Posts tagged as: Parenting

10 Free Activities That Are Fun for The Whole Family

Spending time with the family doesn’t need to break the bank!

With the summer holidays approaching, parents and caregivers across the UK are looking for ways to keep their children entertained.

And, as the cost of living goes up, it’s natural to want to keep family expenses down.

Fortunately, if you’re looking for inspiration on free things to do with the family, look no further! We’ve put together a list of our top 10 free activities for kids that are great fun for the whole family. These family fun day activities will help to strengthen your bond with your children, costing you nothing but some quality time.

Please note – some of these free family activities might require some basic craft materials or items from the cupboard!

  1. Create a Time Capsule Together

Take some time to create a time capsule with your family. Invite your children to collect some sentimental or meaningful items and place them in a container together.

Bury or hide the container somewhere, and revisit it again in the future to see how much has changed.

We suggest filling your time capsule with family photos, drawings, poetry, certificates, and other personal memorabilia.

A collection of photos.

  1. Get Adventurous with some Geocaching

Make the most of a sunny day and take the family geocaching.

This outdoor activity is essentially a nationwide treasure hunt! Members of the public hide and seek various treasure containers, known as ‘geoaches’, at specific coordinates.

All it takes is a mobile phone coordinates and some navigational know-how! This is a perfect fun and free activity for young adventurers and treasure hunters.

  1. Camp Out in the Living Room or Garden

Who said you had to leave the house to go camping?

Pitch a blanket fort in your living room or a tent in your garden and gather some supplies for a fun-filled night of camping.

Bring torches, plenty of snacks and your cosiest pyjamas and settle in for some spooky stories, movies, or board games. You could even try a spot of stargazing!

  1. Visit the Seaside for Some Rockpooling

Rockpooling is a fabulous outdoors activity that’s inclusive and exciting for the whole family.

The UK has a large span of coastline, brimming with various water pools and rocky shorelines. Living in these pools of water is a variety of sea wildlife, including crabs, prawns and even starfish.

Dig out your bucket and get ready to get stuck in!

Two young children rockpooling.

  1. Host a Household Scavenger Hunt

Turn everyday household items into treasure with a DIY at-home scavenger hunt.

Compile a list of random objects, like toilet roll, spatulas, cotton buds, pasta, and socks, and challenge your children to find them as quick as they can.

You can send them off to find one object at a time, or you can send them all at once!

  1. Art and Craft a New Outfit

Gather your old t-shirts or tattered jeans and get ready for a fashion show.

Using paints, pens, and whatever craft items you have to hand, get ready to design yourself a brand-new outfit. Children will love using their creativity to stick, cut and colour a brand-new outfit.

Once you’re all finished, why not dim the lights, break out a spotlight, and show off your new outfits on the runway?

  1. Make Your Own Kites

One of the simplest joys in life comes from flying a kite on a breezy day. It’s also one of the best free summer activities for kids!

If you’ve not got a kite of your own, building your own bright coloured paper kite is an excellent way to spend time with the family. All you need is some large sheets of paper, some sticks – like bamboo, or some dowels – and some twine.

Check out this guide from Countryfile on how to make a DIY kite!

Homemade kites.

  1. Design Your Own Board Game

Board games are a great way to spend some quality time with the family. But why not play by your own rules?

For this easy, family friendly activity, all you’ll need some large paper or card and a few markers. Decide on a theme – zombies, mermaids, anything you like – and get designing!

This YouTube video from Art with Mrs F provides a great step-by-step walkthrough for making your own board game with your family.

  1. Pick And Press Some Flowers

Pressed flowers make a beautiful piece of art or gift for a neighbour, friend or family member.  It’s also an activity that dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt!

Roses and daisies are easiest when it comes to flower pressing, so we recommend keeping an eye out for these. If you’ve got an old bouquet of flowers, you can press that too!

Flower pressing is also worth the wait! Your children will love seeing the results of their hard work in a few weeks’ time.

  1. Help Out in the Community

There’s nothing quite like using your free time to give back to your community.

Lending support to people in need is as good for you and your family, as it is for the people you’re helping!

Taking time to volunteer, help out a neighbour, or tidy up a local space is free, fun and wonderful for your children’s development.

Check out our suggestions on how to give back to your community here. 
A child carrying two rubbish bags.

If you’re looking for more inspiration for children’s activities, why not take at some of our other suggestions:


6 Effective Ways To Get Your Kids To Listen To You

You’ve asked your child to brush their teeth, or turn off the TV, three times now. Each time they have ignored you and carried on with what they are doing.

Maybe they didn’t hear you the first time, or they were distracted. So, you try again. You try again, five more times, and still nothing. What now?

You don’t want to shout, but how else can you get them to listen?

It can be incredibly frustrating when your children don’t listen to you.

If you’re feeling worn down by it all, you’re not alone. The internet is full of cries from desperate parents and caregivers, all asking how they can get their children to listen to them.

While it’s easy to feel defeated, there are some steps you can take to help improve your child’s listening. Below, we’ve listed 6 different tips that will help you understand how to talk so your kids will listen.

Understanding Why Kids Don’t Listen

Before anything else, it’s important to understand why children sometimes don’t listen.

There are a variety of reasons that might explain why some children don’t listen to adults.

Perhaps the most obvious of these reasons is that they simply don’t hear you. Sometimes, when children are engrossed in a particularly interesting or entertaining activity, they may be too preoccupied to hear you, or register what you are saying.

Similarly, if they are doing an activity they enjoy, they may not listen to you not because they are deliberately trying to be defiant, but because they have conflicting desires. They might wish to continue doing the thing they are enjoying, and what you’re asking threatens to interrupt this. This dilemma can be difficult for children to articulate, which is why, often, they may choose to simply ignore you.

Even when they are being deliberately defiant, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Children are hardwired to be oppositional. When your child chooses not to listen to you, they are asserting their will – which is as healthy and natural as it is frustrating. They are learning to exercise their individuality.

More complex reasons for children not listening could also include neurological disorders like ADHD or Autism, or past experiences and trauma that shape the way they respond to authority, like attachment issues. Factors like these may influence children’s ability to understand language and respond to directions and may require professional guidance.

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand that children don’t necessarily mean to be disrespectful. Developing listening skills takes time, and some children are simply not as adept at listening as others.

A mother kneeling down to talk to her son.

Don’t Speak Before You Have Their Attention

If holding your child’s attention is something you’re struggling with, focus on connecting before you start asking them to do something.

We know how busy life can be: it’s easier to call across the room or ask your child in passing. However, sometimes, these methods aren’t the most effective at getting through.

Rather, focus on making an active connection with your child before asking them to do something. Try approaching them, using their name, and getting down on their level.

Establish a connection with them by engaging with what they are doing. This might mean commenting on the TV show they are watching or asking questions about the game they are playing.

Wait until you have their eye contact, and then begin talking. By waiting to establish a connection before talking, you increase the likelihood that your child will be receptive to what you are saying.

A young girl looking up at her mother.

Keep What You’re Saying Concise

When it comes to talking to children, staying brief and concise will go a long way in helping your child to listen. Throughout their development, children have varying attention spans – ranging between 4-6 minutes for toddlers, and 28-42 minutes for teenagers.

Asking too much of your child at once can risk overwhelming them or diluting your message, making it difficult for them to order their thoughts and process your instructions.

Keeping instructions clear and simple will not only save you some energy, but also help to prevent your child from zoning out. Try simplifying the language you use with your children, such as saying ‘hat’ when asking your child to put a hat on, or ‘teeth’ when it’s time for them to brush their teeth.

A young child between two different shirts.

Empower Them with Choice

Like mentioned previously, sometimes children choose not to listen because of their conflicting desires or need to exert their own will.

One way to combat this is giving your child some choice in how they conduct themselves. This might mean rephrasing the way you ask things of your child.

For example, you might be tempted to tell your child that if they don’t tidy their room now, they won’t be able to watch any more TV. However, when threatened with a consequence for not following instructions – such as no more TV – children tend to double down on their stubbornness.

Instead, try giving your child a choice. They can either clean their room now, and continue watching TV after, or they can turn off the TV altogether. They can put on the blue jumper, or the yellow jumper – which would they prefer? Choices like these are far more likely to encourage cooperation in your child, rather than defiance.

Similarly, giving children time-based choices simultaneously respects their need to exert their individual will, all while achieving an outcome that is favourable for you. Ask your child if they would like to have a bath now, or in five minutes time. Giving children some choice in these decisions will help them in developing a sense of control and accountability for their actions.

A child and her father brushing their teeth together.

Empower Them with Information

Along with giving them choice, giving child an explanation for why they need to follow your instruction can also help to encourage their cooperation.

Instead of simply telling your child they need to brush their teeth, explain to them why teeth-brushing is important – it stops their teeth from rotting, and their breath from stinking. Turning instructions into moments for education will aid your child in understanding the importance of what you’re asking, and the reason for asking it.

Other examples might include explaining to your child that food spoils if it is not put away, or that toilets that are not flushed get smelly, or that not tidying their toys away in the right place means they might not be able to find them the next time they want to play with them.

A child holding an adult's hand.

Keep Your Cool

As hard as it can seem sometimes, remaining calm when your child isn’t listening to you is paramount. The way you react to your child disobeying or ignoring you will influence the way they behave.

If you raise your voice at your child, or indicate your frustration with them, you encourage a fight or flight response within your child that may worsen their behaviour.

Research shows that expressions of anger, such as shouting, scare children and make them feel insecure. Raising your voice at your child is also counterproductive, in that it makes them more verbally and physically aggressive.

That’s why maintaining a level of calm when interacting with your child is important. Calm tones help children feel accepted and cherished regardless of their behaviour – something that can be especially important for foster children.

Remaining calm will likely also lead to a better outcome, providing an opportunity for you to discuss with your child why they might not feel like listening to you, and how you can both work together to avoid these situations in the future.

A young boy wearing headphones and staring at a screen.

Try Therapeutic Parenting Techniques

At Compass, we encourage our foster carers to take a therapeutic approach to their parenting.

Therapeutic parenting focuses on creating highly-nurturing, structure-based relationships between caregivers and their children, making it especially effective for children in foster care.

However, the principles and practices of therapeutic parenting are also useful for caregivers struggling with children who are displaying challenging behaviour – such as not listening.

In these situations, the therapeutic parenting P.A.C.E. (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity & Empathy) approach may be useful in helping to strengthen communication and understanding between caregivers and their children.

You can find out more about the P.A.C.E approach here.

While there is no definitive way to get your child to listen to you, these tips are sure to improve your child’s receptiveness and openness to cooperation.

If you think you could have a positive impact on the life of a vulnerable young person, get in touch with us to find out more about fostering.


How Do Kids Internalise Racial Bias?

Racism, and issues of racial inequality, can be challenging topics to navigate when it comes to children.

For many parents and caregivers, their first instinct is to shield their children from the harsh realities of racism for as long as possible.

However, regardless of whether children are directly exposed to racist attitudes or behaviour, research shows that children begin displaying implicit racial bias from a young age.

At Compass, we work hard to tackle inequality and discrimination within our community. Our G.R.A.C.E group are dedicated to cultivating a safe and inclusive environment for our staff, foster carers, and children.

We know that our children are key to shaping a fairer future, which is why we believe it is important that they are educated about topics such as racism.

That’s why, this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we’re looking at how children develop racial bias, and what you can do to prevent such prejudices from taking root.

What Is Racial Bias?

Implicit Racial Bias refers to the unconscious assumptions and beliefs about race that an individual holds. The individual is likely not aware of these biased beliefs, but their behaviour is influenced by them all the same.

Implicit racial biases can cause individuals to exhibit discriminatory behaviour toward particular races that they may not even be aware of. This does not mean, however, that an individual is overtly racist.

Rather, implicit racial bias describes the way in which an individual’s unconscious thoughts, beliefs and perceptions about race have been shaped by experiences and society around them, influencing the way we see and treat others.

A multiracial, multi ethnic group of children spending time together.

How Do Children Internalise Racial Bias?

Throughout their formative and developmental years, children are like sponges, absorbing information about the world around them.

This learning can begin even before birth, in the womb, where they can begin recognising the sounds of certain words.

Social Learning Theory places emphasis on the way children observe, model and imitate the behaviours, attitudes and emotions of the adults in their lives. This explains how children that witness racist behaviours and attitudes internalise these displays of racism and incorporate them into their own understanding of race.

But what about children whose parents and caregivers don’t consider themselves racist, or actively work toward raising inclusive children?

Research suggests that, regardless of their exposure to race and racism, children not only recognise race from a young age, but develop unconscious racial biases from as early as 3 years old.

One report from 2017 found that, in three separate studies with over 350 5–12-year-old white children, the children showed an implicit pro-White racial bias.

According to the report, when asked to categorise pictures by race, both younger and older children were ‘faster to match pictures of children who are White with positive images and pictures of children who are Black with negative images.’

Similarly, ‘The Doll Test’ (seen in the video at the top of this article), demonstrates the way in which children unconsciously associate certain attributes with certain races. First developed in the 1940s by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark, ‘The Doll Test’ seeks to understand the psychological effects of racial segregation, marginalisation and discrimination on children.

In the test, children between the ages of 3 to 7 were asked to identify the race of four dolls in front of them, as well as which doll they preferred. Disturbingly, a majority of the children displayed a preference for the White doll, assigning positive characteristics to the White doll, and negative characteristics to the Black doll.

In more recent experiments of ‘The Doll Test’, results have been upsettingly similar. In a recent study, in which children were encouraged to play with the dolls, it was reported that a young Black child ‘put the (black) doll in a pot and pretended to cook the doll,’ something that was not observed with the dolls that were not Black.

With children exhibiting an awareness of race at such an early age, it’s important that caregivers feel able to talk to their children about race and racism.

Delays in these conversations could make it more difficult to alter children’s misperceptions about race or racist beliefs.

Three young children playing together.

How Can You Help Children Deal with Racial Bias?

There are a number of preventative measures that you can take to minimise the development of implicit racial bias in your child.

Address Your Own Biases

One of the most important parts of helping children deal with implicit racial bias, is confronting your own racial biases.

Despite our best efforts and regardless of our intentions, we’re all subject to implicit bias. Racial stereotypes, attitudes and assumptions make their way into our unconscious and effect our actions.

One of the ways you can learn more about your own implicit bias is through the Implicit Association Test (IAT), that measures attitudes and beliefs people may be unaware of. A version of this test can be taken online, at Project Implicit.

We also recommend seeking out literature on unconscious bias, and implicit racial bias, as well as attending various implicit bias training.

Reflecting on your own implicit biases and identifying the way in which they influence your behaviour is an essential first step in unlearning racial bias. This also helps to prevent passing such racial biases onto your children.

Avoid Teaching Colour Blindness

While, on the surface, it may feel right to teach your child not to see ‘colour’, raising your child to be racially ‘colour blind’ can have some detrimental effects on their understanding of race.

The idea of racial colour-blindness, in fact, may even perpetuate racism and racial biases. Colour-blindness allows people – particularly those in positions of racial privilege – to not only not see race, but the racial disparities, inequities and discrimination of racism.

When children are taught not to see colour and the differences between races, they are simultaneously being taught not to identify racial injustice and inequality.

Rather, caregivers should strive to show their children more colour – teaching them how to appreciate and celebrate the diversity of the people around them, rather than ignoring it.

Help Your Children to Develop Racially Diverse Friendships

Research suggests that racially diverse friendships are important for unlearning or preventing implicit racial bias, helping to decrease race-related anxiety and stress.

That’s why it’s important to find opportunities that expose your child to a diverse range of racial and ethnic backgrounds, like playdates, park playgrounds, activities, and trips.

Ensuring your children are exposed to racially diverse families and facilitating the building of cross-group friendships helps to mitigate the development of racial biases. This will help them to reduce prejudice and form positive associations, rather than negative ones.

Speak Explicitly About Racism

While talking about racism can be difficult or uncomfortable for some caregivers, maintaining an open dialogue about racial inequality and discrimination with children is critical.

Not talking about race threatens to create a vacuum of information, within which children are unaware or uneducated about issues concerning race. This vacuum of information leads children to absorb biases around them.

Incorporating discussions about race into your child’s life will help them to develop more favourable attitudes toward other racial groups.

One way to start up conversations about race and racial inequality is reading children’s books on racism. You can check out our recommendations for children’s books on racism here.

Further Resources

You might feel that there is very little you can do when it comes to preventing implicit racial bias from taking root in your child. However, simply being aware of implicit bias and the way children unconsciously develop attitudes will go a long way.

If you’d like to find out more about our G.R.A.C.E. mission, you can do that here.

Alternatively, if you’re struggling to talk to your children about other topics, like gender equality, our guide for Teaching Children About Gender Equality is here.


A Guide to Teaching Children About Gender Equality

Raising children to be advocates for gender equality is essential in building a fair and inclusive future.

However, it can be difficult to know where to start with teaching children about gender equality.

To help, we’ve put together a guide with some suggestions on teaching gender equality for kids. This comprehensive guide will help you to introduce the topic of gender equality to your children in a safe, informative, and inclusive way.

Understand What Gender Equality Means

Before anything else, it is important to ensure you have a sound understanding of gender equality, and what it means.

Gender equality describes the ability for all genders to access opportunities and rights, without facing discrimination. Gender equality does not mean that every individual is treated identically. Rather, gender equality values the individual needs and wants of each gender, at an equal level.

Gender-based discrimination and inequality affects areas like:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Health & Medical Care
  • Citizenship
  • Social Mobility
  • Violence & Crime
  • Land Ownership
  • Marriage & Divorce

In the UK, gender inequality is still a systemic issue. Statistics show that in 2021, the UK ranked 23rd on the global gender gap index, placing it behind other European countries like Germany, France and Ireland.

For example, the UK Government’s Gender Equality Monitor reports that for every £1 the average man earns, the average woman earns 82p. The report also states that in 2018, women were more than twice as likely as men to have experienced domestic abuse that year.
It is worth remembering that gender is not the same as the biological distinction between sexes. Rather, gender is a spectrum, comprised of different gender identities.

A young boy smiling.

Understand How Children Internalise Gender Stereotypes

Boys don’t wear makeup, and girls don’t play football. Girls are vulnerable, and boys don’t cry. Boys like the colour blue, and girls like the colour pink.

You’re probably familiar with gendered statements like these; these stereotypical gender perceptions are internalised within us from a young age. Gender stereotypes are widely held beliefs or expectations about the behaviour or characteristics of certain genders. These stereotypes shape our perception of ourselves, influencing the way we interact with the people and the world around us.

Gender stereotypes like these are typically developed in the family setting, when children are of a young age, observed in things like an uneven distribution of housework or different behavioural expectations for boys and girls.

These gender stereotypes are also reinforced by various other social factors, like the representation of women and men seen in books, films and tv. Children observe the gender stereotypes they see around them and incorporate them into their own behaviour.

A young girl climbing the branch of a tree.

Promote Gender Equality in The Home

Children model their behaviour on the people they observe around them, which is why leading by example is essential in teaching your children about gender equality. If you have a partner, be mindful of the way you split household responsibilities between you; what messages might your behaviour be sending to your children?

Similarly, you should make a conscious effort to involve your child in all areas of responsibility in the home, regardless of their gender. For example, boys should be encouraged to get involved in cleaning, and girls should be encouraged to help with DIY, helping to combat traditional gender roles for kids around the home.A boy and his caregiver cooking together.

Talk Openly About Gender Equality

Finding opportunities to talk about gender equality in your child’s day-to-day life is important. Try speaking to your child about the presentations of gender they see in the media; are there any stereotypes they can identify? How might they be damaging?

You can also discuss how gender inequality can occur within the home. Ask whether they think the housework is being shared out fairly. Are there any chores that seem like they’re just for girls, or just for boys? Why do they think that? Is it true?

Maintaining an ongoing discussion about gender inequality with kids helps to teach them how to identify inequality in everyday situations.

This could also translate to other walks of life as well, not just gender. Things like disability, racism and homophobia are other topics worth discussing. These types of conversations can increase their awareness and understanding as they grow, keeping these issues at the forefront of their development.

A young boy playing with toy gardening tools.

Be Mindful of Gendered Language

The language we use is gendered. Certain words we use are associated with more feminine attributes, while other words are associated with masculine attributes.

For example, the words ‘beautiful’ or ‘delicate’ are generally used to describe girls, while words like ‘strong’ and ‘handsome’ are associated with boys.

Using gendered language around children reinforces gender stereotypes, suggesting to boys that they can’t be beautiful, and to girls that they can’t be strong.

Avoid using gender-biased expressions, statements or justifications that enforce gender stereotypes. The United Nations lists some good examples of discriminatory phrases, including:

  • “She throws/runs/fights like a girl.”
  • “In a manly way.”
  • “Oh, that’s women’s work.”
  • “Thank you to the ladies for making the room more beautiful.”
  • “Men just don’t understand.”

Being mindful of the language you use with your children is an important part of creating a space in which they can learn about gender equality, without reinforcing restrictive gender stereotypes.

Two brothers playing in the grass.

Keep Play and Toys Gender Neutral

Many children’s toys are clearly associated with gender binaries. Fighting, aggression-based toys (like wrestlers, soldiers, guns, and superheroes) are associated with boys, while appearance-based, domestic-orientated toys (like Barbies, makeup kits, tiaras, and baby dolls) are associated with girls.

Play and toys play an essential role in child development. That’s why, when teaching children about gender equality, it’s important to keep playtime gender neutral. This means allowing your child to play with whatever toy they want, regardless of their sex.

A toddler playing with wooden dolls.

Encourage Access to All Activities

Like with children’s toys, there are certain expectations when it comes to the gender of particular activities. For example, playing sports (like football or rugby) is considered for boys, and more creative pursuits (like writing or painting) is considered for girls.

Curtailing specific activities based on a child’s gender can have damaging effects on their development, leading to an impaired development of certain skills. Children should be encouraged to partake in any activities they wish, regardless of their biological sex or gender, as is their right.

A young child in football uniform.

Seek Out Positive Role Models

Role models are incredibly influential on children’s development. Look for role models that defy gender stereotypes, inspiring your child to take a more open approach to not only their own gender, but the gender expectations of those around them.

Seeking out gender positive role models will help to demonstrate the way in which individuals can achieve incredible things, regardless of the expectations of their gender. Celebrate role models for their strengths, and the ways in which they contribute to gender equality and defy stereotypes.

Some mainstream positive gender role models include:

A pre-teen girl smiling and looking happy.

Be Aware of Intersectional Inequality

While there is no agreed upon way to teach your children about gender equality, the suggestions made in this

While teaching your child about gender equality, it is necessary to consider other intersecting forms of inequality, and how they might inform your child’s understanding of gender equality.

Intersectional inequality describes the ways in which different systems of inequality – such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or class – intersect to create unique experiences of inequality.

A group of children sitting together and talking.

Increasing your child’s awareness of intersectional inequality encourages them to consider the lived experiences of other people, broadening their understanding of the need for inclusion, and the individual barriers that various minorities face. guide should provide a good starting point.

These tips and pointers will help to encourage your child’s awareness about gender stereotypes, increasing their respect for differences and empowering them with the knowledge that all people should have access to equal opportunities, regardless of their gender.

For more advice on teaching children about gender, you can check out our recommendations for children’s books on gender identity here. 


How Can You Teach Your Child to Be Kind?

One of the most important lessons a child can learn is how to be kind.

Raising children to be empathetic, considerate individuals should be the goal of every parent. Being kind comes with a wealth of benefits, like living a longer and more fulfilling life. Acts of kindness have even been reported to elicit a mood-boosting, biochemical ‘helper’s high’ that can reduce anxiety and release endorphins.

In an era of increasing social pressure and judgement – thanks to the rise in social media apps and platforms – it is important now, more than ever, that our younger generations are taught how to treat each other with kindness.

Unfortunately, teaching children kindness isn’t quite as straightforward as teaching them maths or English. You’ve likely found yourself wondering – ‘how can I teach my child to be kind?’

That’s why we’ve gathered some straightforward strategies that parents and foster carers can take to encourage kindness in their kids. These strategies will help instil empathy, compassion, and consideration for others in your children, aiding their development and improving their understanding of the world around them.

A caregiver and child holding hands.

Lead By Example

It goes without saying that the best way to teach your child to be kind, is by modelling kindness yourself.
According to social learning theory, the primary way that children and young people learn is by watching other people. You might notice that your child is more inclined to hold the door open for a stranger if they observe you doing the same. This is because children model their behaviour on the people around them, regardless of whether these behaviours are healthy or unhealthy.

When teaching kindness, it is important to remember that your child will learn most from the example you set. Modelling kind behaviour – like helping a neighbour with their shopping or volunteering your time for a good cause – will help your child develop their own ideas about kindness.

Reinforce Their Kind Behaviour

Rewarding children for exhibiting kind behaviour encourages them to continue to display it. Praising children for exhibiting altruistic, kindness motivates them, and helps them associate kind acts with positive outcomes.

While the aim is reinforcing kind behaviour, praise should be aimed at rewarding your child’s character, rather than just their actions. Rather than solely celebrating the act – ‘What a kind thing to do’ – try focusing your praise on them as people – ‘What a kind person you are.’

Similarly, avoid using external rewards – such as treats, tv-time and toys – to reward kind behaviour, as this could send your child the wrong message, teaching them that kindness is only worth performing if there is a prize involved.

A girl looking into the distance, against a blue sky.

Wonder About Others’ Feelings

Some children can have a harder time reading non-verbal social cues, such as displays of emotion, which makes it harder for them to relate to other people’s experiences.

By actively encouraging your child to observe and identify other people’s expressions, you can encourage them to consider how other people are feeling and thinking.

When in public spaces – such as a supermarket or park – try encouraging your child to wonder about the emotions of people around you. Ask them questions like:

  • What do you think they are feeling right now?
  • Where do you think they have been today?
  • Are they having a good day or a bad day?

These questions will get your child used to identifying non-verbal emotional cues, inviting them to be more aware about the experiences of other people.

A girl collecting rubbish off a beach with other volunteers.

Involve Them in Volunteering

Another brilliant way to teach your child kindness is by building kindness into their routine. Lending a helping hand to local charities, shelters and volunteer programmes with your child teaches them how valuable giving up their time can be.

Try to make time for you and your child to do things like visit retirement homes, litter pick, volunteer at shelters, attend bake sales or fundraise.

Involving your children in acts of kindness has plenty of benefits, like enhancing your child’s world perspective, improving their self-confidence, and teaching them about giving back to their community.

You can find more family-friendly ideas for giving back to your community here.

A caregiver comforting her child.

Guide Them in Regulating Emotions

Sometimes, being kind is more difficult when we are overcome by strong or destructive emotions. Lashing out when angry, referred to by psychologists as displaced aggression, occurs when people who are feeling strong emotions of anger seek to relieve theirs stress by attacking others.

Displaced anger is particularly common in children who have experienced trauma in their past, like foster children, who often struggle with regulating their emotions.

Feeling angry, hurt, or embarrassed can make it harder to choose kindness, which is why it is important that children learn to regulate their emotions and deal with destructive feelings in a healthy way. Kindness isn’t always easy. However, helping your child manage their challenging behaviour and feelings in a productive manner will help them learn to express their emotions in a kinder, more thoughtful way that doesn’t cause harm to others.

Being kind is one of the most important moral lessons a child can learn.

There’s no definitive way for teaching your child kindness, but these simple strategies are sure to aid your child in learning to become kinder and more sensitive to the needs of others.

By teaching your child kindness from an early age, you help to set them up for a better, more fulfilling life, improving their empathy for others, generosity, and general understanding of the world.

If you think you could have a positive impact on the life of a vulnerable young person, get in touch with us to find out more about fostering.


5 Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About Being LGBT+

Books are an important part of children’s development, informing their imagination and inspiring creativity, all while introducing children to different customs, cultures and social concepts.

In a time of increasing awareness and acceptance, it’s important for children from various backgrounds – such as the LGBT+ community – to see themselves and their families reflected in the books they read.

It’s also important for children who do not necessarily belong to these communities to learn about inclusivity, acceptance, and equality.

Incorporating books that explore various topics like racism, gender identity and sexual orientation into your child’s library is an excellent way to teach your children about acceptance.

These children’s books about LGBT+ characters celebrate diverse families, helping to establish a healthy foundation from which your child can begin exploring their own sexuality and gender identity, as well as develop their own view on these subjects.

That’s why we’ve picked out our top 5 books that feature LGBT+ characters and stories, to help you teach your child about acceptance, sexual orientation and unconditional love.

Love Makes a Family

A picture of the front cover or 'Love Makes a Family' with a review reading: "Great book, fun images, beautiful diversity."
Claire M (amazon.co.uk)

Sophie Beer

This beautifully illustrated picture book from author Sophie Beer explores the different ways that love is shown in various families with two mums, two dads, one parent and everything in between.

From finding the biggest puddles, to lending a helping hand, to making cake, this brightly coloured read-aloud book celebrates different family structures and the love that is at the heart of them all.

And Tango Makes Three

A picture of the front cover or 'And Tango Makes Three' with a review reading: "This is a lovely story that should be in every library throughout the world."
Latanya (goodreads.com)

Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

Based on a true story, this delightful tale tells the story of two male chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo.

Set in New York’s Central Park Zoo, and illustrated by Henry Cole, And Tango Makes Three tells the story of penguin couple Roy and Silo, who walk, swim, and sing together in the penguin enclosure. Given an egg to care for by their zookeeper, Roy and Silo hatch their very own baby, Tango, whom they love, nurture, and raise together.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

A picture of the front cover or 'Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag' with a review reading: "A hope-filled ode to the rainbow flag."
Kirkus Reviews (kirkusreviews.com)

Rob Sanders

It’s likely that you and your child recognise the iconic rainbow Pride Flag, but do you know the story behind its creation?

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag tells the moving, inspiring tale of the Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activists Harvey Milk and Gilbert Baker, to its blooming significance as a symbol of equality across the globe. This uplifting children’s book is a perfect introduction to the history of the
LGBT+ community, and its key figures.

Introducing Teddy

A picture of the front cover or 'Introducing Teddy' with a review reading: "This story introduces ideas about gender in the most gentle and subtle way."
Kate (goodreads.com)

Jessica Walton

Errol and his toy teddy, Thomas, do everything together. They ride bikes, plant vegetables, and have tea parties inside when it is raining. However, one day, Thomas is sad, and Errol can’t figure out why – that is, until Thomas reveals what the teddy has been too afraid to say: “In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.”

A gentle story, this children’s book explores gender identity, focusing
on the importance of friendship, acceptance, and respect.

Heather Has Two Mommies

A picture of the front cover of 'Heather Has Two Mommies' with a review reading: "A nice story book acknowledging diversity in family composition."
L. York (amazon.co.uk)

Leslea Newman

One of the first LGBT+ children’s books to garner broad attention when it was published in 1989, ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’ follows child, Heather, and her two mothers, as she starts school for the first time. At school, Heather realises she doesn’t have a daddy like some of the other children do.

She is upset at first, until her class all draw pictures of their families, and she realises that every drawing and every family is completely
different. One of the first of its kind, this classic LGBT+ picture book
celebrates the joy and diversity of non-traditional families.

The LGBT+ representation in these children’s books provide a great starting point for educating your children about acceptance, inclusivity and equality, helping to broaden your child’s understanding of gender and sexuality.

If you are interested in providing a safe home for some of the UK’s most vulnerable children, please get in touch with us. Our friendly local team will be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also find out more about fostering with our top picks for foster care books here.


5 Toys that Promote Emotional Development in Children

Learning through play is an essential part of a child’s development.

Children’s development relies on the ability to explore and discover both themselves and the world around them. Toys help to facilitate this, allowing children to release stress and use their creativity while developing their emotional skills and social skills.

Playing with toys provides opportunities for children to learn and practice different cognitive abilities, such as problem solving, communication, and self-expression.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its various challenges, there has been a rise in demand for toys that help children make sense of their emotions. Toys that soothe, comfort, and contribute to child emotional development are important, now more than ever.

Below are our top 5 emotional development toys. These toys should help your children understand and express how they are feeling, while providing comfort and relieving stress at the same time.

1. Big Feelings Pineapple

A modern take on Mr Potato Head, the Big Feelings Pineapple from Learning Resources comes with 26 different facial pieces to build with, all stored within the pineapple head.

Whether sporting an excited grin or a worried frown, the Big Feelings Pineapple provides young children and non-verbal children with the opportunity to explore the nuances of emotional expressions. Each new expression allows children to identify and discuss how emotions look on themselves and other people.

Reviews for this toy praise its ‘many options for different faces’ and its ability to easily ‘create your own thought provoking activities.’

2. PAWZ The Calming Pup

Doubling as both a toy and night-light, PAWZ The Calming Pup from Hand2Mind is an interactive companion for children aimed at teaching them mindfulness.

By squeezing PAWZ’s foot, children can follow 3 different breathing exercises, inhaling as PAWZ gets brighter, and exhaling as his light dims. Mindful breathing encourages children to be fully present in the moment, releasing stress and anxiety. These moments of stillness also encourage children to consider their thoughts and feelings in more detail.

PAWZ also conveniently doubles as a night light, with timer settings of 5, 15 or 30 minutes.

3. SnuggleBuddies Emotions Plush

Children love plushie toys, and fluffy companions can often be a great source of comfort for them. From Generation Mindful, the SnuggleBuddies Emotions Plush is a brilliant toy for helping children to identify and communicate their feelings.

Inside their huggable exteriors are four different colour coded emojis that represent a different set of feelings, from happy, sad, calm to mad/scared. Aimed at helping reduce tantrums, whining and meltdowns in young children, the SnuggleBuddies plush toy is purpose built to help kids practice noticing, naming, and regulating their emotions.

SnuggleBuddies plushies also come with a Feelings Journal laminated poster and a illustrated sing-a-long video.

4. See My Feelings Mirror

Although seemingly simple, the See My Feelings Mirror is a great, accessible toy that helps young children identify with their own emotional expressions. The mirrors come in bright colours, and are made from child-friendly glass, so they are durable and safe.

They come with six slide-in photos of real children expressing real emotions, such as happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, silliness, and anger. These emotions are paired with emoji symbols for easy understanding. The mirrors also include a Getting Started activity book with varies activities inside, to help children explore these emotions further.

One review for the mirrors praised them for working ‘on many levels’, stating that they used the mirrors to ask their child introspective questions like ‘show me your sad face, what does this face tell you?’.

5. Fidget Pops

Fidget Pop toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the toys growing in popularity after being featured across various social media platforms.

Centred on sensory play, Fidget Pop toys are comprised of a silicone pad, filled with reusable bubbles that pop when pressed. Like popping bubble wrap, Fidget Pops are renowned for their ability to relieve stress and anxiety.

The toys work well as self-regulation tools, increasing focus and helping children learn how to self-soothe when faced with difficult emotions.

Top 6 Toys for Emotional Development

These toys should aid your children in making sense of their feelings, developing their understanding of different emotions and contributing to their overall social emotional learning.

If you liked this guide, why not check out more of our resource guides on children’s wellbeing and education:

6 Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About Gender Identity
Mindfulness Exercises for Teenagers and Children
8 Great Ways for Keeping Children Active
9 Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About Racism
Five Easy Crafts to Keep Children Entertained This Winter

If you think you could make a difference to a vulnerable child’s life, get in touch with us to find out more about fostering.


6 Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About Gender Identity

It can be difficult to know where to start when talking to children about gender identity.

Gender identity refers to a person’s sense of their own gender. It often has an influence on the way an individual expresses themselves, and can correlate with a person’s assigned sex, or differ from it.

Gender identity typically develops from a young age in children. That’s why it is important to establish a healthy environment in which children feel able to explore all aspects of their gender identity.

That’s why we’ve collected a list of the best children’s books on gender identity that might help you introduce the topic to your children.

It Feels Good To Be yourself – Theresa Thorn

Written by the mother of a transgender child and illustrated by a non-binary transgender artist, It Feels Good to be Yourself is a tender, honest exploration of gender identity. The book seeks to help children develop a fuller understanding of themselves and others, teaching them how to talk about gender with sensitivity and respect.

George – Alex Gino

A beautifully written take on gender identity, George looks at the life of a transgender girl and her journey toward self-acceptance. The novel tells the story of Melissa, birth name George, who is anatomically a boy, but knows she is a girl. George is a timely book for children and parents alike, helping to cultivate understanding and empathy about gender roles.

The Pants Project – Cat Clarke

Like George, The Pants Project looks at the life of young transgender person, Liv. Liv is determined to challenge his school’s restrictive dress code that requires girls to wear skirts. The Pants Project is a hopeful, humorous story in which characters have LGTBQ+ connections but are not defined by them.

Julián Is a Mermaid – Jessica Love

Julián Is a Mermaid is a beautifully illustrated picture book that looks at self expression in relation to gender identity. While riding the subway home with his grandmother, Julián sees three women dressed as mermaids. Desperate to look like them, Julián sets about making a mermaid costume of his own. Wonderfully inclusive, the book boasts messages of inclusivity, tolerance and acceptance.

I am Jazz – Jessica Hershel & Jazz Jennings

From the age of two, Jazz knew that she was a girl in a boy’s body. She doesn’t feel like herself in a boy’s clothing, which confused her family, until a doctor told them she was transgender. I am Jazz is based on the real-life story of Jazz Jennings, and is another great book that is aimed at helping young readers understand and respect everyone’s personal gender identity.

My Princess Boy – Cheryl Kilvados

My Princess Boy is about Dyson, a boy that loves to freely explore his gender identity. Sometimes he wears pink and sparkles, and sometimes he wears jeans. Based on author Cheryl Kilvados’ real-life relationship with her son, Dyson, My Princess Boy calls for freedom, tolerance and love when it comes to children exploring their gender identities.

7 Books to Help You talk to Your Kids about Gender Identity

These books provide an excellent starting point for introducing the topic of gender identity to your children. The stories in these books should not only help educate your children, but broaden your own understanding of gender too.

Why not check out our recommendations for books about fostering and racism too.


Spotting the signs of Bullying

Bullying is intentional, aggressive behaviour that often involves intimidating, abusing or coercing an individual to cause them harm. Bullying can take place in a variety of places, from school, to work, at home and online.

Bullying can have a profound effect on the emotional and physical wellbeing of an individual. A study by charity Ditch the Label found that three out of four children who were subject to bullying said it affected their mental health.

What does Bullying look like?

Bullying can take many forms.

Some of these include:
• Physical abuse (hitting, punching, kicking)
• Emotional abuse (social exclusion, threats)
• Verbal abuse (name calling, teasing, berating)
• Racist abuse (bullying targeted at an individual’s race)
• Disability abuse (bullying targeted at an individual’s disability)
• Online Cyber abuse (harassment, impersonation, hate messages)
• Hazing (humiliation activities in order to join a group or be accepted)

A bully may use one or more of these methods at the same time to target an individual.

How can I spot bullying?

Part of bullying behaviour is the establishment of a power imbalance between the bully and victim. This can often make victims of bullying feel powerless, making them less able to speak up.

That’s why it’s even more important to be vigilant while looking for the signs and symptoms of bullying in your child.

Emotional Signs
The emotional signs of bullying can include:
• Feeling upset or down
• Anxiousness and nervousness
• Loss of self-esteem
• Self-deprecating comments
• Crying episodes
Self-harm
• Unexplained anger

Physical Signs
The physical signs of bullying can include:
• Inexplicable bruises, cuts or marks
• Damaged, torn or missing clothing and personal items
• Missing money
• Getting into fights
• Bedwetting
• Complaints about stomach aches or head aches
• Sleep or eating problems

Social Signs
The social signs of bullying can include:
• Avoiding social events (like parties)
• No longer hanging out with friends
• Avoiding social media
• Loss of interest in hobbies

School Signs
The school signs of bullying can include:
• Making excuses for not going into school
• Noticeable drop in school performance
• Seems afraid of going to school
• No longer takes part in school activities (such as clubs or trips)

Spotting the signs of bullying

What should I do if I suspect my child is being bullied?

While these warning signs can be indicators of bullying, they can also indicate other problems, such as depression. Nevertheless, it is always worth keeping an eye out for changes in your child’s behaviour. Any changes in their behaviour should be taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, you should talk with their school and try to learn more about the bullying.

You should also try to have a conversation with your child about the bullying. However, keep in mind that they may not feel comfortable talking about it right away. You can start up a conversation by asking about their friends at school, or who they sit with at lunch. You can also ask if there are any children at their school that tease or exclude them on purpose.

If you are a foster carer, and suspect your foster child is being bullied, you should also contact your Supervising Social Worker. They will be able to help you access the right support and resources.

You can also find more about bullying from these charities and organisations:
Bullying UK
Anti-Bullying Alliance
NSPCC

At Compass, we prioritise the wellbeing of every young person in our care. That’s why we offer all our foster carers an extensive array of training for safeguarding young people both online and in person.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out more about fostering.


How to manage a child with challenging behaviour

It can be difficult not to get frustrated when your foster child is acting out. Managing their behaviour or understanding why they are behaving like that can be hard work.

For children in the foster system, challenging behaviour may be a coping strategy that helped them feel safe in the past. It can also be a response to the trauma they may have experienced prior to entering care. Learning how to deal with challenging behaviour in your child is an essential part of caring for them.

What is challenging behaviour?

Examples of challenging behaviour in children often include aggression, self-harm, destructiveness and disruptiveness. Most of the time, misbehaving is a part of normal childhood development, as behaviour is one of the ways children learn to communicate.

The reasons for challenging behaviour can include things like poor health, lack of sleep, emotional upset and changes to routine. If your child is misbehaving, its likely they are communicating something to you, even if they don’t necessarily realise it.

One of our Compass Foster carers, Sara, says that most of her foster son’s challenging behaviour surfaces when he’s feeling ‘wonky’. “It’s much easier to manage this behaviour with a calm and positive approach,” she says.

Approaching challenging behaviour with a positive attitude is a constructive and effective way to manage your child when they are acting out. Negative reinforcement can exacerbate aggression and antisocial behaviour, as well as affecting their mental health and self-esteem.

Rewarding good behaviour with positive reinforcement will teach them to continue behaving in a calmer, more agreeable manner.

Try our top five tips for developing your own positive behaviour management strategies.

How to manage a child with challenging behaviour

1. Have open conversations

One of the key strategies for dealing with challenging behaviour in children is being honest. When your child is misbehaving, have a frank conversation about their behaviour. Explain what you expect, and help the child understand the consequences of their actions. Try asking for what you do want from them, rather than what you don’t.

Make it clear that their behaviour is the problem, not them. Listen closely to what they say and be curious about their perspective.

A lot of young people won’t yet have the language to communicate difficult thoughts, worries and feelings, but you can model how to talk about these subjects – over time, this helps your child learn how to communicate using words rather than difficult behaviour.

2. Set clear boundaries and be consistent

Children need boundaries to feel secure, and that’s especially true for children from unstable back-grounds. Be clear about what is appropriate behaviour and what is not and be consistent about upholding these rules and consequences.

Answer any questions they have about these rules honestly. Explain that their safety and wellbeing is the priority, and that’s why it’s important to have rules and stick to them.

Some children from chaotic back-grounds (where there were few or no rules) will need a bit of extra support to understand and adopt new limits.

3. Give your child choices

The ability to choose empowers children to make their own decisions and take ownership over them. This helps them develop a sense of accountability for their own actions and behaviour.

An easy way to give children choices is to give them options to choose from – they get to pick, but you decide the options!

Let them pick a playtime activity out of several, give them two choices of what to have for supper, or let them decide when to do things – for example, asking them in which order they would like to have a shower and do their homework.

4. Lead by example

One of the best ways to encourage children to process their emotions more positively is by demonstrating this approach yourself. Let your child see you experiencing your emotions and dealing with them in a healthy way. Talk together about what is difficult right now and encourage them to suggest ideas for how to manage things better.

Sara, our foster carer, says that she and her foster son often check in with each other. “If he’s not feeling great, he lets me know. We have chats about why this might be, and I think that helps.”

“I’m honest with him too. If I’m feeling it a bit that day then I’ll tell him – I’ll keep it light but it’s important to let children see you as human.”

5. Deal with aggression calmly

When your child is acting aggressively, try to think about the message behind their behaviour. Keep the focus on why they’re feeling bad and try to create a safe space for them to express themselves.

When they have calmed down, remind them that you are a team that can tackle their emotions together.

It may take some time for your child to open up, so be patient. Encourage them to find words to express what they’re feeling. Slowly, they should start to trust you and develop better ways to communicate their feelings.

How Compass can help?

At Compass, all our foster carers receive essential training that helps them manage the (sometimes) challenging emotions and behaviours of the children we welcome into our homes. We also offer additional therapeutic care for our children and specialised education plans that are aimed at supporting our young people and ensuring they achieve the best outcomes possible.

If you’d like to make a difference in the life of a child and in your community by becoming a foster carer, you can get in touch with us here.