Monday, 14 December 2015

What if?

Claire Burgess
Early Years Consultancy Manager 

The news provides a constant reminder that the world isn’t always a safe place and that sometimes the worst can happen. But how do we as nannies and parents / carers prepare ourselves and our children for the worst without scaring them?

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Road Safety Week

Elspeth Pitman

It is Road Safety Week and Brake’s theme this year is “Drive less, live more” which in turn will allow us to “Save more, Talk more, Care more and Live more”.

According to Brake: “Children who are encouraged to walk, cycle, scoot or skateboard to school tend to engage more with their community, stay healthy, and arrive alert, relaxed and ready to start the day.” This statement surely encompasses what we want for all of our children, an opportunity to live their life to the full. So even when the weather is not inviting, whenever possible, Norland would promote walking, scooting or cycling to nursery or school.

Here at Norland we think this week is a great opportunity to talk about how we can keep children in our care, safe on the roads. Research has found that when driving, children can be more distracting than mobile phones. We take our responsibility to ensure children are safe in the hands of our Norland Nannies when on the road very seriously. Students cover road safety as a topic on the Norland Diploma, we provide additional training in fitting car seats properly and on being safe in icy and wet conditions with skid pan training. Norland students also undertake Drive a Child online training as part of their course at Norland. Of course, keeping children safe on the road is not just about being in a car.  Students are also taught about safety as a pedestrian with children and how to teach children about staying safe whilst walking, cycling and scooting on the pavement.

For our older children, we should be teaching them how to be safe on the road. Road Safety GB and the Department for Transport have produced some useful ideas and resources to help teach children about road safety. Now that it is likely to be dark heading to and from school parents and carers should use this opportunity to speak to children about being visible to drivers as a pedestrian. You might get the conversation started about road safety with a fun activity, for example, buy some self-adhesive reflective tape and talk to the children about where they might be able to attach some to their clothing, bags, helmets, scooters and bikes to help the traffic see them better.

If driving really is the only option, then we must make essential checks to ensure the safety of the children we are driving. For example, are you certain you have fitted your child’s car seat properly? This is one of the questions you should be asking yourself every time you take a child out in a car. According to Brake if a child is properly fitted with an appropriate child restraint, suitable for the child’s size and weight, then the risk of injury in a crash is reduced by 70%, however, 56% of us get this wrong. Even though we train our nannies in fitting car seats, there are so many different makes and models, our students are taught to read the instructions on how to fit the specific car seat properly. If instructions are no longer available then they should find the correct instructions online or call the manufacturers to ask for a new copy. It is also their responsibility to be up-to date with the current laws on appropriate car restraints for children. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have some excellent guidance on how to ensure a child is safe in a car restraint.

 Fitting the car seat correctly is not the only consideration when driving with children.  In this wintery weather it is easy, for convenience, to strap your child in the car seat with their thick winter coat on, but this could be a dangerous mistake.  A small child could very easily overheat in their coat and hat and not be able to tell you. It is also harder to ensure that the harness of a car seat is fitted properly if a child is in a thick winter coat – the car seat straps might not be secure enough to protect the child should you have  an accident, as highlighted by Good Egg Car Safety[AS1] .  It is much safer to avoid putting children in their car seat in a winter  coat and use an additional blanket if need be. Remember though, if you plan on having the heaters on in the car, this may not be necessary.

So, this week take the initiative from Road Safety Week advice to “Drive less and live more” and get talking to your children or charges about safety whilst out and about.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A personal reflection on the important role of a key person

Elspeth Pitman  
Early Years Consultant 

Should we give children the opportunity to choose their own key person? 

Recently I had the pleasure of going to Tanzania for a week to help run a children’s programme at a Conference for Missionaries. We, 5 volunteers, had the privilege of entertaining 27 children ranging between the ages of 12 months to 14 years. Due to my Early Years background and Norland training I took on the responsibility for making sure our five youngest children, all under the age of 3 years, were well cared for.

This experience gave me the opportunity to reflect on some of the best practice we at Norland College promote throughout our training. The two areas of best practice which I found most useful during my time in Tanzania were, careful observation of each individual child’s needs and regular reflection on the care and environment provided. Both of these areas of best practice proved to be invaluable throughout my week in Tanzania to help provide the best possible care we could under the circumstances. 

Transitions, especially short terms ones, are particularly hard for young children as they are often not fully aware of what is going on and why they are being left in a different situation with adults they have not met before. The situation reminded me of a quote by Elinor Goldschmied (2001, p. 37) “We can never remind ourselves too often that a child, particularly a very young child and almost totally dependent one, is the only person in the nursery who cannot understand why he is there.” 

With this reflection in mind, and bearing in mind the children had never met us before, whilst I at first said I would act as key person for the youngest of children, we decided that we would initially keep all the children in one room together to see how they settled. Our initial instinct proved to be invaluable; the youngest of our children would often only settle if sitting right next to, or even on the same chair as, their sibling. Being in the same room all together also meant that the youngest children could settle or be comforted by the adult they felt most comfortable with – in effect choosing their own key person. The beneficial effect of this was clearly seen in a little boy of 18 months who, from day 1, would only settle with our only male volunteer. We facilitated this choice of key person for this little boy as much as possible and by the 4th and final day of the programme we all celebrated the confidence this little boy had developed. Helping this little boy build a secure attachment to one adult helped him to feel more secure in his whole surrounding and to explore and play independently with all of the adults in the room.

It is important as an Early Years Practitioner and Nanny we make sure that through the best practice of careful observation we are supporting young children through times of transition as sensitively as possible. Recent research (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2014) has shown that high levels of the hormone Cortisol, produced through stressful situations, can initially reduce young children’s ability to play, learn and develop. Whilst we cannot remove all stresses on young children, as this is part of life, we should endeavour to reduce it as much as possible to allow play, learning and development to flourish in each individual child in our care.  This was something which I certainly observed to be true with the little boy in our care during just 1 week.

The key person practice is not uncommon in nursery settings, but it did make me reflect upon whether there is always the facilitation for a young child to choose their own key person if it would benefit the child? This does not mean that any one practitioner is better than another, but as individuals we do gravitate more towards some people than others. Parents who are choosing their nanny and in effect key person for their children might also consider the Norland recommendation of having the nanny spend a day (or more) with the children and family as part of the interviewing process. This will provide the opportunity for the parents and nanny not only to see whether they will be happy working together, but also the opportunity for the parents to see whether the children warm to the particular nanny’s personality and style to fully allow the ‘key person’ relationship, and therefore the children, to thrive.

Friday, 30 October 2015

What is Inclusion and why is it so important in the Early Years?

Anne Purdon
Curriculum Leader 

What is inclusion? This is the question we will be posing to our second year students, Set 38, when they return to college after half term. Our second years have been spending the first half of this semester in placement and they will have been working with children from a diverse range of backgrounds of different ages and abilities. As early years practitioners it is vital that our students consider how they can support all children to achieve their potential and how they can help to remove any barriers that might exist to their learning and development.

But what does it really mean to value diversity and promote equal opportunities for all? Aristotle said that ‘‘There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.” Inclusion, according to Rodgers &Wilmot (2011, p2) ‘… is the process by which we value all individuals, recognising their unique attributes, qualities and ways of being.’

When we work with children we must never assume they are all the same and treat them as such. In order to value diversity and promote equal opportunities we need to value each child equally but treat them differently according to their needs. We need to get to know each individual child so well that we can respond to their individual needs and treat them in the unique way in which they as individuals can thrive.

It is important that our students take on board the fact that inclusion is a right, not a luxury as underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the Every Disabled Child Matters Inclusion Charter 2015.**

As we continue with the lectures for this module we will be discovering how we can ensure every child is included. A fundamental building block for inclusion is showing respect; this involves recognising that each family we work with has a different set of beliefs and values. By allowing children to make their own choices and respecting those choices we can raise their self-esteem in the knowledge that secure emotional development is vital for a child’s learning and development. We know that’s true for adults too don’t we? When we feel good about ourselves, when we feel valued in what we are doing, we can achieve so much more.

**The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 requires us to adopt an inclusive approach; for example Article 2 states that ‘Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.’ (UNICEF,1989). In addition The Every Disabled Child Matters Inclusion Charter states that ‘All children have the right to be included in every aspect of society. Disabled children should not have to ask or fight to be included in the things that other children do.’ (EDCM, 2015)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Make Memories this Summer with #NorlandNannyActivity Ideas

Claire Burgess
Early Years Consultancy Manager
Over my career I have been asked hundreds of times ‘what made you want to be a nanny?’ and my answer has always been simple, I love being around children and making lasting memories with them.  This hasn’t changed and over the years I have seen what a privileged position we nannies have; there are very few professions where you get to influence another person’s life in such a way that you help shape who that person will be in later life. It is amazing what children remember as they grow up and one of the best parts when working so closely with children is seeing precious memories being made and thinking, they’ll remember this for life.  

For me last weekend was a great example of how memories are made with children in the simplest of ways by doing and experiencing things with others.  Research has shown that children learn more effectively through hands on experiences and emotional connections with others rather than being told about something. 
On Saturday, a family who I met through my work with Tamba, came to visit me at my parent’s farm.  The afternoon started with two shy 3 year old twin boys and their 11 year old big brother but quickly developed into a memory making adventure! 

Watching the 3 boys look longingly at the tractor, asking if they could sit in it and then having the opportunity to ride in it was wonderful.  Taking it in turns to have a go and then congratulating each other with a hug when they finished their tractor driving experience highlighted their shared love of the experience, and their smiles just said it all. 

Then it was time to feed the calves and there were 2 very keen little helpers!  From mixing the milk powder to watching the calves drink, there were lots of questions and new learning opportunities.  It was hands on learning in the truest sense of the word!

The afternoon ended with us asking the boys what the best bit was, two answered with “the tractor ride” and the other one “all of it!” – can’t ask for much better than that!  I think I can safely say that lasting shared memories were made on Saturday afternoon and as a Norland Nanny it’s pretty special to have been part of it. 

Everyday Norland Nannies around the world are making memories with children, what memories are you making this summer? Some great activity ideas have been shared by our Norland Nannies via #NorlandNannyActivity on Twitter and Instagram, start memory making with your children/charges today!
 If visiting a working farm, please remember to be conscious of children’s safety at all times, for advice on this click here.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Behaviour Management - Norland's Approach

Elspeth Pitman 
Early Years Consultant 

One of the hot topics parents always ask is what the ‘Norland secret’ is in regards to behaviour management and in truth there isn’t one! We know that no two children and no two families are the same and individual approaches need to be carefully considered before they are applied to any family or child.

However, there are two top tips that we at Norland think can help to manage any children’s behaviour:

First, it is important to try and understand why the child’s behaviour might be occurring. A child’s behaviour will be a reaction to something in their lives, find out what this ‘something’ is so you can look at treating the cause. Some common ‘causes’ include, the child feeling unwell or being over-tired; there being unrealistic pressures on them or if they are receiving mixed confusing messages. Understanding why a child is displaying behaviours we may deem unacceptable will help you avoid the situation in the future and help to explain to the child what behaviours you would expect in that situation and help them learn.

For example, a toddler might be at the stage where we start to teach them to be more independent with potty training and feeding themselves, yet they might find themselves being told off for spilling their drink as they try to help themselves. Here the toddler is confused about what is expected of them, one minute they are being told to be independent and the next they are being told off for doing so. This is where the toddler’s behaviour is likely to be labelled with the famous ‘toddler tantrums’ and shrugged off as being a phase. But are we considering the child’s self-esteem and their innate desire to learn and succeed in what they see the adults doing in the world around them? They should be praised and encouraged to try again and perhaps consider how you can help the toddler achieve this next time without spilling.  

Having a better understanding of why children behave the way they do can often be quite empowering in managing children’s behaviour. Children are not born ‘naughty’, a word we would not recommend using as it labels the child and isn’t helpful for the child in understanding what they need to do differently. A child who is given attention when being disruptive, or is not given clear guidance on what behaviour is desired instead, will be likely to continue with the unwanted behaviour.

Second, try and notice and acknowledge the positive things your child is doing. This might seem to be an obvious piece of advice, but it is often one that we forget to do in the busy day to day. When a child is playing nicely our default tends to be to leave them to it in fear that we might interrupt their play. Children are often told what to stop doing, but we forget to tell them what they should be doing instead! When giving praise it is also important to make sure it is specific, ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ is not wrong, but it is not very clear. A young child who is doing 100 things in a minute will not be able to pick out which of their 100 actions they are doing well, so make sure you tell them.

For example, ‘well done, you are eating very nicely’. At this moment we might even choose to ignore the fact that the child a moment earlier dropped some food on the floor. The child is more likely to continue to eat nicely in order to receive more praise and less likely to continue to drop food on the floor, which is not receiving any attention.

It is worth considering the emotional impact continual negative feedback can have on a child. What are we telling them if they are predominantly given attention when doing what they shouldn’t be doing and constantly told ‘no’, ‘don’t or ‘stop’. This is teaching the child what to stop doing but not teaching them what they should be doing instead. There is also the danger that the child will start to view themselves in a negative light believing that they cannot do anything right which ultimately might result in low self-esteem.

I have seen huge success within families who implement these two top tips, often resulting in a more harmonious day for all. The adult invariably has a better understanding of the child’s reasons for displaying unwanted behaviour and can support the child in learning to manage this behaviour. This will lead to less frustration from both the adult and child with a more positive atmosphere throughout the day. It is ultimately important to remember that children are not born understanding the complexities of the world and need a loving and consistent environment in which they feel safe to get things wrong, are taught how to do things in a better way and allowed to try again.

I believe that the Norland motto ‘Love Never Faileth’, which our founder Emily Ward bequeathed to all Norlanders in 1892, is still relevant today in all aspects of our care and education of children. With this motto in mind, all Norland Nannies are also expected to uphold the Norland Code of Professional Responsibilities when managing behaviour to ensure that physical and emotional wellbeing of the child is never compromised. Both parents and children should be treated with the upmost respect at all times recognising their unique nature as individuals.