School is not always easy, even for the most confident or academic children. So what can you do as parents to support them and help them build the resilience they need?

Sunflower CEO Nichola Atkinson explains: “If you ensure your child has all the essential ingredients for their health and wellbeing, you will help them to cope and perform in all areas of their life – learning, socially, emotionally and on the sports field.

“It’s about making sure all basics are in place – diet, drink, sleep, exercise, fresh air and breathing.”

Sunflower’s six superhero secrets help you to focus your child on their wellbeing and be prepared for whatever life throws at them:

Left/right brain co-ordination

Get the brain up and running before school with some fun co-ordination exercises. You may love it or hate it but the flossing dance is a great one for limbering up for learning.

Other ideas include:

  • Clapping and talking at the same time
  • Disco dancing with different movements to different sounds
  • Trying to tap your head and rub your tummy at the same time
  • Hopscotch
  • Marching or skipping while tapping a hand to the opposite knee
  • Playing catch with a ball and alternating between hands
  • Saying the alphabet, then trying to do it backwards
  • Moving your eyes without moving your head, walking heel to toe without wobbling or standing on one leg with your eyes shut for one minute

Water

Most children simply don’t drink enough. Encourage them to drink more water with these ideas:

  • Flavour water with slices of lemon/strawberry and call it their lemon-aid or strawberry-aid.
  • Have lines on their water bottle that they have to reach at different times of the day.
  • Puree different coloured fruit and make into ice cubes to add to water for a rainbow effect.
  • Make drinking water part of daily activities or games – a sip of water every time they go down the slide, after every 10 bounces on a trampoline, before their turn in a board game etc.
  • Teach by example – let them see you reaching your daily water drinking target.

Super sleep

It’s so important for children to get enough sleep. Sunflower’s golden rule is: keep screens out of bedrooms. Other healthy bedtime habits include keeping the same bedtime every day and having a bedtime winding down routine with a story/chat and even some breathing and relaxation exercises together. For anxious children, it can be helpful to set aside some time to talk about worries and then write them down and ‘put them away’ for the night.

Brilliant breathing

Bodies and brains need oxygen, so make sure your child gets enough with some daily breathing exercises that you can do together. A great way to start and end the day:

  • Lie on your back with a cushion under your head and both hands on your tummy.
  • Breathe in to fill up your lower tummy, pushing your hands upwards.
  • Breathe in more to fill your chest, and then the top area of your lungs.
  • As you breathe in, push the fronts of both feet up towards your head, keeping your legs flat on the floor.
  • As you breathe out, push your feet as far away as you can.
  • Do this for 15 breaths, 3 times a day.

Screen time swaps

It can be hard to limit screen time, but offering an attractive alternative can limit the battles:

  • Swap screen time for something active – a play in the park, cycle ride, swim, a fun workout to music.
  • Entice them outside with a bug hunt, a water fight in the garden, some outdoor messy art or painting.
  • Remind them to use their eyes in different ways – look at things through a microscope, have fun with binoculars, draw a comic, make a necklace.
  • Get them out of the virtual world and into the real one by inviting friends round.
  • Swap on-screen fighting for off-screen kindness by getting them to make a gift for a friend or perhaps making a favourite tea or cake for a family member.

Sugar swaps

By making some clever sugar swaps, you not only reduce the amount of sugar your child is eating, you also increase their intake of the healthy foods they need. Here are some ideas:

Breakfast: Eggs are a great alternative to sugary cereals and provide a fantastic source of protein to start the day. Porridge mixed with cocoa power is also a healthy idea, or mashed banana on wholemeal toast.

Puddings: Mashed up a banana with a splash of milk makes a very healthy ice-cream. Rice cakes with apple and peanut butter work well instead of biscuits. Avocado with a bit of honey and some cocoa powder makes a great chocolate mousse.

Sweets: Freshly made popcorn makes a very enticing alternative to sweets!

Good eating habits are crucial for a healthy body and mind. Sunflower practitioner Sheree McGregor says: “Internal chemistry of the body is not something we can see but when it is upset we feel it. It manifests in every aspect of our lives, from how energetic we are, to the foods we crave, to thoughts we have in our heads and our emotions.

“Nature provides foods in wonderfully prepared packages, all the chemistry is taken care of – the acid/alkaline balance, vitamin and mineral content, the fibre as well as the millions of phytonutrients. All we have to do is eat the amazing array of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses and grains on offer alongside good quality protein.”

In these days of fast food, fast living and quick fixes, there’s little wonder that many of our children struggle to keep up with the demands of school and life. Sunflower supports children when they need something extra to improve their overall wellbeing. Alongside ensuring their physicality is as good as it can be, Sunflower teaches each child mindfulness by mastering their thinking and taking control of their own emotional state, thereby building resilience. To find out more: 01483 531 498, enquiries@sunflowertrust.com

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