Monday, 14 December 2015

Spotlight: An Interview With Jacqui Oatley

We were over the moon that Jacqui agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to hold a conversation with us. Jacqui is a fabulous presenter on many sports shows, including the BBC's live women's football coverage, plus she anchored the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup held in Canada earlier this year. Jacqui was also the first woman to commentate on Match of the Day. She talks to us today about her experiences going into the World Cup tournament and the impact it's had on the women's game. A huge thank you to Jacqui, here is what she had to say...

We loved watching the World Cup, it was gripping throughout (we loved your coverage too!) What were your thoughts going into the World Cup and how did they live up to expectations? 

Thanks. I was a little worried about England's prospects. Nobody was too sure about who would play in which positions and it seemed the players weren't too sure what to expect, so it was a time of uncertainty. The opening France game was a real concern as the players apparently had no confidence in their ability to retain the ball and attack, but we were all delighted that the team grew into the tournament and were able to have a real impact.

What has seen the biggest impact since the World Cup?

Awareness. The main thing I notice is that people know about the England women's team now: the players, managers, etc. I'm often stopped by fans outside their Premier League clubs and they want to talk about the women, not the men. I'm astounded by it because it's so new. But I'm delighted that people finally know that women can play football to a high standard! It's just such a shame it's taken so long. Now they need to buy tickets for matches and develop a culture of going back every home game.

What do you think is the best way forward for grassroots football?

Good facilities, good coaches, supportive (but not domineering) parents and enthusiastic young players wanting to get the best out of themselves and each other.

It was really interesting to see the media coverage that came with the World Cup - the togetherness of the team was well documented but it was also clear to see from any interviews or coverage of the team. Obviously the talent in the squad was incredible, in terms of the spirit they demonstrated, how much of an impact do you think that had on their success? 

I think the players deserve a huge amount of credit for the way they worked their way through the tournament. It seems they were stung by criticism after the France game but they didn't let it get them down. They made sure they again stuck to their game plan in the following games and played to their maximum. To be devastated by not beating the reigning world champions in the semi-finals shows how far they had come.

In all circuits of the game, what do you think creates a successful team/player? 

Individuals looking after themselves properly, eating the right foods, training the right way with the right mindset and encouraging those around them to do the same. Challenging themselves and each other to break new boundaries - not be content with doing things the way they’ve always been done, just for the sake of it. Above all, the team must be greater than the sum of its parts. Team organisation, spirit and desire can take you a long way. 

Especially within the women's game, what can be done, in your opinion, to continue to build on the success we've had this year? 

Everyone needs to do their bit - players and teams must strive to be better and more professional. Fans must buy tickets and merchandise and encourage friends and family to do the same. That will encourage media outlets to want to be involved but the media doesn’t owe the game anything as such. Large crowds and an exciting spectacle will attract sponsors and media alike. 

We are very pleased to have a very talented group of coaches. Who were your role models growing up within the game? Did you have a female coach/footballer that you remember looking up to?

No! Sadly, women’s football wasn’t on television when I was very young. Then I saw Hope Powell and Karen Walker’s generation for just one season on Channel 4. I never had a favourite female player, only male players at my local club. Steve Bull of Wolverhampton Wanderers and England was plastered all over my bedroom walls! I’m so happy that young girls now have a raft of star players to look up to - not only with England but at their local clubs too. 

A big thank you to Jacqui once again for allowing us the time to interview her. A truly great insight from a wonderfully talented lady.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Cooking With Kids: Spaghetti & meatballs (with hidden veg sauce)

We are very lucky to have spoken to Robert Prendergast. Robert, who was Head Chef for the England Women's team during their stay in Canada for the World Cup, has very kindly cooked up a recipe for you to try out with your kids. 

Whilst looking after the English Ladies World Cup team in Canada recently we had to be very aware of diet and ensuring the team and staff got a balanced, healthy yet varied selection of menus. Understanding what we eat is very important and has a lasting effect on our attitude, bodies and energy levels. To proceed in the world of professional sport we need to be educated and committed to eating correctly. - Robert Prendergast

For the meatballs

·          300g good quality pork sausages (about 4 large or 8 chipolatas)
·          500g lean beef mince
·          1 small onion, coarsely grated
·          1 carrot, finely grated
·          1 tbsp dried oregano
·          50g Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
·          1 medium egg
·          1 tbsp olive oil

For the tomato sauce
·         1 tbsp olive oil
·         1 courgette, coarsely grated
·         3 garlic cloves, finely grated
·         1 tbsp tomato purée
·         Pinch caster sugar
·         Splash red wine vinegar
·         2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

 To serve
  • ·           Cooked spaghetti


1.   Children: Squeeze all the sausage meat out of the sausage skins into a large bowl and add the mince. Tip all the rest of the meatball ingredients, except the olive oil, into the bowl and season with black pepper then squish everything together through your hands until completely mixed. Keep an eye on younger children to make sure they don’t taste any of the raw mix.
      Children: Roll the meatball mix into walnut-sized balls and place them on a plate – this is a job children as young as 2 can help with and a great job to help teach older children basic division.
      Grown ups: While the children are rolling the meatballs make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the courgette and garlic and cook for 5 mins until soft and mushy. Stir in the tomato puree, sugar and vinegar leave for 1 min then tip in the tomatoes and simmer for 5 mins. If your children like courgettes then you can leave the sauce chunky. But if, like mine, they hate courgettes then blitz the sauce with a hand blender – either way continue to simmer sauce gently while you cook the meatballs. If your child is confident with heat, from 7+ they can cook the sauce with supervision.
      Grown ups: Heat the oil in a large frying pan and, working in batches, brown the meatballs on all sides then pop them into the sauce – continue to simmer the sauce for 15 mins, stirring very gently until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve with cooked spaghetti, extra grated Parmesan and a few torn basil leaves your child has picked and torn.

Healthy eating is important for everyone, especially children, to ensure that they receive all the nutrients they need to grow and develop. Eating well and being physically active will improve your children’s health as well as their ability to learn and achieve at school. Encouraging your children to eat healthily now will make them more likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle as they get older.

Modern society has us surrounded by high sugary drinks and foods. We know we need to watch how much sugar we eat each day, but the new guidelines mean that we need to try to reduce this even further.
The problem is that too much sugar means extra calories, which in turn can lead to stored fat in the body and diseases like heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.
Around a quarter of the added sugar in kids’ diets comes from sugary drinks. That’s why the new advice is that sugary drinks have no place in a child’s daily diet. Swap to water; lower-fat milks; sugar free, diet and no added sugar drinks instead.
Eating too much sugar can also cause tooth decay, so be sure to clean your teeth twice a day and check your kids are doing the same.

Christmas Day: The Post 3pm Games

Well first of all, you're welcome! Read this and your Christmas Day will be all the better for it. We've all been there, the excitement of the big day finally comes round, presents are exchanged and the smell of cooking fills the air. Then, come three o'clock, you've undone the last button on your trousers in a bid to allow your stomach to bulge out. And then, well, very little? Am I close? Thought so. Well panic not team, allow us to cure the bore as we list some fun games for all the family to play and enjoy.

Here we go...

1. The Treasure Hunt

This is a game that needs a fair bit of preparation, but it's a great time filler when working off those mince pies in the afternoon.

Using gift tags create a Christmas themed treasure hunt that leads the children (and the older ones) around the house. If it's a nice day, it's the perfect opportunity to lure them outside for a bit of fresh air! Write a clue on each gift tag that hints at where the next clue may be. The final clue leads to a final present that is to be shared with the hunters, we'd suggest a board game that everyone can play!

2. Human Buckaroo

Now, we didn't say all our suggestions would be completely sensible.

Picture the scene; there is a Christmas film on TV and someone sits down with all the intentions of watching it, but barely into the title sequence they are snoring away in the corner. Now, we can't be having people fall asleep on the most exciting day of the year can we?

Enter the 'Human Buckaroo'! A modern take on the classic game played by thousands of children across the globe.

Similarly to the old fashioned game, Buckaroo, you find objects around the house and CAREFULLY place them on the 'sleeper'. Take turns in placing objects on their person but be sure not to wake them up! The person who eventually does wake them up, loses. If the objects don't wake them up, the laughs will!

3. The Family Quiz

Each member writes five questions which they place in a hat (It's probably the one time of year where hats are aplenty but a bowl will suffice!)

Your competitiveness will probably dictate the difficulty of the questions you ask, but you shouldn't expect the children to know what the name of the Buzz Aldrins' (the second man on the moon) mother's last name was? I bet you're wondering the answer, right? Moon.

No seriously, it was Moon, Marion Moon!

Remember to record the scores and no cheating!

4. 'Write A Name On A Piece Of Card And Put It On Someones Forehead' Guessing Game.

Ok, so we are still working on the title, it's not quite as catchy as we'd hoped. Surely we don't need to explain that one? Really? Wow, OK.

Each player writes a name on a piece of card and hands it to the person next to them. We'd suggest you only use famous people unless it's agreed beforehand. They then place it on their forehead with the name facing outwards. At that point, each player has to ask questions that can be answered with only Yes/No answers in a bid to guess correctly who the person is.

Take it in turns in guessing who the person is and the first person to guess who, is the winner!

5. The After Eight Face Slide

It's a bit of a classic, but if you are not aware of this one - give it a go!

You start by placing an After Eight on your forehead, lean back slightly so that it can rest without slipping down. Using only your facial expressions, twist, turn and gurn so that you slowly move the item down your face.

Start by wiggling your eyebrows, then you'll have to scrunch your nose, and as it starts to slowly move down your face you have to try and get it into your mouth. No hands!

Harder than it looks and even funnier than it sounds. I'd also recommend recording the movements using a slo-mo camera on your phone if you have one!

We want to see the videos on our Facebook page!

So there you have it, hopefully we've given you a few ideas for you to be trying out on the big day. We hope you have fun with it, do let us know if you decide to take part in any. Although we will not be held responsible for any damages to anything... or anyone!

Have fun,
Your Little Kickers Team

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Terrorism: Explaining The Seemingly Unexplainable

Terrorist attacks are hard enough for adults to understand, let alone our children.  As parents, our instinct is to shield our children from bad news but sometimes, particularly in the case of an act of terrorism, this is not possible.  There’s extensive coverage on television, and on social media and our kids regularly overhear adult conversations.

We’ve scoured the media to find the best advice around reassuring young children in the aftermath of an attack, and have summarized our findings in this article.  Obviously, how you deal with this at home depends on a multitude of factors that are specific to your own family, but we hope some of the information is useful.

In the event of a terror attack, children of all ages are processing the same overall issues, but the perspective children adopt and the way they respond will vary based on their age and maturity levels and whether they have been personally affected by the incident.  If your child is very young and has not had any exposure to information about terrorism then introducing them to it is not a great idea, according to Dr David Hilliker a pediatric psychologist with the Mayo Clinic Children’s Centre.  That said, children of this age may have heard things from their friends / teachers at nursery or seen media coverage.  If you have a sense that your child may have had exposure to this type of information it’s important to ask them what they have heard and how they feel about it.   “You may have heard something really sad happened in France and I am wondering what you think about that?”  Being able to talk about something makes it intrinsically less scary.  Very young children’s perspectives are quite egocentric – they want to know that they are ok and that the people around them are going to be ok, too.  Look for signs as to how distressed your child might be, and gauge your response to your child’s needs – don’t give more information than is necessary but recognize that having sufficient information can help reduce confusion and make a child feel happier and more secure.  Remember, you should try not to tell your child how to feel, it is more helpful to them if you talk them about how to deal with their feelings.  Similarly, recognize that the way you react will probably impact your child – try to remain calm and avoid being overly emotional in your own responses.  It’s sensible to avoid conversations about religion, politics etc with very young children – these subjects are really not relevant unless you’re talking to an older child / teenager.   Once you’ve initiated the conversation it’s important to ensure that you keep the lines of communication open.

Preschool children who have seen images on the news or overheard conversations about terrorism may worry that it’s happening very nearby and is an imminent threat to their personal safety and that of the people they care about.  It’s important for parents to find a balance between helping their child to feel safe and acknowledging the existence of violence and danger in the world and this must be done in a manner appropriate to the child’s ability to understand.  The guiding principles seem to be firstly, to encourage children to accept their fear.  Explain that it’s natural to feel scared in this type of situation and get them to talk about why they feel the situation is scary.  Explain to them that whilst the situation may be very frightening it is extremely unlikely to happen to them or anyone they know.  Helping them to develop a sense of perspective on the situation is very helpful “the reason it’s on the news so much and so many people are talking about it is because it’s such an unusual thing to happen”.  If they have heard about specific attacks (eg Paris) you might want to explain that Paris is a long way away and you would need to fly or get a train to get there.  It’s also worth pointing out that there are lots of people who work very hard to ensure that they, and all of their friends and family are kept safe and that the majority of people in the world want peace.

As any parent of a pre-schooler is aware, a favourite question tends to be “why”.  “Why did the attacks happen?”  “Why would terrorists kill people?”  The experts seem to agree that it’s best to try to keep things simple, so you might want to consider a response along the lines of “there are a few violent people in the world who are full of hate and want everyone to see the world the way they see it.  Very, very rarely they carry out attacks and kill people to try to frighten normal people into changing the way they live.”
Slightly older children may feel angry about the attacks, and it is important to make them see that the target of their anger should be terrorists, not Muslims, Arabs or Middle Easterners – stereotypes and prejudice can easily grow from anger and fear.

So what active steps can a parent take to limit the distress terror attacks may cause to a child?

1.    Limit television time, so that children are only getting age-appropriate information.  Confine your own viewing to times when children are less likely to be present. Violence can have a lasting effect on children even if they are only hearing about it through the media – we need to be careful with the images that our children see and hear about.

2.    Focus on the positive, rather than fear or negative messages.  Talk to your child about people pulling together to help each other in the aftermath of an attack and the work people do around the world to keep everyone safe.

3.    Sticking to regular routines will help children feel safe.  They act as positive signals that even though awful things have happened we can continue to engage in activities that make us feel well and signal safety and normalcy e.g. normal bedtimes and school routines.

4.    If your child is particularly anxious and wants to be unusually close to you (e.g. sleeping in your bed or doing chores with you) then it’s ok to make changes to your normal routine for a short time, but make it clear that this is unusual and negotiate a quick return to your usual patterns of behaviour.

5.    Make it a priority to watch your child and understand their behaviour.  If your child manifests some behavioural and emotional changes, including bad behaviour, sleeplessness, nightmares and general anxiety, recognize these as signs that extra reassurance and care may be needed.  Let your child know it’s ok to be upset.  If you have more than one child, bear in mind that your children may not all react in the same way.

6.    Create a calm and relaxed environment in your home through your own demeanor.  This will help your child to feel safe.

Unfortunately we can’t control the incidence of terror attacks.  We can, however, manage our responses to them, and those of our children and ensure that they feel as safe and secure as possible.

With thanks to:
Dr David Hilliker a pediatric psychologist with the Mayo Clinic Children’s Centre
Sally Peck – The Telegraph
Anne Perkins – The Guardian
University of Virginia Curry School of Education – Susan Stiffleman Marriage and Family therapist

Santa: Keep The Magic Alive (PARENTS ONLY!)

Shhh! Check behind you just to make sure the little ones haven't got an eye on the screen. Are we all clear? Then let us begin...

We know all too well that our little superstars are becoming increasingly savvy about catching Santa out. Here we have compiled the best ideas from the web and brought them to your very screen! 

Keep the spirit of Santa alive and well by trying out some of these great ideas. 

Are you ready?

1. Santa Spy Cam!

I have to say, I have had a lot of fun in the office with this one! It's an app where your home comes alive with elves and Santa delivering presents right in front of your very...screen! It's really well designed and will spark excitement in your children as they see Elves wander around your house. There are in-app purchases but there is a free version in there too!

2. Clumsy Santa

So the big man can't be flawless, surely? If Christmas Day turns out to be blessed with good weather, perhaps Santa may have accidentally dropped a present from his sleigh when flying over? He's getting on a bit, he's allowed a couple of blunders, eh?! Simply sprinkle a little glitter on one of the gifts because his sleigh is powered by magic! Leave it in a place outside to give the illusion it's fallen from the sky. 

3. Santa Treats

So there are over 1.9 billion children that Santa has to get around (maybe a couple less if there have been a few naughty kids on your street!) Surely he can't eat everything that is left out for him? Perhaps Rudolph may only take a bite of the carrot and Santa a slurp of his drink! Remember, Santa is not going to want to promote drink driving. So leave out a few half eaten treats to give the illusion that Santa has been, but of course, don't forget to polish them off later! 

4. Dust Down Your Santa Outfit

If you want to go one better than the app, perhaps dust down your Santa outfit from the wardrobe! Make your very own little CCTV video for the kids in the morning that shows Santa putting the presents under the tree.

5. Santa Doesn't Wipe His Feet 

He's come straight from the North Pole so he's bound to have a bit of snow on his shoes. Ok, so it may have melted but let's not ruin the fun. Simply step in a light dusting of flour/talcum powder and make footprints showing Santa's steps! 

6. Christmas Wrapping

 Kids are not silly and will go to amazing lengths to catch Santa out. Make sure you use different wrapping paper from your own personal gifts, before your miniature Sherock Holmes smells a rat!

7. Buy A Spare Toy

Highlight the importance of sharing. Santa may have accidentally dropped a present that was meant for another child, maybe you could then get your child to give it to a another that would be deserving of a present? Or together, take it to a charitable organisation? Spread a little Christmas joy.

8. Where Is He? 

Did you know you can track Santa as he visits the different time zones across the world? Make sure they're asleep before he comes to your house! or use the Google Maps tracker. 

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