During the long, dark winter months it can be difficult to keep morale high and especially difficult this year with potentially more lockdowns and isolation.
Briony Richter spoke to Linda Baston-Pitt, Director PurpleBeeLearning about the importance of wellbeing during the winter.
1. With the dark mornings approaching and night’s drawing in, what is your responsibility as a leader for keeping your team’s wellbeing protected.
For many staff juggling work and family commitments throughout the pandemic, has been difficult but the bonus of longer days, good weather and being able to get outdoors has made it more bearable. However, we know the Winter months can be a difficult time for people as the days get darker and colder and whilst the run up to Christmas can be an exciting time for many, this year in the midst of COVID it is also likely to be a very tough time for some. Leaders need to be aware and recognise that not everyone is going to be feeling at their best as they struggle with disrupted routines, missing their colleagues as well the up and coming pressures of Christmas that all can take its toll on the team. On a positive note, so many settings continue to introduce new and innovative ways to support and protect their team’s wellbeing – starting with looking after ourselves and each other.
Are there activities or methods that can be done at home that you recommend to your staff?
Everyone’s approach to supporting staff wellbeing will be different but looking after ourselves and each other is the essential battery recharge we all need, to ensure that we have the mental and physical energy to deal with today’s challenges. As a way of keeping their staff team motivated and engaged, Kindred Nurseries used our free Wellbeing Wins Toolkit with the whole team. It’s a practical activity that encourages staff to check in on their own wellbeing across the key hygiene factors of wellbeing that include good diet, sufficient sleep and regular exercise. Each person created their own wellbeing action plan by deciding which areas they felt needed nourishing and then chose some simple steps to try out that would help to improve their wellbeing in that particular area.
Darker hours mean more time spent indoors and less physical activity for many children. What is your advice for maintaining a healthy and physically fit lifestyle through winter?
It’s been widely reported that during lockdown many children and families have not been able to get enough regular physical exercise and Vitamin D, which we know can lead to a number of problems including; poor sleep patterns, reduced immunity and increased stress levels. Nurseries play a such a vital role in supporting physical activity and promoting healthy lifestyles which will be even more important throughout the winter months. I think the key to maintaining this will be to ensure all staff are involved in the development of long term and daily curriculum plans, that provide a positive environment for physical play and movement by integrating physical activity opportunities throughout the day. One of our PANCo’s worked with their team to create a bank of age-appropriate physical play ideas that included slow and vigorous activities that included, sensory tummy time sessions, obstacle courses and outdoor treasure hunts. The activities were integrated into the day to day routine in and outdoors and shared with parents which they then continued at home.
What have been some PANCo highlights you have witnessed this year?
There have been so many, but what has really amazed us is the incredible enthusiasm and passion shown by all of our PANCo learners throughout their training despite the added challenges. Their feedback has been heart warming with students sharing some wonderful stories about the impact its already having on the health and wellbeing of their setting as a result of doing the course;
‘We are already beginning to see the impact with a clear improvement in children’s snacks that they bring from home, and parents and carers are eager to attend our next workshop.’
‘Since studying on the PANCo course I have been inspired to make positive changes to the way I eat and exercise and hope that I can give staff and parents the knowledge they need to make changes to their own lifestyles. I plan to continue to support both staff and parents in building their knowledge on physical development and healthy eating.’
What have you learnt from this year?
On a personal level when I’ve felt overwhelmed or anxious, I’ve actually followed my own advice by writing down short lists of the things that I felt I could control and the things that I couldn’t. I found it really helped me to focus on the positives and to keep a realistic perspective.
On a professional level I’ve realised just how important networking with my colleagues is. We’ve needed to communicate with each other more than ever and I’ve really valued the opportunity to share like never before not just best practice, but our emotions about how we really feel. I think it has brought us all closer together on so many levels. I just hope moving forward that this culture shift will leave us better communicators and collaborators post Covid.
Linda Baston-Pitt Director PurpleBeeLearning
www.purplebeelearning.com @LindaEarlyYears @PurpleBee_Learn