Picture of a boy reading to a reading dog

Reading Dogs

Learning to read out loud is a crucial milestone in our children’s first years at school. As parents and grandparents we’ve all sat beside our little ones willing them to get to the end of the sentence, without stumbling and, if possible, without help. But when it comes to reading in the classroom, many children become incredibly anxious. This is where “reading dogs” can help.

What is a ‘reading dog?’

The concept of “reading dogs” was born in the 1990s. In November 1999 Utah-based Intermountain Therapy Animals launched Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) and took them into a Salt Lake City library. A year later the programme moved into the school system.

Reading to Dogs has proved equally successful in schools in the UK. The Bark and Read Foundation, for example, funded by the Kennel Club Education Trust, works with charities, social organisations, schools and libraries around the country helping children to read with their specially trained support dogs.

Sharing with Dogs

Children feel happier reading to a dog as, “unlike grown-ups”, the dogs don’t ask them to repeat things! (Hannah Earnshaw of Crown Primary School, Inverness) The children have time to think about what they are actually reading and enjoy the experience more than when it’s done to the teacher. It’s less stressful for them and becomes fun while at the same time developing their self-esteem.

What really matters…

More difficult to prove are the claims that children improve significantly more as a result of reading to dogs than practising in a more orthodox classroom setting. But does this matter? As long as the experience of reading to dogs motivates our kids to pick up a book and enjoy it, rather than look at a screen, that’s by far the most important thing.

So, whether it’s in our home, at school with a trained ‘reading dog” or even outside in the garden let’s get them reading!

Links:
http://thebark.com/content/reading-dogs-help-children-learn
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-39192647
https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/barkandread
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4763282/

Ice-cream van

Treats and Rewards for Kids

We’ve been talking lately about the tricky question of what treats really are and what happens when treats become the norm.

Are sugary treats bad?

Opinions will vary but experts tell us not to underestimate the power of sugar addiction. An article in Parents Magazine states, “The average kid under 12 consumes 49 pounds of sugar per year, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.” Treats that consist of refined sugar and empty calories add up over the day, even if they seem individually insignificant. There’s also the message that is sent by using sweets as rewards. Nutritionist and Kids Kritic Spokesperson, Carolina Lima Jantac, says, “Kids associate feeling happy and accomplished with sugar”. This continues into adulthood with self-rewarding of something sweet when you feel down and ultimately can lead to habits which are hard to kick.

No one is talking about an outright ban on ice cream and cup cakes but it looks like it is not a good idea to use them as rewards.

Other kinds of rewards

I’m sure we’ve all used stickers and charts at various times and they can work very well, as children can actually see their progress. Rewards that seem to work equally well can be doing something really special together that creates a memory. You can go to a park together (remember to take photos), do a class together at a local museum or gallery or what about borrowing a neighbour’s dog and take it/them on a walk.

Walking a friend's dog

Walking a friend’s dog

Using Treats to motivate

Psychologists call what motivates us, our currency and your child’s currency is what motivates him or her now. It will change with time and as their priorities and latest enthusiasms change. Younger children will “jump through hoops” (as Carolina puts it) to have an extra 15 minutes of lights on before bed. Collecting sets of things can really enthuse young kids. Hang on to the cards that are handed to you at the supermarket till. Kids love collecting sets – and they’re free!

Singing from the same song-sheet.

Often grandparents and other carers are considered a “soft touch”. I know how difficult it can be to resist the pleadings of my sugar-deprived grandchildren. But I know it’s important to support the parents’ house rules. If kids are already hooked on ‘unhealthy ‘ options, it’s difficult to institute a sudden ban. They still have access to treats when outside the home. This is where grandparents can help. Paediatric psychologist, Eileen Kennedy, suggests buying the smallest-sized packet of a favourite treat or a large economy bag of small-sized packets. Keep these out of sight, which avoids mindless snacking by the kids – and by you! Always have fruit (and veg!) out on the table and visible in a bowl.

LINKS:
Carolina Lima Jantac, MS, RD, LD. Nutrition and Social Media Manager and Kid Kritics Approved Spokesperson.https://expertbeacon.com/why-rewarding-children-sugar-or-treats-big-mistake#.WUei6RNViko

Parents Magazine
http://www.parents.com/recipes/nutrition/kids/sugar-shock/
http://www.livescience.com/7695-kids-prefer-veggies-cool-names.html

bowl of fruit

Healthy Food For Kids

This is our first of two posts about healthy food for kids. Guiding children to eat healthy food is a challenge most of us face. Experts agree that the learning process has to be gradual to lead to success. And it can be fun!

“Rename them”, scientists say

“In a new study, 186 four-year-olds were given regular carrots and, on other lunch days, they were given the same vegetables renamed X-ray Vision Carrots. On the latter days, they ate nearly twice as many.”

carrots in the shape of a flower

X-ray Vision Carrots

Healthy Packed lunches – making choices

Whether or not there is guidance from your child’s school you can have fun together making your own list of favourite foods. Use a blackboard and different coloured chalks for various food types. This way kids have their say while gradually becoming aware of the nutrition values of different foods. If they can buy stuff at school, give them a restricted amount and let them ‘save’ the money to put towards something special, which is not food.

Healthy Main meals

For the ‘main’ meal of the day limit the amount of starchy foods and always have one vegetable option that you know they like. Get the children to help you prepare what you’re going to eat. Then they can give it a name. Elsie’s cauliflower cheese. Start the day with fruit for breakfast. Don’t forget that frozen is just as nutritious as fresh. You can puree fruits and serve with yoghurt.

raspberries

Pureed fruit for breakfast

Developing Healthy Habits

Give them smaller bowls and, if age-appropriate, allow them to help themselves. They’ll appreciate being given a choice and feel grown-up. Encourage them to limit their portion size but ‘come back for seconds’.

If they say they’re full don’t push them into finishing everything. Eating when you’re no longer hungry ultimately leads to habitual over-eating. Children also need to recognise what they’re feeling “Is your tummy full now?”

Healthy Snacks

Snacks don’t have to be large. Stick to regular meal and snack-times, three meals a day and two snacks. If they don’t want a snack, skip it but watch out for crankiness before mealtime, as small children become suddenly hungry. Snacks don’t have to be large – a couple of slices of fruit and a cracker is plenty.

Feeling good

Up to school age children love to copy parents’ habits and choices – so take advantage of this and talk about what you’re eating – especially something new. They’ll want to try it too. Discourage the “yuck” face from older children in front of the little ones and talk positively about vegetables.
Vegetable Patch
Talk about fruit and vegetables when you’re out in the garden and crops that you see growing in the fields when you’re out for a walk. Go out and pick blackberries together in the summer and then make little blackberry and apple tarts.

Child Picking Blackberries

Blackberry Picking


We will continue this theme of Healthy Food For Kids with our next blog about “When a treat’s no longer a treat…”
In the meantime here is some further reading about the Carrot Experiment: http://www.livescience.com/7695-kids-prefer-veggies-cool-names.html

Squirt and Will - with thanks to the Evason Family

Losing A Pet

Coming to terms with losing a pet is something a lot of families have to face. Here at Binky Bear we are great animal lovers. Over the years Binky’s doggy friends and their families have become our friends. There was Max, the Great Dane, in Binky’s Big Adventure, Bertie and Rudi, the two corgis in Binky Goes to London and Squirt in Binky in Trouble. Dear Squirt died earlier this month, which made us think just what it means for the little ones in our lives to lose a much-loved pet, who has been both their friend and confidante.
Devon_Aug_2008-2[1]

Explanations

The loss could be sudden but if the pet has been ailing for a while or is very old, you may have the time to talk about what might happen at the end of his life. When a pet has to be ‘put to sleep’ it’s as well to present the truth in an age-appropriate form. An explanation like ‘ he’ll never get better’ or ‘ he’ll die peacefully’ will depend on the child’s level of understanding. In the long run it’s better to stick to the truth and your own view of what happens after death may inform your explanation, even if it’s just a simple ‘I don’t know’.
With thanks to Sue, Jim and Wills

Sharing the grief

It’s difficult to gauge the right moment to break the news. Important considerations are: having the child’s full attention, being in a safe and comfortable place with no distractions and maybe talking one-to-one. It’s also fine for you to be sad, as it’s good for the children to know that you’re affected by the loss too. Sharing is a positive thing. Your pet was a member of the family and loved by everyone. A ceremony to mark his death or celebrate his life can also help.
La-Vee[1]

Getting over it

Often the pet arrived in the family home before the children came along. He has always been nearby as they played and later hovered by the front door waiting for them to rush in from school. As time goes by the loss becomes less painful and you find yourselves laughing about the pet’s antics and sharing tales of the fun you had together.

In time you may consider another pet. The first inkling may come from the kids themselves. You’ll know when the moment is right.

It’s truly amazing what our pets teach us about life and, as it happens, about death as well.

We’d like to thank the Evason family for letting us use these wonderful family pictures of Squirt.

Useful info from The Blue Cross – https://www.bluecross.org.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/Children%20and%20pet%20loss.pdf
And a book: Goodbye, Mog by Judith Kerr (author of the Tiger who Came to Tea) –
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/dec/04/booksforchildrenandteenagers.familyandrelationships

Remembering Squirt

Binky and Squirt off on a walk

Binky and Squirt off on a walk

An out-take from Binky in Trouble - Binky and Squirt at Kingsgate, Winchester

An out-take from Binky in Trouble

Binky Bear Explores French's Shoe Shop Southampton

Fitting Children’s Shoes

With National Shoe Fitting week coming up on 8th April we at Binky Bear got thinking about the importance of fitting children’s shoes.
Fitting Children's Shoes

Shared memories

We were talking about going to the shoe-shop to get our first pair of school–shoes. I wanted red wellies, I remember. That idea soon went out of the window.

“Try walking to end of the shop for me” said the assistant. Then I got it. All around me were other five-year-olds trying on black lace-ups while parents and grandparents looked on seriously. The children were all looking forward to the special treat afterwards.

What the experts say about Fitting Children’s Shoes

Babies are usually born with perfect feet. According to NHS Podiatrists it’s better to avoid pram-shoes and tight blankets for new-borns. They even suggest cutting the feet out of baby-grows.
Binky Bear photo of new-born's feet
A child’s foot is not a small version of an adult’s. It’s softer and more pliable. And when the child starts to walk going barefoot is preferable in the right environment. Children’s feet – and this really is surprising – are vulnerable to deformity up to late teens.

How to fit your child for shoes

Finding a reputable shoe-shop where the assistants take time over the fitting of your child’s shoes is worth the search and certainly gives peace of mind. It may not be necessary to buy new shoes at all, if the assistant re-assures you that the shoes are OK for a bit longer.
Binky Bear Loves Billy Goat Shoes in Alresford
Jo at the independent shoe-shop, Billy Goat, in Binky’s home-town of Alresford, says, “We will happily measure your child’s feet and let you know whether their shoes are still a good fit!”

Make a day of it

Choosing the all-important new shoes is a social event. You may take your child to the nearest ‘big’ town for the day. Binky was recently taken to the award-winning French’s Shoe-shop in Southampton to have his feet measured. Naturally he got cake afterwards!

Binky Bear finds the perfect pair of boots

Binky Bear finds the perfect pair of boots at French’s Shoe Shop in Southampton


Or maybe you can combine shopping for shoes with exploring a favourite Binky trail in London, Winchester or Alresford. And include cake, of course!

https://www.wjfrenchandson.co.uk/
http://www.billygoatshoes.co.uk/visit-us

NATIONAL SHOE FITTING WEEK

Drama for kids can substantially improve confidence and sociability in kids

Drama for Kids

With a growing interest in children’s confidence and sociability, we predict drama for kids will be one of the hot topics for parents this year.

So, is drama for kids a good thing?

Not long ago a Drama teacher friend made an interesting case for encouraging children to join Speech and Drama classes and groups. “I don’t think for one minute that every child I teach will end up on the stage”, she commented, “but I do think, besides enjoying themselves, they’ll gain in self confidence and public speaking. They’ll all have to do an interview or speak up for themselves at some time in their lives and this will stand them in good stead”. She has a point.

A confident child makes eye contact

Drama for kids develops confidence and sociability

We asked our Binky Bear Facebook fans why drama is good for kids and Sylvia from Southampton, summed up most comments when she said: “Drama gave my daughter confidence. It placed her out of her comfort zone, meeting new people. All this helped her grow as a person and this has benefitted her as she faces challenges of growing into an adult.”

How to find a drama club near you

Just search online using Drama Clubs for Kids and you will find a whole list of people to contact near you. There are some big names like Stagecoach and Theatre Bugs and there are some wonderful local clubs doing great things.

Drama for kids can substantially improve confidence and sociability in kids

Kids in action at Drama Beast in Alresford

Take Drama Beasts in Alresford for example. We also asked Binky Bear fans which drama clubs they would recommend in Hampshire and Drama Beasts was top of the Leader Board. Founder Nicky Gower describes what drama can mean to children: “Our ultimate aim is to help children improve their social and communication skills, grow their self-esteem, highlight the importance of teamwork and foster an appreciation of performance.” Nicky goes on to explain, “Our drama sessions are never about ‘auditions’ or ‘securing the lead role’ but instead, we aspire to bring out the best in every child, so even the shyest of children begin to feel more confident as they perform in front of others.”

If music is more your thing…

Try one of the many Music with Mummy or Moo Music groups. Again, our Facebook fans talk very highly of our local Moo Music group. www.moo-music.co.uk/areas/alresford which is clearly adored by the children who attend and highly rated by parents.

Kids play musical instruments and sing at Moo Music Alresford

Kids enjoying Moo Music in Alresford

Denise Rosewell who runs Moo Music in Alresford Hampshire describes what they do: “We use all sorts of exciting props, puppets, toys and percussion instruments as we sing, dance and play.” Sounds great to us.

It’s Panto time! (Oh yes it is…)

Binky Bear

Make Your Own Pantomime with Binky Bear


Drama for kids is also the theme of our January Muddy Paws Club download and those clever people at Binky Bear HQ have designed this wonderful Create your own Pantomine activity sheet just for you.

Binky Bear Posts his letter to Father Christmas

Three Ways of Writing to Santa

What better way to start the build up to Christmas than writing to Santa. Here are three ideas.

1. Make Santa a picture

For really young ones, all you need is a piece of card, a large envelope and some bright toy catalogues as well as glue and glitter of course and children can tear their favourite pictures from the catalogue (or kids’ magazines).   Everyone can join in with writing to Santa or it may be just two of you at the kitchen table.  Either way the letter will be a visual feast for Santa!  You may end up doing the writing but that’s fine as the fun bit is choosing and tearing out the pictures.

Writing a letter to Father Christmas

Writing a letter to Father Christmas

2. Write a Binky Bear Letter to Father Christmas

There are loads of freebies on line but the best one (of course) is the Binky Bear Letter to Father Christmas.  If your kids prefer colouring in, try this download which we gave out last year to all our Muddy Paws Club members.  All the children have to do is fill in the blank list at the top of the page and then colour in Binky and the rest of the picture. You can download your Binky Bear Letter to Father Christmas here:
binky_bear_activity_colour_sheet_dec.
december-colouring-sheet

3. Write a letter via The Royal Mail and Santa writes back!

The third way is to write a good old letter and you can send this letter to Santa via the Royal Mail and get a letter back.  In fact you can send any of these pictures and letters to Father Christmas via the Royal Mail and providing you send it to Santa’s correct address you are very likely to get a reply.

The Royal Mail ask that you send your letters by first or second class post to arrive by their deadline on Friday December 9th.  They don’t guarantee a reply but it is likely and it will be personally addressed.  Send your letters to: Santa/Father Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ

Binky Bear and the red post box in Alresford

Binky Posts his Letter to Father Christmas.

For blind or partially sighted children

And the magic does not end there, blind or partially sighted children can write to Santa too and get a reply in braille, audio or large print.  The deadline for this is December 1st and send letters to:

RNIB, Midgate House, Midgate, Peterborough, PE1 1TN. The closing date for letters is Thursday 1 December 2016.  You can find out more here.

http://www.rnib.org.uk/information-everyday-living/family-friends-and-carers/resources-parents-blind-or-partially-sighted/letter-santa

Receive a letter from Santa

The NSPCC can arrange for Santa to send out personalised letters if you make a donation of just £5 (suggested).  So you don’t actually write to Santa but if you set this up for your kids they can each get a lovely personalised letter from Santa himself and the NSPCC benfits from your money.

All you have to do is choose a template to suit the age of your child, add in a few details about what your child likes to do, (there is a drop down menu to help you: dancing, playing football etc) what their achievement has been this year (behaving for your teachers, tidying your room, etc) and you can name a close friend or relative they are close to and those clever people at the NSPCC will write a lovely personalised letter to your child from Santa himself or if you prefer from Father Christmas or Siôn Corn if you want the letter written in Welsh.

Little Elf

Getting Your Own Letter From Father Christmas Is Very Special

The deadline is December 16 and https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do/make-a-donation/letter-from-santa” target=”_blank”>here is the link you need. th.

So time to get out the glitter and glue? And if Binky Bear appears on a little person’s Christmas List then all you need to do is click here and find out all about the World of Binky Bear.

autumn-leaves_9813_m

Binky Bear’s days out with the kids

It’s getting colder, but here are some ideas for days out with the kids, whatever the weather.

How about planning a day out with something seasonal included, which is free. There are lots of things to watch in public places at this time of the year.

Norwich’s Tunnel of Light

Start with a walk round the historic street of the town and then walk through the 45 metre ‘tunnel’, 50,000 tiny lights, which reflect the colours and patterns of the Northern Lights. Norwich’s seasonal lights will be switched on 17 November. For info about the historic city as well, go to:-
http://www.visitnorwich.co.uk/whats-happening/event/first-uk-tunnel-of-light/
norwich tunnel of light

Winchester’s Woolly Hat Fair

Or if you are Hampshire based keep your eyes out for the Woolly Hat Fair coming to Winchester.
http://hatfair.co.uk/woolly-hat-fair/ Events will be free to attend and will take place at 5pm every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday between 3 – 22 December.

Hamleys Christmas Toy Parade- London

Binky throw up autumn leaves on days out with the kids
And if you just happen to be in London on 20 November after doing the Binky Bear walk through St James’s Park – like Binky (finishing in Trafalgar Square) join all the fun of Hamleys Christmas Toy Parade. The whole of Regent’s Street will be closed to traffic for the event.
http://www.hamleys.com/hamleys-parade.html
night photo of christmas lights
London’s Christmas lights are already starting to go on, so check on-line for specific dates. Seasonal lights are now going on all over the country, so check in your local press for exact dates.

Reindeer Spotting

If you want to splash out on an extra special day this Christmas how about visiting Santa’s reindeers, somewhere in the UK near you? This link has a few pointers:-
http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/family/days-out-where-can-you-see-1488475