I was chatting with my friend who is a PE teacher the other day and she was talking about children presenting in secondary school without any upper body strength, and sometimes even presenting as disabled!! She was saying it has increased dramatically over the years!
It starts from babies who now sleep on their backs, which thankfully has prevented a lot of cot deaths. And the lack of time spent on their tummys, dreaded tummy time is often skipped over and children don’t crawl as much as they would have before. This is a hard one to overcome as a baby sleeping on their backs is essential to their survival!! And tummy time can be torture for baby and parents.
So onto the next phase where we supposedly letting our kids down. They are inside on screens, the battle of the screen, I find them so hard to stay away from too they are seriously addictive! The bottom line is children should be spending lots of time playing. They should be playing a lot; through this they learn ‘fundamental movements’ such as skipping, climbing trees, hopping and jumping, which are essential for balance and co-ordination. So the other day after chatting to her the kids wanted to watch TV and I gave them the option of tidying the playroom or playing outside! They choose outside, surprise surprise and stayed there for hours, I was delighted with myself, a good start!! I find I’m great with the’ good parenting’ when I’ve loads of energy, when I’m tired it’s a lot harder.
One other thing she said was there seems to be divide where some children are arriving to school having done a million and one sports and others having done none. I like to think I’ll be somewhere in the middle, I don’t want their childhood to be filled with organised activities. I also don’t want to spend the next 15 years running and racing everywhere!!
So I’ve bought a skipping rope, chalk for hop scotch and I cut down a tree that was blocking a nice looking tree they could climb, the only thing I haven’t done is show them which tree as I don’t particularly want to see my children 20ft up in the air hanging off a tree, but I’ll build up the courage!!
As you can imagine I’m pretty interested in the topic of reading so I’m just going to outline what we’ve done with our kids so far! My eldest is 6 and no she hasn’t finished, or even started, the Harry Potter series. So I’d say she’s a pretty typical child.
Both myself and my husband are avid readers so we’ve been reading to our children since birth, well Peter has since birth I’ve definitely fallen short on that on. We have three children and I find reading to a small baby is like banging your head against a brick wall, but it’s advised to start early so they get used to turning pages reading from left to right. They say you should point your finger from left to right as you read, something I drop in and out of.
My baby Dougie is nearly 2 and finally we’re at a place where reading to him is a joy. He’s finishing the sentences and we now have great chats about the pictures. Finally we’re getting something back. He’s constantly picking up books and asking us to read them. I find reading calms him down if he’s cranky and also buys you a bit of rest bite from him hanging off our legs saying ‘uppy Mummy’ I find it a good way of teaching him colours and animals etc. The hits so far have been a baby book with animals in it. Also the Usbourne nursery rhymes book is great. It’s full of traditional nursery rhymes and songs, it’s lovely I got it as a gift when my 1st was born, it’s a bit battered now!
His new favourite is A Squash and a Squeeze I’m pretty sure this is my influence as it’s my favourite Julia Donaldson book. I’m not entirely sure about this as every time I read a Julia Donaldson Book it’s my new favourite. While I enjoy the Gruffalo it is my least favourite of her books.
Aoileann is 6, she is in seniors, we still read to her a lot but she does take over occasionally, which is great. The key here I’m told is to have books everywhere so she has easy access to books. The teachers advise that the easier the book the better, to build confidence and for her to learn the joy of reading. So we use the early readers for her and the Usborne hardback ones. But we still read a lot to her she loves Horrid Henry and we must have read Matilda 3 times this year. The feminist in me hates all the princesses etc but she really loves it so I do have to waver on this one. She loves the Rainbow magic books and to be fair to spite myself I do enjoy them!!
I read to them twice a day usually. Dougie is an early riser so we’ve plenty of time in the mornings for reading and bedtime stories too. If we’re home at the weekends we’d always manage a sneaky read during the day. Ben is 4 ½, he’s pretty happy with any story as long as he’s getting the cuddles!! His favourite at the moment is The Fantastic Mr Fox by the amazing Roald Dahl.
Aoileann is beginning to read on her own now which is great we encourage her and try to make it enjoyable. I think all you can do is give them as much access to reading and books and hope for the best. My husband is a total book worm and his brothers never read a book and they got exactly the same up-bringing. So we can only wait and see!! Since we’ve brought in the children’s books into the shop here I find it impossible to get her out, which certainly is encouraging.
When my daughter started school last year we got our school book list and a list of rules etc. I was delighted to see they had a healthy eating policy except a treat on Fridays, 20% of the time they are in school they can have a treat. That isn’t even the start of it my daughter is in senior infants now and she gets a jelly every day. This really bugs me as I don’t want to give treats daily and I don’t at home, she doesn’t get the treat in her lunch box on a Friday, she stopped asking after a few weeks when the answer was constantly no, I know I’m a mean mom she has told me. My sister objected to treats in their school and was told it was a great motivating tool. My head nearly exploded when I heard that!!
I feel it is such a serious problem that schools need to tackle the problem on head on. I think it should be forbidden for schools to sell anything but healthy food. Vending machines and tuc shops need to be banished. I straight don’t accept the argument that the schools need this money to fund the schools. The money they make from instilling these bad habits in children is too hefty a price to pay. Education is key here not just our children. Adults need to be brought into the frame. It’s pretty pointless telling a child not to eat the food that is served up to them at home. One idea I have is a course run by schools for parents and children to do together. It gives a talk on nutrition and health followed by a cooking demonstration and then given the ingredients for two healthy family meals to prepare at home. People love free stuff, myself included!
Society in General
I think the schools are probably the easiest target and it simply can’t end there. We need to be bombarded with healthy eating messages, just like we are about cigarettes. When we visit our GP we need to have our weight monitored, when we turn on our TV and radio we need to hear about it. Our local sports teams need to stay away from letting the local fast food joint sponsoring the team. One hour of football a week does not make it ok to eat badly. Food is 80% of the problem, exercise 20%. The benefits of a healthy message might also extend to our alcohol problem in society.
Parents should stop having a biscuit with a cup of tea, something that was pretty hard for me to achieve. Party bags while a lovely idea should be given the boot. You’ve just filled children to the max with terrible food and then for good measure you give them more junk, I’ve never given them, yes they are missed but not unduly the kids ask where’s my party bag and they accept my answer which is ‘There are none’. Food as a form of bribery has to be cut out, it works but it’s only short term solution with long term negative impacts. And we need to say ‘No’ more often. I have by some miracle gotten to the point when I go to the supermarket with my children they don’t even ask for treats. I know I’m sounding like I think I do everything perfectly I do not and it’s a constant battle. While I’m very strict and don’t give many treats I think my children get way too many treats. I was with a friend one day when her 3 year old came up with a lollipop in his hand and asked her ‘Mummy what’s this?’ I was very impressed and if I admit a bit jealous. I have some very unhealthy habits that I need to cut out as I know children are seriously influenced by parent’s behaviour.