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Rituals are things we do over and over again that become part of who we are and how we operate in the world.   A simple ritual for many has become the first cup of coffee of the day, symbolising a beginning. For families and parents, it might be how you celebrate birthdays, high days or holidays.  Regardless of what the rituals are, they do become an integral part of the fabric of family life.  Part of our family brand, so to speak.

Why are rituals important in family life?

I believe rituals are an important part of:

  • Creating shared memories
  • Bonding as members of a family
  • Creating emotional anchors to the family beliefs and value system
  • Creating rites of passage
  • Creating a unique family brand

What is a family brand and why is it important?

In the very ‘noisy’ world we live in, there is much interference that runs between children and their parents. I call this the noise of technology and the clutter of consumerism. Every brand is trying to connect with our children in some way to get a share of their heart, mind and to get some money out of our wallets!  What this mean is that we as families have a lot of competition today, and every brand is screaming out a brand promise with values attached to it.

Understanding that families are a brand in themselves is important.  We need to choose to compete – to be louder than, and more exciting than, these big commercial brands.  And, remembering too, that we have one really big advantage – we get to connect with our kids face to face.  What we do when we are together really does count because it connects deeply with our children who are longing to experience a sense of togetherness and belonging to the family unit.  Family rituals can facilitate this beautifully, also helping our children to create their own identity and moral compass.  Family is the primary values creator in society today and through family rituals we get to impart our values.

What’s the connection between Brand Family and rituals or traditions?

Brand Family has three pillars:

  • Values
  • Structure
  • Togetherness

Rituals or family traditions convey our values, provide structure and create a feeling of togetherness and belonging.  They provide a sense of ‘we are in this thing called life, together’.

Rituals are concrete experiences which give them much more power than a lecture from parents about the family values.  Children learn best through real experiences that get them personally involved.  The experience ultimately becomes the message, so to speak.  The ‘doing’ leads to ‘being’.

This generation of children also live by the mantra, “Give me an experience and I will promise you a relationship,” which is another good reason to create memorable and creative family rituals.

Different types of rituals for kids;

There are so many different types of rituals for different reasons:

Daily rituals:

  • Eating around the dinner table
  • Playing the Sweets and Sours game at dinner
  • Having a family celebration plate

Bedtime rituals

Weekly rituals:

  • Buy slap chips on the way home from church on Sundays
  • Having take aways on Thursdays
  • Have a games evening on Fridays
  • Cooking a family roast on Sundays

Holiday rituals:

  • Where you stop to eat en route
  • Games you play in the car

Family celebration rituals:

What you do for family birthdays

  • Presents in the big bed on birthday mornings
  • Decorating the doorway of the celebrant
  • Balloons on their chair at the table

What you do for religious holidays

  • Some specific rituals dictated by the religion concerned
  • Eg. Fasting over Jewish and Islamic holidays
  • Personalised rituals

Coming of age/rites of passage rituals:

  • Baby naming ceremonies
  • Christenings or blessings for babies
  • Barmitzvahs/Batmitzvahs and other religious rites of passage
  • Dropping the dummy
  • Being allowed to light candles (the gift of fire)
  • Coming of age – 21sts, etc.
  • Weddings
  • How we mark death in the family

Blog originally appeared on www.nikkibush.com

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Kids parties have evolved a lot since I was little and they have come to be a major yearly event in our lives and the lives of our kids, an event we spend months planning. We take time to choose the perfect theme, the perfect party venue, the perfect décor, to source or bake the perfectly suited cake and snacks and we ensure that our little guests are entertained and happy. We do this because we want to make our children happy and we want them to have the best childhood memories possible.

But, hosting the perfect party can be so expensive and this year we decided that we would need to stick to a budget. I had my heart set on a construction themed party for my little Bean and then, to my shock and horror, we were invited to a construction themed party. My carefully laid out party plan was dashed – I couldn’t exactly ‘copy’ my friend, so, I had to think of a plan B: something unique, something Bean would love and something which would fit our budget.

We have been working closely with Build-a-Bear over the last couple of months and when they suggested we host a Paw Patrol party, I jumped at the opportunity: Bean LOVES Paw Patrol! Plus, hosting a party which involved the kids creating their very own themed furry friend, would offer a different and unique experience for all involved.

I booked the venue (this is super easy to do online - http://www.buildabear.co.za/), invited some of Bean’s friends and started planning. In order to save costs, I decided to make my own cupcakes and I placed Paw Patrol stamps on top as decoration (for an even more affordable option, one could decorate the cupcakes with paw prints using one large and three mini marshmallows). Paw Patrol themed juice boxes, plates and serviettes were easily and inexpensively sourced online and I completed the party snacks with a packet of chips each. I decided to leave out the party packs as not only do parents generally dislike these as they contain too many sugary snacks for the kids, but the kids could keep their Paw Patrol pup, meaning that they already had party favours to take home included in the party package.

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International Autism Awareness day is on 2 April. This is the time of year when we can all raise our awareness of what autism is and how many people this disability affects. It’s far more prevalent than you think because it is not always obvious to the eye and presents itself in many different ways. 

ASD is genetic and there is no cure. People with autism need understanding and support to lead a fulfilling and productive life.

Autism Spectrum Disorder, commonly referred to as ASD, affects 1 in 68 people which translates to between 1 -2% of the world’s population. The spectrum is very wide, in fact we would all probably find ourselves on it somewhere! It also includes Aspergers Syndrome. The recent TV medical drama series, The Good Doctor, has done a great job in bringing ASD into the public eye, however, each case is completely unique. Don’t expect every autistic person to present like the high functioning medical surgeon Dr Shaun Murphy (played by Freddie Highmore). While he battles to make eye contact, communicate and build relationships with people, that’s not all there is to autism.

When people are faced with an autistic child, they often don’t know what to say or do, particularly as autistic people often can’t read facial cues and have poor social skills. One thing to remember, in order to make things more comfortable for everyone, is not to touch and hug them unless you clear it with their parent first. Many children with autism do not like to be touched and it can cause an instant emotional meltdown.

Social scenarios can be challenging. Autistic children need plenty of preparation about what is going to happen and they do not cope with surprises or sudden changes in routine. They often need a quiet place to withdraw as they suffer from sensory overload in social settings as well as in places such as shopping centers, aeroplanes and restaurants.

ASD affects a person’s interaction with the world, communication and behavior. Although many autistic people are highly intelligent, and some children with the disability are high functioning and can be in a mainstream classroom, ASD can impact on a child’s ability to learn as they often quickly forget what they have learnt, largely due to high anxiety levels. Normal cortisol levels in the blood should be at about 200. Autistic children often register at 500, so reducing anxiety is a major coping strategy.

Delayed speech or no speech at all in the early years are often indicators of the disorder together with sleeping and eating issues, but not always. Anxiety, depression and ADHD can also be a regular part of the symptom picture. Needless to say, autism is a complicated diagnosis and those who are not obviously autistic can fly under the radar for many years, especially girls who tend to mask it well and are good mimics, copying their mothers, for example. To see the full spectrum in an easy to understand comic strip format, click here.

It is initially difficult for parents to accept an autism diagnosis as we would prefer our children not to be labelled. However, having spoken to seasoned parents of children with ASD, they say that once they and their children ‘owned’ the condition, it became easier to manage and to elicit social support from society for their special needs child.

Families who know their ASD children well can help guide others in how to react and deal with their child. One mum told me that when she takes her child to the skin specialist or the oral hygienist, for example, she phones ahead and briefs the specialist as to what to expect and what to do and not do when dealing with her child. At the same time, she prepares her child verbally for where they are going and what is going to happen, step-by-step, when they are there, so that there are no surprises. She says it makes all the difference.

For families who are going to be interacting with an ASD child at a braai at a friend’s house, for example, parents can prepare their own children as to what to expect so that they too, are not taken by surprise, and can be more accepting, tolerant and supportive should the child have an outburst, a meltdown, say the same words over and over again, be ultra-focused or obsessed over something, or perhaps not even be able to talk, among many other ways in which ASD may present.

ASD is complicated. It is more prevalent today than ever before due to greater awareness. One of the problems in South Africa is that there is a severe shortage of special needs schools and specialist teachers to support families with ASD children. It is also a very expensive condition to manage and is extremely draining emotionally on families.

ASD is a disability or handicap similarly to someone who is in a wheelchair. We need to create space in society for our special needs children. Both families dealing with ASD, as well as society at large, need more information and preparation in order to deal with the condition with greater compassion and empathy.

For further information visit www.aut2know.co.za

Nikki Bush

Creative parenting expert, inspirational speaker and co-author of Tech-Savvy Parenting (Bookstorm, 2014), Future-proof Your Child (Penguin, 2008), and Easy Answers to Awkward Questions (Metz Press, 2009). Parenting advisor to Toy Kingdom.?

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Next time you look at dolls, soft toys, dolls houses and dress up items, look again. They are not just fun to play with but there is a very important aspect to fantasy or pretend play that many parents miss, and it is that this is how young children make emotional sense of the world in which they live.

They develop their own form of play therapy if given the opportunity, and this is really healthy for them.

Allowing children to escape from reality for a while to work out how they feel about life and how they are going to deal with it is essential. Because young children don’t necessarily have all the language to convey how they are feeling, and they do have very strong feelings, they find it easier to play those feelings out.

This is why good preschools have fantasy play corners with dress up clothes from superheroes to doctor, nurse and fireman costumes, and clothes mums and dads might wear. They also have Wendy house furniture – small chairs, tables, cots, ironing boards, stoves and accessories. Dolls feature prominently with nappies, clothes and blankets as do doll’s houses, doctor sets, dinosaurs and other figurines. Kids need to do fantasy play at home too for many reasons.

Pretend play, not phones and tablets, help children deal with their anxiety that comes with change

Any kind of change can make children feel anxious, and the quicker they are able to work through that anxiety, the sooner they will settle. Think of the arrival of new siblings, death in the family, a trauma, illness, car accidents, going to a new school, a best friend leaving moving out of town or even the country, the loss of a pet, and more.

Children have very strong feelings about things but we often don’t take notice because we think they are just kids. The latest parenting trap that will have a huge impact on the development of emotional intelligence, is when parents pass upset children a device to pacify them when they are emotional, instead of providing them with time and space, or opportunities to play through their emotions such a with dolls, dolls houses and dress up.

Pretend play gives kids an outlet to take control and create their own understanding of the dynamics in their lives. In fantasy play they can put whatever toppings they like on their pretend pizza, even toppings mum would never allow! If you observe you will find that children talk a lot to themselves and each other a lot during “Let’s Pretend” games. They verbalise as they act, talking it through, which is why it does become a form of self-therapy.

What you might observe during pretend play at home or at preschool:

  • Children who have acquired a new baby brother or sister can feel a bit left out because the new baby is getting so much attention. These mixed feelings of excitement and being left out which could make any 2 – 4 year old feel out of control. In the fantasy corner they may dress up like mum or dad and take back control.
  • When there has been a death in the family, children will find a way to play it out. Children take on different roles to give them power, helping them to come to terms with uncertain situations.
  • In pretend play cooking games in ‘the kitchen’, children often discuss what they’re making and go through the ‘niceties’: “Would you like tomato sauce, milk, sugar?” 
  • They often pretend to be on trains, planes or buses, going on holiday, etc. One can clearly see a child’s need to control others, and those who are willing to give in, back down, negotiate or sulk as they are assigned the back or front seats.
  • Children play mummy and baby games where there is a lot of nurturing. They take on dressing, feeding, bathing, rocking and singing to dolls. Often the whole scene is played out, dressing up with shoes, handbags and dolly in the pram, with bottles, blankets, etc! Then they go off for a walk, then baby gets put into a highchair, then out come the bowls, spoons, etc. There is lots of nappy changing and bathing!
  • Playing doctor also offers wonderful role play. As a sign of the times, we have a lot of ‘mommies’ going in for scans! A phone is used as the scanner! Lots of ears and chests are examined! This is a good example of children overcoming fears of doctors and hospitals by being in positions of control and having power!
  • Problem solving conversations can be heard such as: “But I want to be the mommy. We can’t have two mommies, so you be the granny!” Children are quite capable of coming up with their own suggestions to solve problems, making fantasy play a very satisfying experience.
  • We should be encouraging non-specific roles. When children are playing out their emotions, a boy may choose to be the mum or little sister to work out their feelings about something and vice versa. It’s about getting in touch with the archetypes of nurturing, being the warrior or savior, experiencing being in control or being the victim. Children will change roles multiple times and this is good for them.
  • They can pretend to be cross or get upset and cry in their fantasy roles without fear of ridicule. They may shout at their pretend mommy for a moment.

Parents and teachers should, as much as possible, let the children play without interfering (unless things are getting out of hand or there is physical harm imminent).

How to encourage fantasy and pretend play at home:

  • Create a dress up box of old clothes, hats, masks, wigs and fake jewellery etc
  • Add some superhero costumes to the mix
  • A doctor kit, fireman’s hat etc are all useful props for children
  • Dolls and teddy bears are often used by children to symbolise their own children or their patients who might need rescuing. Both girls and boys need access to dolls to express their nurturing instinct.
  • Dolls houses are also perfect for symbolic play, whether the dolls are lifelike or in the form of animals such as cats, dogs, mice and the like. You will see children play out your family routines with their dolls and dolls houses.
  • Use other commercial collectables to add to the fantasy and pretend play corner such as miniature grocery items from your local supermarket.

The advantages of pretend play with other children

Children learn important emotional and social skills when they do fantasy and pretend play with other children. This is an a very good reason for sending your children to a well-run preschool, and also to invite other children round for play dates at home.

When other children are present, they all take on different roles and they often reverse those roles too, having turns taking on the dominant or controlling roles as well as the submissive ones. This means that a shy child can become the strict father, enabling him to work through his own feelings of fear and anxiety. Through these activities, children’s fears can dissipate, leading to greater confidence in dealing with real life situations.

What fantasy play is not

What fantasy play is not:  dressing up as one’s favourite superhero in the same costume day in and day out, being glued to a screen watching the same character all the time and taking on that persona. True fantasy play and role play is when children dip in and out of it. Where children swop roles and characters on a regular basis to experience different aspects of themselves in a multitude of ways to process their inner world.

Children’s lives can be greatly enriched and enhanced if parents place value on fantasy and pretend play. Parents who allow children the gift of fantasy and role play are helping them to create a better reality. Provide a format but don’t interfere with the dynamics if possible.  Now you can look at dress up, dolls, dolls houses and soft toys in a whole new light.

Next time you look at dolls, soft toys, dolls houses and dress up items, look again. They are not just fun to play with but there is a very important aspect to fantasy or pretend play that many parents miss, and it is that this is how young children make emotional sense of the world in which they live.

They develop their own form of play therapy if given the opportunity, and this is really healthy for them.

Allowing children to escape from reality for a while to work out how they feel about life and how they are going to deal with it is essential. Because young children don’t necessarily have all the language to convey how they are feeling, and they do have very strong feelings, they find it easier to play those feelings out.

This is why good preschools have fantasy play corners with dress up clothes from superheroes to doctor, nurse and fireman costumes, and clothes mums and dads might wear. They also have Wendy house furniture – small chairs, tables, cots, ironing boards, stoves and accessories. Dolls feature prominently with nappies, clothes and blankets as do doll’s houses, doctor sets, dinosaurs and other figurines. Kids need to do fantasy play at home too for many reasons.

Pretend play, not phones and tablets, help children deal with their anxiety that comes with change

Any kind of change can make children feel anxious, and the quicker they are able to work through that anxiety, the sooner they will settle. Think of the arrival of new siblings, death in the family, a trauma, illness, car accidents, going to a new school, a best friend leaving moving out of town or even the country, the loss of a pet, and more.

Children have very strong feelings about things but we often don’t take notice because we think they are just kids. The latest parenting trap that will have a huge impact on the development of emotional intelligence, is when parents pass upset children a device to pacify them when they are emotional, instead of providing them with time and space, or opportunities to play through their emotions such a with dolls, dolls houses and dress up.

Pretend play gives kids an outlet to take control and create their own understanding of the dynamics in their lives. In fantasy play they can put whatever toppings they like on their pretend pizza, even toppings mum would never allow! If you observe you will find that children talk a lot to themselves and each other a lot during “Let’s Pretend” games. They verbalise as they act, talking it through, which is why it does become a form of self-therapy.

What you might observe during pretend play at home or at preschool:

  • Children who have acquired a new baby brother or sister can feel a bit left out because the new baby is getting so much attention. These mixed feelings of excitement and being left out which could make any 2 – 4 year old feel out of control. In the fantasy corner they may dress up like mum or dad and take back control.
  • When there has been a death in the family, children will find a way to play it out. Children take on different roles to give them power, helping them to come to terms with uncertain situations.
  • In pretend play cooking games in ‘the kitchen’, children often discuss what they’re making and go through the ‘niceties’: “Would you like tomato sauce, milk, sugar?” 
  • They often pretend to be on trains, planes or buses, going on holiday, etc. One can clearly see a child’s need to control others, and those who are willing to give in, back down, negotiate or sulk as they are assigned the back or front seats.
  • Children play mummy and baby games where there is a lot of nurturing. They take on dressing, feeding, bathing, rocking and singing to dolls. Often the whole scene is played out, dressing up with shoes, handbags and dolly in the pram, with bottles, blankets, etc! Then they go off for a walk, then baby gets put into a highchair, then out come the bowls, spoons, etc. There is lots of nappy changing and bathing!
  • Playing doctor also offers wonderful role play. As a sign of the times, we have a lot of ‘mommies’ going in for scans! A phone is used as the scanner! Lots of ears and chests are examined! This is a good example of children overcoming fears of doctors and hospitals by being in positions of control and having power!
  • Problem solving conversations can be heard such as: “But I want to be the mommy. We can’t have two mommies, so you be the granny!” Children are quite capable of coming up with their own suggestions to solve problems, making fantasy play a very satisfying experience.
  • We should be encouraging non-specific roles. When children are playing out their emotions, a boy may choose to be the mum or little sister to work out their feelings about something and vice versa. It’s about getting in touch with the archetypes of nurturing, being the warrior or savior, experiencing being in control or being the victim. Children will change roles multiple times and this is good for them.
  • They can pretend to be cross or get upset and cry in their fantasy roles without fear of ridicule. They may shout at their pretend mommy for a moment.

Parents and teachers should, as much as possible, let the children play without interfering (unless things are getting out of hand or there is physical harm imminent).

How to encourage fantasy and pretend play at home:

  • Create a dress up box of old clothes, hats, masks, wigs and fake jewellery etc
  • Add some superhero costumes to the mix
  • A doctor kit, fireman’s hat etc are all useful props for children
  • Dolls and teddy bears are often used by children to symbolise their own children or their patients who might need rescuing. Both girls and boys need access to dolls to express their nurturing instinct.
  • Dolls houses are also perfect for symbolic play, whether the dolls are lifelike or in the form of animals such as cats, dogs, mice and the like. You will see children play out your family routines with their dolls and dolls houses.
  • Use other commercial collectables to add to the fantasy and pretend play corner such as miniature grocery items from your local supermarket.

The advantages of pretend play with other children

Children learn important emotional and social skills when they do fantasy and pretend play with other children. This is an a very good reason for sending your children to a well-run preschool, and also to invite other children round for play dates at home.

When other children are present, they all take on different roles and they often reverse those roles too, having turns taking on the dominant or controlling roles as well as the submissive ones. This means that a shy child can become the strict father, enabling him to work through his own feelings of fear and anxiety. Through these activities, children’s fears can dissipate, leading to greater confidence in dealing with real life situations.

What fantasy play is not

What fantasy play is not:  dressing up as one’s favourite superhero in the same costume day in and day out, being glued to a screen watching the same character all the time and taking on that persona. True fantasy play and role play is when children dip in and out of it. Where children swop roles and characters on a regular basis to experience different aspects of themselves in a multitude of ways to process their inner world.

Children’s lives can be greatly enriched and enhanced if parents place value on fantasy and pretend play. Parents who allow children the gift of fantasy and role play are helping them to create a better reality. Provide a format but don’t interfere with the dynamics if possible.  Now you can look at dress up, dolls, dolls houses and soft toys in a whole new light.

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This blogs draws all the threads together into a practical guide to conscious parenting in a digital age.  While we advocate maximum parenting in a world of maximum media, this does not mean hysterical helicopter parenting on the lookout for a threat around every corner, and neither does it mean laissez-faire parenting allowing children to do what they like.  Rather, it really is about finding your middle ground to balanced and effective parenting that supports your child’s development, grows and nurtures the relationship between you, and prepares them for them in the best possible way to learn how to make wise choices protect themselves and thrive in a digital world.

We have divided this blog into developmental stages, and each one will provide general developmental guidelines, advice on different media, things to think about, regular questions we are asked, conversations to have and decisions to make

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I speak to many teachers and a big concern is emerging that children under the age of nine (in the Foundation Phase) have not consolidated many skills that children should normally have mastered by grade one, including being able to hold themselves up comfortably in a chair for 20 minute3s at a time.

We take sitting upright in a chair for granted, but it is the culmination of many skills, sufficient muscle tone and core strength. You can see how challenging it is for children by the way they need to prop themselves up on their elbows on the desk, leaning up against a wall or even leaning on each other for support.

When children have to expend a lot of energy on keeping their bodies upright, it stands to reason that there is less energy left to concentrate on the actual task at hand or what is being taught.

This lack of posture and basic core strength seems to be appearing en masse and not just in a handful of children who need therapy, as was the case some years ago. Low muscle tone, together with problems in planning basic movements and co-ordination of the body, are leading to schools adding in perceptual skills programmes, over and above normal physical education.

Children are not just needing to play sport for health and fitness, they must practise and  reinforce many basic skills to provide the foundations for academic learning. A child’s posture will impact on their ability to read, write and do maths, among other things.

This should not all be left up to the school. Parents can go a long way to helping their children at home:

  • Encourage movement
    • Riding scooters and bikes
    • Swimming
    • Tree and jungle gym climing
    • Running and jumping
    • Using a trampoline
  • Playing with educational games and toys:
    • Threading, puzzle building and construction toys are good for strengthening muscle tone, strength and co-ordination in the hands
    • Blowing bubbles and chewing gum is good for muscle tone and co-ordination of the mouth for good speech
    • Skipping ropes, stilts and whizzers are great for core strength and co-ordination of left and right sides of the body as well as the upper and lower half of the body

Let’s make sure we give our kids solid foundations for their academic careers. It all starts with the body!


Click here to view Nikki Bush's recommendation from Toy Talk 2017/2018

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The quickest way to make a child tune you out is to sermonise, lecture, nag or preach to them. Have you noticed? The trick is to develop short, memorable sound bites, or catchphrases, that grab your child’s attention, and spur them into action.

Barney, the popular purple dinosaur, provides us with some great examples that really do stick with kids and families, such as:

  • Sharing is caring
  • Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.

I love some of the examples from the book, Your Children are Listening (The Experiment, 2011) by psychologist, Jim Taylor PhD, and I have adapted the explanations:

“That’s the job.”  Kids don’t always like jobs or chores and neither do we, but we do them because they are our responsibility.  When someone has the grumbles about doing the chores, everyone can chime in, “That’s the job, Bob!”

“Take it out, put it back.” All children need to be taught about tidying up after they have taken toys out to play with. Instead of nagging, teach this mantra from an early age.

“Families work together.” Togetherness is the essence of what being a family is all about and togetherness is something children really crave even if they profess not to. So, when everyone is required to pitch in and help with something, this is a lovely uniting sound bite to use.

“Do it now, do it well.”  Everyone in the family has responsibilities and many of them have to be carried out at a certain time. This catchphrase reminds children to do things timeously and do them to the best of their ability. It instils pride in all that they do and gives you the opportunity to praise them afterwards by saying:, “You did it and you did it well!” Lovely positive reinforcement for taking responsibility.

“Work first, play later.” In my mind this catchphrase could relate to a number of things from getting homework out of the way before playing an on- or off-screen activity, or clearing the dishes before watching TV, for example.

“Listen to your conscience.”  I just love this sound bite although I would change it to “listen to your inner voice” or “listen to your heart”, which I think is more child friendly. This connects being responsible to making good decisions. Your inner voice is what helps you to choose to do the right thing especially when you are being pressured or are in doubt. 

Start creating your family sound bites today that could become part of your family tradition. Perhaps you will hear them echoing in the years to come from your grandchildren.  Now there’s a thought!


Click here to view Nikki Bush's recommendations from Toy Talk 2017/2018

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When we think about children learning we think about the brain. But, it’s amazing how issues of the heart, feelings and emotions are inextricably linked to a child’s ability to learn easily. 

I recently had the opportunity to watch a brain scan being done while a child was having an anxiety meltdown.  On the outside the child looked quite normal and calm but the picture of the brainwaves was startling.  It looked like a bird’s nest of lines all jumbled on the screen versus a normal coherent picture of orderly wavy lines. 

No wonder an anxious or fearful child will have some performance issues in the classroom!  While there may be no actual learning difficulties as such, a messy brain wave picture can result in a child experiencing information processing difficulties because information flow is being blocked by the anxiety.  This can also impact on the brain being able to update the working memory properly, among other things.  You may see a drop in their test marks, a child starting to lose things, not being able to remember instructions, etc, when previously the child was doing fine.

Many things can send your child’s brain into a jumble including, but not only:

  • family rows
  • death
  • illness
  • divorce
  • crime
  • financial stress
  • neurological conditions such as seizures
  • watching inappropriate TV programmes or inappropriate gaming content (violence, horror, sexually explicit)
  • over-exposure to on screen media (too much screen time)

A very common stressor amongst working parents that can create stress and anxiety in children would be absent parents who are rushed and unavailable either physically, emotionally or both. And when parents feel guilty, that too, can create stress in children. I know this is a tricky one for parents which is why so many people use the techniques I teach in my Parenting on the Run® workshops, to turn the little time they do have with their children into quality time.

Even repeatedly broken promises can break down trust, creating anxiety and disappointment. In addition, never underestimate the emotional disruption caused when there is a change in caregivers. Where possible keep things consistent for children. 

Here are some tips to open the channels to learning in your child:

  • Keep your child well nourished and with sufficient water intake
  • Resolve any learning difficulties or anything else that could be a source of anxiety or unusual stress for your child.
  • Provide lots of loving touch (tickling each other’s backs or wrestling with each other, for example)
  • Ensure plenty of movement (from rocking of babies to children playing sport at school)
  • Engage in lots of conversation – we talk our children clever
  • Promote a feeling of safety and security in your homes and families
  • Love your children unconditionally (not only for what they achieve but for who they are)
  • Don’t forget to play.  It’s a de-stressor and a relationship and confidence builder.

Some of these factors I have mentioned above can have a very short-term effect for an hour or so, while others can have a longer-term impact.  It’s all very dependent on the nature of your child, how you resolve issues with him or her, and how quickly you pick up on such stresses.


Click here to view Nikki Bush's recommendations from Toy Talk 207/2018

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Bikes and scooters are the perfect toys to encourage bilateral integration. They encourage children to use both sides of their bodies at the same time in a co-ordinated way. The more children ride them the more co-ordinated they become. They also experience a great sense of freedom and mastery of their world.

Here are some fabulous items from the high quality JD Bug range that will help your child with:

  • Core stability
  • Balance
  • Bilateral integration
  • Co-ordination
  • Directionality
  • Awareness of left and right
  • Crossing the midline

JD Bug Swayer


The JD Bug Kids TC66 Kidz Swayer is great for indoor or outdoor fun. This sophisticated sit-down scooter is fantastic for stimulating the vestibular sense of balance as it enables kids to take curves and corners with ease.  The seated position is 120mm off the ground and it has four swing-driven wheels, making it highly manoeuvrable and safe.

With a high-quality molded plastic seat and ergonomic handlebar it provides a comfortable ride that also encourages crossing of the midline when turning corners. Movement is created by weight distribution when leaning from side to side. It's a most unusual and fascinating experience that youngsters love to master. Takes up to 50kg form 3 - 12 years of age.

JD Bug Training bike and add on gear box

The JD Bug training bike enables youngsters to use a bike like a scooter and then you can add a gear box which is essentially a set of pedals, when they are ready. Comes with or without a handbrake (check the model). Takes up to 25kg. Suitable for 3 - 5 years.

The JD Bug Cool Carver Scooter

The JD Bug Cool Carver Mini is a smaller version of the popular Cool Carver (the larger one takes up to 65kg). Younger children will find the lighter and smaller Mini Cool Carver much easier to handle and ride. A completely new scooter riding experience that relies on weight distribution, swaying and leaning to make the scooter move. This concept fascinates children. Five years and up.

The JD Bug Kick Scooter

A high quality aluminium framed scooter with a plastic deck. It can take up to 30kg. 5 years and up.?


Click here for Nikki Bush's toy recommendations from Toy Talk 2017/2018

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Every toddler loves to bash things around and make things happen. Action-reaction toys are king at this stage. "If I do this, then that will happen." There is nothing more empowering for a child than mastering cause and effect.  Hape's Little Pounder is perfect for this as they get to pound the coloured wooden pegs into the holes with a hammer. It strengthens the hand, arm and shoulder girdle - good preparation for writing one day. This activity stimulates fine motor skills, eye-hand co-ordination and manual dexterity. It also introduces problem solving logic and spatial planning. Suitable from 12 months +.

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