Maggie's Top Tips

MAGGIE’S TOP 5 TIPS

FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR ACTIVITIES

As we welcome in the Year of the Dog, the most loyal and kind of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, we are putting lots of emphasis on animals to help kids learn, get imaginative and have fun!

1. Play animal games

Take the list of animals of the Chinese zodiac and have a good look at each one. Talk about their sounds and how they move. Spread out, and have each child pretend to be the animals, they can even do this yoga-style. You can also play charades where children choose an animal from the list and then get them to act it out while the others guess who they pretending to be.

2. Make Lanterns

Get the kids to color and decorate an A4 piece of paper, decorating and drawing whatever they like on it – dogs, or any type of animal, shapes such as stars and hearts etc. Fold the paper in half the long way, then help them to cut slits through the fold, up to about 2/3 from the edge. Start 2″ from the end, and cut a slit every inch or two, ending 2″ from the other end. Tape or staple the ends together, and tape or staple a string inside to hang it.

3. Play pin the tail on the Dog!

A simple variation of the classic game of “pin the tail on the donkey”. Find a picture of a dog online and print out, or simply draw an outline of a dog, cut it out and cut off the tail. Blindfold the kids so that they can try and pin the dog’s tail as close to the right place without seeing.

4. Did you know?

Teach the kids some interesting facts about the star animal of the New Year, such as; a dogs’ sense of smell is 10,000 times stronger than humans’ and they can also hear about 4 times the distance too – oddly they have at least 18 muscles in each ear! Dogs don’t only see in black and white as many people believe — they can also see blue and yellow, they can also recognize up to 150 words!

5. Clean-up for good luck!

Remember it’s good luck to clean the house before Chinese New Year to “sweep away the bad luck” that has accumulated inside over the past year and bad luck after – as it’s thought to sweep away the good luck received for the year to come. Make it fun by making tasks into a competition or race – with prizes for the first to finish, the most toys tidied away etc.

 MAGGIE’S TOP 5 TIPS

FOR ENCOURAGING IMAGINATIVE PLAY

We as adults can often under-value the role of imaginative play in our children’s lives. Play is a child’s way of engaging and making sense of the world. Role play may appear to be a very simple activity, yet within it young children learn important life skills such as how to communicate, cooperate and share with others.

A child’s imagination is an amazing thing – especially when it’s properly nurtured. As children grow, the ability to think creatively and use their imagination will help them learn and develop their personalities. Here are five tips to get kids using their imagination through creative play, or as we like to call it – Make & Make Believe:

  1. Let your kids be kids!

I whole-heartedly believe that kids should be allowed to be kids. As adults we get so caught up in being busy and often forget to be silly and have fun.  Encouraging our children to play and have fun together will develop healthy connections and choices in life. 

  1. Don’t spend lots of money!

You’ll find that the simplest items found at home will act as perfect props to spark the imagination.  Cardboard boxes can become anything – from computers, to cash registers, and even beds for sick animals and dollies.  Cupboards and drawers in the kitchen can be filled with synthetic pots and utensils that kids can re-invent into other things.

  1. Create a make-believe box!

Dressing-up is irresistible to young children to start an imaginative adventure.  Create a box filled with toys and objects to encourage your child’s fantasy world. You can include anything: from washing baskets to fake flowers, old telephones, stuffed animals and dolls, to blankets, plastic crockery and cutlery. Don’t forget to add a dress-up bag full of clothes, scarves, hats, handbags, shoes and wigs.

  1. Play with them!

When your child brings you a pretend cup of tea, play along and ask for something like a drop of milk. Ring them up on their pretend phone to order 2 large pizzas for delivery.  Get down on their level, show an interest in what they are doing and play along – this helps to develop the story and encourage the imagination, letting your child and their creativity lead the charge.

  1. Encourage ‘arty’ activities and getting messy!

Art is a creative expression that also nurtures imagination. Through painting, sculpture, collage, clay or drawing, children can express emotions and ideas, make decisions, and best of all – get messy! Creative thinking while manipulating play dough, creating ‘recipes’ by mixing dirt or flour and water, working with anything arty, splashing in “puddles”, or even pretending to fly, can further child development and above all, lets them relax and have fun!

MAGGIE’S TOP 3 TIPS

FOR CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIES [AT HOME]!

 

At this time of year, I always seem to be saying to myself ‘where has the year gone?!’ Christmas is coming up – and in particular the dark, cold winter days in London… Wherever we are, I love nothing more than cosying up indoors with the kids, but after a while we need to take some serious action to ensure we eliminate boredom. Make time to get off the couch and get creative with these fun Christmas-inspired activities for all the family…

  1. DIY advent ‘activity’ calendar

Instead of sweets and chocolates, I print little cards to place inside a reusable advent calendar with pockets. Each card lists an activity we can do together each day. However, some can be ‘choose a special Christmas goodie’ to keep it simple sometimes! Most activities are ones we already do, so it’s a no brainer to include them. It’s so fun for the kids to have a surprise each day – instead of scoffing more sweets. It simplifies the holidays, giving us ready-made ideas for daily activities, such as: decorate the tree, shop for gifts, unwrap a book to read, check out the neighborhood lights, make a craft.

2. Cook together!

Christmas is all about family traditions and cooking together seems to be a dying tradition among modern families – due to the convenience of ready-made meals, ordering-in and just a general lack of home time. If there is a time to get together and make an effort – this is it.  See here for the best Christmas Pudding recipe you will ever find – designed to get the kids involved! Encourage them to join in, let everyone take a turn stirring and making a wish. This recipe has been designed with kids in mind and has tick boxes for them to take part in the fun [recipe attached / included as image].

3. Make decorations!

For a quick and creative activity and to produce the perfect last minute decorative wreath for your front door, cut out a circular shape – recycle anything you have lying around – grab lots of green tissue paper and scrunch up small pieces by hand, sticking them on to your circle one by one with a little bit of white/clear glue. Hang with a festively red ribbon and add anything extra you like to embellish your wreath. Happiness is homemade!

Maggie’s Top 5 Tips | How Music Can Benefit Children

They say that music is a universal language. Regardless of where you are from or what your background, a good melody is something that everyone can enjoy and understand.

For children, music provides many, many benefits. There are lots of good things about letting your child listen to and interact with music. Here are a few reasons and tips that I love for why your child should put down the remote and pick up something musical!

1. Play music to boost brain power!

By developing an early love of music it helps children to develop skills needed for learning by stimulating different parts of the brain. Music increases concentration, confidence, cognitive and memory skills – in other words, it builds a firm foundation for education and as a parent, that is the best thing you can do for your child. But above all else it is fun! Play them anything from nursery rhymes to cool grown-up beats.

2. Build their confidence

Interacting with music or picking up any ‘instrument’ can help your child break out of their social shell. Children who take music classes or become involved in a musical group learn key life skills, such as how to relate to others, how to work as a team and appreciate the rewards (and the fun!) that come from playing together. Through movement and music your child is discovering themselves and how to confidently express themselves in front of their peers.

3. Repetition is good!

Smaller children love to dance and move to music. The key is the repetition of songs, which encourage the use of words and memorisation. Silly songs will make them laugh. Try singing a familiar song and inserting a different word in the place of the correct word, like “Mary had a little spider” instead of lamb. Let them reproduce rhythms by clapping or tapping and shaking objects.

4. Let them express themselves!

Music is a great way to let children express themselves – it gives pleasure and can help communicate emotions – plus, they can make lots of noise! Kids are naturally curious and excited about musical instruments so let them play – you can even get them to help you make homemade instruments such as shakers made from dry rice or pasta in an old jam jar or any pot with a sealed lid.

5. Play musical games!

Kids of all ages love to move about to music and get silly. Try old favourites such as musical statues – challenging them to freeze when the music stops; musical chairs (or cushions) – getting them to sit down where they are as the music stops; move like the music to express their emotions and also dancing with props. Whatever games you choose the kids will have fun but at the same time learn important skills through play!