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  • Writer's pictureHello Happy Learner

Belonging Adventure - Parent's Guide

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Here you will find information, ideas and tips to support your happy learner on their journey through this adventure.


Feeling Invisible

As parents, we want to shield our children from experiencing uncomfortable feelings but they are an unavoidable element to being human. Reading together provides us with an opportunity to explore different feelings and experiences whilst, as readers, we are feeling calm and safe. We can use this to help children explore feelings they may have experienced before, giving those feelings names and demonstrating that they are normal feelings that others also have. For children who may not have felt that way before it gives them the chance to learn about different situations and feelings, preparing them for how to manage those experiences when the time comes.


You can invite your child to talk about the different ways Isabel may be feeling, why she may be feeling that way, how the other characters may be feeling and what she could do to help herself. Have they ever felt that way? What did they do? What could they do next time? Children can find it difficult to speak about their feelings as they are still to identify them and put names to those feelings. It can overwhelm children to the point that it is hard for them to know how they really feel. It can help to discuss how our bodies react to different feelings such as feeling sick when we are nervous. Discuss how Isabel’s body may have felt. What might she have been thinking and saying to herself. This could be a good opportunity to discuss the way we talk to and about ourselves in our heads. Talking to ourselves with kind words and with true statements is an important skill to learn. Just as we learn to say kind things to others and tell the truth, we also need to remember to do the same to ourselves. If your child thinks that Isabel would say unkind or inaccurate statements to herself such as ‘no one loves me’ or ‘l’m rubbish’ take the time to discuss how accurate these are and if Isabel deserves to be spoken to that way? We can teach children to reflect on what they say to themselves and ask themselves if what they are saying is really true and is how they would speak to a close friend or family member.


We want to normalise these feelings, making children realise that no matter how popular or liked a person may appear to be they too will experience these same feelings. Work with your child to create ideas on what they could do if they feel alone, or invisible such as talking to a trusted adult about their feelings or looking for the beauty around them. Creating a gratitude journal can support them when they feel invisible by reminding them of those around them that love and cherish them with acts and gestures they have felt grateful for.

Three Beautiful Things.


The power of gratitude.

Gratitude has been one of the main focuses of positive psychology research. What they have discovered has inspired me to develop the skill of gratitude in myself and in my young family.


Research has shown that one of the main strategies to develop gratitude is through keeping a regular, written journal. This is in Daily Gratitude blog.


For young children, journaling can be difficult. Gratitude is a skill that we must learn and varies in how we demonstrate it in different cultures. Children can access different aspects of gratitude as their brain develops. Research suggests that the warm, happy feeling we get as adults through gratitude develops with age and the more we embrace gratitude.


We can help children develop positive thoughts and their understanding of gratitude by providing experiences for them to practice it. In this adventure, we want to capture children’s enthusiasm for the story and Isabel’s examples of looking for the beauty in the world and people around them.


Giving your children opportunities to stop and look for beauty or things that inspire wonder can help them learn the skills they need to be grateful. When your child is excited or had a great day try asking them what one of their favourite things about the day was. Asking for THE favourite may make it hard for them to identify the one thing that was the best. Asking for one of their favourite or one good thing can take the pressure off of identifying the best. Children may need help naming the good things in their lives. These things can be large or small. They may chose to identify smaller things like toys or food they enjoy but not mention family or friends. This is unlikely to be because they do not value family or love them more than a toy or food but because they feel family may go without saying. Gratitude and empathy are complex skills which young children are still learning. To help them it is important we support their choices of what they love, enjoy or find beautiful. If they feel comfortable sharing these thoughts they may feel more comfortable sharing troubles or feelings they do not understand with us later.


Getting out in nature has been shown to have positive impacts on our mental and physical health. (You will notice as you learn more about mental health that improvements in mental health often correspond to improvements in physical health.) Take the pressure off of what we class as ‘getting into nature’. Getting out of the city can be hard to do for a variety of reasons but it’s also not always needed. You can start small. It could be walking the streets looking for beauty in the plants we see growing (including weeds), looking at the beauty in the variety to stones we find in gravel or in the wood chip in the park. Find a small spot and discover the beauty in the bugs and wildlife you unearth. We have a lot to learn from our children too. Viewing the world through their eyes can help us as adults rediscover the beauty in areas of our life we have grown to over look. One of the keys aspects of gratitude is learning how to appreciate the good things in life which we naturally learn to take for granted. Try not to rush, don’t have a plan of what to find, just explore, trying to be in that moment with you or child to build an experience together to treasure.

Smith, J., Newman, K., Marsh, J. & Kelter, D. (2020) The Gratitude Project - How the science of thankfulness can rewire out brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good. New Harbinger Publications: Oakland.


Making a difference

As we become more grateful, we enjoy the experience of giving more. Gift giving is a difficult concept for children to develop. You will notice that they go through stages.


They may be reluctant to give anything at all, feeling that to give something to someone else is to take from them. Children haven’t developed their gratitude as so do not always experience the same good feeling we get when we give. If they are happy to give a gift they may pick a gift that they would like to receive. At this point children haven’t developed their understanding of empathy to realise that the recipient may not want the same gift they themselves would like.


In this adventure, we aim to develop children’s empathy and understanding of the joy they can receive by giving gifts to loved ones. By giving a plant they have grown themselves they are learning that other people appreciate their thoughts and effort. They become invested in the plant through their own time and efforts. By knowing that the ultimate aim is to give away their plants they are helping to develop empathy. Children will have days that they do not want to care for their plants, but they can practice empathy, not only by doing something they don’t want to do for the plant itself but also for the person who will receive it.


This adventure provides space for children to record the reactions of the people they give their gifts to in the form of notes, drawings or photos. By focussing on the recipients reaction and how it made them feel children will be in to develop their understanding that giving gifts can make them feel good too. The focus on the recipient’s reaction could also help develop empathy as the children learn what it is about the gift that the other person likes and appreciates. To support this process, you may want to tell the recipient about the gift and what your child will be focusing on when giving the gift in private before your child has the opportunity to give this. This may give the recipient the opportunity to express their gratitude and feelings more than they would normally do (as gratitude and how comfortable we feel in expressing it varies from person to person). You may want to consider if there is a possibility that the recipient knowing in advance may produce a reaction that your child feels isn’t genuine. If the recipients reaction is not as you had expected or your child feels disappointed you can discuss how everyone feels and expresses gratitude differently. It is a skill that we all have differing levels of competency in. It is also an area which research is discovering varies between genders and across cultures. Cultures express and experience gratitude differently to each other. There is more information about this relatively new area of research in ‘The Gratitude Project - How the science of thankfulness can rewire our brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good’ edited by Jeremy Adam Smith, Kira M Newman, Jason Marsh & Dacher Kelter.


Researchers have learnt that the more grateful we are the more we experience positive emotions and enjoy giving. Not only do we desire to repay the people we feel grateful to but we are also more likely to wish to pay our gratitude forward by giving to others. This in turn can help other people feel more grateful and they too are then more likely to want to do something for someone else. This cycle of paying kindness forward could help create a better world for us all, especially for our children to grow up in. By cultivating gratefulness in ourselves and in our families we could help shape a better, kinder world for our children.

Smith, J., Newman, K., Marsh, J. & Kelter, D. (2020) The Gratitude Project - How the science of thankfulness can rewire out brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good. New Harbinger Publications: Oakland.

Seeds of Change


The science side: We will take you through some of the key scientific skills children can develop and concepts they can learn.


Skills:

  • Observation - this is a crucial skill in science. To be able to see what is actually happening. As discussed earlier, children can observe things about the world that we don’t notice but they can also often do things quickly and without care. Encourage your child to look carefully at the seed at different stages. To help do this you may chose to start some of your seeds on cotton wool so that the seed is exposed rather than hidden in the soil. Taking photos daily can help them notice the changes and remember what it was like the day before

  • Experiments- understanding that we can learn in science by keeping some things the same (such as the type of seeds we use) and changing others. You could try conducting experiments on your plants to discover what plants need to grow. What happens when you use coke or milk rather than water? What happens when the plant is in the fridge? Or in a cupboard? If you are growing these as gifts make sure more than enough seeds and plants are given the optimal growing conditions with only the spares used for experiments where they are unlikely to succeed.


Key language (vocabulary):

  • Variables - the things you change in how you grow each seed.

  • Constant - the thing you keep the same (such as the type of seed).

  • Germinate - when the plat starts to grow out from the seed.

  • Root - the part of plant that grows beneath the soil to collect water and nutrients.

  • Photosynthesis - the process plants use to gain energy from the sunlight and carbon dioxide.


Wider opportunities for learning:

  • Mindfulness - taking time to observe & focus on the plant can be a mindful activity, being in the moment without wider distractions and thoughts.

  • Maths - as the plant grows you can measure it using either standard units of measure (for example cm or mm) or plot it on a piece of paper to see it’s growth over time. For older children, you can calculate the amount the plant has grown since the last measurement was taken. If appropriate for children's skill level, you can then divide that amount by the number of days or hours between measurements to work out it’s average daily/hourly growth rate. Patients & delayed gratification - waiting for a plant to grow takes time and patients, we don't get immediate rewards for our time and effort.

  • Literacy - talking about what we see and feel allows for children to practice their language skills in a new context as well as learn new words.

  • Empathy - I don’t know about you but food waste is an area I struggle to manage with children. Understanding the time and care that is needed to grow plants can help children appreciate the time that has passed from when their food started as a seed to arriving on their plate. As discussed earlier, empathy is a complex skill so you are unlikely to find this eliminate food waste completely but it can help children understand more about how the world around the, works. Children can begin to develop empathy for the plants they are growing as they care for them and see that their actions or lack of action has an impact on their plants.

  • Dealing with loss - plant growth and loss can be a very gentle introduction to experiencing loss and death. Despite seeds getting the same opportunity not all will thrive and develop into healthy plants we can give away.

  • Geography - this can be an opportunity to discuss how different plants thrive in different conditions and are suited to growing in different parts of the world. This could take you into investigations of the weather systems and global climate for older children or discussing the seasons they experience for younger children. Why do we see more plants growing in summer than winter?

Growing seeds is a wonderful opportunity to learn about science but - as with all areas of learning - it is also a fantastic opportunity to learn a variety of other academic and person skills.


Parts of a flower

As your children start to learn about the parts of flowers take them on a nature walk to find different flowers. Can they identify all the parts on the flowers they find? How do the flowers change? What parts of the flowers are the same? What is the strangest flower they can find on their walk? Do the flowers change when they look in different environments?

Try pressing the flowers or taking photos and sticking them to paper to have a go at labelling them. you could try making a book of your favourite flowers you find. Always remember to be careful when picking or touching plants out in nature. Take an adult with you and make sure to ask them before touching any plants or flowers as some can harm us. With your children, try to research more about flowers, the parts of flowers and the different features they have. Try finding out more about unusual plants such as those who eat insects. You could try National Geographic Kids: Awesome 8 Carnivorous Plants (nationalgeographic.com).


If you are concerned about your child's mental health see a medical professional.


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