Children and technology

I have borrowed the following from a local school newsletter as it is a growing part of our daily family discussions. Being the responsible adult (aka the mean one) who takes the looks could kill glares and the “I hate you’s”  followed by slamming doors is part of being a loving parent – I make sure to spell the loving part out to Mr nearly 9 along with hugs and a refusal to back down. I am the Dad not his best friend and there is such a thing as too much screen time.  Relationship breakdowns, stress and arguments can result from excessive screen time and negative online behaviour. The following truths emerge when helping children.

• Students of primary school age do not have the developmental capacity to deal with
negative feedback online or to regulate when enough is enough
• Sleep is disturbed by screen time. It takes 2 hours for the body to prepare for sleep after
screen time
• Primary aged children view their online comments as different to a face to face conversation. They often comment that they would not say these things to someone in
• Children who have devices in their bedrooms overnight report waking often to alerts or
small light flashes
• It is hard for children to really understand that what they post online can’t be removed or can be captured by others. Or the content of what they are watching is not appropriate to their age.
• Games such as Fortnite are addictive

These issues are cause for concern and often the source of tension in homes. Sitting down with children to create an agreement about how technology will be managed in your home can be a successful way to work with children. Parental follow up and consistency then becomes important.

Set boundaries and expectations, We like to have no screens during meal times and none on the weekends before 4pm, but be flexible and teach them how to be responsible about how much and what they watch and play, a movie on rainy day as a treat can gain you back some parental brownie points – Good luck

Kia kaha Parents and Teachers

Stay strong, it’s not easy being a “good parent or teacher”. Thanks to all of you for doing the best you can with what you have. I am really enjoying my new work alongside my Zoe who will be off to school in August!! Some days I marvel at just how well things have gone, others I just stay busy trying to move forward knowing that these years are so important for me and my family. Below is my contribution to the Southbrook school newsletter, which I hope provides a small window into school boards and ways we can all could participate in our schools.

Through the eyes of the board

Kia ora koutou katoa, my name is Scott Pritchard and I am honoured to be writing in this issue as a parent trustee or kaitiaki matua.

The Southbrook school Board has been busy supporting our amazing principal Julie and her team of courageous teachers in bringing to life Southbrook’s vision of valued outcomes for students which are embodied in our three kete: Mātauranga (knowledge), Ahuatanga (character) and Whanaungatanga (relationships).

In our regular meetings we ensure that the school complies with legal and policy requirements. This term we have been reviewing policy and use of the swimming pool, policy around alcohol and drugs and our legislation and administration policy.

As a Board our strategic aims are to focus on providing an evolving curriculum, positive learning environments and an emotionally safe and inclusive school. To do this we review updates on PB4L (Positive Behaviour for Learning) and this month we discussed procedures such as lockdowns, in acknowledgement of recent events in the community.

Our Board is vibrant and open to change and are looking forward to the Board of Trustees triennial elections in the middle of this year where new board members can add their skills and support to the Southbrook community.

I would like to congratulate you as whānau, parents, teachers and leaders for striving for success through our 3 kete and sharing our vision with tamariki.

“Poipoia te kakano kia puawai – Nurture the seed and it will blossom”

Best wishes – Ngā manaakitanga

Ego and the baby – Pennie Brownlee

Thanks to Melissa for sending through this article. Infant teachers, kaiako or educarers are special people that I admire as specialists who can support calm, respectful and present learning experiences in the very young. Wow, I’ve tried it and it was truly difficult to maintain the calm “being” that is needed for little people to absorb and learn from all that surrounds them.

Great article, provokes some terrific reflection. enjoy:)

Start with full attention. As with any undertaking, working with infants
offers us opportunities-one-after-another to learn where we could soften more into our
hearts. The first and obvious place to start is learning to give the child full attention,
particularly when you are feeding, changing, dressing or bathing the baby. Full attention
means there is nothing else going on your mind; no wondering when your break is, no planning the night out with the gals, no wondering what the lotto numbers are; nothing but full attention with the baby.

Being present is a present
Some people call that kind of attention a spiritual practice, and it is. It is your spirit
practising the kind of attention which comes from the Intelligence of your Heart. Full attention is focused and it neither judges nor labels. It just notices. Every little thing. That kind of attention allows you to respond to what-is, rather than to react out of the ideas-in-your-head.

That is another way of saying that full attention allows you to be in the present moment, exactly as all infants are, all of the time. It is a meeting of hearts, and it is exactly what the infant-new-to this-world needs to unfold the nascent biological structures within his or her own brain and heart.
The power of now. Living in the present moment, or living in the now, is a spiritual practice. That doesn’t mean it is something all airy-fairy, it is 100% practical. It is what you do and how you do it. It is something you ‘be’, and it allows the infants to be too. It is the dance of deep friendship and respect. When you soften into this deep respect with children you learn to notice every little thing and to trust them. In your respect and noticing every little thing, you get to trust that children can sort a lot out
from their own inner resources, a lot more than most of us give them credit for.

Our trust grows with practise
Trusting children to sort their way through frustration, emotions and conflict grows yet more trust. We become more at ease being in the present moment just noticing all that is happening. It is not that we are indifferent when we just notice, it is just that we are respectful enough not to offer support until the child needs it. I know there is a fine line between when enough is too much, but the ears of the heart are exquisitely tuned to such details and they will let you know exactly when support is required.
Ego and the Baby.
or why your colleagues huff and puff when you trust infants.
Trust me, I know what I am doing. Helping, interfering or supporting?
You and I both know the extreme frustration when we are trying to do something and it is not going right first go. Someone is hanging over your shoulder saying “Here, I’ll do it for you.” I don’t know about you, but I feel like whacking them – which isn’t very respectful or spiritual – but they should trust that I can keep trying till I get it. And if I can’t get it, then that will be when I will call on them for their expertise and their

Trust me, I know what I am doing
It is this same scenario in childcare centres which offers us yet another opportunity to soften into our hearts, but this time with our colleagues not the babies. There you are tuned in with full attention, and you are trusting the babies to know what they want to do and how they want to do it. You will be sitting there on the floor with them, residing in your heart (a measurable physiological state called heart coherence),
and just noticing. It can look as though you are doing nothing to your colleagues if they do not understand that you are actually very busy – very busy being, but not doing.

Enter ego
This is where ego comes into it; your colleague’s ego, and yours too if you are not very careful. There is nothing wrong with ego per se, it is a psychological task to develop a good strong ego as we grow up. Having achieved that, it is also useful to understand how our ego can cause the conflict and separation which is the opposite of the heart coherence required for a centre (and the souls in it) to thrive. Ego likes
to be ‘better than’, and ego must be right, because ego needs the ‘other’ to survive. Being right means making someone else wrong of course, and ego is brilliant at making others wrong.
Lazy bones
For the colleagues whose idea of being a ‘good childcare worker’ is one of entertaining, interacting, initiating, explaining and doing, you can be judged as lazy when you are sitting there just noticing. Your being (instead of doing) can cause them to huff and puff, and then they go about being even busier thereby letting everyone know that at least they are being ‘a good and competent childcare worker’. This is ego huffing and puffing, and it is subconscious. That means it is below the level of your colleague’s
Perfectly balanced. For the child who has had ‘unassisted motor development’ this is easy.  awareness, it is simply a reaction. Your colleague is reacting to you out of a whole bunch of ideas (a mental construct) that they identify with; “I am a good childcare worker, and good childcare workers entertain, interact, initiate, explain and keep very very busy.”
Learn to recognise ego when you see it in others With their eyebrows raised at your perceived inactivity, colleagues can see your lack of intervention when
a child is managing conflict, frustration, emotion or executing balancing acts as bordering on neglect. Huffing and puffing will now be accompanied by them swooping in and almost theatrically extracting the children and ‘fixing’ the situation. I mean, how else will they get the message through to you that you need to buck up your ideas? This is ego again; your colleague’s ego reacting to their ideas of a good and competent childcare worker. It is not the divine part of your colleague, and your job is to learn to
tell the difference. Learn to see when your colleague has tripped into ego, and when they are residing in their heart. Ego spotting can help you learn to soften into the kindness of your heart as you differentiate between your colleagues’ egoic reactions and their Divine Selves.
Ego meets ego – your reactions to their reactions
So they think you are lazy and negligent, and now you feel you have been wronged because you have been following the-best-up-to-date-best-practise. Welcome to your ego. Your ego has joined theirs in the classic battle of Right and Wrong, and now you are right and they are wrong. Your ego, like theirs, is subconscious, below the radar of your awareness. That doesn’t mean you can’t recognise it though. You can begin to loosen it’s destructive reactivity; all you need to do is just notice what you are thinking and
feeling. It’s that full attention again, only this time with yourself. Noticing brings the unnoticed into your awareness, it grows your consciousness and begins to dissolve the destructive structure of ego. That is called growing up.


Learning is fun, fun is learning.

When our tamariki are doing and learning things of their own choosing, in their own way and on their own time (playing) it can be more valuable than making them do things that aren’t engaging them. Through creating their own play children gain confidence which cannot be given, it is be earnt by overcoming challenges and solving problems, especially problems that are meaningful to the child such as Lego creations or using different techniques to paint.

Like the journey is important as the destination the process of learning is just as important as the thing that is being created. Valuing creation, no child cares about the method used for finding and snapping together pieces or the preciseness of the art, what matters to the child is the beauty, originality, and functionality of the end result – Children need to know their endeavour’s are valued to support their sense of well being.

Providing open ended resources or supporting children to use their imaginations enables the creation of own working theories. Learning through self directed play provides the  freedom to learn the whats whens and hows at their own pace from their own strengths and interests. Learning to achieve something when no one has assigned goals or methods for reaching it, can be the best way for tamariki to gain confidence and raise their self esteem. By harnessing curiosity and a natural instinct to try new things children can

The point is that when children are doing and learning things of their own choosing in their own way and on their own time it can be more valuable than making them do things are not engaging or interesting to them. Work alongside them share their mission their sense of fun and witness them develop a life long love of learning.

Keep Trying

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. When our Matty had first learnt to ride his bike without training wheels he took a tumble onto the road which really knocked his confidence. Despite being a Brush it off, give it a rub you’ll be right type of parent I do understand that the fragile growing confidence of small children needs to be supported and worked gently to get him trying again.

After a year Matty was back to cycling confidently again but it was a hard road (ha ha small pun) getting him from can’t do, fearful and frustrated to fearless and fun loving. Today he did his first TRYathlon and his favourite part was the bike leg.

Team persistence, through reminding him to practice and keep trying we all gained a happy confident boy. Parental persistence and understanding gave us a combined goal to “get back up on the bike” and it taught him resilience which he can use in any situation gained from the knowledge that sometimes you need to fall or fail before you can succeed.

Next stage is swimming, last week he had the school swimming which he said he came last in every event. Wow, it didn’t phase him he was determined to do well and had the biggest smile at the start of the TRYathlon swim section (and he finished😊).

We could learn a thing or two from an 8 year old, with the help of friends and whānau we can overcome our cant’s and enjoy our well earned can do’s.

Reggio Emilia

Lets Reggio

A while ago I wrote a paper comparing the Reggio Emilia and Montessori approaches and quickly found that I align closely with the open and project approach of Reggio Emilia. Reggio is incorporated in our New Zealand early childhood curriculum, so the following is how I see this connection.

Loris Malaguzzi helped establish this teaching philosophy in the Italian post war town of Reggio Emilia.  This philosophy is where the child is the centre of the community and educator’s partner with whānau and a sense that tamariki can lead their own learning as they work alongside adults and other children in small collaborative groups.

The Reggio Emilia philosophy, just like our curriculum and many other philosophies views children as competent learners, to be observed and responded to by attuned teachers, this including the active inclusion of family is also part of Te Whāriki where we encourage belonging through contribution and care givers are acknowledged as children’s first teachers. Teachers or kaiako use observations to interpret learning and to share results with the learning community so that families can share in learning experiences and be part of the child’s learning processes. This information is used to extend interests and and further develop shared teaching strategies.

Reggio Emilia children construct their own learning through the social environment. Strong parent – teacher partnerships which incorporate and value the child’s voice is a central feature of Reggio Emilia and through making connections between the members of the learning community we can see the use of Bandura’s ecological theory (love this idea that all things are connected) where the different layers of children’s lives affect their learning and connecting these layers helps to create holistic views of children and the circumstances around how they learn. Family is recognised as a child’s first teacher, but Reggio also includes the environment as a third teacher to promote belonging, communication and contribution.

Children learn best through being active and using their senses, so using  the environment with open ended resources in home like settings supports children in using their own ideas and problem solving skills. In groups or in cooperative learning children meet the goals from the strand of belonging in Te Whāriki where the environment supports children settling in through curriculum activities and in using materials presented to encourage curiosity and involvement.

I believe in an environment where resources are developmentally challenging, encourage imagination and encourage the creation of working theories which in turn values children’s knowledge, strengths, potential and contribution.

Tamariki need the opportunity to learn in a range of different ways and in different social situations in their learning community. Through the philosophy of Reggio Emilia children can be co-creators of their learning and meet the aspirations of whānau and the principals and strands of our curriculum.








Nuttvia not Nutella – Kids do Listen

Am I on a crusade? Yes, I am, and so should you be. This not just about palm oil, but more about drawing a line in the sand for all unsustainable, unnecessary and frankly immoral consumer products.

I get a message from my wife saying that our 4 year old won’t have her favourite Nutella sandwich because it “hurts the Orangutan’s”, I feel touched and glad that we had found and talked with both kids about a better spread that contains no palm oil at all. Amazing what children will take on-board.

Maybe I’m being selfish, I don’t want my children or grandchildren (or me for that matter) to suffer because I knowingly ate and supported shameful practices such as palm oil production.

Banning or stopping the use of one product will not save the earth but I need to have hope, first there is the rise of protest against plastic straws now the banning of single use plastic bags – perhaps this is the beginning of a revolution, a tidal wave of clean green practices that will regenerate the earth and save us from ourselves.

Palm oil as a food additive is not bad for your body. It has been around for more than 100 years being originally used in making candles and as lubricants for machinery but in it’s modern form it contributes to 50% of all the packaged goods in your kitchen and laundry not to mention your make up and various other general household items. Because it is so cheap to produce and ship it is in everything from lipsticks and detergents to lotions and many of your favourite foods.

We have all heard of the plight of rain forest animals but a quick google search reveals some disturbing facts. Over the past 20 years 90% of the Orangutan’s habitat has been destroyed, leaving us with the possibility that they will be extinct in 10 years. The WWF has given the Sumatran tiger only 5 years – how sad to see them go in our life time.

Indonesia and Malaysia produce 85% of the world’s 60 000000 tonnes of palm oil and it is ever increasing to meet the ravenous corporate appetite for this cheap filler, so much so that unbelievably 300 football field size swathes of rain forest are being burnt EVERY HOUR – wha!? Take a moment to think about that…          This is according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and it means that this burning off makes Indonesia the 3rd biggest producer of greenhouse gasses in the world.

Now there is a group called the RSPO or Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil which I have read had good intentions but is essentially enables Green washing where some portion of the oil may or not be produced sustainably with little to no regulation or compulsion to belong or comply with standards. So ha! I say and if possible go with none, if they are ethical food producers they will actually state zero or no palm oil. In the UK many supermarket chains insist their own brands use sustainable oil but… with more than 200 names for palm oil mostly indistinguishable or just labelled as vegetable oil – how do you know? You sadly it is very hard to tell.

Challenge yourself to read labels, great if they declare palm oil then you will know not to buy or better yet they will state none used at all such as the case for Nuttvia – otherwise you just have to go with your gut. Good luck saving the planet.

Celebrate to fascinate

Children are fascinated by everything we do. We are teachers, we are people, we have our own preferences and beliefs that we have developed as we grew into adulthood – I chuckle here as I am possibly more childlike approaching 50 than ever before.

As an early childhood teacher I believe that every day is full of wonder to be pointed out to, shared with and noticed alongside my young charges. BUT there are a multitude of global and cultural celebration that can and I believe should be taken advantage of to show case or boost young children’s learning.

Every opportunity to connect young minds to the wider world encourages growth and understanding about new concepts including differences, contribution and belonging. Through participation and exposure to giving and sharing as part of what is happening in the community preschools are instrumental in helping children make vital understandings of the wider world.

Why involve children in any holiday or custom? Christmas, Diwali, Any National day or even St. Valentines Day are not innate in children’s minds.  I recently read a on-line discussion about St Valentines Day where teachers were decrying the inclusion of this in curriculum as it is an adult concept or they personally did not believe in it or associate with it. What a shame to not encourage children to celebrate with family and whanau especially where this is a served up on a platter opportunity based around love and giving.

Who gets more delight from a child’s poem or red hand print cut out in the shape of a heart? is it the child who is giving it? or the special person who is receiving it? I have never met a mother who didn’t treasure every keep sake brought home and offered up with beaming smiles. For the child especially on an occasion like this which they have little concept of, the gift is the giving and receiving of smiles. Teachers are helping tamariki to know about sharing feelings of love and that simple acts of giving can bring happiness to special people in their lives.

St. Valentines day is a vehicle for learning and is what we all as adults should be role modeling to children – expressing feelings, contributing to a wider world celebration, sharing cards or gifts and gaining a sense of being valued and belonging, it is not the adult concept of “just for lovers”.

Children can learn much from every celebration. By including and encouraging ways to engage tamariki in wider world celebration’s early childhood teachers are helping to mold citizens of the world.

Share the joy of celebrating with children and let them be fascinated with learning about relationships and acknowledge different  world views through community inspired ideas and experiences.

Namaste, Nga mihi nui, 平和

The playground as a teacher


I believe the environment is an important part of teaching as it invites children to play and, seeds imaginative and curious play from a sense of wonder and fascination.

Having a variety of experiences and resources available in a preschool environment encourages children to put their own ideas into inanimate and open ended objects.

Having set ups that are colourful, make sound, are touch sensory or require and enable movement not only engage problem solving and creativity thinking, but also lead children to share ideas with their friends as they work alongside and cooperatively with each other. Often putting out an activity for pre schoolers has the best learning outcomes when the children do something completely different with the materials, for example the tree stump put in the sandpit to act as a table for the fairy’s tea party quickly becomes a volcano with roaring dinosaurs or a launch pad for super heroes to jump from, follow their lead they are learning.

By providing an environment with open ended resources such as  jumping challenge courses to share with friends, encouraging them to take responsibility for their own learning and behaviour as they step gingerly from lilly pad to crocodile across the playground. By selecting teaching approaches, resources, technologies and learning and assessment activities that are inclusive and effective for diverse children such as unstable surfaces that have hand supports for all abilities and levels of confidence. Wobbly bridges or large flat stepping stones in the sandpit can be ideal for practicing balance and confidence boosting.

The environment and invitations to play in it are an important part of supporting and developing children’s physical and social competency. Through their developing language, relationships and knowledge of their world they laugh, demonstrate, lead and share what they find and how and why they might use it. “Watch me!”, what’s that?”, “follow me”, “can I play too?” should be heard in the playground every day.

I have hung triangles or pots and pans from trees and placed drums in clusters along walk ways just observe that no child (and some adults too) can’t resist playing at least a few beats as they pass which leads to others trying it out and creating their own play/ learning. Invitations to play support curious minds, encourage participation and lead to social learning opportunities.

Learning comes from doing and at preschool this happens mostly in social moments where the children are free to develop their own ideas about what they are experiencing and then sharing those ideas with their friends and teachers. Set the scene for the senses and let the children play.


The Cycle of Motivation

20170617_084040[1]What drives us, is it fear, desire, greed or is there a built-in human trait of just wanting to achieve more? Whatever it is we are all part of the cycle of motivation.

I run because I want my body to keep up with my children but also to be a positive role model

I work to make a living but also because I am passionate about what I do as a teacher.

I skype my grandmother every week because I care about her being on her own and I know she wants to see her great grandchildren.

Can motivation be seen a vacuum, where a single focus either the spark or the goal is the only thing that moves us forward? I believe motivation is a combination of past, present and future, all three influence what you do next. Previous experience or learnt values have gotten you to where you are today; your current beliefs about what and where you want to be will put you on the road to achieving your vision in the future.

We are all motivated and we all motivate. Something drives us to get up and just do it! We encourage or inspire others by role modelling our behaviours, but we are not just motivated we are also motivators. Our achievements and the way we handle our journey are soul food for those trying to get or keep themselves on track.

Does it come from inside? You know you want to live a healthier life, or have more quality time with your family or maybe retrain for a different job, what-ever the reason do you have the tenacity and perseverance to go out and get what you want? Or is it that we are ruled by external factors? A need to pay the rent or live up to peer and social expectations, or cultural values and beliefs. We are all a complex mix of emotions, needs and desires so what motivates you may not necessarily drive me. At some time, we may all lose our mojo -that feeling that we are on a roll and making progress in our lives. Once you have discovered your purpose, your goal and then surrounded yourself with supporters that will help you to refocus when things get tough or when you just lose track of your goal your mission is then to seek advice, get encouragement and stay motivated.

I had never been sporty or into fitness, but after an accident caused me to rethink my career options I sought guidance counselling. These sessions gave me light bulb moments, an epiphany if you like, I felt like I had a been in an exorcism that left me enlightened, ready to change my life and get on with studying – unbelievably as it turned out, to be a personal trainer. I was motivated, I needed to make a living and I needed to new beginning. I shared my mission with everyone and over the long months that followed I self-doubted, I struggled with study and the financial cost of retraining, I wondered if I wasn’t wasting my time but by using those around me and being persistent I achieved my goal of being a fitness instructor and then as a personal trainer.

Think about anybody in sales or counselling maybe your personal trainer or real estate agent and how they reach in and find the pain, the thing that really motivates you and helps you to see where you should be going. They help you to make decisions, and find the motivation to move forward. We might not always like it, but sometimes we need someone to shine a light on what we really should be doing.

Maybe you are one of those who like to prove others wrong, when you’re told you can’t achieve something or for whatever reason people don’t believe in you or don’t know your inner strength. Bloody mindedness, stubbornness can be great traits in the truly motivated.  When I was working and fell out of a tree the surgeons told me I wouldn’t walk normally for a long time and to avoid the high impact labouring work I was doing, I was devastated and lost my business. After the shock wore off I got motivated and when the screws were removed from my ankle I rehabbed myself until six months later I ran my first marathon. Don’t tell me can’t!!

Self-doubt can cause you to step off the track to your own success. When something goes wrong or you see a hurdle you need to use that part of motivation where you reach inside and overcome the fears and uncertainties that stop you jumping out of bed, trying new things or pushing forward with the things you believe in.

Everyone is different, it might be the accumulation of things or wealth or the desire to be a specific type of person; well-travelled, educated or highly regarded in your field, whatever it is it comes from inside. Your past experiences have moulded your desires and your need to gain whatever it is you strive for.

Motivation can be linked to enthusiasm, as in “nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”. Share your goal, your dream, your enthusiasm. Search out the things that motivate you and nurture your own fan base, you don’t have to do all the work alone to be the person you want to be.

I encourage you to get up and share your enthusiasm and through your motivation inspire others to find their passion and push themselves to achieve and continue the cycle of motivation.