Looking forward to a sporty 2014
We are taking bookings for easter camps in
Regent’s Park and Hyde Park now

Small Beginnings Team

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Summer fun…


As a somewhat soggy summer approaches, all things winged are beginning to re-emerge.

As the natural world unveils the delicate wings of the butterflies, the fledgling birds take first flight and the bumble bees return, we can see how connected our children are to each season.

They have such an affinity with flight, especially at this time of year. Whether it’s racing down a hill to fly a kite, jumping off the edge of the sofa or running round a garden in fairy wings: they love the freedom of leaping into the space around them.

You can make a flight filled toy by sewing some long brightly coloured strips of ribbon onto a palm-sized beanbag. The fluttering ribbons make learning to catch easier for little hands and improve hand to eye co-ordination.

Invite the bees back into your garden by planting bee friendly flowers like foxgloves and cowslips .You could have a go at making your own very simple alder cone bee by wrapping some yellow wool or thread round the cone and making some tissue paper wings.  Attach one to a favourite stick with some thread and let them fly round the garden!

Older children and adults seeking flights of fancy could have a go at trapeze lessons, bungee jumping or leaping out of planes- the possibilities are endless!

Here at Small Beginnings we’re running some fantastic workshops both in and outside, so whatever the weather we’ll have them leaping in a fun, safe and supportive environment. Have a look at our timetable for more details.

by Kate Alderton

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Spring is in the air!

Wednesday the 21st March is the start of British Springtime in our calendars. Also known as Spring Equinox it’s that time of year when the day and night are of equal length and in perfect balance.

Celebrate the returning of the sunlight by taking a walk and watching out for all the new life emerging after those long winter months! Flowers bursting through the soil, covering the earth with colour again.

You could make a simple flower garland with very young children by threading the flower heads together from a hyacinth with a large needle and thread.

Mothers Day on Sunday the 18th is time for celebration too! As well as thanking our own mothers it’s a great time for celebrating the many women in our lives who have a truly positive effect on our mothering. Women who support us, inspire us or just remind that we’re doing a good job!

We can draw wisdom from the equinox and take time to reflect on ways to help us retain balance as we juggle the flow of energy needed for our relationships, our children, our work and ourselves.

Whether its meditation or just breathing a little deeper throughout the day, yoga or having a go at an acrobatics balancing class; taking time to find balance will always nourish us with energy!

Happy Springtime from all of us at Small Beginnings!

By Kate Alderton

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Kwik Cricket at Lord’s Cricket Ground!

Small Beginnings is proud to announce its latest sporting venture: starting in January, we will be holding a Saturday Kwik Cricket class for 4-8 year-olds at Lord’s Cricket Ground no less.

With a history spanning over two hundred years, the so-called ‘home of cricket’ – Lord’s – is the oldest and most prestigious cricket venue in the world. It will be an absolute thrill and honour to use their fantastic facilities to start employing our unique and newly-devised method to teach children as young as 4 to play this fun and wonderful sport!

Cricket was originally a children’s only game, thought to have been invented in Norman or Saxon times in the Weald region of Kent and Sussex. The first equipment may have been a lump of sheep’s wool as the ball, a stick as the bat and a tree stump as the wicket. It wasn’t until the 17th century that adults began to play it too and so it began to be known as a village sport. Its spread across the Commonwealth in the 1800′s paved the way for the more organised and competitive team sport cricket is nowadays and for it to become the second most popular sport in the world after football.

Cricket is a marvellous all-round sport which provides not only the physical exercise your child craves and needs, but also helps improve coordination – particularly hand-eye coordination, focus and concentration. Being a team sport, it also aids in the development and advancement of social skills, cooperation, strategic thinking and the following of rules both individually and as a group.

Amongst the benefits of playing cricket there has been talk of improved behaviour too, according to a study published recently: And with that added bonus, who can resist the charms of cricket?

Remember that places are limited and the class is filling up quickly, so don’t delay and contact us to reserve your child’s place now!

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Birthday ideas

Every year, when children’s birthdays approach, families think hard how to mark the occasion in a special way.

It’s easy to get stuck in practicalities and preparations, but wouldn’t it be lovely to also have a moment of reflection on the true nature of birthdays? After all, it is a yearly milestone that is reached not without effort – by the growing child, the family and the wider community to which you belong.

With each passing year, children feel a bit more ‘grown up’, as they climb the ladder to adulthood in a rather speedy manner! So many things change in one year: new additions to the family, starting school, a new friend, perhaps a new home… even new teeth can be celebrated!

Growth can also be quantifiable in things they have learnt to do by themselves (‘you are now able to tie your shoelaces on your own’. Or ‘you learnt to read this past year’). On the other hand, anticipation of things to come helps children draw a mental map of the year ahead: ‘this year you’ll be learning to swim’. Or ‘we’re going to visit Grandad in the summer’ – that will sure bring a spark to their eyes.

There are lovely simple ways to make your children feel that extra special for their birthday: how about decorating their place at the breakfast table with a flower and putting on a crown and cape to take part in a ‘breakfast banquet’? The Birthday child is indeed king / queen for the day.

Telling them a Birthday story is a beautiful tradition that can be carried on year after year. A personalised explanation of how they came into this world, full of magic and beautiful images can be found here:

These days, a party is an almost inseparable part of children’s birthdays. We parents put a lot of love and effort into these occasions. Here are some homemade birthday cake ideas for a personal touch:

Small Beginnings can also help you create a highly enjoyable and memorable experience for your child’s party. We provide entertainment with one or more of our coaches: dynamic sports sessions (including football) and games are guaranteed to keep the little ones active and busy in a positive way during the celebration, whilst you remain stress-free. Please contact us with your enquiry, and we’ll provide you with a competitive quote for your party entertainment needs.

Another aspect that is worth looking into is the end of the day. After such an exciting train of events, wouldn’t it be helpful to review with your child everything that happened? It would help them digest it and store it in their heart as a treasured memory. As we mention every person who came to their birthday party and perhaps write thank you cards, the seed of gratitude is sown and tended to in a loving way.
By Maria Montoya

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Outdoor play pays off

A school in Scotland recently tried out a new playground design, an ‘urban jungle’, which reportedly was a great success, not only with the children, but also with the adults, as it helped significantly reduce the number of accidents and the incidence of bullying in the playground:

Such findings don’t come as a surprise, though. It is a well-known fact that nature has a calming effect and that children benefit from playing outside in many ways: from climbing trees (which helps develop coordination and balance) to gathering natural materials to build their own toys (which boosts creativity), the outdoors are full of not only exciting adventures but also potential lessons to learn.

It is worth considering that regular contact with nature fosters a positive attitude towards the environment. The only way to guarantee that the adults of the future will care for the planet and will take action to ensure its sustainability is providing the children of today with first-hand experiences of nature.

Unstructured play outside also furthers the ability to approach problems in a creative manner, utilising all the resources available to create solutions: a hands-on approach that will transform into proactive problem solving in their future lives.

The outdoors provide children with a positive channel to expend their seemingly endless energy, which in turn renders them more capable of concentrating in school and less restless. Surely something to look forward to!

So why not take a look at these simple ideas to keep your child out of doors for some time every day and encourage a healthy attitude towards nature and its wonders:

And last but not least, we would like to invite you to watch a short but touching interview with author Richard Louv, whose best-seller book ‘Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder’ is a powerful source of inspiration. Here he emphasises the influence that playing outdoors exerts on the holistic growth of children:
By Maria Montoya

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Conserving energy

Energy Saving Week is here again! so we would like to encourage our readers to look into ways of keeping warm this winter whilst saving money and looking after the environment.

But before we start, let us ask ourselves ‘do we really need to have the heating on now?’

At the risk of sounding rather ‘un-cool’, we’re going to suggest the old jumper-and-hat look for the home, which can do the trick – at least until the cold hits hard and more vigorous measures are in order. Jumpers and hats can also help keep the thermostat down a degree or two when we do need to turn the heating on.

Or how about a daily exercise routine for the whole family? That would definitely keep everyone warm for longer! Here’s a brilliant example of exercises which have the bonus of aiding development:

But when the clocks go back an hour over the weekend and the days feel positively shorter, there are still ways of keeping warm without spending a fortune, such as setting the boiler timer to half an hour before waking up for an hour in total. Then again 15 minutes before we come back home in the evening and the next 45 minutes to warm up the house.

At bedtime, we suggest swapping the heating for a bath with a few drops of warming essential oils (such as ginger, mandarin and marjoram). Tucking into a natural fibre duvet preemptively warmed with a hot water bottle will help conserve warmth for the night.

As for electricity saving and creating a greener, more energy-efficient home, there are many good ideas in this graph

One of the easiest and most overlooked ways to save energy is filling the kettle only up to the mark that’s needed. Why boil a whole kettle to make only a cuppa? Although there is no evidence to support the old wives’ tale that re-boiled water ‘isn’t good for you’, we notice that hot drinks made with freshly boiled water do taste better. Why? Because of a higher oxygen content, we are told.

Another little gesture which will cost us nothing is turning off all appliances at the plug. On a recent fire safety visit, our local fire station manager reminded us that switching off the plugs also reduces the risk of electric fires. So do your family two favours and use the plug switches – they are there for a reason.

On a final note, we would like to mention the Lighter Later Campaign, which is working towards saving energy by adding one hour of daylight to the British day all year round. Their proposal, in detail, can be found here:

By Maria Montoya

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What’s cooking this week?

This week is National Baking Week and so schools and neighbourhoods everywhere are holding ‘bake-offs’ and competitions. We too love our cakes and biscuits, and would like to take the chance to propose some ideas and recipes.

We feel we don’t need to emphasise why we recommend a balanced diet as the foundation of health for life. For example, the connection between sugar, artificial flavourings / colourings and hyperactivity is well-known. However, at the risk of stating the obvious, here’s a link to a recent article where the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise are detailed, and indeed the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle:

Children are renowned for having a sweet tooth, so what to do when school holds a ‘bake-off’ which we know it’s going to be full of sugary ‘treats’ and they are left to their own devices when deciding what to buy at break time for this special occasion?

We propose an easy solution: the morning of the event, make sure they eat a plentiful breakfast, as filling as possible, with a sweet but healthy element – such as porridge with banana, cinnamon and honey. This way they will hopefully not feel like eating too much at break time…

Or why not send your own cake to the event? There are hundreds of delicious cakes, muffins and cookies that can be baked without sugar, just using honey or dates to sweeten, thus reducing the amount of the ‘white stuff’ children will be consuming during this calorific week! And we bet other parents would appreciate your quiet contribution towards their own children’s health!

Here are some examples of gorgeous baking recipes tried and tested by our own team of ‘little experts’ – who did not notice the absence of ‘nasties’ ;-)




Carrot Cake:

Choc Chip Cookies:

by Maria Montoya.

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Sing me a song (in another language)

Recently, the Education Secretary proposed starting the teaching of foreign languages at age five:

The idea would be very welcome amongst many parents, who see how their friends of bilingual families manage for their children to speak two or more languages fluently and without an accent if started early.

With English being the second most-widely spoken language and the world’s ‘lingua franca’, sometimes it is easy to underestimate the importance of being fluent in another language. But surely you’ve seen families where the father is, say, German, the mother Greek, they live in the UK, and the multiple languages work beautifully: the children speak German to Dad, Greek to Mum, and English to their local acquaintances. But how is this achieved?

In bilingual and multilingual families, this happens automatically as the child is exposed to the different languages in daily life, in all situations. But  those of us who only speak one language at home but would like our offspring to start learning a second one, need to find another way.

The good news is that, given the young child’s strong capacity to learn by imitation, s/he won’t really need formal lessons until after about 8 or 9 years of age. So long as they hear the language from a native speaker (who will pass on the right pronunciation and grammar naturally) and they are engaged in the learning process through age-appropriate activities such as games and songs, they will very quickly pick up another language without effort.

Here’s a very good summary of the advantages of bilingualism:

We support the Education Secretary’s proposal, and would actually like to see foreign languages feature in the Early Years curriculum, when the brain has the maximum capacity for imitation and flexibility. So Small Beginnings will be offering French and Spanish through song and games in London and Lewes (East Sussex) soon. Stay tuned!

By Maria Montoya

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Helping the imagination

Last week, more than 200 childhood experts signed a public letter in a bid to protect young children from what they called ‘the erosion of childhood’. In a cry for common sense to prevail, they urged parents to counteract the ‘too much too soon’ culture of our consumerist society:
We all acknowledge that fostering children’s imagination and creativity is an urgent matter these days. But sometimes, we as parents get swept into a whirlpool of misinformation and even panic – which in turn can lead us to follow trends that could be counterproductive, such as the ‘throw-away culture’ which encourages materialism.
Children are the original outside-the-box thinkers. Letting their imagination flourish teaches them flexibility and creativity in problem-solving. To be creative is to be resourceful; making instead of buying, creating instead of copying, expressing instead of repeating…

If one replaced every pair of knee-ripped trousers instead of taking the time to mend them, children would only learn that things are disposable and that money can buy anything, anytime. An important lesson skipped… A lesson that may be transformed into something significant when they grow up, such as the way they treat people.


Toys are another example. With open-ended toys, children can bring to life their own images and stories. Overly-manufactured toys, which can only be the one thing or character they represent, stifle the imagination, as there is little room for expansion and creativity.
So we look for toys which can be brought to life by children’s play, toys that would be played with for many years as they can be transformed into anything by the child’s imagination and would last as they are beautiful and sturdy. In sum, toys that encourage creativity and aid us in our goal of instilling permanent, good values in our children. Bramble Corner Toyshop is a wonderful destination where to find beautiful, creative and well-crafted toys, made with care and chosen with love by their knowledgeable owners.

by Maria Montoya

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