Behaviour, FOOD, HEALTH AND WELLBEING, HEALTHY EATING, NUTRITION

FUSSY FISH- How to Increase Your Child’s Brain Potential.

Fussy eating driving you mad? Want to ensure your child is reaching their optimum learning potential?

Since lockdown, former parents of children I’ve cared for have been getting in touch to ask me what meals and recipes I used to cook for their childrens tea, as they won’t eat anything remotely healthy at home.

I know many parents struggle with time to cook nutritious, healthy meals, that they know their children simply won’t eat.

It’s heart breaking when you’ve lovingly prepared a meal, only to end up scraping it all in the bin. Our children are not concerned that we have spent hours slaving over a hot stove, spent a fortune on the best organic ingredients, or created a culinary piece of art.

So, we can forget trying to make them feel guilty for our labour, this only adds to their obstinate nature.

They can’t contemplate the future either and don’t understand it when we say;

 ‘If you don’t eat now, you’ll be hungry later.’

They can’t think that far ahead about how they might feel later. They think and feel at the moment they are in. That’s why feeling hungry is a good way of demonstrating the consequences of not eating their meal.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t persist in offering healthy meals every day. In fact, we should persist, day in, day out, until they understand there’s no alternatives.

The best way to do this is to offer foods they do like, along with those they don’t and try to be creative in combining ingredients.

Many children are fish haters but I’ve found that making a fish pie encourages them to eat more fish. I mix an assortment of wild pacific salmon, cod, and smoked haddock, with parsley sauce and petit pois and sweetcorn, topped with a creamy mash potato. It’s a comfort food favourite of mine that reminds me of my childhood and a dish I cooked for my children weekly whist young.

If you are listening to this on our podcast you can find images along with the accompanying blog on our website http://www.happychild.care

Fish pie is a much healthier alternative to fish fingers and chips. Anything fried or processed provide empty calories, that offer no nutrients for healthy growth and brain development, such as essential vitamins, minerals and omegas.

Long chain Omega 3 is vital to our childrens intellectual development. In fact, infants who don’t get enough (DHA) are 48% more likely to score in the lowest quartile of IQ tests. We can help support our children’s brain potential and increase their intake of omega 3, by offering oily fish 3 times a week.

Ideally our children should have between 125mg and 250mg of DHA a day. If not from their diet, then from an omega 3 supplement every day. Always do your research on supplements first though, to check dosages and correct times to take them and that they won’t adversely affect any medication your child is on.

How we cook food is important to our children’s health. Swapping fried foods for poached, boiled or steamed options, and chips for boiled, mashed or jacket potatoes (skin left on) is a healthier option.

Here is my easy, peasy, fish pie, which usually takes around 40 minutes to prepare and cook, although I prep it all earlier in the day and heat it up in the oven after the school run, making it a winner, winner fish dinner!

Easy Peasy Fish Pie

Wild Pacific Salmon, Smoked Haddock and Cod, Parsley Sauce and Boiled Potatoes.

Put 2 bags of mixed fish (available from most supermarkets, around 800g) into a baking tray and cover with foil and cook as per cooking instructions on the packet.

Try not to overcook as this will dry fish out and make it rubbery and we have to cook it again later.

Peel and cut into cubes a bag of white potatoes (2.5 kg) and boil.

Blend 600ml (a pint) of full fat milk into a saucepan with 2 packets of parsley sauce mix, stir continuously.

Take fish out when cooked and put into a large baking dish, mix in the parsley sauce and 2 cupsful of petit pois and 2 cupsful of sweetcorn.

Mash the potatoes with a small pat or two of butter and splash of milk and top the fish mix with the mash potato and pop in the over to reheat for 20 minutes, low heat, to crisp up mash topping.

Serve with broccoli.

This is a quick dish to ensure they get three of their recommended daily amount of vegetables and some healthy fish (Salmon is the richest, oily fish source of protein). I make this amount for approximately 8 children, with broccoli extra on the side, so if you are a smaller family or have adults to feed vary the amount of ingredients, for example, a family of 3 will only need 1 bag of mixed fish and less potatoes.

TWO TEA TIME CHOICES

Don’t get upset if they refuse to eat the fish pie that you’ve lovingly cooked them though. And definitely don’t be tempted to give them fish fingers instead because they refuse to eat it.

If we do, they will come to expect their preferred alternative all the time. Not because they prefer the fish fingers to the fish pie, but because they will have learnt how to get their own way. You can throw the fish pie in the bin if they refuse to eat it, but never give them anything else. If they are not hungry or refuse to eat, simply clear it away and wait until their next meal.

As long as we don’t allow them to snack unhealthily in the meantime, they’ll soon associate their refusal to eat dinner with hunger, serving as a good reminder to eat their next meal and giving them an appetite.

The food is there if they are hungry and want it, they have a choice. Eat it or don’t. Not fish pie or fish fingers.

Once they realize they have the choice to eat it or not, and it doesn’t bother us either way, then, if hungry, they will eat it.

You may not think it can be this simple and you may have tried unsuccessfully in the past, but perseverance is key. I know it works as it’s a method I’ve seen work with lots of children over the years, over and over again. I’ve never known it to fail, unless parents have given up before they’ve given it a real go.

We have to mean what we say though and say what we mean, calmly and confidently.

Such as,

 ‘The food’s there if you are hungry, if not, you don’t have to eat it, but there will be nothing else to eat.’  

They might say they are hungry but don’t like what we are offering them, but we mustn’t feel guilty for doing the right thing, they have a choice.

Some parents protest their children would never eat fish pie, but they never really offer it, especially if they dislike it themselves.

Fish pie is not a punishment, its love on a plate.

You can read more about fussy and resistant eaters in my worldwide, best selling book – The Confident Parents Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy and Successful Child available from all good book shops. Alternatively, you can now listen to the audio version on Audible or iTunes, click button below or visit Amazon.

You can also read my latest contribution in the Spring issue of Mums and tots magazine, featuring a 3 page excerpt from my book, on sale now.

Mums and tots spring issue out now.

Stay Present, Stay Proactive,

Em x

Behaviour, FOOD, HEALTH AND WELLBEING, HEALTHY EATING, Learning, NUTRITION, Powerful Parents

Food Knowledge is Parenting Power

As parents most of us have good intentions when it comes to giving our children a healthy well-balanced diet but there are many reasons why this is often difficult in reality.

Children can be very adamant when it come to not eating certain types of food and very persuasive and demanding when it comes to eating unhealthy foods. Parenting throws so many daily battles to get through with our children, such as school work, going to bed on time and behaviour, that food can easily get overlooked as a less important issue to deal with. Yet, food impacts our childrens academic abilities, sleeping patterns and behaviour. So, it should be one of the first things we address.

THE U URSELF ROUTINE

That’s why I included it in The U URSELF Routine that I use with parents and why I dedicated a whole chapter to it in my book – The Confident Parents Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy and Successful Child.

You can listen more about The U URSELF Routine and Food by clicking the link below.

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B08NWH6ZFW/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-223651&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_223651_rh_uk

There’s a rise in medical psychiatrists who specialise in childrens behavioural, cognitive, or learning issues who prioritise a child’s nutrition before anything else.

Wouldn’t it be a lot better for our children, if underlying conditions could be resolved through good nutrition and addressing deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, rather than using pharmaceuticals?

According to The Health Sciences Academy | Expert Nutrition Science Certifications — The Health Sciences Academy – what your child eats can favourably or unfavourably affect their;

  • Intelligence
  • Attention span
  • Concentration
  • Learning capacity
  • Memory
  • Behaviour
  • Problem solving abilities
  • Mood stability
  • Emotional response
  • Physical co ordination
  • Mental energy
  • Sleep

WHAT’S IN YOUR SHOPPING BASKET?

When shopping it’s a mystery trying to decipher the jargon on food packets, and often, we just don’t have the time.  But it’s worth taking a course or reading a few books on nutrition though, as what we think is healthy or low fat often isn’t and those foreign looking words can be confusing and can have many different names for the same thing, that are hard to identify.

For example did you know that there are 65 names for sugar?

We may associate sweet foods with sugar, such as biscuits but what about bread which usually contains added sugars or those healthy looking ready made tomatoe soups?

SHARING IS CARING

As a committed, lifelong learner, I believe sharing knowledge is powerful in helping to positively change the world we live in. But I know as parents, we just don’t have enough knowledge or information on good nutrition and the impact that poor nutrition can have, both short and long-term. So, I’m going to make it my mission to help parents overcome this barrier to their child’s health and wellbeing. Future blogs will centre heavily on the effects of nutrition on physical, emotional and intellectual development, if this is something you want to learn more about, then don’t forget to sign up to our blogs and newsletters and please join me on this journey.

Stay Powerful,

Em x

Behaviour, BELIEFS, FOOD, HEALTHY EATING

Happy St David’s Day – Dewi Sant

Happy St David’s Day or as we call him in Wales -Dewi Sant, the patron saint of Wales.

His monks spent their evenings in prayers, reading and writing, which sounds like absolute heaven to me. As he taught his followers to refrain from eating meat, today, I have decided to cook the children my favourite leek and potato soup, and of course leeks are his symbol and our symbol of Wales.

CAWL – LEEK AND POTATO SOUP

Leek Soup – Cawl

Peel and dice about 8 medium small potatoes

Melt a knob of butter in a large pan

Wash and chop up about 8 baby tender leeks or 3-4 large ones

Chop an onion

Add onion, leek and potatoes to the melted butter and cook for a few minutes until soft (not brown)

Add 850 ml of vegetable stock and bring to the boil then put a lid on and simmer on a low heat for 25 minutes.

Add a good grounding of black pepper to season.

Take off the heat and then blend. I like a simple hand blending stick or if you’re making under 4 portions you can use a soup maker with slightly less ingredients.

Enjoy with a crusty whole meal baguette or bread roll.

SUPER VEGETABLE

Leeks are also a tasty super vegetable that give us vitamins- C, A, B complex, and minerals- potassium, calcium and phosphorus, providing lots of health benefits such as- cell function, energy and healthy bones. The super starch white potato also offers- B6, B12, C, Folate, Niacin, Riboflavin, and Thiamine vitamins. As well as minerals – magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and iron, good for electrolyte balance, cell and collagen production, bone health and heart function.

MY LITTLE WELSH GIRL

When my daughter was young, she loved helping me to make cawl (soup) and dressing up on St David’s Day. She had a Traditional Welsh Girl outfit. It had a lovely black bonnet with white ribbon that she loved.

My little Welsh girl.

She loved it so much so that, she kept nagging me to let her wear it to bed at night.

Of course, this would end up in a huge argument, as I tried to convince her to take it off and put her pyjama’s on!

Then one night, after much debate, I decided to use a little reverse psychology and agreed to let her wear it to bed. 

After about ten minutes, she came running out of her bedroom.

Asking me to take it off her and put her pyjamas on, as it was so itchy and uncomfortable.

Job done, I’d given in and won!

When we allow our children to make their own choices, they lack resistance. And when given the option, they usually choose not to do the things, they thought they originally wanted to do.

They must feel free to make the choice though. It’s important that they feel that we have no resistance or strong preference what they do, either way.

They then realize they no longer need to fight against us, as there is nothing to fight about.

When there’s no resistance, everyone wins.

But if we always say ‘No!’

Or we get confrontational, our children will persist and inevitably someone will lose.

Choosing our battles wisely, enables us to identify the times when it’s ok to let them have their own way.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Our children have a reason behind how they behave. They just can’t always articulate or understand it.

That’s why it’s best to choose our battles wisely.

If we follow the footprints in the snow, we’ll usually find the Gruffalo, but often discover there’s a different story at play.

We need to get a clear perspective of the situation first, by staying Present and Proactive.

This will help us to find out the reasons behind our childrens behaviour, rather than focusing on the behaviour itself.

Then when we discover the source of their behaviour, we’ll know how best to coach them in another direction, or when not to get involved.

You can find out more about coaching your children’s behaviour in my audio book, The Powerful Proactive Parents Guide to Present Parenting, link below.

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B08PKZTR8L/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-225582&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_225582_rh_uk

Happy St David’s Day!

Stay Present,

Em x

FOOD, HEALTHY EATING, MUM GUILT, PREGNANCY, Proactive Parenting

Is a vegan diet healthy when you’re pregnant?

Becoming vegetarian is something I’ve thought deeply about recently. When coaching clients, removing meat from ones diet and eating more fruit and veg is something I always promote for health, weight loss and longevity. But one question I was recently asked by a soon to be mum was –

‘Is a vegan diet healthy when you’re pregnant?’

So to answer this question is Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory. Warning – there’s mouth watering food pics from Stem + Glory throughout this post!

Veganism on its own tends to attract advice and comment from family, friends and so called ‘experts’, albeit largely well-meaning. It’s interesting that when you throw vegan pregnancy into the mix, and suddenly it becomes about moral choices. Veganism is ok it seems when it’s our own choice, but can be questioned when we are dealing with an unborn child.  The idea that we are omnivorous and therefore a vegan diet cannot be safe in pregnancy is a fairly widely held view.

This is a view that I, and many others, wholeheartedly disagree with. My own experience with being vegan during pregnancy is that it was completely normal. I was almost 40 when I became pregnant with my first daughter. I was very fit and healthy. My diet at that time consisted of mainly vegetables, small amounts of (mainly) wholegrains, lots of tofu, lentils, nuts, seeds and beans, and I continued eating in exactly the same way throughout my pregnancy. I had no morning sickness, no cravings, no complications, no deficiencies and delivered both my children safely at home. I said to myself when I first became pregnant that if I craved something in pregnancy, then I would eat it. Fortunately, I didn’t have any cravings. 

Sea Spiced Tofu

When writing this article I started wondering if my experience was an isolated one, or if in fact many vegan women experience completely problem-free pregnancies. I spoke to seven women who had been vegan through pregnancy (sometimes multiple pregnancies), and here is what they told me:

Can you get the right nutrition?

All of the vegan women I spoke to were very well researched on the subject of vegan nutrition. They were all aware of the need to increase protein intake in pregnancy by 10-20%, and did so with greater attention to eating balanced meals. Not all of them ate protein rich foods such as tofu, with many preferring natural, pulses, grains and vegetables. One of the women had a pre-existing iron deficiency which was managed through pregnancy, but none of the others developed an iron deficiency. One of the women not taking supplements increased her iron levels during pregnancy.

It is recommended in pregnancy for all mothers to take folic acid. With regard to vegan pregnancy it’s also recommended to take B12 and vitamin D. For both pregnancies, I did take a pregnancy multivitamin, and the recommended folic acid. Half of the women I spoke to did take supplements, but half did not, only taking the recommended folic acid. 

S&G Tacos

Angie, who was pregnant twice 33 and 40 years ago, and has raised four vegan children, says she “just ate sensibly, mainly fruit and veg. I’d been vegan for 13 years before I became pregnant and had never been unwell so assumed all was ok.”

This was echoed by Lee who has been through two pregnancies; “Didn’t even think about nutrition, I just followed what my body craved and had zero nutritional issues.”

Helen, who has been vegan for many years, said: “I always try to follow a balanced diet.  Supplements are recommended to pregnant people of all persuasions.  I took vegan vitamins and iron before, during and after my pregnancy.” 

Emma, who had been vegan for five years and continued to be vegan throughout her entire pregnancy said: “My iron levels were tested as standard and I was told the results were fantastic (without supplementation). I only supplemented folic acid, an algal oil omega 3, spirulina (for B12) and a probiotic, all of which would be useful to supplement in any pregnancy, whatever the diet. The omega 3 was a ‘top up’ since I was already consuming foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds etc.  Throughout my pregnancy I ensured I was receiving the correct nutrition in the same way anybody would, I consumed a healthy diet. I don’t like the way people like to make out that vegans are thinking at every meal about where they are going to get certain nutrients from, it’s nonsense, no one does that.”

Neither myself nor any of the women I spoke to reported any nutritional issues during their pregnancies.

Perfection on a plate – Katsu curry.

What are good vegan foods in pregnancy?

The women I spoke to also all followed a wholefood natural diet during pregnancy. None experienced cravings! Two of the seven experienced severe morning sickness and lived on toast for the first trimester. Two were diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the second trimester which they managed successfully on a wholefood vegan diet.

Soups and stews were frequently mentioned as ‘go to’ meals. Often mentioned were Marmite, tofu, tempeh, brown rice, aduki beans, lots of fresh organic veg, nuts, miso soup, peppermint tea and ginger.

Buffalo Cauliflower wings

Helen opted for bland but healthy: “When I had morning (all day) sickness I ate a lot of baked potatoes, as I didn’t fancy much else.  Luckily potatoes have vitamins in the skin, and so I felt they were better than other bland things.  I supplemented potatoes with vitamins and iron.  I also remember eating dried mangoes, cucumber, and miso at some points, and drinking orange juice.  When I recovered from the morning sickness, I ate a lot of everything.” 

For Holly who was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes in her second trimester, nut butters were a life saver due to their high fat/protein and low carb content. 

Danielle developed cholestasis in her second trimester which meant she could only eat low fat foods “so the vegan diet was great for this”.

Tracey who had severe morning sickness treated it with “lots of miso soup, peppermint tea, fennel seeds & crystallised ginger”.

Raw mango ‘cheese’cake

Atma was vegetarian when she became pregnant, but took the decision to go vegan. “Now I was carrying my own child it brought the ethics of the dairy trade to the forefront of my mind, I was unable to ignore it any more” Atma had previously studied macrobiotics, and when diagnosed with gestational diabetes in her second trimester was able to control the diabetes by applying macrobiotic principles. Not only did her bloods stabilise, but she felt happier, healthier and more clear headed than ever before.

Do pregnant vegans feel healthy?

They do! None of the women I spoke to had any issues with energy levels, and outside of the complications already mentioned, without exception all the women felt healthy during pregnancy. They felt the gestational diabetes was easier to manage on a vegan diet.

Emma said she continued to be vegan whilst breastfeeding and had a wonderful pregnancy with no issues whatsoever: “I wasn’t sick once, I had no cravings, I felt great the whole time, had energy, my skin was the best it’s ever been and I continued to work-out throughout the entire pregnancy. Postpartum I was told I had great colostrum, since my baby only lost 70g initially and I had a plentiful supply of milk, the health visitor actually said I had too much!”

Danielle: “I am very strong and the muscle of the household, even when pregnant if something needs lifting, I’m your girl”. I echo this and was practising and teaching ashtanga yoga until days before I had my first child, and full of energy throughout both pregnancies.

What do the health professionals think?

Now this really did give me a pleasant surprise. Every single one of the women I spoke to remarked on how helpful and understanding their health care team were of their vegan diet. Not one of them, including those with gestational diabetes, was advised to eat animal products.

Helen’s experience was consistently positive: “Two health professionals guessed I was vegan and were highly supportive. My first midwife appointment went something like this: ‘Have you read the list of things you need to stop?’ ‘Yes.  I don’t smoke or drink or eat those things anyway.’ ‘Are you a vegan then?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Excellent, I won’t need to persuade you to eat more fruit and vegetables.’ The second was a health visitor at my child’s one-year review.  The conversation went something like this: ‘What is your child’s favourite food?’ ‘Tofu.’ ‘Are you a vegan then?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Please tell me which cheese to buy.  What is the best milk?  Where do you eat out?’

Pulled Mushropom ‘Duck’ Pancakes

Emma: “I didn’t tell the midwives that I was vegan because I expected a negative response that I didn’t want to have to deal with at that time. However, in hospital after the birth the team were very supportive in providing me with decent vegan food.”

Says Che; “in my first pregnancy one of my Midwives was vegan herself and brought vegan biscuits to the antenatal classes. Second time the midwife was very supportive and unphased by the veganism. If anything, my GP and Midwives said ‘well, you don’t eat any of the stuff you have to avoid anyway so that’s good’.”

City Bowl

Two out of the seven women I spoke to however remarked on how terrible the vegan options were whilst they were in hospital!

So, if you are vegan or vegetarian, don’t let the myth that we need animal products put you off sticking to your plant-based diet. Eating a healthy vegan diet during your pregnancy can be good for you and your baby – and as there aren’t any vegan foods that are on the ‘no go’ list during pregnancy, you won’t have to give anything up either.

Louise Palmer-Masterton

Thank you for contributing this very interesting piece Louise.

Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory; hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurants, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredients, 100% made on site. Stem & Glory also offers click-and-collect and local delivery in London and Cambridge.  www.stemandglory.uk  Lets hope these restaurants find their way to Wales, the food looks amazing.

If you enjoyed this blog post or any of our other posts this year then- please, please nominate us in the – Online Influence Awards 2020 in the parenting category 😊 you’ve got until Friday Night 9/10/2020 to enter here below-

They will ask you for our Twitter (@EmmaGrantAuthor) and Instagram (@emgrantauthor) handles in brackets.

Thank you so much,

😊

love and best wishes Em x

FOOD, HEALTHY EATING, Home Schooling, Learning, Us Time

ONE STEPMUM’S HOME-SCHOOLING SUCCESS STORY

I love the 2nd part of this home-schooling, success story of how stepmum Amy, inspired 7-year-old Archie to become a mini entrepreneur. Last week we chatted to little Archie about his experience of home-schooling during lockdown, this week we get a grown-ups perspective.

ARCHIE with the chickens!

PART 2-AMY’S STORY

It began as part of a home-schooling project. Amy Frost bought a few chickens for her stepson Archie. The aim was to teach seven-year-old Archie about animal welfare and husbandry, as well as where food comes from.

Whereas some families found children resistant to home-schooling, this project turned out to be perfect for Archie. He threw himself into looking after the chickens and was soon collecting far more eggs than the family could eat. So, a business was born selling eggs and his lessons solidified about the importance of local food. He even set up a website up, running, a two-week waiting list and orders started pouring in.

“I needed to find a new way to get Archie excited about maths whilst also helping him understand how it could be transferred to real life. Archie loved the chickens we had recently introduced to our home, so we decided to run a home-schooling project about the hens. For example, we wanted to teach him what they need to survive, how many eggs they can produce in a year, why it’s important to care for the chickens with kindness and love, and the difference between ‘free range’ and battery hens. I felt there was an enormous amount of education surrounding just this one project.” explains Amy.

You can count on eggs to teach you something!

What’s been wonderful about sourcing the local produce is meeting new people, and how enthusiastic and helpful they have been about helping us to educate Archie about how they grow, produce, and make the food. Many have been kind enough to show him around and demonstrate how they work. We hope to bring that education to all our customers in the future.”

 

Amy delivering to locals

“Many locals couldn’t get a delivery at the height of lockdown and were left relying on neighbours to do their shopping, so although not financially viable at the start, we made a conscious decision to deliver to a wider area so that people were not left without food. If they asked, we delivered, even if it was outside ‘our area’.” explains Mark.

Family photo of Amy, Mark and Archie.

“We have been overwhelmed with support from the community – from suppliers, customers and even other local businesses. We have customers sharing our website with friends and neighbours and buying produce as gifts, we have suppliers who have sadly lost so much of their catering trade during Covid and are open to working with start-ups like us, and then we have other local founders who are sharing their equipment to help us grow.

After hearing Archie’s story we were curious to find out more, so here’s what Amy had to say to the questions I asked her recently.

EMMA) What was your initial thoughts on home schooling?

AMY) We were excited about the opportunity to do home-schooling. Although it seemed daunting at first, Mark and I felt we had an opportunity to really get involved with Archie’s learning. It was clear when home-schooling began that we had never really fully known what Archie was learning at school. For example, we had always been told the subject matter, but never the tasks, which made helping and supporting Archie with homework relatively difficult. So as soon as the home-learning tasks began being sent through, we were thrilled to finally be able to understand what he was learning at school and we felt much more informed to be able to support him at home.

EMMA) Where did you get the idea to buy chickens to help Archie and what did you initially set out to teach him?

AMY) Our decision was based around taking him out of the ‘classroom’ environment of the kitchen table, and creating projects that were more hands on and lifestyle based. Archie is great with his school work but his focus became all about sport and he was starting to disengage with the daily subjects of maths and literacy, so we felt that doing something totally different like learning how to look after the chickens would teach him animal husbandry, along with using the eggs to learn his multiplication, adding and subtracting. We had already tried to incorporate sports with his maths learning, such as ‘Maths Tennis’ where we would shout out the times table for every ball we hit, and he learnt his 3’s and 4’s doing this, but as with anything when teaching children, we needed to keep it fun and different.

Our little Chicken Care project developed into a wider range of education that has now taught Archie so much from a ‘school’ sense but has also developed his confidence massively. For the first time he stood in front of 8 children, whom he didn’t know, and led a talk on looking after his animals. This was all through choice, he wanted to explain to them why looking after animals is important. Prior to Archie starting this project he wouldn’t have felt confident doing that.

EMMA) That’s amazing, children feel more self-confident speaking about something they feel passionate about. Do you think schools should offer this more hands on, real life approach to learning, as opposed to sitting in classrooms being taught from text books or media?

Lettuce learn and grow together!

AMY) I absolutely believe in children being given the opportunity to have experiences which aid their development. Taking Archie to a local lettuce supplier where he can see, feel and smell the lettuces, speaking to the farmers who educate him on how the food is grown and what happens afterwards, and then in turn completing a project about his experiences which he shows to his family and friends, all supported his memory of the education and ignited a passion inside of him.  Maybe it was more fun because it wasn’t the norm, but by using all his senses, experiencing rather than just reading, he took more onboard, listened and learned.

I have worked with many young adults who have been afforded the opportunities to experience working in businesses and on farms for therapy and counselling, but it seems we are not teaching young people life skills to really support them in their adult life. Nor are we giving children the opportunity to have experiences which can teach them, in the early years, important facts which will help them make their own choices as they grow. For example, we have used Archie’s Produce to teach Archie nutritional benefits of food, what is healthy and what is not, what he can feed his chickens and what is bad for them, in the hope that he can make informed decisions based on his own knowledge rather than being told what not to do.

EMMA) I absolutely love that, I even write in my book-The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child- (CHAPTER 9 – FOOD- MAKING A MEAL OF MEALTIMES) about the fact many children these days think that their food originates from a supermarket and about the benefits of children being involved in growing their own food and learning about nutrition. And I also agree that children need these therapeutic experiences too, to help them learn in new, more relaxing and enjoyable ways. Some children are not academic but hands on learning can help us overcome so many barriers to our children’s success.

AMY) Emotionally these experiences have taught so much, including confidence, empathy, care and to think about subjects, which prior to this, he had not considered. We must bear in mind that Archie is only 7, nearly 8, so the level to which he is learning now is very different to a teenager, however I strongly believe that there is a huge advantage to experiencing learning in a varied environment to keep children engaged and initiate alternative and question-based thinking. It’s certainly worked for Archie.

EMMA) What advice can you share with other parents who are home-schooling to help make the home-schooling experience feel more creative, fun and enjoyable?

AMY) Oh Goodness I’m not sure I’m qualified to offer advice! Many of our friends put an immense amount of pressure on themselves and their children to complete all the tasks set by the school and to keep their children up to a ‘level’. At one point I also felt that pressure and worried that by doing home-schooling slightly differently, were we letting Archie down. All I knew was that I wanted Archie to have fun, after all, school is supposed to be fun! However, we’re not school, so we broke the rules a little:

We played music whilst we drew pictures and made plans, we played the bongo’s and danced when doing music practise, we had reading practise when researching types of food chickens can’t eat, for the most part, learning together and not putting a time limit on tasks really helped. We had regular snack and treat breaks, we added in some enjoyable tasks such as bike riding and football as part of the project. So, once we relaxed about the administrative tasks and took out the pressure of having to learn, or write, or read, those three factors happened naturally.

EMMA) Wow I love this approach so much, again it’s something I’ve covered in my book mentioned above (in chapters 10 – LEARNING FUN FOR EVERYONE and 11 – THE SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS.)

Do you feel home-schooling has brought you and Archie closer together?

AMY) Yes absolutely. I’m really lucky that we have such a wonderful relationship, but without a doubt having the opportunity to be able to home-school has enabled us to learn so much more about each other. It has also allowed us to be creative and share new experiences together.

Amy and Archie.

EMMA) It would seem lockdown has had hidden blessings for many of us regarding growth, development and contributions to society, what impact has that had on you all?

AMY) The growth of Archie’s Produce has really opened up a series of conversations from where our food comes from and healthy eating, to the way we school our children and educate each other. Little did we know when we started this project how incredible the impact would be and we are extremely grateful to be able to have a little input into hopefully some major future shaping. We genuinely are a lockdown business and were born in a time when most of our suppliers had lost over 90% of their customer base overnight. The catering sector had closed, the only avenue left for them was retail and most local shops were unable to open. So, we felt a huge moral obligation to both our customers, who couldn’t leave the house to get to the shops, or shops were empty, and suppliers who had no outlet to sell their products. The support of the local community is why so many local businesses have survived, and why customers could eat, so as we are now coming out of lockdown, and trades and businesses are re-opening, it is even more imperative that we continue to support the local businesses, producers and farmers, for they are the ones that work tirelessly to save us when crisis hit, and they more than deserve our continued support.

EMMA) Amazing, well thank you so much Amy for sharing with us your experience of home-schooling. I think there’s lots of great nuggets of advice and insight there to help us all be more proactive as parents.

If you’re a parent who would like to know more about proactive parenting or who enjoys blog interviews, you maybe interested in an interview that I had this week with – The Shelf Life Book Review

Until next time Stay Present,

Em