Well. What a year 2020 turned out to be. Certainly one none of us will forget. Everyone has had their own unique experience, but we’ve all had an experience. Our experiences of this year are effectively summed but by the quote:

we are not all in the same boat, but we are in the same storm’.

New Year is always a time for reflection – this year perhaps more than any. Rarely are we forced by external circumstances to re-evaluate our lives and priorities in the way that 2020 has forced us to. As Albert Einstein said ‘in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’ so we wanted to share our reflections on a truly stormy year.

  1. The world is full of compassion and kindness
The acts of kindness over this past year have been incredible. If anyone needs proof, check out the good news movement! Whether it’s helping a self-isolating neighbour access essential supplies, sending well wishes to people who are ill, to the gratitude and thanks for people around us. It’s as though the pandemic has helped us ‘look up’ more and notice others in difficulty. I know in my own life, I had spent years living on my road without fully knowing an elderly gentleman a few doors down. I now know how incredible this man is – a famous artist in his earlier career who sees the best in every situation, despite physical impairments, but grew lonely and isolated throughout the lockdowns. We have been proud to be able to look out for him and offer support. The sense of community has hugely increased and there is a lot to be said for that. Take a listen to Dr Chatterjee’s podcast with Dr Julian Abel on how important community, compassion and kindness are for our health!
  • Ideas for how to apply this in 2021:
    • Think of one thing as a family you could do each day/week/month to bring a smile to someone’s face – a family friend, a teacher, a stranger.
    • Keep a gratitude journal - it nearly always results in realising how grateful you are for the people in your life!
    • Try this game at the dinner table:
      1. What did someone do today to make you happy?
      2. What did you do to make someone else happy?
      3. What have you learned today?
 
  1. We are more resilient to change than we realised
One thing the pandemic has demonstrated is that change and uncertainty are difficult but inevitable parts of life. Many of us spend time trying to avoid difficulty – understandably, it hurts! But it’s impossible to avoid all difficulty and building resilience will help us, and our children, cope much better with difficulty so it no longer feels like something that needs to be avoided at all costs. Ideas for how to apply this in 2021:  
  1. Prevention is better than cure

The research about COVID is still unfolding – there is still uncertainty around exactly what it is that makes some people more vulnerable to it than others. But some factors have been identified such as obesity and diabetes. Often described as ‘lifestyle diseases’, there is much we can do to help prevent them and to naturally support our immune systems to ensure we are as healthy as possible.

Firstly, the body is an incredibly complex and incredibly clever machine. From the moment of conception to our last breath, it is working tirelessly to keep us well. For example, we get a fever when we are ill in order to create an environment the pathogen can’t survive in. It isn’t a malfunction – it is a very smart way of trying to get us back to full health. The body is amazing and we should have trust that it’s got our back! The key thing we can do to help it is to reduce the pressure we place on our bodies so it can focus on the job in hand!

  • Microbiome – the billions of little bacteria in our guts play a hugely important role in our immune systems…our guts house around 70% of the cells that make up our immune system! So feed those bacteria well to stay well. Fibre is the most important way to do this – plenty of fruit, vegetables, lentils and pulses, as well as any fermented foods your kids like, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and miso
  • Sleep helps our immune systems! Ever wondered why we sleep so much when we are ill? It gives the immune system a chance to work its magic much better than when we are awake. Children should get between 10-12 hours a night. You can help by including sleep inducing foods at dinnertime such as oats, bananas, chicken and eggs, and try to limit screens at least 1 hour before bed
  • Exercise in nature – we were designed to move our bodies. As little as 6 minutes of running around can double the amount of circulating immune cells in children, but we should be striving to make sure children have the opportunity to exercise for at least an hour a day (by going to a park, running around outside in break times etc). Exercise also helps release any stress hormones that have built up during the day
  • Sunshine – Vitamin D is a very important part of the immune system. For example, it is needed to produce the antimicrobial proteins that kill pathogens. Did you know we are all entitled to a free vitamin D blood test once a year as the NHS recognise its importance when it comes to our health? For children, we need to make sure they get outside and have an opportunity to absorb vitamin D (let them have 10 minutes before applying sunscreen) as well as offer them vitamin D rich food like fatty fish, cheese and eggs (make sure they are from free range chickens…chickens that have been cooped up inside and don’t see the sun produce eggs with less vitamin D!)
  • Food – the Little Cooks Co food philosophy is to eat real food and reduce processed food. Real food is nutrient rich and processed food is not. For example, minerals come from soil – all fruit and vegetables are grown in soil, so by eating them you are also eating minerals, many of which are essential for healthy immune systems like zinc and magnesium. Food produced in a factory, like Haribo sweets, have none unless they are added in artificially. Try to eat a rainbow of colours from fruit and vegetables each day – this will help ensure children get the key nutrients needed to support the immune system, such as Vitamin A in yellow and orange foods like carrots and mangos, Vitamin C in green food like spinach and broccoli, and antioxidants in purple food like blueberries
  1. Time at home doesn’t have to be boring!
We’ve all spent a LOT of time at home this year and though it comes with challenges, there are some brilliant lessons and memories from it too. Here are some of our favourite ideas for ways to spend quality family time together at home or occupy the children while you are working:
  • Feed their imaginations - Children of any age love imaginative play so take the time to feed their imaginations. Build dens (indoors or outdoors), make a pirate ship out of a cardboard box, design a princess dress out of an old sheet. These are the things that make memories that we will all treasure.
  • Board games - Board games tend to come out for Christmas but then get put away for the rest of the year. But they are actually a fantastic way to get the family sitting down together, laughing, sometimes arguing but always having fun. They are also a great way to develop resilience in kids – it requires impulse control, turn-taking, and mental flexibility. Set aside an afternoon or evening once a month to get the games out and relive the Christmas hilarity.
  • Scavenger hunt - Especially when the weather isn’t great it can be hard to get the kids out for a walk in the countryside or in the park. We use a sort of ‘scavenger hunt’ to make it more fun for everyone. Write a list of objects; a feather, an acorn, a white flower, who can find the prettiest leaf etc and set out on an adventure together.
  • Book an online course of lessons - Whatever your child is into; dance, music or something completely new, there are loads of new online courses starting. I have booked my son onto a photography course called cultivating wonder – a course designed to help children see the beauty in the world around them, and teach them how to capture it with a camera!
  • Plant seeds - Whether you live in an apartment with a window box or a house with a garden or allotment, watching things grow can be magical for a child of any age. Plant cress seeds, grow vegetables etc but the sense of achievement for both of you seeing something grow from the soil is fantastic!!
  • Read together, craft together - Sometimes the simple activities are the best. Take time to read with your child – choose a series of books (Roald Dahl, Chronicles of Narnia etc) and decide on one night a week when you will read a chapter to your child. It soon becomes a very special part of the week and is a great way to stimulate their imagination and develop language and listening skills. Help them with drawing, painting and crafting. All these things are simple but will mean so much to your child and keep them away from the screens.
  • Cook together - Obviously our favourite! Time spent together in the kitchen is wonderful bonding time, as well as teaching your child one of life’s most important lifeskills – how to feed themselves! Share your knowledge, teach them about nutrition and watch them develop their fine motor skills. Take the time, relax (mess can easily be cleared up from kitchen surfaces) and enjoy creating with your child.
  • Eat together - Just as important as cooking together is eating together! Put the phones away, sit around the table, turn off the TV and enjoy some quality time and conversation. The table talk cards included in each month’s Little Cooks box are a great way to make this even more fun!
  • Lastly, be mindful not to over-consume the news. It often reports the most negative perspective and can easily become addictive. And little ears often take in more than we think and it can be scary for them to hear!
December 30, 2020