Wednesday, 27 August 2014

How to prepare your younger child for when their older sibling starts school

My 2 year old son is about to lose his constant companion.
He has never known life without his big sister. She is there to play with him as soon as he wakes up, she accompanies him to the childminder, they eat their lunch together, she is there for him every day. For the past two years, she has been an integral part of his every day life.

But from the beginning of September, she will be leaving him to start life at school. For six hours a day, five days a week, she will be doing something else, with other children, and he will be left at home.

While there is plenty of information about preparing your child for school, there's not much around to help get your younger child ready for life without their sibling.

So here are some five ideas about how you can help your younger child get used to life when their older sibling starts school.

1. Involve him in the preparations. As you sew nametapes into the school uniform, tell him about how his big sister is about to start going to school and what she might be doing when she is there.
2. Make plans for what he will be doing when she is at school. Plan trips to the park, the library, the zoo, the supermarket.
3. If you can, do a practice run where he goes to his childcare provider on his own. You could use this opportunity to do something special with your older sibling too - one last day of one-to-one quality time before school starts.
4. Arrange a couple of play dates for the first few weeks with other children his age who may also have an older sibling starting school.
5. Plan some simple, but special, activities for when she gets home from school. Bear in mind that she might be tired after a busy day learning and doing new things, but involving the two of them in helping make the dinner, baking a cake or doing a jigsaw together will help re-establish their bond and remind them how much they enjoy each other's company.

What advice would you add to help your younger child get ready for their older sibling starting school?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

8 reasons to learn British Sign Language

A local British Sign Language (BSL) training provider is celebrating its first birthday today. To mark the occasion, SignUp BSL has launched a competition offering one lucky community group, business or charity the chance to win a one hour BSL or Deaf Awareness training session.

But why should you learn BSL? Here are eight reasons.

1. So you can communicate with Deaf people. I used to go to a toddler session at the local library, which was also attended by a Deaf couple with their young son. I was desperate to be able to say hello and get to know them, but I couldn't because, at the time, I didn't know their first language - BSL.

2. BSL is a beautiful way of expressing yourself. Think of how much you already use non-verbal signals to highlight what you are saying. If you dislike something, you screw up your face to show quite how distasteful you find it. If you are describing how big something is, you use your hands to show exactly how massive it is. If you are referring to an object, you will often point to it. BSL simply focuses on the hands and face rather than the spoken word.

3. It's a completely different way of learning. You can't take notes when you learn BSL and you definitely won't need a pen and pad. You just have to watch, remember and practice. Using your brain like this is tiring, but it is definitely a fantastic way of getting that grey matter working.

4. Learning any language is great for your brain and boosts cognitive processes. BSL has a completely different syntax and grammar structure to English, so you'll benefit from better problem-solving skills, improved listening and greater creative thinking.

5. Improved cultural awareness. When you learn BSL you'll also learn about the richness of Deaf culture and Deaf identity. Plus, the diversity of cultural variations in BSL will help you learn about how the language has evolved in different areas of the country - and the world.

6. You're spelling will improve. One of the first things you'll learn in BSL is the alphabet. Which means that even if you can't remember the sign for something, you can always spell it out on your hands. As a result, your spelling will be amazing.

7. When you're in the theatre or a library where you have to be quiet, you can still communicate! It's also a lot easier to chat across a noisy room.

8. You can also talk when your mouth is full!