Nicola Bone brings the art of mindfulness to our local Brisbane schools!

We are on a mission to deliver one million mindful minutes by the end of 2020 - Nicole Bone, Sound Off For Schools.

Meet Nicola the inspiring Founder of Sound Off For Schools! A passionate teacher making waves in our Australian educational system!

Meet Nicola the inspiring Founder of Sound Off For Schools! A passionate teacher making waves in our Australian educational system!

At Mini HQ we are passionate advocates of mental health and wellness. Our personal self-care practices include yoga, meditation and mindfulness exercises, and we have seen firsthand the benefits these can bring to daily life.

That’s why we knew that high school English teacher Nicola Bone, and her passion project, Sound Off for Kids, would be the perfect partner for Mini and our families. Nicola is changing the face of education by bringing mindfulness, contemplation and calm into the school environment.

Mini caught up with Nicola covering topics about mental health, mindfulness, education and how to implement mindfulness practices in our own homes.

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Nicola, tell us… what is Sound Off for Schools?

Sound Off for Schools is a mindfulness education program for students and teachers. It delivers practical and engaging strategies and practices through wireless headphone technology to help young people and educators carve out deliberate time and space to be calm, to contemplate and to learn the skill of being present.

What prompted you to start working with mindfulness?

The program started in my own classroom where I witnessed so many of my students struggling with the crippling effects of mental illness and, therefore, unable to learn, grow or thrive in a classroom environment.

I started with students in my high school English classes by beginning each lesson with six minutes of mindful meditation and breathing. Over time this allowed students to settle, clear their minds of worry or stress and gain clarity for learning.

How can mindfulness help kids?

In Australia currently one in seven young people aged 4-17 suffers from mental illness. This can cause hyper stimulation of the brain’s limbic system leading to the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ reaction. When this part of the brain is stimulated, the frontal lobe, which controls executive function (essential for focus, attention and learning) is offline.

The Sound Off for Schools program combines scientifically proven practices in cognitive neuroscience, educational psychology and pedagogical teaching to teach young people strategies to become more aware of their cognitive habits. They are empowered by knowing that their thoughts, at any given time, are a choice, and they can begin to navigate their way through the complex world they are growing up in.

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What is your mission at Sound Off for Schools?

Over the past 18 months, we have reached over 6,015 young people and teachers to cultivate over 342,760 mindful minutes in 51 schools. We are on a mission to deliver one million mindful minutes by the end of 2020.

Where can Mini families find your program?

Families can request an information pack via our website or bring the program to their P&F group meetings and suggest that their school implement it. Parents can also arrange a fundraiser event for their school that includes a Sound Off for Schools experience.

What are some ways our families can implement mindfulness practices in their homes?

Mindfulness practices can be implemented in the home as a daily ritual and time for reflection and calm. I would suggest starting out with a simple breathing time upon waking or before story time at night. Have your child place their right hand gently on the base of the belly, with the left hand resting on the heart and with their eyes closed, take three to 10 deep belly breaths (long and steady).

For older or more experienced children, a meditation ritual can be created using a candle, essential oils, poems or a family gratitude jar. The challenge is to make it a daily routine so that the practice becomes part of the family schedule.

What goals do you have for Sound Off for Schools in the future?

Phase 1: One million mindful minutes by the end of 2020.

Phase 2: Digitised content of the program for rural and remote schools to access all content by 2021.

Phase 3: By 2025, every student in every classroom in Australia picks up their own set of wireless headphones at the start of the school year, much like a textbook, to begin each school day with mindful moments to prepare the brain for learning.

Join Nicola by enlisting a school and becoming part of one million mindful minutes by the end of 2020. Reach out here or contact our team at mini Nanny Agency here, and we can hook you up!

Meet Jess Mcilveen of Kids Yoga Therapy: an incredible resource for kids with special needs

‘I am here to revolutionise the way we heal and transform the minds and lives of our children and teens with special needs and who’ve been affected by trauma.’ – Jess Mcilveen, Owner of Kids Yoga Therapy

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At mini Nanny Agency we understand the varied dynamics that can exist in different families, including the unique challenges (and joys!) that families with special needs children often face.

That means we are always on the look out for incredible resources for our mini families, and Jess, of Kids Yoga Therapy is one of the best out there! As a social worker and an incredible yogi, she’s tuned into the needs of kids who may struggle with anxiety, have special needs or been affected by trauma.

Here’s Jess’ story.

How did you find yourself as a social worker AND a yoga instructor?

As a child I was surrounded by depression, anxiety, suicide and addiction, which left me feeling helpless. This ultimately led me to becoming a social worker, as I wanted to be the guiding force for children who felt lost and alone.

After a few years working in Child Safety and Foster Care I realised that the services we were using weren’t teaching children techniques that could help them when they felt scared, fearful or angry.

About this time I started to have anxiety and panic attacks, which was utterly terrifying for me. I didn’t want to take medication so I committed to daily meditation and yoga. I was absolutely astounded when after a week and a half the scary sensations disappeared!

While travelling in Italy I came to the realisation that I no longer wanted to be a social worker. One day a friend said to me, ‘Why don’t you do yoga and meditation with the children you want to work with?’ My head began spinning. Could I really do that?

After some intense research, I booked my flights and enrolled in a Children’s Yoga Course. Kids Yoga Therapy was born two months later.

What impact has yoga had in your life?

When I started experiencing panic and anxiety attacks, I was terrified. I couldn’t eat, sleep or function and I was too scared to be alone with my thoughts.

Yoga and meditation absolutely changed my life. Once I started regularly practicing, the scary sensations disappeared. And now, when they show up again, I have tools that I trust and that I know work.

After my experience, I went through all the research available on the impacts of yoga and medication for special needs and trauma and it’s conclusive – it helps!


How do yoga and social work complement each other?

As a social worker I want to empower people to find solutions that work for them so they can live their best life possible, regardless of what they have experienced. Yoga complements this because it’s about finding the solutions within yourself.


How can yoga help kids who suffer from anxiety or trauma, or who have other special needs?

Yoga helps kids by reconnecting them with their bodies and bringing them back to the present moment. Yoga also works with breath, which is crucial in strengthening the relaxation response in the nervous system. This response is weakened when children have experienced trauma or anxiety.

Anxiety is future focussed, so bringing children back to the present moment with their body and breath helps reduce the anxious state of body and mind.


What kinds of programs does Kids Yoga Therapy offer?

Our main program is an eight-week whole family support package. This includes one-on-one sessions with the child, and access to the Parent Support Collective, which is coached by myself.


What impact has Kids Yoga Therapy had on your families?

The techniques I teach help kids face their fears. For example, a child who was attacked by a dog can now walk into a house with dogs without going into a fear meltdown.

We have also been able to help children who struggled to communicate their feelings find new methods to do so. And foster children who have participated in our programs now have learning tools to help them when they feel overwhelmed by the unpredictability in their world.


What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher and working with kids?

Seeing children’s proud happy faces when they tell me how brave they have been in situations that previously would have left them overwhelmed with fear, and being able to support families during times of turmoil – these are the things that make me feel fulfilled as a yoga teacher and a social worker. Plus, working with children brings out my inner child, which I love!

If you’d like to know more about how Jess can help you or your family, she’d love to hear from you. Reach out here. And we always love to hear from our mini families at mini too! Drop us a line or give us a ring for a chat anytime!

How to Raise Your Kids to Love Maths (even if you don’t)

 
how to raise your kids to love maths

Maths is that subject that kids either really love, or makes kids and even adults want to rip their hair out. Whether we like it or not, maths extends beyond the classroom into everyday life and developing a strong understanding of the basics of mathematics will be an asset in your child’s development. 

You’ve probably heard the saying “I’m not a maths person.” It’s one of those self-fulfilling prophecies if you find your child repeating the mantra. In a 2007 National Institutes of Health Public Access Twin Study the results estimate that genes account for 32%-45% of mathematical skill at the age 10. [see our article here on how intelligence is inherited from our mothers] This means that 55% to 68% of mathematical skill must come from other factors such as an individual’s interest and effort. These studies prove that inborn talent has much less of an impact than hard-work and self-confidence in higher test results. So if you and your child aren’t “maths people” good news, you can learn to love it and excel at it! 

What makes maths so difficult to grasp? 

Young boy frustrated at maths

Math seems difficult because it takes a lot time and energy to fully comprehend abstract ideas. Abstraction in mathematics is the process of extracting the underlying essence of a mathematical concept and removing any dependence on real world objects and thus generalising the principal for wider applications. This does not come easy to many people, and it’s a skill we need to exercise to strengthen. 

Maths is a cumulative discipline, meaning you need to have a good grasp in one area to understand the next level of maths because the applications build upon each other. Prematurely moving beyond an area leads to a shaky foundation for the next curriculum, and fast-paced classroom environments don’t always have the time to slow down and review concepts with students before opening up the next chapter in the unit making some children feel left behind and discouraged. This is why maths homework and bringing maths into the home beyond the school curriculum is so important for giving your child the opportunity to excel at math. 

 

What can we do to help our children with maths?  

1. Change your attitude about maths

Children mimic our attitudes in all kinds of ways. If you’re a parent who is not fond of math, shift your attitude into a more positive one. We’ve established that statements like “I’m not a maths person” is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so try to refrain from saying it around your children even if you don’t feel particularly good about helping your child with maths. Think about it as something to work on together. 

 

2. Make it fun! 

Maths is everywhere in our day-to-day life. Encourage mind-math games such as adding up numbers on license plates as quickly as possible or try grocery-shop budgeting with your older children. If we can only spend $50 at the grocery shop today, how can we make sure everything in our basket comes to under $50 given our shopping list. Or do some baking together for a tasty lesson in maths! 

Baking for math!

3. Get your child some Legos or other building toys

Lego or block play fosters a wide spread of skills including creativity, motor skills, spatial skills, problem-solving, and communication. When a child is building, they must analyse the parts in front of them, perceive how it fits into a whole and how the pieces fit together. 

For 3-5-year-olds, you can put together a model of three lego blocks and ask your child to recreate your design in order to exercise the importance of counting tips and placing the next part on the proper section of the lego blocks. There is substantial evidence that spatial skills can be improved through play, so kids who spend more free time playing with puzzles or building blocks have increased scoring results. 

 

4. Play online maths games! 

If you have a child who is a gamer at heart, encourage some maths themed games! This website has everything from sudoku puzzles, basketball multiplication, and RPGs using maths to make your way through the adventure. 

 

Here is a list of our favourite iPhone maths games for on the go entertainment. 

Monster Maths

(available for addition/ subtraction and multiplication/ division)

 

Quick Maths Jr.

(Intended for kids aged 3-7)

 

Tricky Test 2: Genius Brain

 

Lumosity

Brain training for adults) 


What are some of your favourite maths games with you minis? 

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Best Plants to Grow to Teach Your Children How to Garden

 
Gardening with Children

Children are natural gardeners. They are curious, quick learners through hands-on experience, and love to get a little messy in the dirt. Gardening is a healthy and fun activity for all ages, but it's especially beneficial for kids. Gardening teaches a multitude of skills and fosters an appreciation for science and nature. 

Key findings suggest that when young children are participating in garden and greenhouse activities they are: (1) communicating their knowledge about the world to others, (2) conveying (and learning to process and manage) emotions, and (3) developing important skills (e.g., initiative, self-confidence, literacy, math, science skills) that will help them be more successful in school and better navigate the world. 

 

Benefits of Teaching your Children Gardening Includes:

 

1. Nurtures a sense of responsibility:

Without proper care, their plants will not grow. Gardening teaches them valuable life lessons at a young age. 

2. Reasoning and discovery skills:

Learning how to problem solve. discover science and nature of plants through research and real-life experiments. 

3. Self-confidence:

Gardening gives them the tools to grow their own food and achieve goals.

4. Love of nature:

Inspires awe and appreciation for the outdoors in a safe and pleasant environment.

5. Physical activity:

Gardening gets kids outdoors, using their hands to create.

6. Creativity:

Finding new and exciting ways to grow food and becoming inspired by nature.

Kyle Ellefson - Children garden dirt

Here are some of the best plants to start with kids:

1. Lettuce

Lettuce are quick and reliable crop with fast results. Lettuce likes party shady environments. Lettuce seeds will germinate in 7-10 days and the growing season is about 1-2 months.

 

2. Snow peas

can easily pick right off the vine and eat. 10 days to germinate and mature in about 2 months. They prefer cooler, partly shaded areas in the garden.

 

3. Sunflowers

Stanislav stajer - garden sunflowers

Plant just a few 'confectionery' sunflower seeds (used for food), since sunflowers take up a lot of space in a garden. Their seeds can be dried and roasted for snacks. Be sure to save some seeds to grow the next season too. Sunflower seeds tend to sprout in a week and should be about 30 cm in a month. Harvest your sunflowers when their petals become dry and the green base of the sunflower head turns yellow to brown. 

 

4. Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes enjoy full sun, and if you can, purchase seedlings from the local grocery store rather than seed since they can be difficult to germinate. Plant a pole or a stake about 60 cm tall for the tomato vine to wrap around. Cherry tomatoes add vibrant colour to your garden, and they're a sweet, juicy treat! 

 

5. Potatoes

Linh Pham - Garden Potatoes with children

Potatoes are a versatile vegetable, and can be prepared in many tasty recipes. Red potatoes mature faster than white varieties. Cut seed potatoes into chunks with at least 2 'eyes' per and plant them about 35 cm apart with the eyes pointing to the sky and mound the soil up around the plant as it grows. It's ready for harvest when the plant collapses. 

 

6. Zucchini

Start these seeds in a small container indoors first. You can up-cycle egg cartons and plant the seeds in about 1 cm of soil. Keep the soil moist, and when you have a strong sprout with roots, you can transfer the egg carton directly into the soil outside. Make sure your soil is rich in nutrition, or you can add fertiliser to your soil. 

 

Other interesting plants to grow:

 

1. Avocado Pits

Avocado Grow seeds with kids

Wash your avocado seed and use 3 toothpicks to suspend it broad-end down in a glass of water covering about 2.5 cm of the seed. Place the glass in a warm place indoors out of direct sunlight and replenish the water as needed. You should see sprouts in about 2-6 weeks. 

 

2. Top of a pineapple

Once you bring your pineapple home and are about to cut it up into a snack, save the top to plant just about 3 cm below the leaves then remove some of the lowest leaves from the stalk and cut out the remaining fruit flesh. Plant in your garden or a decorative pot. Keep the plant soil moist until roots develop at around 6-8 weeks. Pineapple tops enjoy bright, indirect sunlight. 

 

3. Venus Fly Traps

Venus Fly Traps

Growing Venus Fly traps from seed can be a tricky, takes about a year, and requires special soil to germinate the seed. You can purchase Venus flytraps at almost any plant store and re-pot them in a terrarium. Place gravel below the soil to ensure proper drainage. Good air circulation is key for these plants and it's best to water with distilled water when caring for these plants because tap water tends to have too many minerals for this sensitive plant. They make for an interesting plant to add to your child's collection.

The fun thing about this plant, is that it actually eats bugs as it's a carnivorous plant! Fun fact: There are 54 species of these carnivorous plant in Australia. Learn how to feed your Venus fly trap here. 

 
Child garden

Gardening teaches children about science and nutrition plus gives them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. There are a variety of engaging activities in gardening your child can participate in such as buying seeds and equipment, planting, mulching, weeding, and cooking. 

Make sure your garden is a safe place. Store sharp tools away from child's reach, use suitable equipment, fences, gates, and paths for children to use. 

 

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New Study Shows Children Inherit Their Intelligence From Their Mothers

 
Children's inheritance and mom

Genetics have never been so fascinating than when you are measuring who your child takes after the most. Sometimes they can look like your identical minis, and other times their unique features surprise you. New studies strongly suggest that your smarty-pants child might have their beautiful mums to thank for their intelligence! 

It's all in the genes

When the sperm meets the egg, the perfect amount of DNA comes together to create a human. This package of DNA molecules, the chromosomes, are the recipe cards for living things and up until recently, it was believed that intelligence was factored in from both mom and dad. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Robert Lehrke states that most of a child's intelligence does, in fact, have a hereditary component, and it comes from chromosome X. Studies suggest it is far more likely that kids inherit their intelligence from their mothers because women have two X chromosomes. 

DNA childrens intelligence

A 1984 University of Cambridge study was one of the first conducted in uncovering where children inherit intelligence by analysing the co-evolution of the brain and the conditioning of the human genome. This lead to the conclusion that maternal genes contribute to most of the development centers in the brain, most notably the hippocampus. 

Your child's brain

Baby's brain

The hippocampus plays a pivotal role in the limbic system. It's responsible for long-term memory, regulation of emotions, and spatial navigation. Another contributing theory to why children inherit intelligence from their mothers comes from the evidence that the mitochondria are almost exclusively inherited from moms. 

The mitochondrial genes are not the genes directly researched for increased intelligence, but it does have an important role in brain function. The mitochondria serve as the cell's powerhouse and your child's brains are high consumers of metabolic energy supplied by the mitochondria. It is suggested that this may translate into enhanced cognitive function.

I got it from my momma

Mom and Daughter

A study conducted by the Medical Research Council in Glasglow, Scotland interviewed 12,686 people between the ages of 14-22 every year since 1994. The results demonstrated that the best predictor of these young people's intelligence was their mother's IQ. They stated that their interviewee's IQs varied only an average of 15 points from that of their mothers. 

While your genetic blueprints have a lot of responsibility, it's not the only factor for intelligence. It is estimated that between 40-60% of intelligence is hereditary. Meaning the remaining factors vary depending on the child's environment, stimulation, and personality. 

External factors

Intelligence is defined as one's ability to solve problems. Our brains work as a whole, meaning, even though our hippocampus is hard at work organising our rational thinking functions, our intelligence is strongly influenced by intuition and emotions. This is where the child's parental relationships, environment, and personality come into play. 

Kids brains

Emotional support in early childhood is a significant factor for healthy hippocampus and limbic system. Studies of Romanian orphans in institutional care have shown that enhanced early caregiving through placement in therapeutic foster care has a strong positive impact on the child's cognitive, social, and emotional outcome. These studies reveal, that besides genetics, healthy intellectual development in children is formed through physical and emotional contact. Some studies even suggest that a child's secure bond to their mother is intimately linked to intelligence, suggesting that a nurturing caregiver in the early stages of life has proved to be an essential prerequisite for healthy brain development. 

Ultrasound

American novelist, Anthony Doerr wrote:

"We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs, the brain, the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us."

While genetic expression has a lot to account for in children's intelligence. It is with proper nurturing, support, and stimulation that children reach their best potential. So Dads, teachers, and nannies give yourself a pat on the back too! Raising the next generation of care-givers, and thought-leaders is the most rewarding job. 

Sources:

Luby, J. L. et. Al. (2012) Maternal support in early childhood predicts larger hippocampal volumes at school age. Journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; 109(8): 2854–2859.

Zechner, U. et. Al. (2001) A high density of X-linked genes for general cognitive ability: a run-away process shaping human evolution? Trends Genet; 17(12): 697-701.

Keverne, E. B.; Surani, M. A. et. Al. (1996) Genomic imprinting and the differential roles of parental genomes in brain development. Brain Res Dev Brain Res; 92(1): 91-100.

Gécz, J. & Mulley, J. (2000) Genes for Cognitive Function: Developments on the X. Genome Res; 10: 157-163.