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Melissa Evans

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Moving into the tail-end of the summer holidays, this is the time where many kids will be getting bored and unsettled.

Fortunately, there are a range of fun ways to keep them occupied, from outdoor adventures to DIY projects and fun games at home.

Here are some easy activities to keep them entertained:

DIY home theatre

theatre
Photo Credit: Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

With the pandemic affecting the accessibility of theatres, many kids are missing the novelty of the movie-going experience. But there’s no reason why it can’t be recreated at home. These holidays, encourage the kids to build their own home theatre.

Simply pick a room in the home and all you’ll need is a projector to display your chosen film on the wall. Throw some popcorn in the microwave and there you have it – the theatre experience in the comfort of your home. The kids may even enjoy it all the more for its cosiness.

Act out a play

play
Photo Credit: Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

This is a great way to keep your child’s mind sharp before they go back to school, while also letting them have fun. It’s a great activity to get creative with – they could choose from a range of popular plays or even write their own script.

From Shakespeare to a Harry Potter play, there are options for all ages and interests. Plus, the whole family can get involved and make a day of it. To add to the excitement, you could invite relatives or neighbours to watch the performance.

Have a dance-off

dance
Photo Credit: Yan Berthemy on Unsplash

This is a fun activity for a group of kids to get involved in a movie-esque dance competition. It’s a simple way to encourage socialisation, while also tackling boredom. And, with the added bonus of physical exercise, it’s a no-lose situation.

The kids could make their own playlist and come up with some unique dance routines. The best part is, it costs nothing and can be done anywhere and with anyone. It could be a family affair, or you could encourage the kids to invite some friends over.

Outdoor sports

swimming
Photo Credit: Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

There’s never a better time to get exploring outside than in the summer. It’s a great time to try out some outdoor sports like open-water swimming. Explore your local area – or travel further out to your nearest beach – and dive into the deep end. This is a great opportunity for the kids to hone their swimming and water safety skills. There are also other activities for those who’d like to stay closer to the shore, such as playing around the rock pools and looking for shells.

Bike riding is a great option to get outside, while also having fun. There are a range of bike tracks out in nature so you can hit two birds with one stone – get the kids in the fresh air and get them exercising. Other types of wheel-based activities can also be a fun solution to holiday boredom, from roller skating to skateboarding – it’s the perfect time to try out some new interests. It could even lead to a long-lasting hobby and reduce hours spent looking at phone and computer screens.

Set up an indoor tent

tent
Photo Credit: Kate Darmody on Unsplash

Making an indoor tent is a novel activity that will thrill kids of all ages. They can design the interiors themselves and could even watch movies or solve puzzles in their cosy new space. It’s a great way to incorporate family bonding time into the holidays and could even become a mainstay the kids to enjoy well into the future – it may even serve as a retreat for them during stressful times.

Festive fairy lights could be added to improve the aesthetics, along with music and colourful pillows to make the space welcoming. The kids could even create their own decorations to make the space their own.

Have a picnic

picnic
Photo Credit: Jarritos on Unsplash

It’s the perfect weather to head down to the park and get some family time in. A picnic is a fun way to get outside and it also gives you a chance to combine it with other activities such as walking through park trails, birdwatching or playing cricket in the park.

To really keep the kids entertained, they can even prepare the food themselves. From finger sandwiches to muffins to sushi – the options to get creative are limitless.

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out on calcium-rich foods or rely solely on supplements to get by.

It’s a common misconception that dairy is one of the only viable sources of calcium, in fact there are a wide range of sources that vegans – and lactose intolerant people – can make the most of to maintain a balanced diet.

However, calcium deficiency is a significant issue affecting people of all ages. Experts recommend adults obtain 1000 milligrams of calcium a day, but a PubMed journal study found that 69% of male young adult and 83% of female young adult participants failed to meet the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of calcium, and this number was even higher in the adolescent age group, with 95% of female participants not meeting the EAR.

Those lacking the mineral are at a dangerous risk of bone loss and brittleness, and more significantly, developing osteoporosis. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 20% of people aged over 75 had the condition in 2018, and it’s women who are at the most risk, coming in at a 19% higher incidence than men in this age group.

fracture
Calcium deficiency can lead to severe fractures

As they say, prevention is better than cure. One of the best steps to take is to ensure you’re getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals, calcium being one of the most important. Vegans may have less choices at the supermarket, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on this essential mineral.

Here are some of the best options to stock up on:

Leafy greens

Although some greens like spinach contain a higher number of oxalates – which bind nutrients and prevent absorption – kale, broccoli and bok choy can be more bioavailable options. One cup of cooked kale contains 268 milligrams calcium, similar to a cup of dairy milk.

kale
Pictured: Kale

Almonds

Almonds offer 246 milligrams of calcium per cup – of course, people aren’t likely to consume a whole cup, as such this is a good choice to add a boost of the mineral, but not relying on them alone. Pistachios are also a great option, and they have less oxalates, meaning the calcium will be better absorbed.

almond
Pictured: Almonds

Sauerkraut

This is already a nutritional powerhouse, known for its high vitamin K content and probiotics. While less well-known, its calcium content is nothing to brush off. Coming in at 43 milligrams per cup, this fermented dish may be lower in calcium than some of the other foods on this list, but it is still a bone-strengthening powerhouse due to its vitamin K2 content and adding a little to your diet is a great way to stave off osteoporosis.

sauerkraut
Pictured: Sauerkraut

Plant-based milk

While many prefer to get their calcium naturally occurring in their food – such as in broccoli or cheese – there’s nothing wrong with including synthetic calcium in your diet and it can be a beneficial way to meet the daily requirements.

Many plant-based milks have calcium fortified into them, and this is still a great way to help reach that thousand milligram goal. Some of these milks also have the added benefits of other vital vitamins like B12 and vitamin D being fortified into them. Oat, almond, rice and soy milk are some of the many choices available, but make sure to check the nutritional profile on the back – some brands have more calcium than others.

plant milk
Pictured: Oat milk

Tofu

Tofu can be a great source of calcium, but be aware than not all brands are built the same. Some offer drastically higher amounts than others and this depends on the method and ingredients with which the tofu was set. If calcium sulfate is used for this process, then it will certainly pack a healthy dose of calcium into a meal, with some coming in at 350 milligrams in a serve – making it the greatest source on this list.

tofu
Pictured: Tofu

Including multiple sources of calcium is reported to be the best way to meet the daily requirements. As such, to ensure a balanced diet, try to avoid relying on loading up on one source of calcium to meet the recommended intake.

In a world flooded with global disasters and mental health conditions like eco-anxiety on the rise, author of the bestselling self-help book, Slow, Brooke McAlary, unveils the pitfalls of neglecting personal care in her new book, Care.

Brooke McAlary’s own experience with post-natal depression was the catalyst for her self-care journey and marked the beginning of her career change from business woman to self-help author. After the overwhelming success of her 2017 international bestseller Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World, Brooke returns to share her latest tips to live a slow and joyful life, through her latest book, Care: The Radical Art of Taking Time, published by Allen & Unwin.

After receiving her post-natal depression diagnosis following the birth of her second child, it was Brooke’s therapist who first recommended slowing down. This wake-up call prompted Brooke’s change of pace and her ensuing move to the Southern Highlands with her family. Burned out by her past career running a jewellery business, along with raising two young children and juggling excessive commitments, the self-care author reveals how she knew something had to change.

Brooke says, “Looking back, I can see my mental health started to take a dive…I write about slow, because I need slow, it’s not something that comes naturally.”

Self care is important for mental health
Photo Credit: Nikko Macaspac on Unsplash

In her book, Brooke tackles the exploitative nature of the wellness industry. The industry has high stakes in profiting from the growing market for self-care, reeling in nearly $4.5 trillion and representing 5.3% of global economic spending.

With increasing mediums for internet users to be inundated by advertisements and marketing campaigns, it is becoming easier for corporations to exploit the rising population of people seeking solutions to stress and burnout. Brooke says, “If you are buying into certain elements of self-care because you think there’s something wrong with you, you become vulnerable to that marketing message.”

Wellness services have flooded the market, many of which have been accused of charging exorbitant fees and exploiting desperation. Brooke challenges the exclusive tactics of self-care corporations, and offers a more accessible path to wellbeing in her guide.

“Everything I write about needs to be accessible to everyone, regardless of finances, geography, abilities,” Brooke says.

It helps if you’re already well, you’re slim and you’re 25, that kind of mentality is what has attached itself to self-care.

“In keeping with the idea of accessibility, I really wanted it to be achievable for people who are busy, which is a lot of people. If you’ve got thirty seconds, you can spend those thirty seconds looking out a window at a green view, you can write down one lovely thing that you saw today or you could hold the door for a stranger.”

Walking outside is a form of self care
Photo Credit: Юлія Вівчарик on Unsplash

Brooke unpacks the ideas of ‘Big Care’ and ‘Small Care’, and their significance in the past year where ‘Big Care’ has had a major global impact of “upheaval and collective grief,” with the climate change crisis and the COVID19 pandemic. While she acknowledges that these two types of ‘care’ don’t exist in a vacuum, she also identifies why we need to prioritise the ‘Small Care’ sometimes.

Brooke says, “I realised I had spent so much time and energy caring about all of these big, important global collective issues like climate change, COVID, the national grief we’re all feeling as a result of last year’s bushfires, but what I had neglected was the other end of the spectrum of care, the small acts of care.

“That is the genesis of the spectrum of care I talk about in the book. The reason we need to start spending more time on the smaller end of the spectrum.”

Brooke’s call for greater self-care and mental health awareness is all the more pertinent, with stress and burnout rapidly increasing among the population. Asana’s global study found that 4 in 5 Australians in white-collar jobs suffered burnout in 2020.

While a variety of symptoms are reported, the main signs often include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Brain Fog
  3. Maladaptive Daydreaming
  4. Lack of Motivation
  5. Sleep Issues
  6. Frequent Illness

With smartphone users clocking in 3 hours and 15 minutes a day and technology infiltrating all aspects of people’s lives, Care brings to light the role technology plays in exacerbating burnout and stress.

Fighting the temptation to keep scrolling on social media is hard when “it feels good in the short term because it releases dopamine”, Brooke says, but she maintains the need to substitute internet usage with more fulfilling activities.

Our phones, our laptops, our screens can be viewed much more like a tool… something you use for a job and then you put it away.

Brooke advises people to partake in hands-on activities outside of technology, suggesting that physical activities like yoga can positively affect the brain and even just “looking into the eyes of animals can release oxytocin”, also known as the love hormone.’

Looking into the eyes of animals produces oxytocin
Photo Credit: Nachelle Nocom on Unsplash

Brooke says, “If there’s an opportunity to go for a walk, or to sit and do something tech-related, I use that information for motivation.”

In her own life, Brooke has implemented this concept for her family, with her children creating a technology-free ‘slow room’ to help reduce outside sources of stress. She says, “I started experimenting and started to declutter and was astounded to find the impact it had on my mental health.” It was this realisation of how switching off can bring joy that inspired Brooke to share this practice with her children.

Practising self care as a family
Photo Credit: Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Brooke also outlines how ‘Small Care’ can affect our perception of time, revealing how anyone can harness the ability to “bend timeand alter their experience of its passage.

“As I get older, as my kids get older, I feel like time speeds up. That made me curious about why there were times in my life where time seemed to feel like more,” Brooke says.

Research shows that our perception of time changes as we grow older. When we’re a child everything is new.  As a result, time feels like it goes on for longer… That is the simplest way to bend time.

Brooke says when people’s lives become monotonous and repetitive, the brain doesn’t hold on to those memories, thus creating the illusion of time passing quickly. In Care, Brooke encourages individuals to embrace the sense of play and wonder from childhood, to slow down their perception of time and make space for ‘Small Care.’

Featuring Brooke McAlary, author of Care: The Radical Art of Taking Time.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Brooke’s work, watch our exclusive interview with her below.

With Christmas just around the corner, you may be looking for a solution to holiday boredom, and getting the kids in the kitchen for some festive cooking is a great way to entertain them.

Here are our top picks for some simple and fun recipes the kids will enjoy making – and you’ll get to enjoy test-tasting some of their creations in the process.

Gingerbread men

ginger
Pictured: Gingerbread biscuits

These biscuits are popular for good reason – they have a unique and festive taste and they’re also surprisingly easy to make. The kids will love the decorating process and it makes for great entertainment that they can enjoy from the kitchen table.

Ingredients:

  1. 115 grams butter
  2. ½ cup golden syrup
  3. ½ cup brown sugar
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. 2 cups plain flour
  6. 1 tsp. bicarb soda
  7. 2 cups plain flour
  8. 2 tsp. ground ginger
  9. 1 tsp. cinnamon
  10. 1/3 cup icing sugar

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Coat paper with cooking oil. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale in colour.
  • Then add in the egg yolk, followed by the syrup.
  • Separately, mix the dry ingredients together: the flour, bicarb soda, cinnamon and ginger.
  • Combine the two mixtures together, then wrap the dough in plastic or parchment paper and leave it in the fridge for an hour.
  • After this, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out gingerbread man-shaped pieces. Position these onto your lined baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  • For icing: Mix icing sugar with a tablespoon of hot water, then put into a piping bag. Decorate gingerbread men with your desired design.

 

White chocolate snowflakes

White chocolate
Pictured: White chocolate snowflakes on top of biscuits

This is a very simple recipe, requiring only one ingredient, but the results are impressive and sure to thrill children of all ages – and the adults too. They also go well as a decoration for the shortbread biscuits.

Ingredients

  1. White chocolate

Method

  • Set out a tray lined with baking paper.
  • Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water.
  • Once the chocolate has melted, put it into a piping bag.
  • To make the snowflake shape either use cookie cutters, baking paper with the pattern cut out, or style your snowflakes freehand.

 

Peppermint hot chocolate

peppermint hot
Pictured: Peppermint hot chocolate

This comforting beverage puts a festive spin on the traditional version, and can be decorated with any number of toppings, from sprinkles to chocolate sauce

Ingredients

  1. 2 tbsp. milk chocolate melts
  2. 1 cup milk
  3. 2 drops peppermint oil
  4. Whipped cream for decoration

Method

  • Put the milk into a saucepan on a low heat.
  • Stir the chocolate melts in.
  • Turn the heat off them add the peppermint oil.
  • Pour it into a mug and top with whipped cream.

 

Christmas shortbread biscuits

christmas biscuit
Pictured: Christmas shortbread biscuits

These classic biscuits are a hallmark for many families at Christmas time – and for good reason. They involve only a few ingredients and there’s a limitless number of shapes to be made, as long as you have the cookie cutters for your desired shape the kids can choose anything from Christmas trees to stars to reindeer.

Ingredients:

  1. 220 grams butter
  2. 1 cup castor sugar
  3. 2 ½ cups plain flour
  4. 1 cup cornflour
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla essence

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a tray with baking paper.
  • Coat the paper with cooking oil. Beat sugar, butter and vanilla until pale in colour.
  • Then add in flour and cornflour. Wrap the dough in plastic or baking paper and leave in the fridge for an hour.
  • Then, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes.
  • Place them on the baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then decorate as desired.

 

Cheat’s mango trifle

trifle
Pictured: Cheat’s mango trifle

This is a classic summer dessert, but many are put off by the complex steps and elements involved in the recipe. This version is simple and quick – perfect for kids to get creative with.

Ingredients

  1. 2 store-bought sponge cakes
  2. 2 cups custard
  3. 2 cups of thinly sliced mango
  4. 85 grams raspberry jelly powder
  5. 300ml heavy cream
  6. 2 tbsp. raspberry jam

Method

  • Set out a large round bowl and place the first sponge cake in the base.
  • Make raspberry jelly according to package, then pour half over the sponge cake.
  • Then, pour half of the custard on top, followed by half of the mango – arrange it evenly on top of the cake.
  • After this, add the second sponge cake and pour over the rest of the jelly and the rest of the custard.
  • In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. This should take about 5 minutes.
  • Position the cream on top, then drizzle the jam on top and add the other half of the mango for decoration.
  • Leave it in the fridge to chill for an hour.

 

Berry summer mocktail

Berry mocktail
Pictured: Berry summer mocktail

Mocktails are perfect for the entire family – with a touch of elegance and festivity that is sure to impress any guests you have over. It’s also a great opportunity for the kids to get creative with a range of garnishing ideas they come up with, from lemon or lime wedges to mint leaves or even more substantial decorations like coating the glass rim in sugar. Here’s an easy and fun starter recipe.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup blueberries
  2. 1 cup crushed raspberries
  3. 4 cups lemonade
  4. 8 mint leaves
  5. 1 lemon, neatly sliced

Method

  • To begin, make the berry syrup by putting the berries, sugar and a cup of water into a pot. Bring to the boil then set aside.
  • Set out four glasses – if you need to make more, simple adjust the recipe – and add the crushed raspberries into the bottom of each glass.
  • Mix a mint leaf into each cup, then add in a tablespoon of the blueberry sugar syrup mix. Add half a cup of lemonade to each glass then fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice.
  • For garnishes, add a mint leaf and a lemon slice, along with any other fruits or herbs of choice.

 

Candy cane yoghurt bark

yoghurt bark
Pictured: Candy cane yoghurt bark

This recipe puts a Christmassy twist on the easy yoghurt bark recipe with nostalgic candy canes. This dessert is so simple and safe for kids to make as there’s no hot temperatures involved.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups plain yoghurt
  2. 2 candy canes, broken into small pieces
  3. 1 cup raspberries
  4. 1 tbsp. honey (or to taste)

Method

  • Line a freezer-safe tray with baking paper and set aside.
  • Mix yogurt and honey in a bowl.
  • Add crushed candy canes and raspberries.
  • Pour the mix onto the tray, then freeze for 3 hours. To serve, break into 10 pieces.

 

Alcohol-free pina colada

Pina Colada
Pictured: Pina Colada

It’s not summer without a pina colada, and although this beverage is known for its alcoholic kick, there’s no reason the kids can’t enjoy this summery drink – minus the rum, of course.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup frozen pineapple
  2. ½ cup coconut milk
  3. ½ cup ice cubes
  4. ¼ cup pineapple juice
  5. 4 maraschino cherries

Method

  • Place all ingredients in a blender for 1 minute or until thoroughly blended.
  • Pour into 2 glasses – you can double the recipe to make more.
  • Garnish with maraschino cherries, 2 for each glass.

 

These are a few simple cooking ideas to encourage the kids to get creative in the kitchen. Some of these recipes involve using electric equipment, hot water and the oven, and as such they may require parental supervision to ensure safety for these steps.

With researchers widely reporting the benefits of tea for reducing the risk of developing cancer, high blood pressure and even the common cold, tea can a great addition to a healthy life. But the endless options on the market can make choosing the right one an intimidating process.

Tea is not just a soothing drink to drown out a stressful day’s work, but it also has powerful antioxidants which target free radicals in the body – these are major contributors to the development of disease – and studies show this may play a role not only in reducing the risk of various ailments, but may also slow down the ageing process.

Lifestyle, environmental and diet choices, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol or skimping on regular exercise, are some of the main causes of oxidative stress; a state in which there is an imbalance of free radicals in the body. This imbalance can damage our DNA and could eventually lead to a number of health conditions, including:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Diabetes
  3. Inflammation
  4. Heart disease
  5. Cancer

Research on green tea consumption found that regularly drinking the beverage has a proven reduction in cellular damage and it proved that the antioxidants, specifically polyphenols, in the tea trapped the free radicals, leading to a decrease in oxidative stress.

tea health
Photo Credit: Matthew Henry on Unsplash

It is clear that tea is a powerful aid to maintaining good health and, although tea may not cure illnesses, it can offer some relief and lessen the burden of some symptoms. Below is a list of some beneficial teas and what they can do – find out which one is right for you.

Camomile Tea

Best for

  • Managing blood sugar levels
  • Aiding sleep regulation
  • Reducing inflammation

Camomile has a long history of uses dating back to ancient times when it was highly esteemed throughout Europe and Asia for its many healing properties. Today, this tea is most popularly known as a calming drink, often recommended to those with jittery nerves. However, it has also been found to reduce inflammation – which is a major contributor to the development of conditions like high blood pressure, arthritis or even skin ailments like eczema. Some studies have also found that this tea can help manage blood sugar levels.

chamomile tea
Photo Credit: Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

Peppermint Tea

Best for

  • Indigestion
  • Bloating

The cooling and refreshing flavour and smell of this tea prove that it’s for good reason that so many products, including toothpaste, sweets and gum, use mint as a main ingredient. But the taste alone is not where peppermint tea’s best qualities lie.

Recognised for its benefits in reducing the pain of indigestion and bloating, this tea can be a great option for those with digestive issues. However, studies show that if one’s symptoms stem from GERD, this tea could further irritate the condition, but those suffering from IBS symptoms may find relief with peppermint, according to previous research.

Peppermint tea
Photo Credit: Anton Darius on Unsplash

Liquorice Root Tea

Best for

  • Supporting kidney and liver function
  • Reducing symptoms of respiratory illnesses

Liquorice root is in fact the same plant that the beloved confectionary liquorice is derived from, and unsurprisingly, the tea has a natural sweetness to it. Studies have found that the oleanolic and asiatic acids in this tea make powerful antioxidants, which in turn can fight the symptoms of some respiratory conditions including colds and bronchitis, by protecting the cells in the lungs.

This study also shows that liquorice root tea contains antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Though there is limited evidence, some believe this tea may reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flashes.

licorice tea
Liquorice root tea is known for its healing qualities.

Ginger Tea

Best for

  • Aiding digestion
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing congestion

This antiviral tea can aid in pain relief for menstrual cramps, indigestion and bloating and is a popular choice for reducing cold symptoms, including congestion. Ginger also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, with one study reporting 5% less oxidative stress-related kidney damage in the subjects that consumed ginger than those that didn’t.

Ginger tea
Photo Credit: Julia Topp on Unsplash

Green Tea

Best for

  • Skin health
  • Antioxidants

This aromatic beverage is a powerful option and its health benefits are a force to be reckoned with, ranging from aiding digestion, boosting brain function and supporting skin health. The antioxidants found in green tea are a driving force for preventing cancer and inflammation. This tea may also fight halitosis – studies have found green tea reduced the severity of bad breath by inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

green tea
Green tea is packed with antioxidants.

Nettle Tea

Best for

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Bone health

This tea, sourced from the stinging nettle plant, is a nutritional powerhouse, providing doses of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and it also contains all the nine essential amino acids. Like the other teas on this list, nettle tea provides free radical-fighting antioxidants which are vital for maintaining healthy cells and preventing the development of many illnesses.

Nettle tea
Photo Credit: Debby Hudson on Unsplash

While these choices all provide a range of health benefits, it is important to remember not all teas are safe for everyone and some teas may interact with one’s medication and, as such, it’s always best to check with your physician before making any dietary changes.

 

 

Despite affecting an estimated 5 to 10% of the population, there’s a learning disability lacking much needed awareness – the lack of which is leaving children to fall behind their peers. This condition is known as dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia is a mathematical learning disability known as a Specific Learning Disability (SpLD) – a group of learning disabilities which usually involve mathematics, spelling, listening, speaking or writing. People with dyscalculia generally have difficulty with arithmetic, numbers and mathematic reasoning. The most common components include:

  • Trouble understanding numbers
  • A delay in learning to count
  • Difficulty connecting numerical symbols with words
  • Losing track when counting and
  • Struggling to recognise patterns

As maths education often involves a series of ‘building blocks’ that become incrementally more complex over the years, children who miss out on some of the foundational ‘blocks’ of maths are put at an intense disadvantage to their peers when it comes to more advanced applications of mathematics.  It’s especially difficult for children with dyscalculia as they may fall behind due to a lack support and recognition from the adults around them.

This can negatively impact their mental health, school marks and their options when it comes to higher education and their future career. Some of the main predictors that can indicate a child potentially has dyscalculia include:

  1. Difficulty adding single digit numbers
  2. Difficulty identifying numbers
  3. Inability to understand the relation numbers have to each other.
  4. Having limited working memory
maths
Photo Credit: Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Dyscalculia is not something to be ‘fixed’ or that children will ‘grow out of’, with studies showing that the condition is generally lifelong and that a mentality of ‘fixing’ learning disabilities has been extremely damaging. However, there are techniques that can be used to manage difficulties, cope with challenges and improve their maths skills. If children lack the proper support, this can be a major source of distress for those with the condition, especially in a school setting.

There are fun ways parents, guardians and teachers can help children improve their mathematic skills. These can include playing counting games together, offering homework help, playing online maths games or apps and using maths memorisation cards. Board games are also an excellent tool for improving mathematic reasoning skills.

games with children
Photo Credit: Adam Winger on Unsplash

With 1 in every 10 Australians suffering from a learning disability, research shows this lack of education is a major inhibitor to effective treatment. Children with conditions like dyscalculia and the more well-known dyslexia, often go under the radar, especially if teachers aren’t adequately trained to look out for the signs.

With the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy report finding only 5% of the curriculum in Bachelor of Education training courses is dedicated to teaching reading, there is concern that many kids who are struggling may go unnoticed. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Dyslexia, which is considered the most common learning disability
  • Dysgraphia, which relates to writing and spelling difficulty
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysphasia, which relates to speech difficulties

Depending on the age of a child with dyscalculia, the signs to look out for can be different, although they may overlap:

Primary school-aged children

During primary school years, the condition may go unnoticed or symptoms may be attributed to another cause. Unfortunately, this puts children in a disadvantaged position with the consequences to continue for years. The signs that a child in primary school is dealing with dyscalculia usually include:

  • Difficulty keeping count in games or activities
  • Difficulty making sense of numerical value
  • Trouble writing numerals legibly
  • Struggling with fractions
primary school
Photo Credit: Michal Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Secondary school-aged children

Although the signs among high-schoolers may include the same as those listed for primary school, these signs are more common to find among secondary school students:

  • Struggling with maths relating to finance, for example understanding how to make change or to take a percentage off of a price
  • Difficult with understanding graphs or other visual representations of numbers
  • Has difficulty understanding measurements for recipes or science experiments
school
Secondary school students may show different signs of dyscalculia

If you’ve noticed these signs in your child or student, the next step is for the child to get a proper assessment and rule out any other possibilities, such as eyesight or hearing impairments. Dyscalculia can be diagnosed by a psychologist who will assess the individual’s unique situation. It is generally required that the child being assessed receives 6 months of intervention involving mathematical assessment and instruction before a diagnosis can be made.

While all children may struggle with maths at some point and will learn at different speeds, they can usually improve with time and practice, but for those with dyscalculia, the problems may remain despite regular and intensive practice. If a diagnosis is made, the psychologist will recommend the best course of action for the child based on their strengths and weaknesses.

 

A stranger’s cold eyes, pursed lips, scrunched-up nose and serious brows can leave us feeling uncomfortable. Or perhaps you’ve felt at ease when encountering a warm, open face with kind eyes and an upturned mouth. Many of us subconsciously evaluate who to trust or who to avoid based on people’s facial features.

While we might not consider the root of such judgments, putting it down to intuition, we are inadvertently Face Reading. The study, officially known as physiognomy, pinpoints the exact facial features that correspond with an individual’s personality, and proves to be more than just intuition. It is rooted in ancient studies and has served communities dating back as early as the Zhou dynasty in China. 

According to this practice, an auspicious face, which can be categorised by big earlobes, a plump chin, straight nose and a full forehead, can mean this person will lead a prosperous and successful life. By comparison, a face with a flat philtrum – the space between the nose and upper lip, a small chin and a blemished or scarred forehead foretells a life marred with health, relationship and financial difficulties. Chinese physiognomy holds that a person’s past is reflected on their face and through analysing facial features their former and future experiences are revealed.

Like astrology and tarot reading, physiognomy is considered an alternate practice in the West. Despite the sceptical beliefs around these practices, Face Reading is not based on conjecture, as scientists have been studying the links between physiognomy and the way we perceive others, with some reports finding evidence that certain features can affect the way people see us.  Face Reading is even used for criminal profiling, with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, using the practice to assist in reading suspects or offenders.

There are 12 main features including the ears, nose, lips, cheeks, jaw, chin, brows, mouth, eyes, eyebrows, forehead and hairline, with each corresponding to personality traits. Each facial feature is also thought to represent the health of our internal organs, with the forehead representing the liver, the nose linked to the heart and the ears linked to the kidneys.

facial features corresponding organs health
Facial features are believed to reflect the health of their corresponding internal organs.

The face is split between the left and right side, with the left side held to represent one’s personal life and true self. The right side reflects one’s public self that they project outwards. For example, if a person had a scar on their left side, this may indicate a distressing event in their personal life.

Although physiognomy is not a hard science and can’t be relied upon for profiling without further research, it remains a popular practice that is learned and applied not only by professionals, but also by lay people.

Here are some easy techniques to get started on the elements of Face Reading and what they mean:

Face shape:

There are 10 main face shapes in Chinese physiognomy, each reflecting different personalities, experiences and fortunes. Below are a few of the most common shapes.

  1. Round Face Shape: This shape describes a round, plump face and denotes a kind and compassionate individual who is easy-going and accommodating. Known as the ‘water’ type face, it is thought that the owner of this face is optimistic and has a gentle, kind nature.
  2. Square face shape: This type is thought to be an analytical, logical and smart individual. Also known as the ‘metal’ face, this type is domineering and can be overbearing or stubborn, but is believed to have a good sense of humour.
  3. Long face shape: This face shape denotes a hardworking type who is practical and organised. They may be short-tempered, prickly and difficult to communicate with. This is the ‘wood’ type face, and it is held that the owner of this face may struggle with relationships due to their nature.
  4. Triangular face shape: This type describes a face with a narrow forehead and large jaw. They are considered kind, genuine and family-oriented.
Face shape round long square
Face shapes from left to right: round face, long face and square face.

Eyebrows:

Eyebrows are believed to represent one’s fortune from age 31-34, along with reflecting emotions and one’s familial relationships. In general, auspicious eyebrows are considered those that are long enough to cover the eyes, are aligned with the brow bone and have smooth hair.

  1. Curved: The owners of these eyebrows are described as warm, open and friendly people. They are strong communicators and enjoy working with others.
  2. Straight: Individuals with these eyebrows are considered serious and direct, with a business-minded approach to life. They have a short temper and can be stubborn. They have a strong ability to focus and are not the type you’d find struggling with procrastination.
  3. Angled: This type indicates an impatient and ambitious individual who likes to be in control. They make good leaders, and are highly competitive. This type is advised to keep their temper in check to avoid hurting others.
face reading straight eyebrows
Straight eyebrows (pictured) are believed to reflect a serious person.

Eyes:

The eyes have long been referred to as the window to the soul, and according to physiognomists, it is for good reason. The shape and positioning of one’s eyes are believed to indicate a person’s open or reserved nature.

  1. Closely set eyes: These eyes refer to those that are positioned closer together, and indicate an independent, strong-willed and possibly stubborn individual.
  2. Wide-set eyes: Those with wide-set eyes are believed to be adventurous and thoughtful types who think outside the box.
  3. Upward-turned eyes: Someone with these eyes is thought to be an inquisitive and ambitious individual. They are held to be optimists who are able to get a hold of, and make the most of, opportunities.
  4. Downward-turned eyes: The owners of these eyes are more prone to pessimism and negative rumination. However, they are believed to be kind, thoughtful and helpful to those around them.
  5. Deep-set eyes: People with deep-set eyes are observant and attentive and have a mysterious image. They are reserved and often hold people at an arm’s length before getting to know them. They may take a while to open up and struggle with authentic self-expression.
  6. Protruding eyes: Those with this eye type are considered to be erratic and impulsive, with a strong passion for fun ad adventure. They are thought to enjoy attention and validation from others.

Sanpaku Eyes:

Do you have these unlucky eyes? Sanpaku eyes describes eyes with three visible whites; referring to the visible sclera of the eyes. While this term is Japanese, it is a culturally widespread and deep-rooted belief that this eye type is a bad omen.

Most commonly, people have only two white spaces visible in their eyes, those to the right and left of the iris. But when the sclera below or above the eyes are also visible, these are considered Sanpaku eyes. With the white below the iris visible, the owner of these eyes is considered to be an unlucky person, and someone who will suffer exceptionally through their lives.

Many renowned figures with calamitous experiences have had these inauspicious eyes, including Princess Diana, Michael Jackson and James Dean, who all had whites visible below the iris. On the other hand, people with whites visible above the iris are believed to cause suffering to those around them.

sanpaku eyes
Sanpaku eyes, also known as ‘three-white eyes’, pictured above.

Mouth:

As the corresponding facial feature of the stomach, the mouth represents materialism, sexual attraction, but also love and friendship.

  1. Big mouth: People with this type tend to be healthy, influential and passionate. They are well-liked and charismatic and may have luck in the financial aspects of life.
  2. Small mouth: These individuals are usually more conservative and reserved. They struggle to express their feelings and tend to be timid in relationships.
  3. Upturned mouth: This type represents an optimistic and enthusiastic person who is usually popular and well-liked. They are motivated and driven and this generally leads to financial security and success and their lives.
  4. Down-turned mouth: This mouth indicates a prideful and rigidly- principled individual who can be stubborn. On the other hand, they are hard-working, courageous and are dedicated to overcome challenges in their lives.
  5. Crooked mouth: People with crooked mouths tend to suffer from stomach problems. If the right side is crooked, then these individuals are thought to be witty, talkative and passionate. On the other hand, a left-side crooked mouth indicates a pessimistic, worn-out person who is likely to hold grudges against others.

Lips:

  1. Thick lips: These lips indicate a pragmatic, friendly and sentimental individual. They are positive and considerate, but have a tendency of making impulsive decisions and are prone to getting misled by others.
  2. Thin lips: People with this type tend to be witty, realistic and straightforward. They can also be stubborn, argumentative and like to exaggerate stories. They may lack responsibility and loyalty.
  3. Thick upper lip and thin lower lip: This combination represents a caring, loyal and devoted individual who is observant and considerate of others’ problems. They believe in giving, rather than taking.
  4. Thin upper lip and thick lower lip: This type indicates a dependent person, who lacks self-regulation skills and may overly rely on the help and support of others around them.
lips big small face reading chinese
Lip types pictured from left to right: thick lips, thin lips.

Nose:

The tip of the nose is held to represent a person’s financial luck in life, while the bridge of the nose reflects health.

  1. Fleshy nose tip: It is a generally held belief in physiognomy that the bigger the nose, the bigger the ego. But along with this comes with a strong inner world and a kind spirit.
  2. Small nose tip: This indicates a more prudent and reserved individual, with bad financial luck.
  3. High nose bridge: A straight nose bridge indicates good health, especially if there are no moles or scars. When the bridge is high, it represents a person who attracts wealth and has good luck in romantic relationships.
  4. Low nose bridge: A low bridge indicates low self-esteem and suggests those with this nose lack the confidence that those with higher and bigger noses are known for.
nose types
Types of nose tips pictured from left to right: small tip, fleshy tip.

These techniques can easily be applied to uncover what your face says about your fortune, health and past experiences. However, Chinese philosophy relies upon balance and, as such, for an effective reading, each facial feature should not be isolated, but rather, analysed with the rest of the face taken into consideration.

Music therapy is proving to be a promising option for children with autism spectrum disorder, with recent research finding it promotes social and cognitive development. Studies have shown that receiving unsuitable care can cause long-term mental health issues.

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often struggle with traditional modes of treatment, along with undereducated health professionals who can do more harm than good to those on the autism spectrum, according to a Sage Journals report. However, there is evidence to suggest music therapy could be a safe and patient-centred option for neurodivergent children.

From ominous music in horror movies to a relaxing meditation soundtrack used in yoga class, many find music to be a powerful tool for managing, manipulating or expressing their emotions. But since the early stages of music therapy as an experimental form of treatment in the late 16th century, the practise has grown rapidly to become a structured, evidence-based treatment. In 1944 there was only one academic institution providing music therapy training, but by 2020 that number had increased to almost 250.

The Frontiers study, published in April this year, reported the positive effect of music therapy on ASD participants’ developmental skills, especially regarding speech production and social functioning. It reported that the method of beginning with the interests of the child, motivates them to learn and communicate more effectively, rather than imposing the treatment on them.

Music therapy can benefit children with autism.
Photo Credit: Jalleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Music therapy is reported to provide helpful techniques for those who struggle with typical communication, through the use of alternate forms of communicating. This includes singing, improvisation, listening, composition and using musical instruments as a mode of expression.

This therapy can embolden patients and develop social skills such as eye contact, conversation and joint attention; this refers to the ability to focus on an object mutually with another person such as when someone points to something while talking.

Music therapists employ techniques to teach patients new skills, through attaching skills to musical activities. After children understand these skills, they can continue without the activities and eventually learn to apply these skills independently in their daily lives.

Music therapists often use the Orff Method for children, as this treatment, created by Orff Shulwert, is child-centred and is found to produce better responses from children. It includes Carl Orff’s compositions and involves percussion, singing, and dancing.

Music therapy can involve percussion, singing and dancing.
Photo Credit: Anna Earl on Unsplash

Studies report masses of therapists are not educated on the autism spectrum or other neurodivergent conditions, and apply outdated and unsuitable methods to them, according to a Spectrum article. The article refers to the treatment commonly used, Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), with advocates stating the treatment is not the only option for those on the spectrum. They also discuss the need for awareness and acceptance of neurodivergent people and why widespread education is vital for health professionals and organisations.

This issue is increasingly pressing, as children with autism spectrum disorder are at a high risk of coinciding mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, according to the Sage Journals report. Science Daily reports the number to be 78% with another mental health condition.

Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression are more common in autistic children.
Photo Credit: Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

This lack of education around the autism spectrum also greatly disadvantages girls and women, who present with less widely researched symptoms. Only 8% of girls with autism are diagnosed before the age of 6, compared to 25% of boys, according to the Organisation for Autism Research (OAR). The research unveils girls are more likely to engage in ‘masking’, a concept involving hiding their emotions and urges, and imitating others to fit in. This means that many girls with autism go unnoticed by the adults around them.

The elements of masking include:

  1. Imitating facial expressions
  2. Concealing emotions
  3. Trying to avoid going non-verbal
  4. Zoning out of conversations
  5. Suppressing stims
  6. Putting on an act to fit in
Girls often go undiagnosed.
Photo Credit: Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

The OAR highlights how health professionals are letting down girls with autism, revealing that many perpetuate the stigma that only boys can have the condition, leading to girls being misdiagnosed, diagnosed later in life or even not getting a diagnosis at all. For those who do get diagnosed, treatment often doesn’t take into account the different symptoms girls can experience, including preferring not to be hugged, not following instructions, losing skills they previously held, avoiding eye contact and having difficulty explaining what they want or need.

With this widespread lack of education and insufficient responses, effective and safe treatments like music therapy can be a beacon of hope, according to Monica Subiantoro’s article in the Atlantis Press. Subiantoro writes that children with autism develop confidence and hope as a result of positive and validating interactions.