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

School shoes... tick!

Fully recommend Brantano for good fitting and good selection of back to school shoes! Here's my youngest trying on some ones fit for Year 1!

Ask the Expert
As the kids are getting kitted out to go back to school, Jenni Roberts, Brantano kids fitting expert, answers some of those common questions about getting your children’s shoes fitted:

Q: Why do I need to get my children’s shoes fitted?

 “Growing feet need room to grow, and children’s feet grow in variable bursts so being vigilant and awareness are key.  It is recommended that children get their feet measured by a trained fitter every 3-4 months once they begin school.  Even if they haven’t outgrown them, shoes should be replaced if they are worn out.  If children aren’t wearing correctly fitted shoes, it can create both short and long term foot health issues.  At Brantano, stores are open until late and friendly staff are on hand to help, making it easy and convenient to pop in and check your children’s feet.

Q: Should I buy shoes that my child will grow into?

 “Its best not to buy shoes that are more than one size too large for your child in the hope they will grow into them. Shoes that are too big could cause a child to develop foot problems and/or develop inherited foot problems.  Using a free expert fitting service, such as that offered at Brantano, will ensure you are getting the correct size shoes for your children.   It is also advisable not to hand down shoes from siblings or friends as the shoe will have shaped themselves to someone else’s foot.”

Q: What could happen if my child wears poorly fitted shoes?

“In the short term conditions such as redness and soreness, bunching up of the toes and ingrowing nails if the shoes are overly tight.  In the longer term developmental foot problems can be made worse by ill-fitting shoes and bunions and foot deformities such as hammer toe can be caused by poorly fitted shoes.  Unsupportive and sloppy styles of shoe can lead to a similar gait (style of walking).  In addition, there are also longer term health implications from poorly fitted shoes such as back pain, knee problems & pain and posture problems.”

 For more information or to buy online visit    

Monday, 18 August 2014

Learn to Love Running

Get Bodyfit this month and learn how to make running a priority :) 

Bodyfit Link

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Class Act - a feature for Bodyfit

The trouble with runners is that they tend to just run! We look at how ditching the odd running session for a class can actually help to improve your running.

For keen runners the idea of giving up precious training time to do anything other than run can seem like a big no-no. Runners tend to be die-hard addicts; measuring every second, longing for that PB (Personal Best) and constantly looking out for the next event to attend. But fitness experts say that a running-only approach isn’t the best way to go for runners looking to improve.

PT George Coote ( says: "Using a variety of training methods can be extremely beneficial for runners. The body adapts quickly to repetitive training routines and so results slow down causing a plateauing effect. Using training like yoga or pilates can improve core stability and flexibility, increasing balance and reducing energy usage during long stints of running. Other forms of cardio exercise such as cycling or swimming for example will challenge different muscle groups and reduce the possibility of repetitive strain injuries as well as training the heart and lungs to work as hard as they do whilst out running." 

Take a look at some of the most popular classes and what they could do for your running.


Fenella Lindsell ( says that  Yoga helps runners reduce their chances of injury by naturally lengthening the muscles whilst strengthening and developing stability around the joints, notably in the ankles and knees, she tells us: “Typically a runner experiences too much pounding, tightening, and shortening of the muscles and a lack of restorative, elongating, and loosening work.  Running is is a perfect partner to yoga combining cardio vascular activity with stretching.”

Strength Training

Many women tend to skip weight-based classes, like Pump, for fear of bulking up, but PT Paul Mumford ( says that strength training should be a vital component to your routine: “In these classes movements like lunges with weights can help the glutes and hip flexors – great for reducing injury risk for runners. Hamstring curls can strengthen the back of your thighs and standing exercises can challenge your core to help improve posture and maintain balance on tricky off-road runs.”


Combining Latin and International music for a dance-based class, it’s proponents claim it’s high energy and fun, but make no mistake this class is also a full-on cardio workout.

Cross Fit

Cross Fit is a core strength conditioning programme that directly targets postural issues; through own body weight moves and other lifts and exercises. Mike James ( tells us: “CrossFit is an intense exercise program, featuring dynamic exercises like plyometric jumps, and Olympic lifts while using non-traditional weightlifting equipment such as kettlebells. It’s structured in such a way that participants are challenged to do a certain number of repetitions in a workout in a specific time frame.”
The many benefits of CrossFit training are due to the intensity of the exercises. Power-based exercises are effective for burning a high number of calories in a short period of time, while simultaneously improving aerobic fitness.

Another dance class sweeping the nation, but this time promising empowerment, joy and sensuality into the mix. Indeed Nia instructor Sarah Proctor ( assures us: “Quite simply, it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on!” So what exactly is it? Sarah says: “It’s a fusion really; dance, martial arts and yoga moves. And for runners it’s ideal; working on balance, flexibility, mobility and stamina.”

Body Conditioning

A fitness and strength workout class, Body Conditioning, is generally low impact and focusses largely on the abs and lower body. Jane Wrafter ( says; “Running strengthens mainly the quadriceps, calf muscles and also uses the hip flexors a lot (the muscle which raises the leg up off the floor). This can create an imbalance, and runners benefit from Body Conditioning classes  to correct this imbalance by completing exercises, some using weights and some without, that strengthen the other muscles.”

Sea Life, South Bank

It's easy to see why kids become obsessed with all things underwater. 'Stranger than fiction' doesn't cover it. So Sea Life can't claim credit for all of the amazement they offer - their 'stars of the show' really do speak for themselves!

Of course, when it comes to nature, nobody can plan for exactly what will happen at a given place on a certain time - so when this guy came for a swim right by us, it really felt like a treat specially from him to us.

Nor could we have planned for the Sea Life employee who happened to hear my eldest explaining some complex aqua-marine facts to her simple aqua-ignorant Mother. She came over and had a long conversation about many of the species, answered our questions, told us, when asked, about her own ambitions (to be a vet) and left my daughter wide-eyed, full of ideas, and me bursting with admiration.

If your kids are as crazy as mine about nature I really recommend a trip to Sea Life this summer. A special, goose-bump inducing experience!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Just out on Tesco Living

Camping this summer? Make the evenings fun and interactive with these games courtesy of blogger Phoebe Doyle

You can read the full article on the Tesco Living site

1. Name that tune
A campfire just isn’t a campfire without a little music! Hopefully you’ll have a musician in your midst and they can play some instrumental versions of songs to name. If not, stick to humming! Try having a theme; this will depend on the ages of your campers. Nursery rhymes are a good one for little ones, songs of a particular decade for the grown-ups!

2. Alphabet backwards!
This makes for more confusion and fun than you might think! Players are timed to see how long it takes them to say the alphabet backwards. The winner is the person who gets from Z to A in the shortest time! Treat them with an extra marshmallow or two, toasted on the campfire of course.

3. Group Story telling
Tell a story… but as a group! Mutual storytelling is a fun twist to the usual campfire ‘story time’ and really ensures everyone is fully engaged. One person starts the story with one line that serves to set the scene. Then the next person will add a line. See where it takes you!

4. Sing a song!
Let’s face it, singing just makes you feel good! Your young little campers are bound to be bursting with songs from pre-schools and no doubt they’ll love teaching the adults some rhyming action. This one has some different versions, but most young children will know it and will readily show you how it’s done:

I’m a dingle dangle scarecrow with a flippy floppy hat,
I can shake my hands like this, and shake my feet like that.
When all the hens were roosting and the moon’s behind the cloud,
Up jumped the scarecrow and shouted very loud…

5. The letter game
One person says a letter and another has to say as many words that begin with that letter within 30 seconds! Go around the circle doing the same but with different letters. Keep a tally, and the winner is the person who says the most words.