This unique qualification teaches the practical skills it takes to become a Norland Nanny. Find out more about this practical qualification.