It’s Children’s Mental Health Week, and we thought we’d take a deep dive into advice from Learning Resources on the best ways to look after your child’s mental health.
Learning Resources blogger and ambassador for Children’s Mental Health Week, Joanne Hutchinson places much importance on the ways in which we help our children cope with big emotions. Joanne believes it’s about making time to listen to your child, without judgment. She recommends asking age-appropriate questions to give them the confidence, and encouragement to speak openly about how they are feeling.
Joanne thinks having a stable routine is key to looking after your child’s mental health. Children need predictability to feel safe in order to flourish. A family routine will bring consistency and comfort to your child, providing a sense of stability and normality. Children have a tendency to fear the unknown, and constant change can introduce stress to the lives of little ones.
A routine helps to set expectations, gives confidence and provides much-needed security, having a positive effect on your child’s mental health and behaviour.
Good diet and exercise are not only good for our children’s physical health but they’re imperative to mental health too.
Recent research by the University of East Anglia suggests that eating fruit and vegetables is linked with being good for children’s mental health, and Joanne agrees. She says that healthy eating helps children and young people cope more effectively with stress, better manage their emotions, and get a good sleep – all of which assist learning.
Outdoor play is essential to your child’s development and mental health. Playing outdoors gives your child the chance to explore nature and the wider world around them. Outdoor play presents a multi-sensory experience that allows them to develop physical skills and abilities such as gross motor skills, coordination, balance and agility. Outdoor play also helps with social-emotional learning and building essential life skills such as problem-solving, resilience, and social skills.
As children grow and learn, outdoor play introduces children to new activities, which in turn offers them ways to deepen their vocabulary and language skills. Encourage this by asking them about what they saw and did while playing. The act of telling you about their play adventures will boost language skills and foster young imaginations!
To inspire your family to get outdoors, download the free outdoor activities printable pack from Learning Resources.
Play specialist and teacher Gail Miles believes that sensory play is crucial to brain development. Why? Because it helps to stimulate the neurons in the brain to make connections and helps with development in all areas of learning. It also leads to a child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks, supporting cognitive growth, language development, motor skills, social interaction and problem-solving skills. Sensory play also helps in developing and enhancing memory.
Gail recommends fidget toys, as they can be a useful sensory tool for children who might ‘seek’ extra sensory input they may otherwise not be receiving from their environment. Fidget toys are used to provide the amount of sensory input needed that they require at that time. They’ll also help to calm and balance the nervous system and provide sensory input needed in a less distracting way.
Mindfulness can play a huge role in looking after your child’s mental health. MiSP practitioner Adele Powell believes that families should start by cultivating mindfulness at home, and as parents, we should be leading by example.
Adele warns parents to be aware of their own mindset, before engaging children in a mindfulness practice. Adults, tend to have full minds – mulling over the past, thinking about the future etc, so it’s important to make a mental commitment to your family’s mindfulness practice. The key is to allow yourself to be present throughout.
How can you put this into practice? Adele believes that you can apply mindfulness to everyday activities, such as getting dressed, brushing teeth or eating meals. The trick is to bring your attention to whatever is happening in the present moment. Encourage your child to engage their senses, and be aware of what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel. It’s also about being aware of the breath, and of any thoughts and emotions that arise.
About Learning Resources
Learning Resources have been helping parents and teachers build generations of amazing kids for over 35 years. From ABCs and 123s to fine motor and STEM skills, their educational toys offer kids the building blocks they need to succeed in school and develop a lifelong love of learning. Discover countless ways to learn through play with Learning Resources’ award-winning products.