Thursday, 18 September 2014

Health benefits of green tea for your family

Green tea has been linked to all sorts of health benefits. Claims range from lowering cholesterol to preventing cancer. Not all the claims stand up to scrutiny (the evidence for cancer prevention in particular is shaky at best) but the good PR has sent green tea sales rocketing at the expense of traditional 'builders tea' – so much so that there is even a campaign to save it.

What's so great about green tea and why should your family drink it?

Helping the heart

Green tea is rich in antioxidants, particularly catechins. Because of these, tea (green or black) has been found to be effective at
. It has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve blood flow, helping fight against a range of heart-related issues from blood pressure to heart attacks.

The catechins are also thought to prevent the formation of blood clots. One large-scale study in Japan (where green tea is widely and regularly consumed) found that drinking green tea lowered the risk of dying from stroke by 62% in women and 42% in men.

The same study found drinking green tea to be associated with a lower risk of dying from any cause – 23% in women, 12% in men.

Boosting the brain

A recent study found that drinking green tea can help improve cognitive function, particularly in the working-memory area of the brain; suggesting a possible future as an Alzheimer's treatment. Even more significant for green tea and dementia is that other studies have shown green tea to prevent the build up of beta-amyloid plaques thought to cause the disease.

On a more day-to-day basis, tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes alpha-wave activity in our brains – causing relaxation without drowsiness. In so doing it is thought to improve focus, attention and alertness, as well as helping with sleep and mood.

The greener they come

Catechins and theanine are present in all forms of tea – black, green, red – so why all the fuss over green tea in particular?

It's all to do with production. As anyone who's watched a banana ripen over days will know, green plants are younger. It's the same with green tea. Combine that with minimal processing – green tea leaves are steamed to make tea, whereas black tea is allowed to ferment – and green tea just has more of everything good for us.

But before you ditch your builders tea completely, bear in mind that all tea is good for you. So much so that Dr. Ruxton of Kings College London claims Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Running one for Bodyfit

Get into Running

Find out how to start running - and fall in love with it – with our beginners' guide to running.

Words: Phoebe Doyle

Running has so many benefits it’s difficult to know where to start: It’s a great calorie burner so will help you to loose weight. It’ll also massively improve your cardio fitness levels; making you fitter and stronger in every way. Beginners may be surprised to know that running can also be – wait for it – enjoyable. Yes, that’s right, that sport which you last did at school whilst your thighs went a deep red and you thought you might die – done properly, this exercise can be mightily fun.

Whilst running is essentially putting one foot in front of the other, there are some fundamental running-know-how tips to get to grips with before taking those first steps…

Choosing a Route

One of the biggest appeals about running is that it can be done anywhere. Obviously you’re super-lucky if you live close to a park or a coastal path, but pavements and riverbanks work pretty well too! Fitness and Lifestyle coach, Jamie Tulloch ( says, “Pick a route that you know well to get started, you don’t want to have to worry about navigational skills on top of running. Focus on building stamina until you find the confidence to venture off track.”

Avoiding Injury

If you know some keen runners, chances are you’ll know they tend to spend half their lives ambitiously training for events and the other half grumbling about injury and disruption to training. Learning how to keep injury at bay is vital. Jamie says; “Strengthening your posterior chain (this includes biceps and glutes) and your core and legs, is crucial to ensure you prevent injury and will help you build stamina and muscle. Try adding in squats, lunges and lots of core work around your new running regime.”

Get your Kit on!

Unless you’re an utter gear-geek you really don’t need to spend that much on running specific stuff before heading off.

A brief beginners guide to running kit rules:

Bras: Forget what you know about lingerie shopping – shopping for a running bra is a different sport entirely. Choose something specifically designed for high impact exercise. have lots of info about sizing and which bras are best for certain activities.

Shoes: You may have heard of ‘gait analysis’ – this is an increasingly popular method of getting the right shoes for runners. Basically, you’ll need to find a specialist running shop that offers this service; their expert will assess the mechanics of your running and then fit you with an appropriate shoe. Whilst fit is most important, running shoes don’t have to be dull. Look out for the new Adizero Adios Boost from Adidas (£110) ( for comfort in style.

 Socks: Decent socks are really important in running as they can reduce the risk of blisters – don’t make the mistake of spending a fortune on running shoes only to match them with your socks you wear day-to-day. Try the Performance Socks from Sole (£9.50) (

Jacket: If it’s a day when the mere thought of just wearing a vest top gives you the shivers you’ll need an extra layer. Keep it lightweight though so as not to overheat. See OLDO’s Windstopper. (£150)


‘appy running!
Apps such as Mapmyrun ( and Runkeeper ( are fantastic for tracking previous runs and therefore progress.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Start-rite Shoes

Loving, loving, loving these from Start-rite!

They're the Hat Trick football shoes, created this year with the World Cup in mind, and my footy-crazy little 'un loves them. Start-rite quality really are second to none!

Here are all the vital details...

  • Comes with a free football keyring
  • Riptape fastening for adjustability and a comfortable fit
  • Glow in the dark feature on upper
  • Mesh linings for breathability
  • Lightweight rubber sole for comfort
  • Padded ankle for comfort and support
  • Scuff resistant rubber toe bumper
  • Removable sock

We are really loving them and the free keyring is a winner. You can order online - hurry!!!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Using the Arts to Stimulate Literacy

Using the arts can help stimulate even those who find Literacy work tricky or have become disengaged: The arts can provide excitement, fun and significantly boost self-esteem. Education Writer Phoebe Doyle has some suggestions.

Many nursery and primary schools have enjoyed taking part in the 'Take One Picture' project. This is the National Gallery's countrywide scheme for primary schools. The idea is that one piece of artwork is selected from the gallery’s collection, and foundation and primary children do work in their setting around this picture. The gallery like the work to spread into all areas of learning; the painting can influence everything that is taught in some cases. Whilst it’s not a competition, some settings then have their work exhibited in the gallery and many make the trip to view the gallery as a result.

This project has played a role in getting practitioners to think about how art can be a starting point; how we can use a painting, study it with the children, and build a whole curriculum around it. And it doesn’t just have to stop at using a painting: We can use all genres of art as a starting point for other areas… it really can be a fabulous way of getting children tuned-in and excited.

Whilst we all want to boost the literacy skills of the children we teach, it can sometimes seem hard to inspire motivation and fun which actually gets children wanting to talk, tell stories and eventually write. Using the arts can help provide these motivational aspects, whilst ensuring a holistic curriculum approach to planning and teaching.


Whilst many tots are carted off to ballet classes, tap lessons, and even ballroom dancing practically from the time they can walk, dance in early years settings can offer something quite distinct from this. Far from teaching the children exactly what to do, the intention should be to spark creativity; enabling children to be innovative and original.

Taking children out of the nursery/classroom setting and into the hall (or outside) to dance can immediately serve to relieve some stress from children who are anxious about sitting down and listening or writing. Here they are able to concentrate on their dance skills, which they perceive as fun and stress-free, whilst being exposed to new language and skills for interpreting poems/stories. Dance can be used to explore character emotion and motive, plot and composition.

When planning to use dance think of the following aspects and possibilities:

  • Storytelling
  • Solo work
  • Partner and group work
  • Music
  • Song
  • Travelling movements
  • Imagination
  • Following topic themes
  • Following their own interests


Drama can be a powerful tool at any age but for young children it’s of particularly relevance. This is because it isn’t so far removed from imaginative spontaneous play observed constantly in, and that is so definitive of the early years and Key Stage One. Pursuing drama activities can aid in the nurture and development of both individual and group skills and enhance the children’s abilities to communicate their ideas, emotions, and understandings in a safe forum and environment; where everyone is equal, all comment relevant and children are free to take risks.

Re-telling Stories Through Drama

Often children need pictures, actions and activity to help them learn; often referred to as kinaesthetic teaching and learning. Traditional tales and more contemporary stories alike can reach children more fully when re-told and re-enacted through drama.

Let’s take Goldilocks and the Three Bears as our example…

Have some props, perhaps in a feely bag to add to the excitement. You will need 3 toy beds and chairs, 3 tiny bowls and of course the 3 bears themselves, either in the form of teddies or different sized bear ears for children to wear. You may like also to include a Goldilocks wig which can be easily made by plaiting some yellow wool. Invite the children to use the props as you go through the story together. Encourage them to take turns putting the props out, speaking as the characters, and recalling the plot sequence.

Creating a Story using Drama

Many children have a longing for, and ability to tell a story years before they develop the writing skills necessary for putting it down on paper. Harbouring and promoting story telling skills in children is offering them a real vantage for later literacy learning.

  • Feely bag props: Have a feely bag of selected props. Perhaps a couple of soft toys, and some pretend furniture or food, for example. Children are chosen to select and item from the bag and from each item develop an additional part of the story. Children can act the story elements as you go.
  • One scene each: In small groups, preferably with one adult working with each group, they each make an acted out scene based on some pre-discussed characters and a setting. The main objectives are in the social and creative process but they can be performed back to the whole group should they wish to.


Music can be an enormously inspiring stimulus for young children. Through music they can learn about different cultures and times; it can inspire them to move, dance, draw and write. Music can inspire thoughts and emotion – some of which may even be hard to articulate, but can nevertheless serve to provoke creativity.

Very young children seem to be naturally "wired" for sound and rhythm – take the lullaby as the obvious example of this. Besides providing enjoyment, music and songs can teach children about rhyming and rhythm – essential skills in Literacy. In early years children can begin to experiment with grammatical rules and various rhyming patterns in songs and other written text.

When choosing music to listen to, it’s important not to be ‘snobby’ about your choices. Whilst you might like the idea of them being moved by Mozart, in reality it’s crucial that you show all music is valued and creative. The most important objective is for them to have fun and feel music; this will help their imagination to be sparked, which will subsequently support them with their future Literacy endeavours.


Increasingly settings are beginning to use a piece of art as a starting point for literacy work.

In a school where I worked I used this piece, Renior’s Umbrellas. The art/literacy work involved:

·         Looking carefully at the picture; discussing likes and dislikes, how it makes us feel, what we think is happening.

·         Using post-it notes in the shape of speech bubbles writing (with adult scribe if needed) what we think the characters might say.

·         As above but using thought bubbles.

·         Look together at non-fiction books about rain / water cycle / water. This can also be linked in with science work on floating and sinking.

·         Hot-seating; one child pretends to be a character in the painting.

Final Thoughts:

Using the arts to teach literacy is nothing new for early years settings; in fact, the EYFS is holistic in nature, and so asks to be taught in this all-incorporating way. Building dance and drama into early years sessions need not make us feel self-conscious or un-sure. All the arts can provide a forum for children to be spontaneous and explorative within a calm, relaxed and encouraging environment. They serve as a vital learning tool, for whatever topic you are focussing on at the time. They truly promote equal opportunities as they appeal to children who learn through doing and often find certain aspects of sessions a challenge.


Top tips:

When it comes to dance…

·        Be a great role model. Don’t be afraid to make up your own movements with the children…let them see you enjoying this creative experience too!

·        Use dance to re-tell stories the children are learning; re-enacting the beginning, middle and end of stories.

·        Use dance to explore a variety of moods and feelings and as a starting point for discussion of these emotions.

·        Use dance at various intervals throughout sessions; to warm-up when you come in from outside, to have a break from whole class work, or to get your arms and fingers ready for writing.

When it comes to drama…

·        Use drama to help children reflect upon their own experiences and emotions.

·        Use it too for them to understand experiences and emotions felt by characters in a story.

·        Use hot-seating techniques to questions and reflect on characterisation.

·        Use drama games that promote speaking and listening skills.

When it comes to music…

·        Listen to all genres of music. Sometimes let them draw or paint as they listen.

·        Use music to create a relaxing atmosphere. This can be particularly calming as they come in, first thing in the morning; it can help set the scene for a calm day.

·        Conversely music can create dramatic moods too. Encourage them to close their eyes and listen to some music…where does it take your imagination?

·        Playing instruments is a great way to develop hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills; both essential for improving handwriting.

·        Listening to music stimulates the creative side of the brain, try using it when you’re planning a piece of writing.

When it comes to art…

·        As a whole staff team share through discussion ideas for using art as a stimulus for Literacy.

·        Bring Art alive through hot seating; this involves getting one child to pretend to be one of the people in the painting and the other children asking them questions.

·        Use a wide range of Art to promote discussion and introduce new vocabulary.

·        Don’t be afraid of unusual/contemporary Art as this usually maintains the children’s interest and can lead to great discussion.

Case Study….

Lee Morris, Teacher, Whinfield Primary School

I have used art as a starting point before, both in asking the children to create their own art pieces to show a story setting, e.g. drawing Granny's cottage in the woods for a re-tell of Little Red Riding Hood and also by looking at a piece of artwork together and asking the children to write about it.

I have also used the Great Wave off Kanagawa for the children to imagine they are rowing the boat, how are they feeling? Where are they going? Why? Where have they come from? etc.  I find that using art allows some of the children to really allow their imagination to go wild, and can be an instant hook to get them motivated to write.  I use a lot of music when we write too, using mainly classical pieces to allow the children to relax.


2 Drama Games for Building Language and Literacy Skills

Game: I need a cuddle
To encourages young children to ask for emotional comfort when they need it
How to play:

Leader models the game by encouraging the child(ren) to join in with the following rhyme:
Can you see my face?
I'm feeling really sad (sad facial expression)
Can you see my body?
I'm feeling really bad (body language)
I don't know what to do
I'm getting in a muddle
What will make me better?
I think I need a cuddle! (cuddle child or perhaps teddy bear or doll if more appropriate)

There’s a snake in the grass
This game has been designed to develop children's concentration and fine motor skills whilst encouraging the development of the imagination! All you need is a skipping rope, and don't forget this game is best when played outside in the fresh air.
How to play
Two people hold either end of a skipping rope and practise moving it along the floor to create the effect of a moving snake (one person can also do this as effectively). One child then stands in front of the 'snake', being careful not to let it touch their toes.

To the tune of, 'one finger one thumb, keep moving', everyone sings:

There's a snake in the grass, be careful


Written for Practical Pre-School Magazine