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My 10-year-old has started sleeping in my bed. Am I wrong to allow it? | Life and style



Before lockdown, my 10-year-old daughter slept in her own bed every night without any problems. She is an intelligent, happy girl, albeit a bit shy. She eats well, has good friendships, and loves life. We have talked about coronavirus to try to alleviate any fears she may have, and we are very open; I feel she knows she can talk to me about anything.

However, during lockdown she started to want to be in my bed every night. Her great-grandmother died in January and she says she misses her. I didn’t think she would be affected too badly by her death, because she had met her only a handful of times – so either her death has affected her more than I thought it would, or she is using it as a way to show me she needs me without telling me the real reason.

When I put her to bed in her own room she shouts down to me, asking when I am coming to bed and for a cuddle. When I do go upstairs, I cannot bear to have her feeling upset or alone, so I allow her into my bed. I don’t mind, because I am a single mum. When I was a child, I cried myself to sleep, frightened most nights, because I had unavailable parents. But am I doing wrong? Is it possible she really is grieving for her great-grandmother, or do you think there may be an issue she isn’t talking to me about?

There may be an issue she isn’t discussing, and she may not even be aware of it, or the death of her great-grandmother may have triggered something. How did you handle the death? She may also be worried about you dying, or about you in general. An event like this can be very destabilising, even for adult children.

When children suddenly want to sleep with their parents, it’s easy to think it’s because they are frightened for themselves, but sometimes it’s because they want to keep an eye on their parents. I note you are attending to her needs, but who is attending to yours?

If you are a regular reader, you’ll know I am an advocate of attachment parenting. There is nothing wrong with wanting to comfort your child in the day or the night (I’m always amazed by parents who attend to their child’s every need during the day but feel this shouldn’t extend to night-time, when everything is scarier). But we must also be aware of who we are parenting: our children, or the child in us whose needs were not met when growing up. Because the ultimate aim is to raise children who are independent and feel loved.

I consulted child psychotherapist Alison Roy. She said that allowing your child to sleep with you isn’t an issue per se – many children do this and then return to their own beds when they’re ready – but there are a few things to be aware of.

Talking generally, she said that, “Children might keep getting into bed when certain needs aren’t being understood [and met] during the day.” Roy asked about daytime and what happens. “If you can, try to spend more time with her during the day and be very present when you are with her.” She also asked if you two had had any difficult conversations about grief and coronavirus. You didn’t say what was discussed – did you keep it fairly superficial? When having these conversations (not before bedtime), talk about the practicalities: for instance, what happens if you get ill (other family, support network, etc). Might she also be worried about school?

It can be tempting to avoid mentioning these issues, but remember these feelings don’t go away if they are not discussed; they just fester and come out in other ways. And if you show your daughter you can talk about these things, it shows her how to broach difficult subjects, too.

Roy also suggested a good question to ask is, “How can I help you feel safe at bedtime?” And that when you put your daughter to bed, instead of going straight downstairs, save up some tasks to do upstairs so she can hear you – putting away laundry, say.

So are you doing something wrong? No. But be aware that if allowing her come in to your bed is an easy fix for something else – maybe for both of you – then you do need to dig a little deeper.

• Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see

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The not-so-secret illicit affairs of the royal family




A royal wedding is a sensation. However, a royal scandal is surely what makes the headlines. Besides fame and fortune, the British Royal Family have been associated with discomforting divorces and illicit affairs that have lead to various controversies.

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‘All children seek joy and opportunities to experiment’: the universal language of play | Child’s play and learning




She is climbing an old oak tree with her siblings

All kinds of play create connections in the brain that aid the child’s development.
Composite: Getty Images/Guardian Labs

We’ve all seen pictures and footage of children playing in the most unlikely situations. Using an old rope to skip on the dusty ground of a refugee camp, racing tyres at the base of a rubbish dump or floating paper boats in monsoon flood water. Children play across cultures and classes. They play despite wars, disasters and pandemics. They play because it is a developmental imperative. In fact, play is so essential to a child’s growth that the UN has enshrined it as a fundamental right.

“A young child is born with a brain full of neurons,” explains Bo Stjerne Thomsen, chair of Learning Through Play at the LEGO Foundation. “They are born to learn and develop, but they need experiences to do this; they need to touch, to feel, to try things out, because every time they have a positive and stimulating experience, it connects the networks in the brain and supports their development and learning.”

Play is what gives children these experiences. Whether it is physical play such as climbing a tree, or object play such as building a tower; be it symbolic play such as drawing, or pretend play such as dressing up, or whether it’s games that have rules and constraints: whatever the type of play a child is engaged in, important connections are being made in the brain that aid the social, emotional, creative, cognitive and physical growth of the child.

“You see the same characteristics across all cultures and all socioeconomic groups,” says Thomsen. “Children seek joy, positive experiences, opportunities to experiment, to test and try out things, to be active and not passive, and to really have agency and choice.”

When children play they develop their executive functions, those high-level cognitive processes that enable them to initiate, plan and follow through tasks, sustain attention, monitor performance, inhibit impulses and have goal-directed persistence. These skills are essential for learning and everyday life.

“I was worried about my children playing for months on end during lockdown instead of learning in a formal environment,” says Lindsey Conen, a mother of two primary-aged children in east London. “However, I’ve found that since they have returned to school they seem so much more engaged and willing to learn than they were before, so something has been going on for them in all that play.”

Children making a tower of wooden blocks

Every time a tower topples and a child picks up the pieces to start again, they are becoming more resilient and learning skills that will make them a better team player. Composite: Getty Images/Guardian Labs

Thomsen believes that Conen’s anecdotal experience of school learning being improved by a prolonged period of guided play may well be backed up by future research into the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. “It has definitely been proven that play improves executive functions,” he says. “If you build a model, you are selecting and sorting pieces, putting them together, figuring out if it is stable, remembering what each piece does; when you do this you learn to guide your attention and build self-regulation and self-control and that is a good predictor of whether you will learn in school.”

Educational psychologist Melernie Meheux agrees. “Play is important for many aspects of brain development,” she says. “But learning to self-regulate, to inhibit inappropriate behaviour and control emotion is one of the most important for succeeding in a formal learning environment.”

Every time a tower topples and a child picks up the pieces to start again, they are becoming more resilient and learning skills that will make them a better team player, a better collaborator.

“I certainly saw my two become better at dealing with their emotions during their time away from school,” says Conen. “The more they played together, the better they became at resolving their conflicts.”

Meheux explains that when children play they repeatedly rehearse and experience a range of emotions, including disappointment, frustration, determination, confidence and achievement, and can learn to regulate these feelings. “Through free play children develop lifelong skills like flexibility, sustained social relationships and resilience,” she says.

As children grow and develop, what they demand from play changes. Infants require responsive, stimulating interactions with caregivers and lots of opportunity to learn about their environment through tactile encounters. Between the ages of six and nine, children incline more to pretend play with lots of dress-up and roleplay, which encourages them to learn about other ways of seeing the world; then as they move towards the teenage years, symbolic play and more complex games with rules come to the fore.

When they get into their teens play begins to look a little different. “In the older age group play becomes more about smaller projects, problem- and practice-based learning,” says Thomsen. “So you might support them to do the evening meal, but change two ingredients in the recipe so they can take ownership. Or ask them to plan an entire day of a holiday, researching where to go and what to do.”

And play isn’t just for children, it is important for the parent or caregiver to get involved, too. “By playing with your child you are strengthening your bond, sharing quality time, and providing essential vocabulary and language models,” says Meheux. “Remember what play felt like. How important it was to you when you were a child. Share some laughter and allow the positive chemicals to boost your own mood as well as your child’s. Adults need to be playful, just as much as children do. Especially at times like this.”

Find out more about learning through play at:

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Marble runs and building bridges: five creative, educational play ideas for kids | Child’s play and learning




Drawing with brush little kid. Horizontal indoors shot

Joining a child in play helps them develop their creativity.
Composite: Stocksy/Guardian Labs

Whether it’s a toddler making a trail of handprints across a piece of paper, or a seven-year-old repurposing a cardboard tube to make a marble run, play empowers children to become creative. When children create, they experience the joy of interacting with the world and of changing it and being changed by it.

“Born into an age of rapid innovation, our children need a creative mindset more than ever,” says Garrett Jaeger, a developmental psychologist and research specialist at the LEGO Foundation, an organisation that advocates for learning through play. “Play-based learning is the best way to help children develop these skills and set them on the path to becoming future innovators and flexible thinkers.”

Add a responsive caregiver into the mix and the creativity of the child can be taken to the next level. “We need to let the child lead, so they can take ownership,” says Jaeger. “But we can enhance their experience by adding constraints and challenging them to select high-quality ideas.”

Parenting expert and GP Clare Bailey says playing alongside your child is also vital to improving their social and emotional development. “Play is the golden key to building a better relationship with your child. They will feel closer to you, and will be more likely to cooperate and do what you ask. Even 10 minutes of play together a day makes a difference.” Joining a child in play not only helps them develop their creativity, but it teaches them about sharing, negotiating, cooperating, and being kind and humorous.

Creativity can be fostered by all sorts of games and activities, not just the obviously creative ones, such as painting and drawing.

“We wanted to help parents find new ways of engaging creatively with their children and so have developed a ‘playlist’ of activities that caregivers can choose from when they are stuck for ideas,” says Jaeger. “Very few of these activities actually involve LEGO bricks, we have tried to use things that are readily available not just in Boston, but in Bangladesh.”

Using household objects, such as toilet rolls, paper plates and old cloth, allows children to reimagine what objects are. “So the next time they see that paper plate they are going to be dreaming about what it might become. That is the kernel of creativity we want to plant.”

Here are five activities from the playlist for you to try at home.

Build a bridge
Build a bridge using LEGO or DUPLO bricks and make sure a minifigure can walk over it and a toy boat can go under it.

“Don’t be afraid of rules with creativity. There is a lot of power in just putting a few constraints on a task and watching children push up against them and even try to break those rules,” explains Jaeger, who says children instinctively know that a bridge has to start on one piece of land and end on another. If the bridge collapses they learn one of the fundamental rules of creativity: if things go wrong, you can choose to start over.

“When they start to walk that little man over it, the creation becomes meaningful for them because they have begun to play with it,” he says.

Take a piece of plain paper and fold it into three sections. The first participant draws a head on the top section and then marks the neckline on the middle section. The second participant draws the torso and marks the leg lines on the final section and the third participant (or back to the first, if just two players) draws in the legs.

This is an old creativity activity known as “exquisite corpse” or “exquisite cadaver”, and it can also be done with text. There is room for elaboration by drawing imaginary beasts, or changing the number of folds. This sparks the imagination and provides a lesson about a different way of collaborating. Also, the results are often hilarious. “I spent a whole afternoon during lockdown doing this with my two children aged three and five,” says Nicola Moss, from Stroud. “We stuck all the crazy drawings up on the wall and then began to tell each other stories about them.”

Flip the blanket
Can you flip a blanket over with people standing, lying or sitting on it?

This may not seem like a creative activity, as it feels more like a game of Twister with people getting tangled up and often falling over. However, the game helps you to see a flat piece of material in a different way. It changes your perspective. It is a game that exercises physical and mental flexibility.

Make a parachute that gets a LEGO minifigure or small toy safely to the ground.

This is a physics experiment made fun. Working with a paper plate or a piece of tissue paper and some string, work out how many points of contact you need to have with your string, and how short or long those points need to be so the character doesn’t tip. The fact it is, a parachute engages the imagination and children begin to tell stories with it.

Young boy playing with marbles on living room floor

Marbles on their own are less fun – add cardboard tubes or guttering to make a track. Composite: Getty Images/Guardian Labs

Marbles on the run
Can you build a racetrack and let your marbles run?

“This encourages children to reimagine materials in their home, [such as] old cardboard tubes, or bits of guttering,” says Jaeger. “It’s a favourite of ours at the LEGO Foundation. You can look at what others have created with the hashtag #chainreaction, some are really phenomenal.”

Having fun with your child will not only increase your bond and boost their creative thinking, you may actually find you have fewer interruptions. “Once a child knows that you will join them when you can, they are more likely to be accommodating to your schedule,” says Bailey. Meaning you may just have enough time to work on your own creative contribution to society.

Find out more about learning through play at:

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