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You. Have. Got. This!

OK, so some of us might not feel that way at the moment; but it's true. Technically, you didn't have to change out of your pyjamas to visit Sainsbury's, but you did. WELL DONE, YOU! - And if you did go to Sainsbury's in your pyjamas... Well done anyway! I'm sure there are loads of ways you're absolutely crushing it. But let's be honest; for many of us, this situation is tough. Last week, I spoke to a teacher friend who can manage a class of fifteen-year-olds with his eyes closed but is stumped by his "relentlessly needy" seven-year-old daughter. I too have come to realise just how 'shouty' my own children are. I'm sure it's just a phase. 


Being a parent right now is challenging, (because before this it was a breeze, right?) but it's possible that some of the 'advice' you may have seen floating around out there has just left you feeling confused or overwhelmed. Not to mention all the new free learning materials we have access to. (Have a look here for an example of this.)

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of fantastic resources out there. But that's the problem. There are a LOT! And most of those are buried below a lot of 'not-so-good' resources. So, whilst I might share links to relevant resources that I think people may find helpful, that's not what this page is about. Here, I'll be sharing some of the approaches we take at school (and specifically at The Spot) to support wellbeing. Just information, and only if you feel you need it. If everything's going swimmingly at the moment that's great. Keep doing what you're doing. But, if you've run out of ideas. Knowing some of the tools we use at school might help.  

 

As you may be aware from attempting to deliver an English lesson at a dining table, not everything that works at school, works at home. Not everything even always works at school.

The work we do at The Spot is tailored to each child. What works for one child, won't necessarily work for others, so I'm afraid I can't offer any generic answers, just information.

But, if you're struggling with anything or have any questions, give yourself a break; please get in touch with one of us. (You can even use the form at the bottom of the page.) We're all happy to work together finding solutions to individual issues.

Mr Gilbert.

 

Activities on The Spot Online

 

Question Time :

Used for encouraging critical thinking, empathy skills or just a fun distraction.

Colouring :

A really effective way to 'self-soothe'. An activity with no time-limit, rules or correct answers.

Colouring also offers 'creativity with a template' it's a useful warm-up/cool down activity for the brain.

Tiny Artists :

A step-up from colouring; starting with a 'blank slate' is less restrictive but arguably requires more creativity posing more of a challenge for some children. Younger children may need to be given suggestions to get started.

Ladybird Challenge :

Processing visual information takes up a disproportionate share of our cognitive load. Visual puzzles like The Ladybird Challenge link this to our problem solving skills and serve as an effective distraction and an opportunity to 'reset'.

Take Five:

Useful for supporting regulation by helping to create a calm environment. 

Feelings board:

Tool for encouraging children to take a moment to consider how they feel and why they might be feeling that way. A useful opener. 

UKS2 Story Starter:

The story starter (for older children) begins with the main character trapped in an alleyway by something floating in the air and drawing closer. It is a useful way to explore and communicate anxieties around the current situation without having to address it directly. Again, a helpful opener to additional conversations.

Story Time:

An opportunity for children to listen to a story read by a familiar face. 

Kindness Ninja:

Practising kindness is a helpful reminder that others need help at the moment too and we have it within us to take small steps that make a real difference. This builds a sense of community and belonging.

Knowledge quest:

Self directed mini-projects inspired by questions asked by children.

Quick Games:

Link to games linked to wellbeing. Provided by Childline with access to lots of child-friendly resources.

What's Important?

 

Over these last weeks, like many of you, I've been trying to learn how to do some of my job from a distance. I put something out there, see what works and adapt. Following some of your feedback, I'm going to give an example of just one really important thing I think might be useful for you to explore at home. 

Learning to share

As parents, it's in our nature to offer solutions when we spot challenges. We fix problems. It's what we've done for our children since they were babies.  So, what do our children do when they face a problem? They come to us to fix it. Why wouldn't they? We make it all seem so easy. It's natural and it's a sign of a healthy and loving relationship. But at some point, children will need to learn to distinguish between the type of problem they can solve on their own and one with which they need help.

 

When a child faces a problem, a really effective teaching tool that encourages independence is not to give them an instant solution but, instead, to guide them. To talk through the issue and help them find their own answers. 

 

Consider the question, "How much money will you need to buy three chocolate bars?" We wouldn't ask a two-year-old this question and expect them to understand the underlying concepts. They know what chocolate is and they might even know what money is, but they don't have the tools or language to solve that problem yet. 

When a problem is linked to emotions, conversations can be just as challenging if a child doesn't understand the concepts around feelings. They just don't have the tools or language to communicate.  Children often speak about feelings using very limited language to communicate basic concepts.  Some examples might be:

"I'm Happy" - I like this.

"I'm Sad" - I need help.

"I'm Angry" - Leave me alone.

"I'm bored" - Spend time with me.

The next step is for children to begin to explore what type of happy, or what type of angry they feel. How can we do this? A first step can be to explore language around emotions and begin to unpack how we really feel. One way of developing emotional literacy is to use an feelings wheel like the one below. They might need a dictionary to hand to begin with, but once they get the hang of it, you'll be amazed at the difference having these tools can make. If they say they're happy, maybe instead of asking 'why?' you could use the wheel and ask, 'How are you happy today?'

 

If your child said they were sad, what would your response be? 

If they said they felt isolated, would you approach it in the same way as if they had said embarrassed or powerless?

Feel free to use it how you see fit. As always, there is no one right way. 

 

Ideas from The Spot you might want to try at home.

 

We'll try to add another every few days.

 

You can click here for some printable emoji or design your own.

 

Sharing feelings is at the heart of everything we do at The Spot. Knowing how we feel about something and being able to communicate that effectively is essential for our wellbeing. This can be a problem if we are conditioned to just say, 'fine' every time somebody asks us how we are. The feelings board is an effective way of taking a moment to think about how you're really feeling and why you might be feeling it. From experience, I'll say that using this tool is an 'opener' that leads to some fascinating conversations.

For example, I once had a child use this emoji,         when I asked what feeling that was (assuming I knew), he told me that he's pretending to smile. Beginning with why people might feel they need to pretend to be happy, our conversation moved on to the reasons the child didn't feel like smiling and how we could work to solve the cause of his feelings.

 

Often, when I ask children how they feel, they don't always want to elaborate beyond using the emoji, and that's fine. Another way of exploring feelings without making it personal is to ask, 'if somebody put this emoji on the board, what might they be feeling?' this can move on to asking 'what type of things might happen to make someone feel that way?'  This allows children to share in a way that sometimes feels comfortable. 

Some children are keen to talk about how they're feeling, others will be more guarded and it will take time. Either way, you're going to need patience. The point is the child can trust that they can share what they want, when they're ready.

Not actually as straightforward as I imagined.

 

Seeing the positive impact controlled breathing has on a child's emotional state was a complete game-changer for me. It's one of my 'go-to' tools when a child is feeling anxious, angry or upset. But, surprisingly, it takes practice. 

Visual aids work well. You can use a GIF like the 

 

one here (from Childline) or an object like a ball or a cushion.

 

And there are lots of different techniques. The example here won't take much practice so it's good for younger children. One of my personal favourites is 'deep calm breathing'. For children, I use: Breathe in for 4,3,2,1, hold for 5,4,3,2,1, and out for 6,5,4,3,2,1. (four times) But you can try 4,7,8.

 

This links to the 'take five' page of Spot Online.

 

For a child to learn effectively, their physiological and psychological needs should be met first. Are they hungry? Has their sister annoyed them? Did they wake up late this morning? These are all situations that can have a negative impact on learning and can usually be addressed really simply but could impact a whole lesson or even a day's learning.

 

The Spot offers children autonomy and independence. It makes it OK to say they don't want to do something. Because, when they do this, we can learn to understand what is at the root of the problem and begin to address it. Maybe they want to get something off their chest, perhaps we need to adapt our approach to the learning or they could just need a break. 

Whatever the cause, no matter how complex, it helps to have a way of saying that there is a problem. At home, maybe this could be a beanbag or a specific chair (one without access to technology). If it's 'not working' the child can take themselves to 'the spot'. When they're there, you can ask them if they want to talk about it or take a moment to themselves. 

If they feel the need to go to their spot, they can begin to associate that feeling with the idea that they might need to talk. Eventually, they may make the connection for themselves without needing to use the spot. "This feeling means I need to talk or take a moment"

TMI - If you like a list, you'll LOVE this.

I did a quick search for educational websites that are currently offering free access or content. Right at the top of the results was this list. Don't have time to click? Good choice. It's 19 pages long and has well over 200 educational sites that are currently free. After a quick scan, I recognised 22 of them and have used 7 in the past for teaching so I can't vouch for the other 190+ sites. 

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Go Bananas! Get in touch...

The Spot at Whitehouse Primary School, Vaynol Way,  Whitehouse, Milton Keynes, MK8 1AG.  Tel: 01908 533288

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