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Aug 3
Aug 3

3 Ways to Use Books to Teach Kids About Inclusion

With Children’s Book Illustrator Holly Hatam 

As parents, it’s our responsibility to consciously incorporate strategies to help our kids learn to be inclusive of those who are different to us, whether it’s evident in skin tone, religion, physical ability or otherwise. Books can be a wonderful tool to facilitate conversations about differences with your kids when you’re not sure where to start. 

The world is a diverse place, and books that represent diversity help develop a sense of pride in children and affirm their identity, their families and their communities. Kids of all races need to see diverse kids in books to help them realise everyone is unique, and everyone needs to be seen and heard.

We spoke to children’s book illustrator Holly Hatam to get her view on the importance of diversity in children’s literature, and to hear her insight on how books can be used to teach kids about inclusion. 

3 Ways to Use Books to Teach Kids About Inclusion

  1. Acknowledge Differences and Similarities
  2. Discuss Emotions
  3. Match the Message to Life

1. Acknowledge Differences and Similarities

It’s natural for kids to notice differences, and it’s important not to make it taboo to do so. A good first step is to make sure your kids are exposed to a wide range of skin colours and physical differences. Encourage your kids to recognise and celebrate both the differences and similarities in the people they see in the world. Even if you don’t live in a particularly diverse area, books can help to open up conversations about diversity, inclusivity and acceptance. When reading books with your kids, make sure to ask kids questions about what they notice, and affirm that all skin tones and people of all shapes, sizes and abilities are special. When Holly reads books to her son, she points out all the diverse characters with comments like: “Doesn’t this girl have beautiful braids?” 

Acknowledge all the different types of people, abilities, and relationships your kids see in books as well as in everyday life. Nurture a belief that these differences are what make the world so interesting and amazing. Help your kids to notice what similarities they have with others too, regardless of what they look like. We are all human, we all have feelings, we all know what it’s like to laugh or cry, to taste food or feel the rain. ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ thinking can be broken down by establishing a sense of commonality. When considering this, try to help your kids strike a balance between celebrating individuality while recognising the joy of community. 

2. Discuss Emotions

As a child with Iranian heritage growing up in a primarily white area, Holly felt invisible. She assumed she wasn’t as important as the characters she saw in books and TV, and she felt as if something was wrong with her. When the only portrayals people see of minority characters in books and TV are negative, it eclipses the public image of those groups. It teaches the public about these minority groups in a negative and incorrect manner. It also lowers the self esteem of these minority groups and can cause other stressors in their lives because of how they come to view themselves.

You can use books as conversation starters to ask your kids questions about how they would feel if they were excluded or treated unfairly. Exploring emotions that alienation and exclusion can cause can help kids to understand big concepts like racial injustice on a more relatable, personal level. Using stories as a bouncing off point to talk about big feelings like anger, resentment, fear and trust (and what can cause these feelings) can help kids process their own experiences and those of others. It can also help kids to build empathy, compassion and kindness. 

3. Match the Message to Life

Characters and stories can make it easier for kids to interpret new concepts and process new information. Books can be a great way to help kids make sense of current events in language they can understand. Use a particular character or plot point to relate to what’s going on in the world right now. Match the message of the book to real life, and get your children’s opinion on what’s happening. For example, if a character is being excluded, you might ask your kids how they would feel if they were the only child in class who wasn’t invited to a birthday party. You can then link this idea to a bigger concept like racism, and ask your kids what they do when they feel something is unfair. 

Speaking about unfairness might naturally lead to addressing the recent anti-racism protests. You could ask your kids what makes them happy, uncomfortable, angry or sad about the situation? Through these conversations, you can talk about what values are most important to your family, and what virtues you want to uphold.  Books can be a powerful medium for communication, especially when you can’t find the words to explain the world’s injustices with your kids.


Children’s books are a fantastic vehicle for exploring differences in culture, race, and ability, especially when the characters portrayed are authentic and relatable. Speaking with Holly gave us further insight into just how impactful books can be, and we’re excited to broaden our personal library! If you need some suggestions on what to stock up on, check out these books that celebrate diversity and inclusion. We hope you enjoy cosying up with several informative and inspiring reads this summer with your kids! 

Holly Hatam is an author and illustrator working in book making, animation, textile and surface design. Holly is also the #1 New York Times Bestselling illustrator of Dear Girl and Dear Boy. Her picture books have been translated into over 10 languages and sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Emotion and magic are underlying themes throughout Holly’s art and she sets out to create illustrations that will be an inspiration for people to live a happier and magical life. She hopes her art will make people feel less alone and more loved.Holly lives in Waterloo, Ontario where she can be found hugging trees, drinking tea, sniffing books and dreaming of unicorns. 

Check out her website: www.hollyhatam.com

Connect with Holly on Instagram @hollyhatamillustration

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Jul 11
Jul 11

5 Ways to Raise Anti-Racist Kids

With A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez

Trying to approach the topic of race and racism with your kids can potentially feel awkward, and as parents, we may worry we’ll say the wrong thing. It’s possible too, that we may want to protect our kids from feeling angry or guilty. But it’s essential to work through that discomfort and speak honestly with our kids about racial inequity. We need to acknowledge it in order to encourage our kids to be inclusive, and to proactively move towards change. We interviewed journalist, human rights activist and Black mother A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez to hear her thoughts on how to raise anti-racist kids. 

5 Ways to Raise Anti-Racist Kids

  1. Talk About Racism Early On
  2. Be Honest About Racial Issues
  3. Don’t be Colour-blind
  4. Be an Anti-Racist Role Model
  5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

1. Talk About Racism Early On

There’s no changing the fact that kids notice differences. They are real, and need to be addressed with young kids. Teach kids to notice and appreciate what different cultures offer, and to see the beauty and richness of diversity. Raise kids to see differences as normal and wonderful, but also be open to questions that might feel taboo compared to how you were raised. In order to fight racial inequity head on, we must first and foremost, address it. 

Talk through scenarios your kids might face in real life, and help them brainstorm how to manage some potentially challenging situations by discussing various approaches. A useful part of this process includes reflecting on your own biases and how they impact your mindset and behaviour. This can be painful, but noticing your own prejudices can open your eyes to how to make positive changes. 

Accept that you’re going to make mistakes in the process, and so will your kids. Share your mistakes and make it clear that being anti-racist is a process, and let your kids know that there are bound to be missteps sometimes. The key here is to make sure your family conversations about racism are open and ongoing, so your kids feel they can bring it up whenever they need to. Offer a trusted space for your kids to come to you with any questions and concerns they might have, so they know that race and racism is a topic worthy of exploration and improvement.  

2. Be Honest About Racial Issues

Some parents may want to preserve their children’s innocence, but it’s important to remember that Black children have never had a period of innocence. Don’t entirely shield your kids from current affairs, but do translate the news into a way that makes sense to young kids. You can help kids navigate distressing emotions by engaging with them on a relatable level. Ask them what they do when they feel like something is unfair? 

When explaining the recent protests around racism, it’s crucial to acknowledge that white privilege is real. This is something white families in particular have a responsibility to discuss, and it’s a critical step in raising anti-racist kids. Start with the wider structure of this, and explain to kids that racial oppression is bigger than people having narrow views. It’s part of a larger system of power that has been woven into laws and institutions. You can explain to kids that white privilege doesn’t mean white people never have struggles, but it means they have advantages simply because of skin colour. 

Books about racial injustice can be a great tool to spark the conversation. Starting young and helping kids consider how others might be held back or assisted merely by the colour of their skin can help them develop social skills like empathy, compassion and critical thinking. 

3. Don’t be Colour Blind

Two of the worst things to do is pretending problems that aren’t addressed will go away, and avoiding the conversation altogether by going the colour blind route. If you claim not to see colour, then it means there are no opportunities for conversations about colour. Although it may in theory seem like an acceptable approach, being colourblind creates a society that denies negative racial experiences and invalidates perspectives of people of colour. 

Additionally, the colourblind approach teaches kids that race shouldn’t be acknowledged or discussed, which makes it difficult for kids to ask natural questions. Acting as if we don’t notice differences doesn’t promote equality, and kids should know how our differences can create barriers so that we can all find ways to dismantle them. The bottom line is, silence about race actually can reinforce racism.

4. Be an Anti-Racist Role Model

Kids will take your lead and are always keen observers of what parents do. Actions speak louder than words, so commit to choosing anti-racist behaviours. You can do this in a few ways: 

Buy books for your kids that highlight people of colour who exhibit positive characteristics like kindness, courageousness, and integrity. Make sure your kids are exposed to positive depictions of Black characters in TV shows and films, too. All of these forms of entertainment have a huge impact on the way young kids form opinions about themselves and others. 

Model different ways you and your family can support people who may experience discrimination and racism. Remember that facilitating change is not always going to be glamorous or Twitter-worthy. Don’t necessarily look to do things that are on the front lines. Instead, role model generosity and understanding by offering to provide help in ways that are more behind the scenes. For example, some Black activist parents may need childcare in order to participate in important events. If you have the opportunity to help in that way, offer your time. Babysitting may not seem like a note-worthy action, but it is a real need in the Black activist community, and can make a tangible difference. 

You can also join an anti-racist organisation and volunteer your services. See what skill set you might be able to provide, such as website design or marketing. But don’t worry if you don’t feel qualified – you can also help by signing petitions or writing letters to politicians to address certain issues, like halting the sale of rubber bullets and tear gas, which have been used on protestors. Involve your kids in every way you can, like asking them to write letters too, or paint signs for an upcoming event. Explain to your kids that giving time and assistance to the Black Lives Matter movement, even in quieter ways, can help to fight racism. 

5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

As you carry out both the research and introspective work, it may feel uneasy and awkward. Raising anti-racist kids is a process that won’t always feel smooth, and may at times lead to nervousness. But it’s imperative to educate ourselves and turn the focus on our own behaviour and how we can be proactive instead of reactive to difference. Although difficult, this self discovery must start at home before it can be transformed into a meaningful outward shift. 

Let your kids know that mistakes are inevitable, and we all need to admit when we get it wrong. This will empower them with the resilience required to make real change. Remember too that earning the trust of a community who has been marginalised is going to take effort. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, and everyone needs to do the work.


Speaking with A. Rochaun gave us more insight into the struggles the Black community continues to face, and helped us to better understand the ways in which we can promote inclusivity in ourselves, our families, and our communities. Educating ourselves about something painful can feel uncomfortable, but we must not let fear be an obstacle. Parents should admit to not having all the answers, and recognise that raising socially conscious, anti-racist kids is going to require time and dedication. In order to move forward, we have to step out of our comfort zones, and accept that sometimes leaning into discomfort is the only way to grow. 

Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is an award-winning writer, speaker, and activist working to amplify Black women’s voices in the mainstream dialogue, especially within conversations on health and parenting. She is also the founder of the #FreeBlackmotherhood movement.

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Jul 12
Jul 12

3 Ways Playtime Improves Children’s Health

With Stacey Marko, Playworker

Playing is definitely one of the best things about childhood, and it offers so much joy and fun to little ones. Far more than just a great way to bring more laughter and smiles, playtime is actually crucial in enriching children’s brains, bodies, and whole selves. As parents, it’s encouraging to learn how play can help our kids develop. We spoke to Playworker Stacey Marko to learn how playtime improves children’s health.

3 Health Benefits of Play

  1. Mental health and well-being 
  2. Holistic Development and Learning 
  3. Physical Health

1.) Mental Health and Well-being

Play helps kids feel good, and it can give them a sense of control over their own lives. Oftentimes kids aren’t given a huge amount of autonomy, and play can be a crucial way to give them a sense of agency. Children’s self-esteem and confidence is bolstered when they feel like they have choices. If we as parents allow our kids freedom of play, they’ll feel like capable individuals who can begin to practice newfound skills. 

Kids may be experiencing an uneasy sense of uncertainty after having faced more restrictions in recent months than ever before. Giving them more opportunities to self-direct their own play can help them with self-regulation and healthy expression. Through play, kids can practice managing big emotions, which can be especially beneficial during times of stress. 

2.) Holistic Development and Learning

Play is the key way that children learn and develop, both on the inside and out. It’s a natural instinct, and allows us to learn about how we operate internally and externally. Play is beneficial for the whole self, and assists with both hard and soft skills. Outwardly noticeable social abilities are boosted through play, like learning how to listen to others, how to show empathy, and how to care for our peers. Communication skills are developed, including both verbal and non-verbal cues. Play can also help kids be more open-minded and consider possibilities, as it encourages experimentation. Kids can try things out, but since it’s not a real-life scenario, they’ll feel braver and test different approaches. 

Play develops children’s bodies too by improving fine motor functions, which can help with future skills like writing and typing. Kids can also build hand-eye coordination and stronger muscles through active play. 

Internally, play is also key to brain development, as it helps to support the structure of neural pathways. Play can act like a building block to help kids build their brains in relation to problem solving, emotional responses, adaptability, and physical aptitude. 

3.) Physical Health

Play often includes active elements, which can bolster muscle development. Running, jumping, and climbing can help kids to stay healthy. Although not all playtime needs to be active, when it is, it can aid in staying fit. In the past few months at home, kids haven’t had the opportunity to play as freely as usual. To remedy that now, kids can get a healthy dose of exercise if given the space and the time to have unstructured play. The added bonus is that with active play, kids will also sleep better, and will be more rested because they are able to release all their pent up energy. Definitely a win/win! 


Speaking with Stacy reminded us that we need to create a culture of support for kids to ensure they get enough play. As parents, we can facilitate playtime by creating a space for kids to play — not only a physical area, but also a mental space that allows playtime. Make sure it’s not all homework and scheduled activities for kids – allow them free time without any set expectations. Over-scheduling can create stress, and it’s crucial to set time aside to let kids use their own ideas and imagination and just “be”. Remember too that boredom can actually lead to some of the most inspired creativity! 

Above all, the most critical message is that playtime is fundamental to the quality of childhood. As parents, we must recognise that play is one of the main ways our kids engage. By supporting their playtime, we support our kids’ active participation in the world, which could contribute to a positive future for us all. 

Stacey Marko is a mum of three and an aspiring academic with a passion for children’s play and an advocate for children’s rights.  Stacey has worked with children for over 23 years and has a vast amount of experience and expertise in the areas of childhood, children’s play and children’s rights. She is a postgraduate research student at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and is working hard on her PhD which explores children’s outdoor play in urban and rural environments.  Stacey is active on Twitter and uses it to engage with other people who share her passion and research interests!  Please feel free to give her a follow at: @StaceyMarko

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Jul 12
Jul 12

5 Benefits of Playtime for Kids

With Anita Grant, Chair of Play England  

As childhood memories go, oftentimes some of the most cherished moments are the ones in which we played freely. Getting to be imaginative, uninhibited and energetic are fantastic elements of being a kid. But as parents, we may not fully appreciate all of the actual benefits that playtime can offer our children. Far more than just providing fun, playing can actually support kids mentally, emotionally and physically. We spoke with Anita Grant from Play England, to learn five benefits of playtime for kids. 

Before we elaborate, it’s useful to define exactly what we’re talking about. 

What is ‘play’?

Play is what children do when they are allowed to interact with their world freely. Play arises from children’s own need to express themselves, explore, learn about and make sense of their world. Kids have an innate desire to play, and it’s essential for their growth. Play itself is not dependent on any equipment, materials or products – it can be quiet, boisterous, serious or light-hearted. As parents, we can best support our kids to play by giving them the freedom, time and space to do so.

5 Benefits of Play

  1. Emotional Well-being 
  2. Resilience
  3. Development
  4. Social Skills
  5. Strength

What are the benefits of playtime?

1.Emotional Well-being

Play is so important to children’s well-being that it has been enshrined as a fundamental right for children. Playing freely helps children to manage anxiety, stress and grief. When children play, they’re in control of what they do. This reassures them and allows them to work things out, feel independent and take things at their own pace. 

2. Resilience

Playing allows kids to feel free, try things out, and test boundaries, ideas and rules. This experimentation helps them to see the impact of their actions. Play allows children to learn how to assess and manage both physical and social risks and challenges in their lives. Through play, children investigate their own abilities, independence, as well as their personal interests.

 3. Development

Playing is integral to children’s enjoyment of life. Through playing, children are creating their own culture, developing their abilities, exploring their creativity and learning about themselves and their world. Children need and want to stretch and challenge themselves when they play. Children’s brains are built for play, and it helps them to find themselves in their world and their community.

 4. Social skills

Play is how children interact with others; it’s the way they communicate and feel connection to their peers. In this way, playing with other children can be very therapeutic. Through playing freely, without adult control, children learn how to respond and engage with other people in their lives. They learn how to communicate, care and share.

5. Strength 

In addition to boosting mental and emotional needs, play also boosts physical durability. Playing outdoors is fundamentally important for developing physical abilities, coordination and a sense of belonging with the environment. Physical movement in the open air allows children to feel free and confident to be themselves.


It’s worth noting that the lockdown period did change some of the play opportunities our little ones had. If you’re feeling worried about the after-effects of that restriction, the best thing you can do is take a step back. If we as parents allow it, play can happen organically, and offers kids a way to adapt and relate to what’s going on in their lives. Whilst parents can provide activities and ideas when kids get bored, it’s also really important to allow kids to have space and time in their day to come up with their own methods of play. 

We’re excited to get out there in the fresh air and let our kids interact with the world, as they play their way to becoming resilient, strong and emotionally capable people. We hope you and your family enjoy a lot of fun! 

Anita Grant is CEO of Islington Play Association and Chair of Play England. Anita has been working in the Play sector for over 20 years and is passionate about play and the need to protect the freedom of children to be able to enjoy their rights, engage in their world and work things out for themselves. 

Play England is the national organisation that campaigns, advocates for and supports play provision and play opportunities for all children throughout the country. For more information, please visit: https://www.playengland.org.uk

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Jul 12
Jul 12

5 Ways Playing Helps Children’s Development

With Ronnie McQueen, a Playwork at The Yard 

Every child loves playing, and in addition to being fun and active, it can help to build lifelong skills. From pretend play, social play, independent play, to sports play — kids need a variety of playtime to fully develop as functioning people. We spoke to Ronnie McQueen, a Playworker at The Yard, to learn 5 ways that playing helps children’s development. Here’s what Ronnie had to say…

1. Confidence –

“Children can learn to take risks and explore their capabilities and limits through trial and error, which can help build their experience, knowledge and confidence.”

2. Mood –

“Playing is a way to process feelings and get things out of your system, which can result in a positive mood change, and can be fun.” 

3. Communication Skills –

“Playing can help build communication skills when navigating taking turns, implementing conflict resolution, and sharing thoughts and ideas with other children.”

4. Relationships –

“Playing can help to develop, form and maintain relationships with peers.”

5. Physical Strength –

“Playing is good for building physical strength, and being active is good for your mental well-building. Even getting the fresh air and sun can help to develop resilience and boost metabolism.”


Speaking with Ronnie reminded us of the remarkable power of play, and how truly transformative it can be in children’s lives. We hope you and your kiddos get out there, soak up the summer and play to your heart’s content! 

The Yard is an award-winning charity, offering adventure play for disabled children and their families in the east of Scotland. The Yard offers creative and inclusive play experiences in a well-supported environment, as well as wrap-around support for the whole family. The Yard was established in Edinburgh in 1986 by a group of parents, social workers and teachers, who recognised the need for a safe space for disabled children and their families, outside of school and home. For more info please visit: https://www.theyardscotland.org.uk

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Jul 17
Jul 17

Playtime: 7 Things Parents Should Know

With Ronnie McQueen, Playworker at The Yard 

Playing is such an intrinsic part of childhood that it’s impossible to imagine one without the other. To be a child is to be playful, and when kids play, they thrive. Parents know that when our kids get free play, they become happy and vibrant. Although we may witness the immediate effects of play, we may not fully understand the full details of why playtime is so important. We spoke with Ronnie McQueen, a Playworker at The Yard, an award-winning charity that runs adventure play services for disabled children. We interviewed Ronnie to learn 7 things every parent should know about playtime. 

1. Firstly, how can we define ‘play’? 

“Play is to take part in an activity, for example something physical, imaginative or creative, with yourself or someone else, either indoors or outdoors, that generates good feelings, a sense of fun and excitement, that results in a good experience.” 

2. How much time should kids play every day? 

“Over the years I’ve worked with many children, and I’d say about two hours per day. This also takes into account other things within the day, but in general kids need that creative outlet about two hours a day, though it may change depending on a child’s age.” 

3. How can families ensure kids get enough unstructured play? 

“If it’s possible, try and find your own outdoor safe space in nature, either a woodland area or a river or beach, to allow for some exploration and some physical adventure. If that’s done regularly, it would be very beneficial.”

“Also, loose parts play can be great. Get materials like fabric, ropes, tubes, tape, sheets or musical instruments, and set up activities for kids to play with. This provides an opportunity for free choice and creativity.

Kids also love dens, which can be done indoors for fun. If you introduce new materials often, kids won’t get bored, since ultimately the aim is to satisfy the mind.” 

4. Should parents play alongside kids, as opposed to kids playing only with other kids? 

“I don’t think it’s essential, since children need space and time with other children to have fun, and to learn how to build relationships and gain social and practical skills. 

However – and this is a big however – I do feel it’s essential for parents to have a playful relationship with their children, and be involved and play with their children when needed, as it helps with the relationship in so many ways.” 

5. How can play help families during times of crisis? 

“It’s essential through times of crisis, to have that outlet. I’ve seen so many touching moments since the lockdown of Covid. The opportunity to play, be out of the house, have a change of scenery, some interaction with other people, to be able to breathe, let things out, to smile and forget about the crisis for a while… This has brought so much relief, freedom and normality, and brought families together.

Playtime is a coping mechanism during a crisis, and it brings so much love, happiness and compassion; it brings a sense of security and safety, which is so grounding.”

6. How can parents encourage inclusivity of all levels of physical ability during play?

“Start with being involved yourselves. Parents can show an enthusiastic and positive attitude to everyone in the activity. Speak inclusively, to role model the appropriate behaviour for your kids, and ensure there are equal opportunities and enough variety of equipment and materials for everyone. 

If something inappropriate is said, keep your response simple and clear, and focus on the benefits of having fun together. Lead by example – get involved and support the child who was talked about. It’s key to notice how you react in that moment, and to stay very calm and non-confrontational.” 

7. What’s one important takeaway for parents? 

“Parents are going through a lot too, and it’s important to go easy on yourself. Look after your own mental health, lean on other people, use outlets if needed, and do the best you can. Kids pick up on your emotions, so it’s important to be kind to yourself.” 


Speaking with Ronnie made us recognise the many-layered aspects of play, and how crucial it is to the health and wellbeing of kids. We’re excited to get more playful too, and hope this inspires you and your family to go have lots of fun! 

The Yard is an award-winning charity, offering adventure play for disabled children and their families in the east of Scotland. The Yard offers creative and inclusive play experiences in a well-supported environment, as well as wrap-around support for the whole family. The Yard was established in Edinburgh in 1986 by a group of parents, social workers and teachers, who recognised the need for a safe space for disabled children and their families, outside of school and home. For more info please visit: https://www.theyardscotland.org.uk 

If you’re looking for play ideas and to bring a little bit of The Yard into your home, please visit  theyardscotland.org.uk/digital to access a host of fun videos! 

You can also follow The Yard @theyardscotland on social media.

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Jun 18
Jun 18

10 Things You Should Know About Bullying

With Dr. Angharad Rudkin, Psychologist and Author

Unfortunately, we cannot escape bullies in this world. Mean-spirited people will always exist, and although we can’t magically make this issue disappear, we can give our kids tools on how to handle these uncomfortable experiences. When kids get picked on, it can often feel like there’s nothing they can do about it. While it’s true that we can’t control someone else’s behaviour, there are things that can help. 

We spoke to Dr. Angharad Rudkin, clinical psychologist and co-author of “Find Your Girl Squad”, who shared ten things we should know about bullying… 

1. The First Thing to Do Is Get Cross 

Make sure your kids know that it’s never acceptable for someone to hurt them or treat them unkindly. Nobody has the right to do that, and kids need to feel empowered to take a stand against it. If your kid has been dealing with bullying behaviour from anyone, but has been too nervous to do anything about it, help them to make the decision that they’re going to get it sorted.

2. Bullying Takes Different Forms 

It’s obvious to know when someone is hurting you if they’re physically doing so. Hitting or hair-pulling is easy to spot. But sometimes bullying isn’t so obvious. Kids can pretend they’re being funny, when actually they’re being unkind. They can laugh off a nasty verbal attack with a casual comment like: “It was only a joke,” or “Just messing around!” Kids may then mistakenly think that it’s their fault for being upset. Tell your kids to trust how they feel. If someone’s “jokes” make them feel like they want to cry, or like they wish they could evaporate into thin air, then that is bullying. 

3. Bullies Want You to Stay Silent  

Bullies are hoping that their victims don’t reach out to anyone and that they’ll feel there’s no way out. Take time to talk with your kids and encourage them to share their experiences so they feel confident to speak up if something’s wrong. Whether it’s to friends or teachers, or at home with you, kids need to feel comfortable to voice the situation. The lesson to give to your kids is that if nobody knows when something bad is happening, then nobody knows to help. 

4. People Often Bully Because They Want Attention 

Most bullies misbehave in the way they do because they’re seeking attention. Just like toddlers who scream and tantrum, bullies are eager to have you focus on them. Although it can be really challenging to do, ignoring them is a smart option. Explain to your kids that, just like a toddler screaming and throwing their toys all over the room, bullies will most likely try harder before they back down. Give your kid tips on what to do, like hunting around in their bag for something, reading a book, or doing maths in their head. There will most likely be a big reaction at first, but eventually if a bully is ignored for long enough, they’ll get bored and move along. 

5. Body Language and Posture Reflect Emotions  

Educate your kids on the connection between inner feelings and outer appearance. When you’re in a bright mood, you’ll usually stand up taller, make eye contact and have a spring in your step. If you’re feeling down, though, you might slump, drag your feet and look downwards. Explain to your kids that it’s a lot easier to pick on someone who’s feeling vulnerable. A simple but effective way to manage bullying is to appear confident. Encourage your kids to stand up straight, with their shoulders back and head held high. Even this small change can signal strength, which can scare bullies off. 

6. People Often Pick on the Very Thing We’re Most Unsure About 

When we have an insecurity about something, it becomes our weak spot that we’re especially sensitive to. Often bullies will figure out what you’re self conscious about, and hone in on it. The trick is not to give them the reaction they want. Let your kids know that they can act as if it doesn’t get under their skin, and pretending it doesn’t bother them can be a way to ward off bullies. Help kids visualise their superhero strength. Maybe they have an invisible force field that comes down, allowing any mean words to ping off, leaving them unscathed. Positive visualisation can be quite helpful in times when you need to act brave, but are feeling scared on the inside. 

7. Happy, Confident People Don’t Bully 

If you feel good about yourself, you won’t need to bring others down. Bullying is directly linked to insecurity, and oftentimes bullies have unhappy home lives too. This doesn’t mean their behaviour is excusable, but it may help us to understand it a bit better. It may be helpful for your kids to know that bullies aren’t all-powerful superhumans. In reality, they’re quite the opposite. 

8. A Team of Supporters Can Help  

If your kid’s experiencing bullying, it’s essential that they have a team of supporters. They may feel isolated and want to hide away, but building a peer group will help. Help them find their friend squad at school, and facilitate hangouts with people that like them. Remind them what a fantastic person they are, and make it clear that you’re on their team, all the way. 

9. Bystanders Aren’t ‘Innocent’  

It can feel scary when a person witnesses bullying, and they may feel too nervous to do anything about it. But doing nothing can be as hurtful as the bullying itself. If your kid has been in a situation where they’ve witnessed bullying but done nothing, talk to them about how sometimes doing nothing can actually make things worse. It can be especially tough if your kid’s friends stand by silently while they’re getting picked on, but the best approach is to talk about it so that everyone can work together to figure out how to stand up for one another. 

10. It’s Never Too Late to Change Our Behaviour 

As much as it’s hard to admit as parents, sometimes our own kids can be the ones who are behaving unkindly. If you’ve discovered your child has been picking on someone else, make sure they understand that this doesn’t define who they are. Yes, they have done something cruel and wrong, but it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. Help them to think about why they behaved the way they did, to get to the root of the cause. Did it make them feel big or cool? Did it make them feel part of a certain group? Chat with your kid about why they got involved, and then come up with a plan on how to make it right. Although they can’t erase past mistakes, your kids do have the ability to make better choices next time. 


As protective parents, it can be easy to personalise our kids’ experiences. We can get too close and make it about us. Remember that if your child is getting bullied, it’s their experience, not yours. Try to allow them to have their own feelings without making assumptions about how they might react. Your role as a parent is to listen, understand your child’s point of view, and be supportive. Be on your kid’s team, keep talking about what’s going on, and work together to make a plan. 

Dr. Angharad Rudkin is a Clinical Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She has worked with children, adolescents, and families for over 15 years. Angharad has an independent therapy practice and teaches Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Southampton. She regularly contributes to articles on child and family wellbeing for national newspaper and magazines, and is a relationship expert for Metro newspaper. Angharad appears on TV and radio regularly as an expert on child and family issues. Angharad wrote a book with Ruth Fitzgerald about friendships in girls, “Find your Girl Squad” and has co-written a parenting book “What’s my Child Thinking?”. 

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Bravery-blog-header
Jun 17
Jun 17

FREE Videos and Games about Bravery

Being brave doesn’t always feel the way we might think it should. Bravery can sometimes sit like a ball of nerves in your stomach, and it can seem like the hardest thing ever. But being brave is about stepping out of your comfort zones and facing your fears, even when you’re really scared. We’ve rounded up 3 episodes and 1 game that will help your kiddos understand what it means to be brave. We hope to inspire your kids to find their own courage by taking risks and putting themselves out there.

Robin Hood “Tuck the Valiant” (Series 2, episode 15)

Best for kids aged 5+

Episode Length: 12 minutes 

The Episode: Tuck shows his courage when he stands up to the expulsion of lousy Rick from the county. But when the boy’s parents only thank Robin for it, Tuck feels quite jealous. Eager to seek approval for his own heroism, Tuck sets out to prove he’s just as brave as Robin. Hoping to help his friend, Robin devises a plan to help Tuck feel validated for his courage. 

Learning Outcome: Kids learn the value of feeling good about something you’ve done, regardless of outside approval.

 

Siyaya: Wildest Cape “Robberg – Learning About Survival” (episode 10)

Best for kids aged 6+

Episode Length: 24 minutes 

The Episode: Four brave young girls enter the mysterious Robberg Peninsula to learn about survival – not only that of plants and animals, but also how our common ancestors adapted to live on this desolate island. 

Learning Outcome: Kids learn how our ancestors survived in harsh surroundings.

 

Treehouse Stories “The Penguin Who Was Cold” (Series 2, episode 4)

Best for kids aged 4+

Episode Length:  8 minutes 

The Episode: Antoine is stressing about being the new kid in school. He’s afraid of being different and not being able to make any friends, and that he’ll wind up all alone. Esteban advises him to work out, to build muscles that are worthy of respect. Lisette, on the other hand, has a whole different approach to boosting Antoine’s bravery. She decides to read him a story all about a cold penguin who learns that being different is what makes us special. 

Learning Outcome: Kids learn to be brave in accepting themselves just as they are.

 

Brave Explorers – Adventure Game

Best for kids aged 6+

Activity Time: 10 minutes 

The Game: Kids must face an onslaught of spear traps, bugs, and pits as they charge on to find and save a group of missing explorers. Every level has a labyrinth that kids need to navigate through in order to succeed in the mission! 

Learning Outcome: Kids learn to be brave in facing scary twists and turns!

 

Bravery doesn’t mean fearlessness. Kids need to learn how to accept feeling scared, and understand that everyone feels that way sometimes. We hope to boost your kiddos’ courage and help them feel capable and strong. Don’t let fear hold you back!

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when-kids-lie-blog-header-copy
Jun 15
Jun 15

Strategies for Handling Lying

With Dr. Angharad Rudkin, Child Clinical Psychologist and Author 

While honesty is an admirable trait, it’s human to be imperfect, which includes not always living up to the most desirable standards. The truth is, everyone bends the truth. Nearly all children will omit details, exaggerate, or tell untruths at some point, and it can be difficult for parents to know what to do when this happens. Understanding the reasons behind lying and learning how to react appropriately can help build more trust throughout the whole family. 

If “I didn’t do it!” is a familiar phrase in your household, you may be eager to know how to approach the issue so that this behaviour doesn’t turn into a habit. Clinical psychologist Dr. Angharad Rudkin, co-author of the parenting book “What’s My Child Thinking?” spoke with us to discuss the developmental cause of lying.  Dr. Rudkin shared useful strategies on how to react when your kids act like Pinocchio.

A Necessary Developmental Phase 

You might associate lying with “naughty” behaviour, but it helps to view it as a landmark in your child’s thinking skills. It’s actually a reassuring thing, and is evidence that your child’s brain is developing in the way that it should. As kids get older, they recognise their ability to tell a story that may differ from reality. Whereas a two year-old is unable to lie, three year-olds certainly can. This change reflects a big cognitive shift, and is an important part of development. 

You’ll notice the difference in lying as your kids age, in that little kids will fall apart if pressed for information, whereas older kids are more sophisticated in their ability to maintain an untrue story, even under questioning. Rather than seeing this as solely a negative, it can be useful to shift your perspective to see it as a landmark in your child’s thinking skills. In order to tell the difference between truth and fiction, your kids need the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes. 

The Why Behind the Lie 

Rather than focusing purely on the lie itself, it can be helpful to look into why your child lied in the first place. Children are eager for parents’ approval, and lying can sometimes be a means to gain ‘reputation management’. All people make mistakes, and sometimes kids lie to avoid criticism and protect themselves from being seen in a negative light. 

Generally, there are two main types of lie: 

Anti-social lies 

When a kid does something they know is against the rules, they might lie to avoid punishment, which could include pointing the finger at someone else. Anti-social lies are done purely for self-serving reasons, usually as a form of self-protection. It’s because of this that this sort of lying is seen as negative. 

Signs of Anti-Social Lies 

  • The story doesn’t add up or make sense, and isn’t consistent 
  • Your kiddo rabbits on and on, using more words than necessary to convince you 
  • Your little one’s voice may get higher pitched 

What are the triggers? 

  • A fear of getting in trouble 
  • Breaking a rule 
  • Wanting to get someone else in trouble 
  • Trying to avoid blame 

How to Handle an Anti-Social Lie 

  1. Understand the development behind it. Kids up to age 3 or 4 may not yet fully understand the difference between fantasy and reality, or might be indulging in wishful thinking. 
  2. Explain that you have a better chance of resolving an issue when working with the truth. 
  3. Make it clear that you will approve more if your kids are honest, and it’s the best way to make amends. 
  4. Agree as a family that honesty is a shared value in your household, and explain how frequent lying can result in others not believing you even if you do tell the truth. 
  5. Keep discipline to a minimum. If kids are terrified of the consequences, they’ll be even more likely to lie. 

Pro-social lies 

When a kid lies in order to spare another person’s feelings or maintain social expectations, it’s called a pro-social lie. Often this is done by omitting information and not giving the whole story, in order to be kinder or more polite. These sorts of untruths usually benefit the lie-recipient, and are viewed largely as acceptable. 

Signs of Pro-social Lies

  • Other parents ask you about things your kids have bragged about 
  • Your kiddos give short or incomplete answers to questions 
  • Your kids give contradictory answers in an attempt to keep you happy 

What are the Triggers? 

  • Wanting to avoid the inconvenience of adults’ rules
  • Wanting to impress peers and parents 
  • Trying to protect another person’s feelings (which is a sign of a socially aware child) 

How to Handle a Pro-Social Lie

  1. Explain the consequences. For example, if your kids tell their classmates about an upcoming trip to Hawaii (when there is none), explain that friends won’t believe them anymore if they keep lying. 
  2. Role model honesty. Kids absorb what they see, so if you tell “white lies”, they’ll learn it’s socially acceptable to do so. 
  3. Build your kid’s self worth. Kids who don’t feel good enough about themselves may exaggerate to appear “better”. 
  4. Set achievable expectations. If you set the bar too high, kids may lie in order to avoid disappointing you. 
  5. Trust your kids. Kids are more likely to be honest if they have a good reputation to live up to. 

Discipline

When it comes to lying, it’s best to avoid huge punishments. If you make the consequences catastrophic, it’ll only lead to more lying to avoid getting punished. Natural consequences are the preferred choice, and a far better way to help a child learn. For example, if your little one lies about having done their chores, work together with them to come up with an age-appropriate task to help out around the house, to make up for the mistake. 

A Family Agreement 

It can be a good idea to sit down together as a family and discuss your shared approach to lying. Have an open conversation and outline what is acceptable and not acceptable, so kids know what your expectations are. Remember that if you set up a lot of rules and expectations, you may have to accept that there will be more lying. Kids won’t be able to live up to an unforgiving set of very strict rules. You can value honesty and truth and make this clear to your kids, but you also must address the fact that we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. 

Share Your Shortcomings 

Kids will trust you a lot more if you’re open and honest about your faults, too. Nobody’s perfect, and there’s no use in pretending to be. Chat to your kids about times you’ve messed up, and how you dealt with it. Talk to your kids about how it feels to lie, and how you’ve felt when you’ve lied. Do they feel better when they’ve told a lie, or does it feel better to tell the truth? Above all, try not to get cross with your kids if they end up doing something that you yourself would have done. 

Stay Curious 

Encourage your kids to think about what truth and lies mean to them, and what truths and lies we all engage in every day. Talk about it, and approach it all with curiosity rather than judgement. Don’t assume your kids are lying or telling the truth. Just go in with curiosity, and don’t make your kids feel rotten about themselves if they’re caught in a lie. Instead, approach mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. 


Speaking with Angharad reminded us that a lot of our reactions as parents may have to do with our own associations with lying. When our kids lie, it can make us feel out of control, which can lead to panic and over-reacting. Remember that lying doesn’t define the person. Just because your kids fib sometimes doesn’t mean they should be labeled as ‘dishonest’. As long as we remain open, honest, understanding and approachable, managing the times when our kids aren’t truthful can be a part of life’s many teachable moments.

Dr. Angharad Rudkin is a Clinical Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She has worked with children, adolescents, and families for over 15 years. Angharad has an independent therapy practice and teaches Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Southampton. She regularly contributes to articles on child and family wellbeing for national newspaper and magazines, and is a relationship expert for Metro newspaper. Angharad appears on TV and radio regularly as an expert on child and family issues. Angharad wrote a book with Ruth Fitzgerald about friendships in girls, “Find your Girl Squad” and has co-written a parenting book “What’s my Child Thinking?”. 

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superfoods-blog-header
Jun 15
Jun 15

Nutritious Foods to Feed Your Kids

With Lucinda Miller, Naturopath and Author 

Although dealing with staying at home has had its own major stresses, one of the benefits has been just that: being at home more, which means we’ve been given an opportunity to experiment more in the kitchen. We’ve gained back the time we’d have otherwise spent commuting to work and school, and we’ve rediscovered the joy of simple things again. Healthy eating needn’t be stressful, and if we get back to the basics of real food, without reaching for convenience items, we’ll be doing our bodies and minds a great service. 

With our delight in all things delicious, we wanted to learn more about the power of food. We spoke with naturopath and author Lucinda Miller, who gave us more insight into nutrition and taught us about the incredible benefits of certain superfoods. 

Convenient or Not? 

Quick-fix foods can be really misleading. That jar of fat-free pasta sauce might seem ‘healthy’, but the 24 ingredients would suggest otherwise. Often brands may remove the sugar or fat, but add in starches, aspartame, preservatives and additives. Our bodies don’t understand these substances, and they won’t nurture us. Before you reach for the jar, take a moment to look at what you’re actually putting into your system. 

What Can Good Food Do? 

Great food not only makes our bodies operate better, but it also helps with IQ, curiosity, creativity and self-esteem. Research has shown that kids who eat more fruit and veg are less likely to get bullied or be bullies. Also, getting the right nutrients will ensure your immune system stays strong, which means you’ll stay healthy. Eating well can also lead to improved sleep and mood! 

So, what are some of the best foods to feed our kids? Here are 5 superfoods that basically have superpowers… 

1. Blueberries: Just a handful of these at breakfast can help kids with concentration and focus all day, even into the afternoon! These are great for eyesight and building immunity too. 

2. Kiwi Fruit: These are full of vitamin C, which will help to keep kids fighting fit. They also have prebiotics to help good gut bacteria thrive, which means your kiddos will have smooth digestion and calm tummies. 

3. Broccoli: These mini green ‘trees’ are great for little bellies, and keep livers healthy. 

4. Salmon: This oily fish is full of brain-boosting goodies including omega-3, vitamin D and choline (which helps our brains function better). Give these Superhero Salmon Fishcakes a go if you need a kid-friendly recipe! 

5. Oats: These powerhouse grains are full of fibre, including the amazing fibre beta-glucan, which lowers cholesterol, improves blood sugar management, and boosts the immune system. Try these yummy Raspberry Snack Attack Balls to get a delicious serving of oats! 

Got a Fussy Eater? 

Knowing what foods are healthiest is a great start, but what do you do if you’ve got a little one who’s reluctant to try new things? If your kiddos turn up their noses at anything that isn’t nugget-shaped, fear not! First of all, you’re not alone, and secondly – habits can change. The most important thing is to never, ever force your kids to eat a particular food. Instead, start by appealing to their curiosity. Take your kids to the farmer’s market to explore a variety of foods, meet the people who grow them, and even sample new flavours without pressure. 

Make mealtimes more fun! Involve your kids in the kitchen and ask them to help you prepare the veggies or stir the sauce. Including your kids in making a healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner with you may encourage them to nibble something they might not have otherwise tasted. Encourage a communal atmosphere around meals, so it’s a relaxed and social experience. 

Also, find ways to be more playful with food. Veggies don’t have to be in their ‘raw’ form to be beneficial. Try making carrot & poppyseed waffles or courgette brownies. Texture can be a huge factor for kids, so try to experiment with a variety of ways to serve food. If your kids aren’t interested in chomping carrots, try grating them into a sandwich, or steaming or mashing them. You could also try making edible art with your kids so they can munch their masterpieces! 

Whole Foods For Our Whole Selves 

Speaking with Lucinda reminded us that good nutrition really feeds us in ways beyond our bellies. Eating well can have a positive impact on our mood, sleep, patience, and family dynamics. If you provide a calm atmosphere where kids can explore and try tasting new dishes, you’ll create healthy links between emotions and food. We all want to raise kids with strong bodies, and the foundation begins with us as parents. Be the role model, but not the enforcer. Help your kids to create good habits by showcasing your own, and let them learn by example that choosing nutritious treats is a way to feel better inside and out. Not only can tucking into superfoods charge our bodies and strengthen our immunity, but these healthy choices can make us feel like superheroes too.


Lucinda Miller is the founder of NatureDoc, and runs a team of UK-wide nutritional therapists specialising in pregnancy, baby, toddler and child nutrition. She also runs an online www.naturedoc.shop  stocking child-friendly food supplements and natural skin care. She has been practising as a naturopath for over 20 years, qualified in Functional Medicine and is author of the bestselling book The Good Stuff. She is the mum of three and lives in Wiltshire. www.naturedoc.co.uk  

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