It seems like chaos in UK schools at the moment. Are we going back to the classroom or not? When – June, July, September? Will the parents let their children go? Is it safe for both children and teachers? There are lots of questions and not enough answers.
But one thing that struck us at EIGER standing desks is that children will have got out of the habit of sitting down for prolonged periods and focusing on lesson work in a classroom environment, certainly in the quantity of a full day at school.
They potentially will find it harder to stay on task. Teachers will potentially find it harder to keep them engaged. Potentially this may be even harder with children on the ADHD/Autistic spectrum.
So having a flexible learning environment should be an advantage. An alternative to sitting will benefit both child and teacher.
We know that an option to stand in class increases brain function and therefore focus and therefore lesson outcomes.
We know that an option to stand helps SEN children significantly. The ADHD Foundation have been encouraging parents and schools for years to allow their children to stand in class as this improves the brains dopamine production which these particular children lack.
Handwriting? When you haven’t use a pen after a week’s holiday it seems strange at first! We get great feedback from teachers on how children’s handwriting improves because they are standing. An EIGER classroom standing desk helps even more with this as the main shelf is sloped slightly downwards like a writing slope.
And finally there’s that old friend activity. COVID19 had highlighted how inactive we are as a society. The Government advice to take a daily walk in lock-down has created a positive behaviour change. I’ve never seen so many people walking, cycling and running which is fantastic (and long may it continue).
But don’t forget that when most people aren’t active a massive proportion will sit – at work, at home and at school. That doesn’t need to be the case.
Whenever you arrive back in the classroom (you maybe there now) take care and thank you.
Scotland’s local authorities are looking to increase outdoor learning as a template to help social distancing when schools go back. It seems, weather permitting, a sound idea.
Cameron Sprague is a senior team leader at Stramash Nursery in Fort William. He said: “It’s always been the case that infection control is easier outdoors. We never have the situation where one kid gets chicken pox then a third of the school is off.
Outside space allows for social distancing to happen more naturally. The weather has been on our side, so the children can play freely outside. We have rolling snacks and lunches to avoid them clustering together, and handwashing every hour.
This might be the way that outdoor learning gets pushed forward, but it’s about so much more than infection control. Teachers do need support to do this. There are not many things you can’t teach outdoors, you just have to think creatively.”
Educators and policymakers across the political spectrum are increasingly convinced by the growing heft of evidence about the exponentially positive impact of learning outdoors.
In Scotland outdoor learning was also attractive because two years ago, a study of 38 nations ranked it joint last for physical activity and its childhood obesity levels continue to rise – something mirrored in most developed countries.
Research tells us that outdoor learning improves learning and attainment, health and wellbeing, cognitive and social development and physical activity levels…win-win!
The Institute for Outdoor Learning is a great place to go to get some resources that will give you some valuable insights - https://www.outdoor-learning.org/
We feel this all has a very strong alignment with what we’re trying to achieve in the classroom with our EIGER Student standing desks. Having a flexible learning environment stimulates children and it’s quite unbelievable how a simple option to stand improves focus and concentration and lesson outcomes.
It’s based on how the human body operates, add movement and it stimulates more oxygen, glucose and vitally dopamine all which make us feel good and focus better…the exact opposite of sitting!
Denmark has become the first European country under lockdown to start reopening schools, sparking conflict between health officials and concerned parents.
Around 650,000 children have returned to day care centres and primary schools in the first phase of the Danish government’s reopening strategy.
So what is actually happening in Denmark?
Kindergartens and the first five forms in primary schools were reopened on April 15th across Denmark. Children aged over 12 must remain at home for now. Universities are closed until at least May 10th.
Kindergartens and primary schools have been issued with a list of government instructions designed to minimise the risk of children spreading the virus amongst each other.
Parents are asked to drop their children off at the front gates in a staggered system and are not allowed to enter school buildings.
Children must wash their hands as soon as they arrive and every two hours after. They must stay in small groups when playing outside. In classes, pupils must sit at desks or tables at least two metres apart.
The children are not allowed to bring toys from home, and the nurseries or school’s own toys and equipment has to be disinfected twice a day, along with surfaces such as sinks, toilet seats and door handles.
Attendance rates are 90% in most schools which indicate most parents trust the new system.
Will the UK follow suit?
Speculation surrounding when and how UK schools will re-open is causing much debate.
The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said this week that the earliest schools might realistically reopen would be in June after half-term.
“It can only happen when supported by the science, and there will need to be a lead-in time of several weeks to ensure it is carefully planned,” Geoff Barton said.
“It is then going to be necessary to maintain social distancing in schools as much as possible. It is likely that we will need to reintroduce certain year groups in the first instance, rather than fully reopening schools to all pupils.”
The Department for Education has refused to speculate about when such a process might begin. “They will remain closed, except for children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children, until the scientific advice changes and we have met the five tests set out by government to beat this virus,” a spokesperson said.
“We will work in close consultation with the sector to consider how best to reopen schools, nurseries and colleges when the time is right so that parents, teachers and children have sufficient notice to plan and prepare.”
Denmark was one of the first European countries to impose lockdown and is now the first to re-open Primary Schools.
Re-opening Primary Schools seems to be one of the earlier benchmarks Governments are considering to relax full lockdown rules. Germany is probably going to be the next.
The reasons why?
- We need to get employed parents back to work as soon as it’s deemed safe and that means children need to go back to school.
- Evidence so far suggests that children are less vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus.
- School is a more controlled setting and in theory it will be easier to achieve a safe environment to kick-start breaking full lockdown.
There are critics in Denmark...
"We're all a bit nervous and we'll have to ensure that we stick to hygiene rules," Elisa Rimpler of the BUPL, the Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators, told the BBC.
"We have a lot of washing hands during the day. We don't have masks and we have to keep a good distance from each other so that's a very difficult task."
There is talk that UK Primary schools will re-open in early to mid-May and that’s not too far away. We hope and think that Government advisors and health specialists should support teachers with guidelines on how to operate safely to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
The Danish Government has regulations that now require Primary Schools to make sure the children are split into smaller groups, can wash their hands immediately upon arrival and at least every two hours, and that contact surfaces like sinks, toilet seats and door handles are disinfected twice daily.
Schools are also printing maps that mark entrance and exit routes and ensuring children remain outside as much as possible.
It will be challenging for sure, but it will be one of the significant first steps to getting back to normality.
One point that COVID 19 has highlighted to many of us is how important a healthy lifestyle is. Movement and exercise is nature’s medicine and our EIGER classroom standing desks help with that. To have a new generation of young adults who understand that sitting is not the only way you have to “work” has so many positive impacts. We like that a lot.
Flexible working has become more common place over the last few years. In the last few weeks it’s become the norm for a very large number of people.
Is it working? Do we like it? Has it got more of a future in normal working practice?
This is how we see it..the pro’s and the con’s.
- Less mind numbing, ineffective commuting.
- Positive environmental impacts.
- Fewer distractions/more focus.
- Better productivity.
- Less bureaucracy.
- Fewer pointless meetings.
- Less time wasting.
- Happier employees with better lifestyles (less of the daily grind feeling).
- More employee trust and responsibility with employer creating a positive relationship.
- Smaller offices required for employers – reduced costs.
- Better staff retention for employers.
- Less sick days for employers (reduce the spread of colds, coughs and COVID19).
- Employees taking advantage (more time on the golf course).
- Lack of human interaction and stimulation.
- Too much time at home (cabin fever).
- Less collaboration and team work.
- Screaming at Skype when it doesn’t work.
Below are the results from an American study that are really interesting…
- Remote employees work an additional 1.4 more days per month than in-office employees, which is nearly 17 additional workdays a year.
- Remote employees take longer breaks on average than office employees (22 minutes versus 18 minutes, respectively), but they work an additional 10 minutes a day.
- Office workers are unproductive for an average 37 minutes a day, not including lunch or breaks, whereas remote employees are unproductive for only 27 minutes.
- 15% of remote workers said their boss distracted them from work, which is less than the 22% of office-based employees who said the same thing.
The demand for our EIGER Pro standing desk has risen dramatically over the last few weeks. It’s almost like people don’t think twice about sitting at a desk in the office “because that’s what we do” and “everyone does it” but at home it raises the question of how can I work healthy, how can I help my posture?
An EIGER Pro will convert any flat surface into a standing desk (even the kitchen table) in seconds so it’s really flexible. It’s modular so it can go under your stairs and out of the way. It complements a home environment because of its unique Scandinavian design; it’s not a huge piece of plastic from the Far East!
So it all looks pretty positive that remote/home working has a big future. It seems that from reports so far that COVID19 and self-isolation has proven the point to both employee and employer that we can work effectively at home.
So here we are in lock down. It’s not a nice word and instantly we associate it with negative emotions and feelings. It indicates that we’re trapped and unable to move about freely…to do what we want.
Human’s need to move to be healthy and happy both physically and mentally. It’s a fact. Not one we always pay enough attention to in “normal modern day times”.
But moving, taking exercise, playing sport is nature’s magical medicine…and it makes us smile too.
Just take a look at Joe Wicks, “The Nation’s PE Teacher”. You won’t have been able to miss what he’s doing and the positive engagement he’s had.
Look at the enjoyment of both children and parent’s when they’re “working out” together. It’s bloody amazing and uplifting!
3.7 million people watched his first video this week…3.7 million people! They all wanted to do something positive and active and I’ll put my house on the fact that at the end of the 30 minute session 99% of children and adults who did it we’re smiling and feeling great.
We get this type of feedback from schools that are using our EIGER classroom standing desks. The children don’t want to be sat all day, every day in lessons. They probably don’t know why they don’t, but they just don’t. It’s not natural. It’s not in their biological blueprint.
“My Y6 class love using the EIGER standing desks for maths, rather than longer writing activities - but they are so popular we have to organise a rota for each group of children!” Dobcroft Primary School. Sheffield.
When they stand, they can fidget and “move” without being disruptive. Nobody stands still (unless you’re a guard outside Buckingham Palace!), we make micro-movements and this increases our oxygen and glucose levels. Vitally it increases positive endorphins in the brain which stimulate us and helps us feel good. Sitting is the complete opposite.
So let’s give Joe Wicks a round of applause. Hats off to him. He’s highlighted how movement and exercise positively impact us physically and mentally. How we should make sure it’s part of our daily routine. How it brings people together and makes us smile.
Let’s not brush this under the carpet when the lockdown goes away.
In a political climate where politicians’ are pushing to increase class sizes, some schools are earning a gleaming reputation for pushing back against the norm and keeping classes small.
We are in a time of flux with standardised tests, the debate as to whether the pressure from GCSE's and SAT's are too disruptive to pupil mental health are ongoing. Meanwhile the same non-conformist schools have thrown out exams all together. Where the modern day school system demands uniformity, California based High Tech High asks their pupils not to wear a uniform.
‘We have been very intentional at High Tech High about keeping our class sizes, team sizes and school sizes small...This allows us to build that sense of community and collaboration.’
Subject of a 2018 documentary "Most Likely to Succeed" High Tech High is a school proactively doing things differently. A place where pupils tend to be separated by what they are learning rather than their age group. A place where subject boundaries are fluid and are often taught simultaneously by focusing on project based learning. For example Physics and Art are conceivably one of the most unlikely pairings which result in life size Escher styled staircases which seemingly go nowhere being hand crafted and displayed by pupils. Science projects merge with environmental to see students measuring the local waterways and feeding their data into larger scope university projects.
By stark contrast to the Escher staircases this Montessori style school in California has pupils who certainly go somewhere as 95% of its students enter university education. The schools two month long internships that every student undertakes sees them experiencing tech companies, art museums and fertility clinics as part of their personal development. One student was quoted as saying "‘it was such a powerful experience, It’s made me realise I want to work in midwifery.’
Surprisingly High Tech High is a state funded charter school like the UK's free schools. It doesn’t discriminate on who gets to join. The classes boast SEN pupils and financially disadvantaged kids in relatively high percentages.
As we wrote about in our article on the Finnish school system. It seems that an ethos and culture innately embedded in a schools DNA can instil into pupils a desire and love of learning. This seems to translate into better results and more well-rounded successful individuals.
The culture of High Tech High is a flagship concept in new wave schooling. Envisioned by Educational leader Larry Rosenstock, Silicon Valley tech billionaire Irwin Jacobs and a team of civic heads and teachers who sought to redesign the entire system with notions of deep learning and holistic development at its core.
‘In our maths class, the teacher explains a concept. Then we all must go away and use this concept to create our own problem and solution – and then come back and teach the rest of the class. It’s a really powerful way to learn. And sometimes it’s easier to understand from your peers than a teacher.’
The school is visited by 5000 influencers and educators every year seeing celebrity visitors such as Oprah Winfrey and Bill gates through its doors. The pupils this type of free range education is spawning are confident, critical thinkers whose maturity and collaborative skills have been cultivated through constant collaborate activity in teams.
Their creativity is nurtured and given as much importance as the basic fundamentals such as English and Maths. This core subjects are mandatory but the options to venture into coding, language, politics, engineering and environment are there.
The landscape is changing and it seems Britain may be getting left behind in an outdated and regressive methodology. There are still some UK schools adopting new ideas and undertaking Dead Poets Society style mentoring but they are amongst the few not the plenty.
High Tech High students working on a robotics project.
The quality and style of international education is shifting towards pupil-centric ideals. Soon it's likely the face of schooling will have a new look. One not designed to produce workers for the factories, subservient and hardworking but instead, free thinkers with diverse critical thinking skills who are better equipped to take on the challenges being presented by the digital age.
Where do you stand on this new type of schooling? Would it work in the UK? Does your school embrace change? Let us know in the comments or on our social media channels.
Schools wishing to trial standing desks as part of their own new wave thinking can trial them here: Schools Student Standing Desk Trial
As my own anecdotal experience tells me (as a big advocate for taking our children hiking in the local woodlands.) Research has now been able to demonstrate a scientific link between being out and about in nature and feeling good.
A study released on Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Psychology researchers studied the direct link between a group of kids “connectedness to nature” and their sustainable behaviours and happiness.
The study asked 300 children to fill in a questionnaire about how they perceive nature from how they feel when they see wild animals to the joy of smelling flowers and hearing birdsong. The children who measured as having good connection to nature also showed some other interesting results.
Connected to nature is defined by the researchers as;
"Thinking and feeling emotionally connected with all the elements of the natural environment, with feeling happier as a consequence."
The kids who scored higher on nature connection also were more likely to engage in altruism, help people, care for the environment, recycle, save water and perhaps more interestingly they were more likely to state they believed in equality between race, sex and financial standing.
The same children scored higher on the happiness scale.
As a parent who recently paid for his son to attend a weekly gardening club whose toddler also goes to forest school. I’m, feeling pretty validated. I know getting your hands dirty and understanding your environment is a big part of what made my childhood fun. But above happiness it seems according to the researchers they believe we owe it to the planet to ensure that the future custodians of our environment learn to love it and develop their other altruistic tendencies in the process.
"They are future consumers of products, entrepreneurs, decision-makers, workers, and depending on the environmental education received, their connection with nature, environmental awareness and environmental values are the future of the environment, too," said Dr. Laura Barrera-Hernández, author of the study.
With the ever growing trend of forest and beach schools gaining momentum it makes sense to give children the benefit of the outdoors when their online role models are influencing them to sit down and watch video games, streamers and YouTube for hours on end.
Allowing kids to exist outdoors whatever the weather is culturally embedded in the Finnish education system we recently wrote about where kids get regular exercise and outdoor time during the school day to encourage their development and morale.
So why would we suggest going outside when we are retailing standing desks? Well two reasons.
The first being that using our classroom friendly Eiger standing desks means groups of kids can easily be taken outside if it’s a nice day as the desks are extremely portable and can be disassembled, moved and re-assembled in a matter of minutes. Many of our clients are schools who do this regularly to give their kids some much needed outdoor time.
We wrote recently how one in eight kids don’t even play outside.
A 2015 study also showed adults benefit from being outside and report less negative thoughts and general increase in mental health. So the same applies to office workers who might want to take their laptop to the local park with our outdoor Eiger carry bags this outdoor office can be achieved in a matter of minutes.
Secondly standing desks are part of our prescription for a holistic approach to good physical wellbeing and overall mental health. They are not a cure-all. They can be and should be used as part of a healthy lifestyle shift. Using a standing desk all day and not moving when doing so is fundamentally not much better than sitting extensively.
Using a standing desk to encourage movement is the optimal way to benefit from having one. So taking regular movement breaks to get a glass of water of walking to the loo a little farther away are all great habits to get into when standing at work or school to increase the micro movements needed to burn calories and release physical tensions.
The need for mobility is one of the reasons we have leaned towards portable designs in our desks. Stationary desk users are less likely to more and improve their physical literacy.
So what’s the main take away here?
• Whether child or adult, there’s now a scientifically proven benefit to getting outside into nature.
• Kids who engage with nature basically become better, nicer and happier people.
• Standing desks can be a great way to get your classroom outside and still learning.
• Standing desks are part of the solution and should be used in conjunction with cultural and behavioural changes that see you using your body more and being more mindful to truly get the most out of the standing desk movement.
Low Literacy Due To Overuse of Screen Time?...Health Secretary Prescribes An App For That.
The independent reported today that the majority of parents would struggle to help a 7 year old with their homework according to a new study.
The study by Oxford Home Schooling found that only a third of parents felt confident assisting their kids with school projects. The study provided 1000 parents typical year 3 homework and found only 1 in 16 of the participants could answer each of the Maths, English and Science questions correctly.
You can head over to the Independents article to do the test yourself.
The study also determined men are more likely to feel confident helping out with homework. 39 percent of Dads compared to only 28 percent of mums said they were confident to help.
More than one in 10 parents acknowledged they use Siri or Alexa virtual assistants to help answer homework questions. More than 75% of parents admit to often using the internet to answer homework questions.
“The results of the survey are quite surprising, but they will probably resonate with many parents across the country," said Dr Nick Smith, principal at Oxford Home Schooling.
"For some, a large amount of time will have passed since they themselves were in the education system and so they will be unfamiliar with the current curriculum.
“Our research has found that over a third of primary school parents think their children are stressed because of work, so it is important that they strive to help out where they can, using assistants, like Google, if needed.”
Meanwhile despite televised warnings of kids getting too much screen time the education secretary Damien Hinds believes parents should be getting their kids to use educational apps to reduce the literacy gap between children at school entry age.
He talked in terms of the development gap being a "profound issue" and will let the areas most affected by the readiness variance have free prescriptions to educational apps for kids as young as two years old.
He said the so called sesame street can be harnessed to bridge the skill gap. He also puts the responsibility on distracted parents who are too engaged with their own devices to talk to their kids and help them out.
Both these articles are painting a picture of a society which has a two sided relationship with technology. The majority of parents are relying on the internet and devices to help kids do their homework. kids copy what they see at home and in turn spend too much time using devices and doing less and less of more proactive activity’s such as reading and motor skill improving creative play. The kids suffer as a result of their own and their parents overuse of tech whilst the health secretary prescribes more screen time to solve the issue no doubt creating kids who grow up reliant of technology to solve their problems and so a perpetual loop seems impossible to avoid.
With Apples steady integration into the school room via digital text books and homework apps, it seems that parents are going to undertaking an uphill struggle to push back against the machines we are increasingly relying on to help us raise our kids.
One way we can make sure our kids are getting some extra exercise is by providing them with standing desks. Schools can trial standing desks on a “try-before-you-buy” basis here. Parents can grab a suitably sized Eiger Standing desk here to encourage more physical literacy at home to make their own stand against the developing screen time addiction crisis turning our kids obese and illiterate.
I Want a Standing Desk Publishes a Fortnightly Blog about health and education. Bookmark us now or follow us on Twitter / Facebook to keep up to speed with our latest.
Loot boxes may have run into their end of game boss in the form of UK Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch. Murdoch has called for the removal of loot box based systems from games bought by children. The case against loot boxes is not a new one and gaming as a whole has only recently been classified as an potentially addictive activity however with top ten developers utilising the services of addiction consultants to intentionally make their games habit forming it seems the NHS is waking up to the issue and calling for a change.
‘Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes. No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance, so yes those sales should end’
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch in a statement published by The NHS
This is first time a leading figure in the NHS has called for a stop to loot boxes. Which Belgium already qualify as 'gambling'. For those that don't know loot boxes are systems within a video game or app where you can earn or purchase crates or packages which give you various chances for tiered rewards. The higher the tier, the lower the chance that it will be a prize from your loot box. They work like a slot machine and encourage the player to self soothe by giving themselves a serotonin boost when they pop another crate, often following a loss in a game. The items available in the loot crates are often unavailable through regular play or require hundreds or even thousands of hours of grinding to acquire them all.
Some of the biggest games played by children utilise the loot crate system to massive profit. Games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, Fifa and Rocket League all make huge sums selling loot crates. (Although Rocket League has recently adapted its system to make most items outright purchasable to presumably sidestep to oncoming legislation which seem increasingly likely to be brought into law in the UK following the recent NHS position.)
In 2017 the UK Gambling Commission said loot boxes do not qualify as gambling under current British law, however opinion on the matter is starting to shift and the systems are intentionally exploitative and designed exactly like gambling machines. The only reason they are perceptibly not considered gambling is the inability to officially convert your earnings into real money however this is entirely possible through a growing digital item black market available through eBay, Facebook groups and dedicated websites which will pay you real cash for your digital items.
So what can a parent do?
> Understand the games your children are playing and identify if those games contain loot box systems.
> Turn off in app purchases from devices such as phones or tablets and remove the stored credit card details on your children's consoles to avoid any unexpected bills.
> Speak to your child and explain to them that loot boxes are designed to entice players to spend hours playing the game and spend money. Most games can still be played and completed without using loot boxes.
Importantly it’s time to start observing the PEGI in game ratings which are generally ignored by parents but exist to ensure the content we allow them to binge is age appropriate. Take a look at the following ratings guide to get to grips with it.
So not only should you be looking to ensure your children aren’t overdosing on screen time it’s time to start considering the content they play and how that may be designed with gambling systems and addiction habit creating mechanisms.
Around 39 per cent of British teenagers spent money on gambling in 2018, according to a report by the Gambling Commission entitled Young People and Gambling 2018.
A report on Parent Zone shows that nearly half a million kids have gambled on an in game item at least once. Put some time aside to discuss in game loot boxes with your child and set some boundaries.
Standing to Game
Video games are not inherently bad. Many video games are well designed entertaining or educational experiences which do not contain loot boxes. If you or your child play video games then a standing desk can be an excellent way to ensure that screen time isn’t necessarily couch time and reap some calorie burning benefits whilst you indulge the hobby.
Our standing desks are used by gamers for streaming sessions or casual play and ensure that players can give their best with the added benefit of freedom of movement, greater blood oxygenation and eye level monitors.
Players experience heightened attentiveness and better results whilst standing to play. Streamers benefit from navigating traditionally long sitting sessions and have improved health and engagement with their audience. You can check out our range of standing desks here.
Companies are predatory, they will continue to create systems to extract money from their customers and if their users are children this means they are just going to do it more divisively and sneakily to side step changing laws. The NHS making a stand now and calling for a ban may lead to more regulation however it’s heavily under regulated for the time being so parents need to buckle in for a battle for your children’s minds and your wallets against the brightest characters, peer pressure and predatory games companies. Fight the good fight and be sure not to quash the fun in the meantime or you'll simply become the enemy.
Teach yourself to understand the games and what they contain. Open dialogue and honest explanations go a long way with children. Their adult response may just surprise you.
Further reading: What are loot boxes?
Trick Your Sleepy Brain
Have you ever laid in bed with the unshakeable feeling that you want to go to sleep but just can't slip away into slumber? I know from experience this can drag on for hours. A little shift in perspective can make all the difference. How you look at your given state can help trick your mind into fully relaxing.
So what’s the shift in perspective here? Well tell yourself that it's morning time. The mind-set you have towards being in bed in the morning for most people is that it’s the comfiest place in the world and you don’t ever want to leave. This is certainly why it’s so hard to get our engines going in my household every 7am.
So when I find it hard to sleep I tell myself that it’s first thing in the morning and that I don't have to get up. I roll over and I drift away happily under the brief suspended reality I have created for myself.
This is the same suspended reality that can keep Wylie Coyote suspended in mid-air for all those moments before he finally looks down over the cavern he has sped into and plummets.
There’s a power to how we frame things. My children don’t try and eat vegetables they aim to get as many colours on their plate as possible. I don't go on a diet. I adopt a lifestyle change….and when kid’s need a bit of encouragement to move more or eat less how we frame these experiences stands for everything.
My 5 year old gets nearly his recommended dose of daily exercise in one after-school class. A class that had they framed it in the traditional way would have no doubt lost his interest months ago like Rugby Tots did after two sessions before it was tears and pleas to go home on a Saturday morning. So every Tuesday instead of attending mixed Martial Arts, we head on over to Ninja School. Not before the boy tells every school friend and their parents on the way out of school that he is on his way to ninja school and that he is a real ninja.
One ninja t-shirt and the persistent sticking to the Ninja School alibi from every Sensei means that the kids not only all -in emotionally but they get active and even spend the extra five minutes listening to a ninja lesson where they might learn about the benefit of eating their Veg to be fast and powerful ninjas or the importance of respect along with other life lessons. Which of course they listen to because it's from someone other than their parents.
Instead of drifting off mid talk they actively participate. They contribute ideas and they listen. Whilst the mantra they shout every lesson also suggests. They "will do their best!" ...to become better ninjas of course.
Now this is not lying to kids. The instructor’s and savvy parents alike all go with the verbiage and play along to the benefit of their kid’s enthusiasm for that much needed dose of exercise and enrichment. How it's shaped is simply the difference. How the kids perceive the class and themselves within it.
Dancing & The NSPCC Pants Song
Our house includes daily bouts of dancing for fun and exercise. Even our 2 year old demands his favourite songs and shouts the request to our Alexa device which is smart enabled to play any song on demand. One play of the song "Kung Fu Fighting" and both the boys are diving about the kitchen with arms and legs flailing with wild abandon. The same device plays the "Pants Song" when we want to learn about the pants rule.
This is another fine example of how we frame things. We are able to kick start the NSPCC skill on the Alexa device and either work through the pants quiz which lets kids know it’s okay to say No and to respect theirs and other people private parts. The song sings of Pantasaurus who gets his power from wearing pants and how its okay to say no if someone makes you uncomfortable. Whilst this might seem like a world gone mad to some people in reality by framing a very taboo subject in a kid friendly language the removal of stigma means important conversations can be had in our household and important lessons learned from an early age when kids are most vulnerable.
Here is the pants skill if you want to install it on your Alexa or other device and the pants song because it's catchy as hell.
King For A Lesson
Kids at school might need a little encouragement to adopt healthier choices, but as above how we frame these scenarios go a lot towards how children respond to them. Is it cool to sit or to stand? If your participate at school are you a "swot" or a "clever clogs" or perceived as simply "clever" by your peers.
Schools that adopt our standing desks find the children who use them improve their productivity. They participate more, are less disruptive and the quality of their work output improves. Statistically they even score higher on academic tests. Does the standing desk change the child’s perspective in the very moment we want them to be as engaged as possible?
There have been many psychological studies which find that room layouts and chair placements effect people’s behaviour. For instance if you sit in the middle chair of a talking semi-circle you are most likely to adopt the role of leader in the dynamic. Now people are physically looking towards you for leadership but should that mean someone more likely in their personality wouldn't outshine you and step up to the plate. Well the data suggests that you will lead the group. Wall flowers can use this to force themselves to participate.
Studies have shown how important mind-set is to the classroom. A mind-set that one will aim to master a subject is more useful than a natural aptitude to accomplish the same thing. Like my old guitar teacher said. "There are those who can play this naturally and there are those who have to work at it. You will have to work at it." Thanks Shirty. It was hard advice to hear in my teens but completely set me on the correct mind-set to accomplish my goals. He explained in that simple idiom that this wasn't going to come easy. At the age I went to him I wanted everything to come easily and he no doubt had seen it all before.
The correct mind-set to mastery demonstrated perfectly by a man they call "shirty".
So how does the standing desk allow children to shift their perspective in the classroom?
Well the increased blood flow from standing and small movements aids brain function by increasing oxygenation. This can also help with children who suffer ADHD. The elevated position gives children a positive sense of their place in the rooms dynamic resulting in the increased participation. (Not unlike the chair example.) Engagement increases by approx 16% which is significant for such as small shift.
Let’s not forget that standing makes us feel better than sitting. Kids have a tendency to slouch and disengage in class. This is years of muscle memory, child born laziness passed down from generation to generation. The older kids are in school the less likely they are to be active so getting them standing from primary age is a must to ensure they develop a positive mind-set to the proposition and don't shun it because it appears to take slightly more effort.
Active kids become active adults. Our children are glued to devices all day and always look for the easiest way to accomplish tasks. The culture in this country amongst younger people is to shirk exercise in way of screen time and couch time. So it's time to get smart and outfox the young guns into adopting better habits.
How can your classroom frame the standing desk to make it desirable? Well most don’t' have to ...flexible seating is a big hit amongst kids generally. If delivered smartly and framed well the kids love the idea of changing it up and there is rarely any push-back but for those schools who need to get smart to encourage take-up. "King for a lesson" seems like a nice way to frame a singular standing desk classroom. Multiple standing desk hot desk classrooms can work in the idea of rotating between desks to include a little more brain stimulating movement into the daily routines.
I don't need to tell you how to suck eggs. Teachers are some of the most creative and encouraging people to walk the earth. Just remember to engage that part of your brain when you start to include standing in your classroom, because the benefits are huge and perspective is everything.
This article demonstrates the importance of mind-set to the classroom.
Just as it's been proven that brands encouraging our kids to watch YouTuber/Twitch presenters peddle Doritos and Mountain Dew increases those brands junk food sales it seems the correlation between the media we let or children engage with and their eating habits has been further illustrated in a new study which shows that kids who watch healthy food based cooking shows are twice as likely to choose to snack healthily.
“Kids who watched a child-oriented cooking show featuring healthy food were 2.7 times more likely to make a healthy food choice than those who watched a different episode of the same show featuring unhealthy food,”
- The study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour.
The study which was based in the Netherlands, included 125 kids from five schools who were aged between 10 and 12.
The kids watched a Dutch TV show designed for children and were then offered a snack options as a reward. The kids who watched the healthy kids oriented cooking show opted for the cucumber slices and apples over pretzels and crisps.
Frans Folkvord, PhD, of Tilburg University, Tilburg, Netherlands, who ran the study believes that positive TV programming can change the way children regard healthy foods and that kids can be steered towards healthier choices with "positive peer and teacher modelling".
As a parent it's hard to ignore the notion that kids do what we show them and not what we tell them. Hopefully some of the ideas from this study can be applied on a national level when it comes to planning and programming in the UK as part of the countries fight back against the growing childhood obesity epidemic reducing our kids estimated lifespans year after year.
We recently wrote about the fact that kids being involved in the preparation of food increases the chance that they make healthy choices. ( Childhood Obesity Solved: Teach Kids To Cook. ) So it seems we are in dire need of an increase in kid focused cooking shows which encourage kids to understand and get involved in food preparation.
Parents and teachers wanting to encourage their pupils and kids to watch kids focused cooking shows which encourage participation can look no further than shows such as "Kids Baking Show" and "Chopped Junior" on the Food Network and the CBeebies show "I Can Cook" featured here.
BBC Goodfood has a series of online kids cooking recipes you can try out together.
"Modern reliance on ready-prepared foods and a lack of modelling by parents in preparing fresh foods have led to a drop in cooking skills among kids”
The study talks about modelling and encourages parents to help teach kids how to cook safely. The habit of eating healthy much like being active stays with us into adulthood. If this country is to try and combat the growing obesity figures with real changes then a shift in the culture of kids programming and some laws to protect our children from persuasive and predatory kids programming (ON TV and online) needs to come into place.
One great method to get kids into eating fruit and veg is to challenge them to fit three colours onto their plate every day. Look at this selection, its much prettier than chicken nuggets and chips. Lets use that.
For now it’s simply up to you to ensure your children get outside, get active and eat healthily and the best way to influence them to do this is to show them how much fun it is.
“Increased cooking skills among children can positively influence their consumption of fruit and vegetables in a manner that will persist into adulthood.” - Frans Folkvord lead author of the study.
Kid’s cookery classes are also available throughout the UK - a list compiled by BBC good food has some good options.
Parents looking to also encourage healthy habits at home can purchase a kids standing desk on this site here. Whilst teachers and schools looking to include standing desk options in their classrooms can undertake a try before you buy trial at their school by filling in this small form.
The solution is holistic. A cultural shift. A series of small changes which add up to a change in attitude and perception of activity and health. Our children are fixated on their devices so lets co-opt that desire to binge watch media content for good, by spending a little bit of time curating their viewing options.
"The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones." - Confucius
Jeremy Corbyn recently called out the Finnish education system as the one we should aim to emulate in this country. Michael Moore produced a documentary detailing the quality of Finland’s education system and media across the world have since been abound with details of the unique Finnish scholastic approach.
With political leaders citing other countries methods as best practise perhaps time to look at what Finland are doing well and see what our schools and educators could borrow from their process.
Finland completely rejuvenated their education system about 40 years ago as an integral element of the country’s economic recovery plan but evidence this was successful didn’t come until the 2000’s when a standardized test given to schools across 40 countries showed that Finnish schools produce the best readers. Three years later tests confirmed they then led in Maths. By 2006 Finland were first in science, third in reading and 6th in maths. It seemed the education revolution in Finland had a real impact.
NO TESTS AND BIG ON EQUALITY
So what do they do differently? Well there are no mandated standardised tests in Finland until the end of students last year of senior school. Pupils are not ranked, don’t compete within the school or across regions. So ‘teaching to the test’ is an outdated principle in Finland.
Instead equality is the buzzword integral to the culture of the countries education system. So much so that the gap between the lowest performing pupil and the highest is the smallest in the world.
“Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.
Despite Finland spending 30% less than the USA on each student a striking 93% of their students go on to graduate. That’s 17.5% more than the US. Facts such as these are why other countries are looking at Finland’s methods and asking themselves “how can we do better?”
“We prepare children to learn… how to learn, not how to take a test,”
Pasi Sahlberg - Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture
PLAY IS INTEGRAL. SCHOOL STARTS LATER.
So what else is different? Well schools allows 15 minutes of free playtime up to four times a day. The kids are getting fresh air and exercise both of which proactively benefits them when they hit the books. Now whilst Finland might not test these children studies have shown that 15 minutes exercise has a positive effect on kid’s ability to learn and study resulting in higher test scores for active pupils who exercise in or before class.
In Finland kids spend far more time playing outside and aren’t rushed into the education system. Compulsory schooling only starts at age 7.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
There is a widespread cultural phenomenon throughout Finland’s education system and it is one of doing “whatever it takes” to get a child to where they need to be academically.
This might be a headmaster taking a child under their wing as a personal mentee to letting them express themselves with how they dress or flex their wiggles by letting them get outside more. This approach is more easily demonstrated by the fact that Finish schools have dedicated SEN teams available to each class ensuring that each child benefits from their education equally.
Teachers in Finland are highly educated and require a masters degree (5-7 years in the making) in order to be qualified to teach. They are then given a great deal of autonomy in the process and are respected within their communities far more than in other countries.
With the commitment of so many years under their belts and the regard for their profession being highly placed they are also far more likely to view teaching as a lifelong career which bodes well in terms of retaining the highly educated better qualified staff for longer.
Can UK schools adopt a more Finnish approach right now?
Well by taking a leaf from the Finnish schools habit of encouraging physical literacy in the school day. Whilst we know that schools are in no position to suddenly introduce 15 minutes of play before every lesson however hundreds have already started to include standing desks to allow children some physical freedom in the classroom.
Standing whilst you work can have the same effect of improved engagement, academic performance, personal well-being and good mental health. By letting kids stand and move more whilst they work schools are reportedly reaping the benefits similar to the schools whose children are allowed additional playtime and outdoor exercise.
LITTLE TO NO HOMEWORK / THE INNER MOTIVATOR
So what else separates Finland’s process from our own?
Well Children are given little to no homework but most importantly kids are encouraged to tap into their inner motivation. Teachers and school systems focus on working out psychologically how best to stimulate a child’s own inner motivation. Teaching them not to work to tests well but instead how to think analytically.
Goals are set but by the kids themselves. They are asked to identify their own goals and these might be yearly or weekly but the emphasis is on the child taking ownership of their own journey.
This seems to go hand in hand with the desire to teach them not to perform for others but for themselves. A key component of the system which seems integral to its success. In short they introduce a joy of learning by taking away the side British children, bemoan. Tests, homework, few breaks…working to satisfy someone else’s standards.
The overarching educational reform Finland dared to implement has turned them into a world leader of education. They seemingly afford their teachers and pupils far more respect than we do nationally and importantly both now outperform us. So if you’re a teacher or headmaster and you think you can take a leaf out of the Finish playbook. Then don’t wait for national reform.
As Ghandi was apparently mis-quoted as saying. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And implement some positive class or school wide changes in your institution. Show other schools, your pupils and communities that you are prepared to improve and change for the better. Positive change is contagious. It simply has to start somewhere.
or..."Bake-off Judge Takes A Break from Peddling Cakes on the Idiot Box to Say Bad Mums Fill Lunchboxes with 'Junk'"
Prue Leith, a judge from the Great British Bake-off TV show said home packed lunch boxes should be banned after detailing how she believes 'most mums' fill them with Junk food.
She argued that the habit of putting a treat in the lunchbox everyday should be curtailed and treats should not be a daily occurrence for kids. She believes the daily treat habit had directly contributed to the ongoing and very real obesity crisis the country’s young people are enduring right now.
Leith when speaking to Ben Shepard and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain said unfortunately a sandwich and a piece of fruit isn’t the average daily lunchbox and that schools should be
"Using lunch times to teach kids about healthy eating."
One comment on twitter agreed some stricter rules for parents might be a good idea but a country wide ban on lunchboxes made by parents is "ridiculous" another comment seemed pretty grounded in the real world read;
“Prue, who’s paying for these school dinners once you ban packed lunches? I couldn’t afford it for my children so packed lunches are our option. Ok for all you rich folk.”
As a parent who deals with packing multiple school lunches through the week I can say with absolute certainty that whilst there may be some parents who 'phone-it-in' that creating packed lunches with variability and healthy contents is a task on top of a million others that a reality TV judge has no place weighing in on. The obesity crisis is an issue however putting the fix firmly in the hands of the parents and not the corporations preying on children’s via online influencers and kid friendly mascots or fun house fast food environments is misdirected culpability.
Yes schools should educate children about healthy eating, I wonder if Leith knows that 2020's curriculum changes have been designed to do exactly that? Yes kids shouldn't necessarily have the added calories of a treat a day however the calorie issue could be being tackled not by depriving children of a simple snack based treat with their school lunches but by a cultural shift away from sedentary behaviour and towards creating active kids who would still have a calorie deficit even with a snack in their daily diets if their physical activity levels were anything like the recommended daily hour medical experts suggest they should be undertaking.
There is a certain irony of someone whose TV show illustrates high sugar food in the form of cakes spouting off about kid’s school dinners. Someone whose income is based off people couch potation in front of the TV engaging her content. A certain irony to the format she chooses to reel this information off i.e. once again whilst being on TV ...one of the big contributors to sedentary behaviour since we invented the settee.
How about we ban Televisions. Or cakes? The benefits would be huge compared to snack management in children’s school dinners. How about we include a standing desk in every classroom or better yet one for each child? The idea that this is on the parents or another responsibility to add to the schools to do list alongside delivering a new national curriculum, and educating children on the ever growing debacle that is understanding modern day sexual diversity. I believe schools probably have enough to do keeping up with the times and the majority of parents are overwhelmed enough already.
Changes need to be long-term, passive and easily maintained and remarks suggesting bad mums give kids snacks or schools need to add to their over exhausted workload are remiss when Leith operates in a predatory industry peddling sugar for a living.
But hey! maybe parents should take some note from this and maybe tone down the sugary snacks and drinks because yes in actual fact despite me playing devil’s advocate parents absolutely are involved in shaping their children’s attitudes towards sugary and fatty foods and in this day and age when every Instagrammer or big time YouTuber has your child’s ears we are all up against it anyway.
So dig deep and 'lest you be judged' by Leith perhaps help your child understand why they might start making healthy choices for themselves and maybe you can become the biggest influencer in their upbringing once again. Like the good old days before you needed a social account to be relevant to your kids.
With Christmas day just behind us it's time to start looking forward to the New Year and those inevitable news year’s resolutions and start looking at your family's future with 2020 vision.
Typically new year resolutions don't last much longer than about 8 weeks if your pretty dedicated but experts recommend making changes which aren’t so dramatic but several small effective changes are great so that you can stick to them throughout the year.
Now we'll all sit there with bloated bellies after indulging a little too much and conspire to attend the gym, change our eating habits and start googling the latest trendy diet which cuts out ketones or carbohydrates but very few of us are sparing a thought for our children. The gleeful recipients of a multitude of selection boxes, mince pies and Christmas puddings. The influx of devices as Xmas presents also push back against any notion of any movement or outdoor activity getting a look in.
One thing which never changes over the years is that kids also over indulge at Christmas and if we don't allow them to its easy feel like monsters. So let’s be fair and say that chocolate and sweets have probably been on the menu over December but it's time to think of our children’s waistlines, minds and body health when we consider how to plan news year resolutions that include our kids.
It's proven that healthy children go on to become healthier adults with fewer health related conditions, have better activity habits and live longer lives. So getting into the habit of planning some yearlong changes to improve health could be a good ritual to introduce your kids to so long as you all work together to ensure these changes can stick for more than a few weeks into January.
So here's 5 healthy kids New Year resolution suggestions for your little ones to combat the Christmas time crash. To shake off the screen time sedentary creep and get back into good habits. Parents and schools can work together this year to ensure kids learn to think for themselves and put their own health first.
1. Healthy Colourful School Dinners
80% of kids don't eat enough vegetables. So introduce an idea that you and your offspring can get into. Eat at least three or four colours on your plate every lunch time. This means that even if you’re brood regularly dine on kid’s favourite chicken nuggets and chips they might be tempted to also opt for some greens or sweetcorn, peppers or another colourful vegetable substitute.
This year we wrote about an excellent campaign called Veg Power which encourages kids to "eat them to defeat them" and take down the evil vegetable horde by crunching through them one by one. This campaign is inspired and schools can even encourage uptake by requesting poster and sticker packs here.
2. The Daily Mile
The daily miles was conceived to ensure every child has the chance to include activity and physical movement in their day and to encourage healthy daily habits no matter the child’s socio-economic background. Statistically more effluent families have better access to healthy physical activities, go out more and eat healthier. No surprise really when you consider how much more expensive it is to eat healthily these days. Well one headteacher came up with an idea which has spread across the country.
The daily mile encourages kids and teachers to fun for 15 minutes each school day before class. This not only encourages children to be aware and responsible for their own health but its inclusive and yields positive academic results.
Exercise before lessons improves test results, increases student participation and benefits the overall student experience by affecting the class morale and mood in a positive way. Students feel better and become better learners. Ask your school if they have considered participating in the daily mile in 2020. Your kids can join the 2.3 million other pupils now running a mile a day and you can see your child’s school doing their bit to ensure our kids grow up happy and healthy.
3. Standing Desks for Kids
Introducing your kids to standing desks in 2020 represents one of those changes that could well last the year. Children take to lifestyle changes such as introducing standing to their workstations exceptionally well. It’s inspiring to see how well students and kids at home take to the introduction of standing in their daily routine. Sedentary behaviour is a learnt behaviour. I’m reminded of an anecdote I heard this of one parent asking another parent how they 'got their kids to read' the lady on the subway was reading a book at the time and her child was quietly doing to the same. She replied. "It seems to me that kids don't like to do what you tell them to. However they do what you show them."
This is true for physical activity and standing. Kids whose parents stand whilst they work like to join in and work just like their parents and they find the whole transition a whole lot easier the earlier we introduce it. Reports from schools that introduce standing desks are entirely positive. Read some here.
You can help your child’s school to take up standing desks in the classroom by signposting them to this free try before you buy trial of the Eiger Standing Desk or for your child at home you can pick up a desk from our range right here.
4. Read Together.
The above anecdote aside. Not only will your kids read more if they see you doing but one of the traits of successful parents is reading with their children. New York State University School of Medicine found that babies whose parents read to them develop better literacy, language and reading skills much earlier.
"We compared children from the same social backgrounds who achieved similar tested abilities at ages five and 10, and discovered that those who frequently read books at age 10 and more than once a week when they were 16 had higher test results than those who read less, In other words, reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress, in vocabulary, spelling, and mathematics."
- Dr. Alice Sullivan
Reading with your children will pass on a love of books which will not only improve their academic outlook but give them an interest that can only benefit them in later life. Good mental health is essential for good overall health. So show your kids how to love books and you'll be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime. Visiting a library with your kids will encourage them to read more.
5. Device Free Zoning
Research shows that the blue light from the devices you and your children have glued to your face all day including before bed can inhibit the production of the chemical the body needs to induce sleep.
Not only this but an abundance of screen time is linked to reduced motor skills, attention deficit and a host of other health problems stemming from the sedentary nature of screen time. So be it your kitchen at dinner times (A good idea is to spend more time around the family dinner table together so this is a good shout) or the family room or even one of their own bedrooms, but whichever you or your kids pick. Make them involved in the decision and make sure the rule sticks.
So we not suggesting you turn into a strict and unrelenting parent for 2020 but the careful introduction of some of these ideas might just allow you to push back against the poor habits we all slip into over the festive season and get your kids thinking for themselves and adopting healthier choices when a little encouragement and a framework delivered by your conscientious parenting and modelling.
Veg Power write up on iwantastandingdesk.com
The literacy trust has a campaign to let you buy other kids books.
383,775 children in the UK don’t have a single book of their own. You can donate by text here is how.