Child (May 2018)

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The magazine for parents

CHiLD ISSUE 59, May 2018


Plus: Tips on family cruising, sun protection, sleeping, bonding with your children


CHiLD ISSUE 59 MAY 26, 2018


Coping with exam time

Features 8 Teenagers: Tips for a healthier study time 12 Education: Teaching the Maltese language 18 Arts: Malta’s participation in Schoolovision 24 Health: Staying safe in the sun 28 Literacy: Dogs as reading companions 32 Well-being: The importance of sleep 36 Technology: Robotics in education 40 Leisure: Cruising tips

Regulars 6

Top Tips: Educational activities for toddlers

43 Top Tips: Making time for children 44 Shopwindow: The best of goods and services

Correspondence to the editor may be sent to: The Executive Editor, Child Magazine, Times of Malta, Triq l-Intornjatur, Mrieħel, BKR 3000, or send an e-mail to Executive Editor Stephanie Fsadni Publisher Allied Newspapers Limited Printing Progress Press Limited Production Allied Newspapers Limited Contributors Jessica Arena, Coryse Borg, Sandy Calleja Portelli, Joanne Cocks, Klaus Conrad, Dawn Degiorgio Photographers Sebio Aquilina, Matthew Mirabelli Design Krista Bugeja Advertising Sales Amanda Gauci (tel: 2276 4332; e-mail: This publication is being distributed as part of the Times of Malta. All rights reserved. © 2018 Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is prohibited.

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May is my favourite month of the year… the days are warm but are not as hot as in summer, the sun sets late in the day and you can do a gazillion activities outdoors. Maybe I’m a bit biased too because it also happens to be my birthday month. Yet, as much as I love this month, there was a time when I used to dread it. May meant revision and study time for most of my childhood, adolescence and youth, and I often had to sit for exams during birthday week. It was very annoying and quite sad. Making matters worse, I used to stress out over exams. Partly it was my fault, because I left most of the studying to the last few weeks. And you know, you usually don’t have to study only one subject but many at the same time. So I used to get anxious, thinking that I would not manage to cover the whole syllabus on time, worry when I wouldn’t remember a sentence from an essay or a line from a poem I would have learnt by heart, and get frustrated when nothing seemed to stick to my mind after reading the same notes over and over again. I would get butterflies days before an exam, panic and spike the little sleep I got with worry. Failing an exam would have been nothing short of a tragedy: I would have hated doing worse than my classmates or disappointing my parents. At one point, however, a visit to a dermatologist after a bad bout of eczema at the age of 17 helped changed my perspective on things. I realised that all that worrying was quite useless and counter-productive, so I decided not to worry about exams again. And somehow I managed! Many adolescents and teenagers go through the same experience and sometimes the situation becomes overwhelming. This issue of Child includes interviews with experts in the field who give tips to students on coping with exam time and advise parents and teachers on how they can give a helping hand. It is also important to maintain a healthy routine such as eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. I hope you find these tips useful and I wish all those students sitting for exams in the coming weeks a big good luck.


Great educational activities for your child T he formative years of a toddler’s life are very important. There are lots of modern-day options that are definitely worth their salt but children should have a limited amount of screen time with technology. After all, nothing can replace good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. Story time Early reading skills are paramount to toddlers. The simple act of making time to read to your tot can work wonders for their pre-literacy learning. Talk to them about the pictures, ask them to describe the characters and find out what they think is going to happen next. If you make the time to read to your child, you will really see the benefits – as well as gaining some great one-on-one time.

Painting Simple, yet effective. Art is so important for developing creativity and it is a great place to start learning colour names. You can mix colours together to talk about what new ones can be made. Why stop at paintbrushes? Use different materials to make marks (cotton buds or balls, forks, truck wheels, plastic toys such as dinosaurs, etc) Painting is exceptional for improving fine motor skills. Get messy with finger, hand and even footprint painting. Children love to play and it is a great opportunity to talk about how a new experience feels so they can develop their speech at the same time.

Be creative with playdough Parents can make their own playdough with their children. Once it is cooled, children will love to play and experiment with it. The activity is first class for improving fine motor skills, which are essential for writing abilities. Later on in the day, it is a capital exercise for calming children down. Playdough has endless possibilities. It is also great for progressing creativity and innovation (introduce straws, plastic letters and numbers, cutlery, shells or beads, etc). The only limit is your imagination. Play outside While it might not seem like playing chase with your child is helping them with their

education, it is! Gross motor skills are crucial for developing future writing skills, helping to progress hand-eye coordination and are also a lot of fun – which is always a bonus. Run, dance, hop, balance, and climb; it all helps in the long run. Cooking Cooking with your toddler may seem like an absolute nightmare, but it is a great all-round learning activity – as long as you don’t mind a little mess and have a lot of patience. From the moment you go to buy the ingredients, your child is learning. Cooking improves skills such as number recognition, weights, measurements and capacity. It’s perfect for budding scientists because of the changing states of ingredients (melting, freezing, changing liquids to solids, etc). Talking to your child about what will happen next, reading the recipe out loud and asking them to describe the sounds are all fantastic for communication development too. As well as all of this, cooking with your little one is a good way to stop fussy eating. Whatever you choose to do with your toddler to help their education, remember that all children learn differently and at different speeds, so it’s important to just have fun and enjoy your time together as well.

Competition Pemix Distributors Limited is giving readers the chance to win €50 worth of Babylino Sensitive products by answering the following question:

Why is children’s skin so sensitive? Answers, including your name, surname, telephone number and e-mail address, are to be sent to Amanda Gauci on, until the end of June. The winner will be announced in the next issue of Child. The last issue’s winner is Doris Mallia. Terms and conditions: The voucher is valid for six months. It can be redeemed on Babylino Sensitive products only (whole available range). Products will be given at consumer prices.

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EXAMINING EXAMS Most adolescents and teens feel stressed at this time of the year because of looming exams, but some may find it more difficult than others to cope. Coryse Borg talks to some experts on the subject and finds that maintaining a healthy study-life balance is crucial to avoid burnout. Parents and teachers can also be of help.


rritability, impulsivity, restlessness, frequent crying spells, comfort eating or loss of appetite, poor hygiene, increased or lack of sleep, reduced ability to experience pleasure, nausea, headaches, aches and pains… these are all symptoms many teenagers experience during exam time. But does it always need to be this way? School counsellor Maria Zammit Genovese points to a number of factors that lead to stress during exam time — performance anxiety, fear of disappointing parents, the fear of not reaching their own expectations and even the fear of blanking out during an exam. “Anxiety is always induced by fear of something,” she says. “If it is situational, it will pass, at times, even once they see the paper. If it is chronic, it needs to be maintained therapeutically and, sometimes, even medically.” Telltale signs that your child is stressed out include change in behaviour, mood or eating patterns, withdrawing from loved ones, overreactions to different situations, breaking down easily, loss of appetite or comfort eating, lack of

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concentration and the avoidance of anything related to the stressor. Parents can help by remaining calm and still encouraging their children to prepare themselves in advance, whereas teachers can help by clarifying any questions students may have. Teachers may also work hand in hand with the school counsellor, depending on the levels of anxiety.


“As for the students, I strongly suggest that they study what is necessary in order to be prepared, maintain a studying-life balance, eat regularly, exercise, talk about it, avoid stress-inducing places or persons, find time to relax, study in places where you can concentrate and live the here and now – it’s unhelpful to stress out on the unknown,” says Ms Zammit Genovese. registered clinical psychologist Mary rose Gatt agrees with Ms Zammit Genovese that parents and teachers play a vital role in helping to alleviate the amount of stress their children experience. “Parents and teachers can facilitate the development of healthy habits of studying. Fostering a positive attitude towards ‘learning’ rather than ‘achieving’, and instilling a sense of curiosity may neutralise the sense of doom and gloom with which exams are many a time approached,” Ms Gatt, who currently works in the nationaal Mental Health Service and is specialised in children and adolescents (CYPS), says. She adds that parents may need to remind themselves that their children’s performance reflects nothing about them but more about their children’s aptitude, their studying methods as well as their intrinsic level of motivation. “Through their distinct roles, parents and teachers can instil and expand on one’s capacity to want to study because it’s worth doing rather than because someone is imposing it on them. They can also help teenagers reflect on the consequence of failure which might include having to redo an exam during the summer period or feeling sad and disappointed with a negative outcome. A positive perception tends to lead to a more positive approach,” Ms Gatt says.

She advises students to adopt systematic planning and thoughtful preparation for exams throughout the academic year. “Familiarisation with the learning material facilitates understanding and retention of the subject at hand,” she points out. “effective time management is also pivotal because academia is one aspect of a student’s life. Teenagers need to learn how to achieve a balance between studying and engaging in other activities.

“Most teenagers feel there is a general standard they have to reach while running a race that might not necessarily show off their knowledge or skills in the best way,” she explains. “Some might feel unprepared, uninterested and inadequate. relying on a one-size-fits-all method to track one’s progress is often more counterproductive than useful.” Ms Spiteri says that she often hears stressed-out students who don’t do well saying “għax jien mhux tajjeb/tajba

“Most teenagers feel there is a general standard they have to reach while running a race that might not necessarily show off their knowledge or skills in the best way”

This balance alongside a healthy lifestyle which includes sleep hygiene, regular outdoor exercise and a balanced diet fosters a sense of well-being.” english teacher and theatre studies lecturer Simone Spiteri has been teaching for the past 13 years. She thinks that the main culprit, as with all stressful situations, is almost always expectation.

fl-iskola” (‘because I’m not good at school). This breaks her heart. “I would know these students very well and recognise all the amazing things they could offer. However, their education at higher levels would suffer because of this ‘blockage’. Moreover, it is also disheartening to see bright students who

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(despite stress) do very well in their exams but have to live through a couple weeks of torture every year. It leads to a bad quality of life and it also shows that the education system needs to provide young people to deal with intense and potentially stressful situations better.” Father to 13-year-old Zachary and eight-year-old Amy, XFM radio presenter David ‘Ozi’ Borg has been quite vociferous about this topic on air. He makes no secret of the fact that he thinks that today’s teenagers have far too much on their plate as far as the school workload is concerned. “I think it is totally unnecessary,” he states. “I also think there is an unhealthy amount of pressure in terms of keeping a competitive standard and maintaining one’s level.” According to Mr Borg, these stressors may be alleviated by a change in the curriculum which would see children between the ages of five and 14 having far less of a workload. Homework should be limited, allowing children to have other experiences outside of school, he says. “Unfortunately, as it currently stands, should a child not spend a certain amount per day at the books, they will fall behind. I also think we should be pushing parents to have their children participate in sport… even during exam times. I myself coach rugby and, as soon as exam time comes around, the participation numbers drop by at least 66 per cent. Mr Borg is convinced that being involved in physical activity can only help expel pent-up stress and frustration and, more importantly, get the children out of the house and in the fresh air for a couple of hours. This can only help make their studying more effective. “In my opinion, it is just about finding the right balance. I am not trying to claim that we have found it in our home just yet. With the current workload they have, it’s really difficult. But we must try.”

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Many students get too anxious about possibly failing exams.

Tips for a healthier study time • • • • • • • • • •

revise and study all year round, not only in the run-up to exams; Manage your time well, make a study timetable if necessary; Study in places where you can concentrate; Avoid social media during study time; Have a good number of breaks; eat regularly and healthily and do some exercise; Switch off from studying at a certain time and have a good rest; Avoid stress-inducing situations or people; Parents should keep their calm and not stress out their children more; Teachers can help by clarifying any questions students may have.


Teaching Maltese – What is the way forward? A proposed curriculum, offering students two new options for learning Maltese, has prompted a slew of protests. Sandy Calleja Portelli advises parents to keep abreast of developments and take an active role in the discussion. n March, the Ministry of Education and Employment proposed significant changes to the way Maltese is taught in secondary schools. Under the proposed curriculum, students will be offered two new options for learning Maltese. The announcement has prompted a slew of protests and objections from the departments of Maltese at the University


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of Malta and Junior College, L-Akkademja tal-Malti, L-Istitut tal-Lingwistika u t-Teknoloġija tal-Lingwa, LGħaqda tal-Qarrejja tal-Provi, Għaqda Poeti Maltin, a number of lecturers and authors, among others, who argue that the ministry’s proposals will lead to the relegation and denigration of the Maltese language. As the debate rages on, it is worth parents consider each side

of the argument as the result will possibly affect students for years to come. In order to put the issue in context, one must remember that although Malta is a bilingual country with three official languages listed in our Constitution (Maltese, English and Maltese Sign Language), only Maltese is designated as the national language. At present, students are prepared to sit for the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) level examinations in six basic subjects including Maltese. Students wishing to study at sixth forms in Malta need to obtain passes (considered to be Grade 1-5) in Maltese, English language, maths, one science and two other subjects of their choice, while those continuing with


their studies at the university of Malta need to have obtained their Matriculation certificate and passes at Sec level in english, Maltese and maths. Both these institutions currently waive Maltese for some students including foreigners and Maltese students who have lived abroad, among others. other further education institutions such as Mcast and itS offer different progression routes for students who are not in possession of the Secondary education certificate. the ministry’s proposals would see Maltese taught in three streams: Maltese for Sec (which is currently the only option), Maltese as a vocational subject and Maltese as a foreign language. all these learning streams would lead to students obtaining equivalent qualifications at Sec level. Stephen cachia, director general (curriculum, lifelong learning and employability) within the ministry, contends that these new options will enable more students to learn Maltese successfully, while Bernard Micallef, head of the Maltese department at the university of Malta, argues that these measures will lead to a weakening of the national language and that the ministry should instead invest resources in strengthening the existing system. Mr cachia said that the proposals aim to improve the teaching and learning of Maltese for all learners and introduce the language to new learners who may have never been introduced to the “beauty of our language, specifically non-Maltese nationals”. “even more significantly, these measures will strengthen the Maltese language among a significant cohort of students who have been shortchanged by the present system which has rendered their experience of learning the Maltese language as irrelevant, demotivating and cut off from real-life experiences. For such learners, integrating the teaching of Maltese within an applied vocational

programme will help to address these issues.” Mr cachia explained the ministry’s proposals and said: “the present provision will remain and be strength-ened while new initiatives will be introd-uced to reach cohorts of students who are being left behind by the present system.”

pathways which will engage more learners into the teaching and learning of Maltese,” Mr cachia says. Secondly, as part of this reform, learning outcomes for Maltese as a foreign language have also been developed. this will be introduced as a separate programme and will be

Students wishing to continue with their studies at the University of Malta need to have obtained their Matriculation certificate and passes at SEC level in English, Maltese and maths. PHOTO: CHRIS SANT FOURNIER

“New initiatives will be introduced to reach cohorts of students who are being left behind by the present system” First, the ministry will be updating the syllabus for the Maltese Sec programme to reflect the changes being introduced through the Learning outcomes Framework reform. this reform has gone through different phases of preparation since 2012 and it is finally starting to be implemented. “as a result, the Maltese Sec will continue to be offered and will be renewed and strengthened further to continue to offer an important pathway for the teaching and learning of Maltese.” thousands of students have followed this pathway to enable them to nurture the necessary knowledge, skills and competences in their native language through the Sec system. this pathway will now also be complemented by other

aimed exclusively at non-Maltese nationals. Finally, as part of the My Journey reform, the ministry aims to develop applied vocational pathways for secondary school students which will also incorporate several core subjects. these subjects will be taught in a practical, context-driven approach within such a programme. one of these core subjects will be Maltese. this initiative will be implementing a proposal made by a 2015 council of europe report on language education in Malta. this report, prepared by the Language Policy unit of the council of europe, recommends the need for a more varied curriculum for languages which should also include a ‘valid vocational route’.

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“[Under these proposals] the Maltese SEC pathway will be open to all learners as it is at present, Maltese as a foreign language will be open only to non-Maltese nationals and learners who follow an applied vocational programme will follow Maltese as part of the core subjects within this programme,” Mr Cachia explains. However, Dr Micallef argues that for decades now, (the SEC) exam has served as the baseline of our native language skills, a common prerequisite for post-secondary institutions, professionsand vocations. “It covers the fundamental elements of Maltese. The ministry’s newlyproposed exams at secondary level will only serve as ways of opting out of this ordinary level of achievement while getting the same level of qualification,” he says. Dr Micallef adds that the ministry is trying hard to pass its proposal off as a broadening of pedagogical methods. “In the ongoing debate, however, both the Minister and his Permanent Secretary have emphasised the need for more passes in Maltese, giving away the real motive: a tinkering with ordinary level certification until the statistics of successful students go up, irrespective of true student abilities,” he comments. “Syllabi prompted by this strategy should be non-starters in any serious discussion on education. Exams are not meant for fabricating success but, by their very definition, as reliable criterion-referenced procedures for assessing real student abilities that will continue to vary by nature. “By describing the newly-proposed syllabi of Maltese as ‘different methods’ and ‘new pedagogies’, the ministry is blurring the important distinction between a pedagogy (a teaching method helping students to attain preestablished objectives/standards) and the content of a new syllabus. “Which of the fundamental components of secondary level Maltese (grammar, writing, reading, and literature) will be removed or

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Education Minister Evarist Bartolo has indicated that the subject ‘Maltese as a foreign language’ will enjoy the same status and recognition as the proper SEC Maltese, and insisted standards would not be compromised. PHOTO: MARK ZAMMIT CORDINA

substituted in the new syllabi? How will a 12-year-old, in the second year of secondary education, be expected to decide on one out of three exams three years in advance, with a foresight covering all her later possibilities of choice (educational, vocational and professional)? “What if the student changes her mind – as several students are wont to do – midway through a decided ‘route’, say, in the fourth year of her secondary schooling? Will the proposed system then provide for a shift to an alternative route? And what of the content lost in the meantime?” “Different routes chosen at too early a stage of schooling will inevitably translate into less flexibility, adaptability, and opportunities later on in life. On the other hand, the fundamental elements of Maltese (the grammar, reading, writing, and literature taught as part of the existing syllabus) will give students not just a common starting point for their later careers but also room to shift between different educational and professional possibilities after secondary schooling, secure in the knowledge that their ordinary

proficiency in Maltese will be recognised as the common standard by stakeholders in different sectors.” One of the key concerns raised about these proposals has been the level of certification for the new exams and syllabi. When asked whether students who have learnt Maltese as a foreign language and those who follow the vocational route could attain the same level of proficiency in Maltese as those who follow the SEC syllabus, Mr Cachia replied: “The educational system in Malta is legally regulated by the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF) and the referencing report which describes this framework. SEC programmes are considered as reaching MQF level 3. However, the framework does not exclude the possibility of achieving this level through other pathways. “In fact, we have an important local example which shows this. For over 10 years, students at Mcast have been achieving Maltese at MQF level 3 through the programmes they study there. Over the years, through this Mcast programme, thousands of such students have found employment


or continued studying at higher levels, some of them even going on to study at tertiary level. “In all cases, and for all programmes, standards will be maintained and quality assured to ensure the credibility of all qualifications. This will mean that not all students may be able to achieve MQF level 3 in the various programmes but will be certified according to the level they achieve, which could range from MQF level 1 to MQF level 3.” Dr Micallef acknowledged that the increasing number of foreign students who enter the local education system at different ages is a challenge for teachers of Maltese. Teachers need to find ways of including non-Maltesespeaking students in their lessons whie trying to ensure that Maltese students are not hampered in the learning of their native language. Dr Micallef suggests that rather than introducing the two new syllabi as proposed, it would be more beneficial to “focus on the proper use of Maltese as a foreign language and introduce an intensive support programme that integrates foreign students with the current national curriculum, as other countries do when teaching their national language to foreign students.” He continues: “A greater investment in financial, human and educational resources will certainly help strategies that try to reduce the gap between foreign and local students. Such an investment could include an extra complement of teachers specially trained for intensive programmes of integration with mainstream Maltese. Increased funding can also go towards enhancing existing resources or creating additional aids, including a Maltese spellchecker, online programmes/ videos that consolidate the material covered by school lessons, computer games based on language skills and IT labs. “Outreach programmes for foreign parents would help make language acquisition part of the home culture, as

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THE PROPOSALS AT A GLANCE • Update the Maltese SEC syllabus; • Introduce Maltese as a foreign language for non-Maltese nationals; • Introduce Maltese as a vocational subject as an option for all student to choose in Year 9 (previously Form 3 in secondary school); • All the above pathways will lead to equivalent qualification at the end of secondary school; • Qualification can range from level 1 to level 3 on the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF) depending on the grade obtained.

would support staff specially trained to promote a positive outlook towards the national language among foreign families. The development of social interaction programmes outside school hours would encourage student immersion in environments where Maltese is spoken and written on a regular basis. I am sure that schools and teachers would come up with a myriad other ways of improving upon the present situation, provided that funds are directed towards engaging the challenge rather than skirting it by

setting up alternative syllabi at the same level of qualification (MQF3).” The debate is set to continue and will, hopefully, reach a conclusion that will ensure our national language is strengthened as all students achieve an acceptable level of proficiency in Maltese. As the consultation period progresses, parents would be well advised to keep abreast of developments and take an active role in the discussion as and when the opportunity arises.


Celebrating our cultural identity through song

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Malta has again placed successfully in this year’s edition of Schoolovision. Jessica Arena listens to the song’s message and is fascinated by the participating students’ enthusiasm for this project. s the dust settles from another disappointing turn for Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest, elsewhere some of our youngest primary school children are far more content with the results of their work. The Dun Ġorġ Preca primary school of Ħamrun (GP) has once again placed second in Schoolovision. For the uninitiated, this eTwinning project sees schools from different European countries writing songs and creating videos, then voting for each other’s work during a live video conference event which is held exactly one day before the Eurovision final. The primary school has represented Malta in each editon of the contest since its inception 10 years ago. This year’s entry, penned by student Zachary Sammut, with music by John Anthony Fsadni, earned the school their highest points in the history of their participation. Last year, the school also placed second with their song Time Expedition. Maria Antoinette Magro, who coordinates the students and oversees their yearly participation in Schoolovision, is enthusiastic about the


“A Glimpse at Us takes a trip around Malta’s heritage and cultural places, exploring the foreign influences on our identity"


opportunities the project provides to the children. Being exposed to their global counterparts is a very enriching experience for them. “Children realise that their foreign friends learn in the same way they do and also face the same problems and difficulties,” Ms Magro says. The process of creating the song is very inclusive and begins with several sessions where the children learn about the context and background of the chosen theme. This year’s entry, titled A Glimpse at Us, was written with Malta’s current cultural climate in mind. As Europe celebrates the year of cultural diversity and Malta currently holds the title of European Capital of Culture, Ms Magro felt it was a unique opportunity to combine these elements into the song. To this end, students had several social studies sessions where they learned about traditions and cultural identity. CHiLD MAY 2018 19


A Glimpse at Us in fact takes a trip around Malta’s heritage and cultural places, exploring the foreign influences on our identity and, in a more contemporary sense, sees how the influx of migrants in recent years is also leaving an impact on our culture. Set in several picturesque locations and significant historic buildings, the video – produced by Sebio Aquilina – also doubles down on this theme, as the children sing in unison. Ms Magro strongly believes that participation in the project encourages students to tap into their talents. “One of the highlights of participating throughout these 10 years has been to see a considerable number of children take up singing, music and drama not only as a hobby, but also by attending lessons to gain more skills and develop their talents,” she says. “This is one of the most

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“Even if Malta had not placed second, the children would have still been positively influenced because they would have realised that learning is fun, creative and challenging” satisfactory outcomes of this muchloved project.” At the beginning of the year, the children held auditions to participate in the choir and those who did not make the cut were given other roles to fulfil in the project.

While not all talents are made equally, Ms Magro believes that every child has something to contribute to the process. “Learning through pen and paper is important and is and will always be an essential part of the child’s learning development, but this could be detrimental to the lesser-abled child. “Participating in events and projects is an asset for each child because even those who are not equally gifted can contribute in their own way and would still feel that their part has made a difference in the whole production.” As for other learning opportunities, the children have shown a keen interest in the process of film production. While shooting the video, the students were exposed to the practical nature of film-making, as well as the collaborative effort that it took to bring the video together. The class also


had to opportunity to look into the songwriting process, as well as trying their hand at writing short poems and putting them to popular tune. Ms Magro describes the pride and joy her students feel in both producing their work and participating in the competition. They enjoy wearing special costumes, getting their hair and make-up done and this in turn becomes increasingly visible in their performances. And when it comes to the votes? It is arguably the children’s favourite part, according to Ms Magro. Before the big day, the children can be heard eagerly discussing their entry and speculating their odds. During the voting, parents, teachers and students alike are swept up in the competitive spirit, with each point they are awarded earning an earnest ‘Viva Malta!’ from the crowd present. Placing second for the second consecutive year thrilled the entire school.

“This will surely increase their selfesteem,” Ms Magro says. “It should serve as a reminder that they can achieve and aim high, if they only believe in themselves and their capabilities.” Ms Magro is very confident in the positive impact the contest has had on the students over the past 10 years. “Every eTwinning project children participate in instils in them aspects of culture, art and music, which blend so seamlessly into aspects of

21st- century skills such as collaboration, communication and intercultural awareness in these young learners. “Even if Malta had not placed second, the children would have still been positively influenced because they would have realised that learning is fun, creative and challenging.” Malta’s Schoolovision entry A Glimpse of Us can be viewed on http://school 04/malta-glimpse-at-us.html. CHiLD MAY 2018 21

DEALING WITH NAPPY RASH appy rash can happen however carefully nappy changing is carried out. Some babies only get it occasionally, while others suffer from it frequently. The incidence of nappy rash is highest in infants between eight and 12 months of age. It can occur at any time but it is more likely to happen while the baby is teething, weaning or receiving antibiotics. Nappy rash normally starts with a slight redness in an area of the skin covered by the nappy. It tends not to affect the skin folds but areas such as the buttocks and upper thighs can become red and moist. The skin can look fiery red and spotty, blistered or flaky, often as a result of a secondary infection. Nappy rash can be caused by a number of things. Urine can react with stools in the nappy, with the resulting chemicals causing inflammation. In severe cases, this can result in breaks or blisters in the skin. It is then possible for the skin to become infected. Babies with severe nappy rash should always be seen by their GP. Other causes of nappy rash


include friction from the nappy rubbing against delicate skin and washing detergents not being thoroughly rinsed out of cloth nappies. Rare causes of nappy rash include zinc deficiency and Langerhans’ cell histiocytosis. Other dermatoses may affect the nappy area but are not necessarily confined to it. These include: infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis, atopic eczema, psoriasis, bacterial infections, including impetigo and perianal streptococcal dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

exposed to air. A water-repellent nappy cream should be used at each nappy change to help protect against irritation from urine and stools. • Cloth or other reusable nappies should be washed in a mild, nonbiological washing powder or detergent and rinsed well. • The nappy should always be changed before putting the baby down to sleep. Parents should see a doctor if: • nappy rash blisters or begins bleeding; • the rash spreads to other parts of the baby’s body, outside the nappy area; • the rash does not improve after a week or stops and then reoccurs; • the baby is unwell or runs a temperature.

Tips to help prevent nappy rash • Nappies must be changed as soon as possible when they become wet or soiled. Newborn babies could need changing up to a dozen times a day and older children at least six to eight times a day. • The nappy area should ideally be cleaned with warm water and cotton wool or sensitive wipes and gently patted dry. • Whenever possible, remove the nappy and leave the baby’s bottom

Developed over 80 years ago, Sudocrem is a favourite awardwinning nappy rash cream and has been used by healthcare professionals for decades. Clinically proven, Sudocrem is a licensed medicine and helps to treat nappy rash by soothing, healing and protecting delicate skin. It is available at all pharmacies.

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While the great outdoors may seem inviting at this time of year, it is imperative to protect yourself and your children from the sun before stepping outside.

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icnics by the sea, hikes and playing outdoors may seem to be a good way for families to spend some quality time together at this time of year. However, one should be aware that the sun’s UV rays are as powerful in spring as much as in mid-summer and are equally as harmful. “It’s best to follow the UV index which gives a good indication of the intensity of the sun’s UV rays,” says Lawrence Scerri, chairman of the Department of Dermatology and Venereology. “Anything from 7 upward should alert people to use effective protection or avoid the sun during peak hours. This is typically the case during spring and summer in Malta, even on overcast days.” Children suffer from irreversible UV damage, especially when fair-skinned kids get sunburnt repeatedly. Melanoma is rare in childhood and adolescence but sunburns leave their mark in the individual’s DNA, so it’s important to avoid sun exposure from the early years. Adults should, first of all, lead by example. It’s best to avoid the sun from 11am to 4pm and apply sunscreen, factor 50+ (the highest protection possible) every two to three hours. “This applies to all ages except babies since the latter should be out of the sun at all cost as their skin is too sensitive to tolerate sun or sunscreen,” says Dr Scerri. For older children, he says that it is best to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas around 20 minutes before going outdoors to give time for the lotion to get absorbed. One should not forget to apply sunscreen to the ears, back of the neck and the top of feet – areas which are often neglected.


Some popular misconceptions • It’s ok to stay in the sun to get a tan as long as the skin does not burn! • Indeed you still accumulate significant UV damage in the long run. • You do not need to apply sun protection if you’re underneath an umbrella or tent in an open environment such as the beach or on a boat. You still bet sunburnt indirectly from UV rays reflected from the sand, sea and rocks. • Covering a mole with a plaster before going out in the sun prevents melanoma. Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin and not necessarily in a mole, so one should protect all exposed areas and not individual moles.

One should dress children in protective clothing like a wide-brimmed heat and longer cotton sleeves. If a family with a baby has to go to the beach, they should make sure to go before 11am or after 4pm and protect the baby with sunshades, Dr Scerri says. Parents should also invest in good quality sunglasses as these reduce the risk of UV-induced cataracts. If a child does get burnt, no matter the precautions taken, soak repeatedly with cool water, wash with bath oil and apply plenty of moisturiser until the skin goes through the blistering and peeling stages. Seek medical attention if there is a possibility of sunstroke.

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Reading buddies Dogs are well-known to be ideal companions for children… now they are also helping them improve their literacy skills. Joanne Cocks learns that San Andrea School has been a catalyst for such a project in Malta. t is not often that dogs are allowed in school grounds, let alone libraries or in class! However, three dogs from the Service Dogs Malta Foundation have made San Andrea School their second home. From the last term, students have been benefitting from weekly reading sessions with the trained dogs: Ilio (a labrador/golden retriever mix), Enzo (a Bernese mountain dog) and Toby (a golden retriever). Their trainer is currently


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assessing which dog will be most suited to permanently join the school in the next scholastic year. The main job of these dogs is to listen to children reading in the new state-of-the-art middle school library. “Research has shown that reading to therapy dogs can improve literacy attitudes in students, leading to improved academic performance and positive attitudes about school. The ‘Read to the Dog’ programme is an established programme in schools and libraries abroad and its benefits have been well documented,” says San Andrea School marketing coordinator Coryse Borg. “Not all children react to the dog in the same way. While most children are very responsive towards the dog, others need time to slowly gain confidence. While on school premises, the dog is always accompanied by a fullyqualified trainer.” San Andrea School Literacy and Numeracy coordinator Rachel Ellul Wain says that a child may be nervous or anxious to read for a number of reasons. “Reading to the dog reduces this anxiety. The dog will not ‘judge’ them if they make a mistake or interrupt them to ask questions. They just listen, so the child feels more relaxed. The child actually wants to read to the dog so, of course, this improves literacy.” There is also a lot of research backing dog therapy and its benefits, particularly among individuals with specific needs.


“Research has shown that reading to therapy dogs can improve literacy attitudes in students, leading to improved academic performance and positive attitudes Ms Borg explains that about school” as far as she is aware, “we are the first independent school to use a therapy/reading dog ‘full-time’ as it were. It has been a great success so far on all fronts and we have had great feeback from the parents and support from the teaching staff”. The dogs have also participated in other school activites, ‘turning up’ for the spring fair, raising awareness on autism and taking an active part during the recent Literacy Week events. Joanne Cremona, public relations officer, Service Dogs Malta Foundation, explains that a service dog is a dog that has been trained to perform a specific task for a person with a ‘disability’ to help make their day-to-day lives a little bit easier. This is the legal definition of a service dog. The foundation is currently focusing on training dogs to assist people with diabetes and children who have learning difficulties or are on the autistic spectrum. As part of their advanced level training, the dogs being trained by the foundation do therapy work with the elderly and children at resource centres and they have now also taken on the role of ‘reading dogs’. Some of the dogs who CHiLD MAy 2018 29


do not go on to reach the level of a service dog will carry on doing this kind of work until they are able to. Ms Cremona says that a reading dog helps a child who has difficulty reading, speaking and/or focusing on a particular task by providing them the opportunity to read to a living being who gives them their full attention, is non-judgemental, does not get irritated, does not interrupt and does not get visibly bored. The child is encouraged to sit close to the dog and pet it while reading – this helps the child relax and the rhythm of the petting motion itself is soothing. younger children also tend to believe the dog is actually understanding the story and this motivates them to continue reading the book to the dog over a number of sessions. The dogs are chosen on the basis of their intelligence, calm temperament and the fact that they love being with people. “These characteristics cannot be taught. What is taught is the ability to sit quietly for long periods of time, to accept being petted and stroked by different people and not to react if they are accidentally prodded or if they have their ears or tails pulled. The reading dog is always accompanied by a handler during the sessions and the handler keeps an eye on the dog and decides when, for example, the dog needs a break.” The foundation currently has 11 dogs in various stages of training. All except for the youngest recruits do therapy work in schools and homes for the elderly. Recently, the foundation held a “hugely successful” Read to the Dog event at the Archbishop’s Seminary during Literacy Week and Ms Cremona says that the foundation could be providing the service on an ongoing basis in the future. They are also in discussion with the Education Department to introduce the service to some State schools. Ms Cremona adds that the children at San Andrea School have grown to love the dogs and look forward to their reading sessions. “They have become a part of the school fabric,” she says.

“The dog will not ‘judge’ them if they make a mistake or interrupt them to ask questions”

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About Service Dogs Malta Foundation Founded in April 2013 by Joseph Stafrace, who is blind, and Sara Grech, the aim of the Service Dogs Malta Foundation is to train dogs to perform tasks that can help people with certain disabilities or conditions such as children on the autistic spectrum, or who have certain developmental difficulties, and individuals needing an alert for conditions such as hypoglycaemia and hyperglycemia (linked to diabetes). It takes from one-and-a-half to two years to train a dog according to international standards and only one in four finally make the grade, as the training is quite intensive. A dog costs approximately €15,000 to €20,000 to train and maintain. Once trained, the dogs are placed with families for free. The foundation retains ownership of the service dogs and continues to monitor them regularly. If anyone is interested in volunteering, donating or becoming a puppy raiser, they can send an e-mail on or by contacting the Service Dogs Malta Foundation on Facebook.


SAY IT WITH A LITTLE WOLF ON FATHER’S DAY upettin iħobb lill-papà is a new title in the Lupettin series, the hugely popular children’s wolf character who is always up to some mischief or other. But in this book Lupettin is on his best behaviour and simply wants to tell us why he’s in awe of his mighty father: he’s a football champion, a super chef and the best toy fixer on earth. Lupettin loves it when papà tickles him, when he gives him prickly kisses and when he carries him on his shoulder, or the aww-moment when he says: “Papa I love it when I sit on your lap and you read me stories.” Lupettin iħobb lill-papà is about the special bond between a father and child. It is an ode which rarely gets sung in children’s books.


Written by famous French author Orianne Lallemand and illustrated by Eleonore Thuillier, this book is one for the soul and all the fathers who get one are bound to go misty-eyed. The Maltese translation by award-winning author Clare Azzopardi gives it a life of its own, with carefully chosen words which enhance the dialogue. It is printed in sturdy padded hardback with rounded corners, making them safe for playing. The books come with a European CE safety standard, with the attention to detail that readers and parents have come to expect from Merlin titles. Lupettin iħobb lill-papà has no fixed target age but it can be read by the father and child to each other, making it a perfect gift for Father’s Day. It is available for sale from all bookshops or directly online from


Sleep... interrupted Medical student Dawn Degiorgio discusses the importance of sleep among children and highlights the risks associated with lack of proper rest.

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he average individual spends roughly 40 per cent of their childhood asleep which is why scientists have been trying to understand its importance and implications on developmental health for decades. Our circadian rhythms, otherwise called biological clocks, are what control our natural sleeping patterns throughout the day. Circadian rhythms operate over a cycle of 24 hours and are regulated by the hormone melatonin within the brain. Melatonin responds to darkness, so by the evening the levels of this hormone rise within the blood and cause the feelings associated with drowsiness. Artificial light during the night, especially that which is emitted from devices such as tablets which children hold very close to their faces, can detrimentally lower the production of melatonin. Circadian rhythms are essential in governing what time we fall asleep and wake up naturally and disruption of this cycle can affect the ability to fall asleep and even the quality of sleep itself. But why do children need to sleep a certain amount of hours? (see table) A very essential hormone during childhood is the growth hormone which is released during deep sleep by the pituitary gland in the brain. The growth hormone is responsible for the development of all parts of the body including bone, muscle and nerves and even aids in maintaining a healthy immune system. When sleep is disrupted or is insufficient, poor growth can occur and this may even lead to a shorter stature in adulthood. While one night of poor sleep will not have any long-lasting damage, chronic unhealthy sleeping patterns may affect the natural growth process and health of your child.


Many studies have tried to identify a causal relationship between sleep deprivation and obesity. Sleep deprivation leads to a number of changes in a child’s metabolism, behaviour and mood which could in turn lead to an increased risk of weight gain and obesity. A number of other hormones in the body are also partially regulated by sleep. Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease circulating hormone levels of leptin (the ‘energy expenditure’ hormone) and increase those of ghrelin (the ‘hunger’ hormone). These hormone changes in children are associated with higher levels of hunger, appetite and food intake together with a reduced wish to exercise and be active. One study has shown that sleep deprivation in two-and-a-half-year-old children was a predictive factor for obesity once they reached the age of seven.

“Chronic unhealthy sleeping patterns may affect the natural growth process and health of your child” An additional concern for parents is that sleep deprivation in children is associated with multiple changes in behaviour. These include problems with memory, reduced attentiveness and increased irritability which can mimic symptoms of ADHD. The occurrence of ADHD has increased drastically since the 1990s and 2000s which happens to coincide with the rise of the digital age. Some studies conducted in recent years suggest that a number of cases of sleep disorder are actually misdiagnosed as ADHD which is why it is important to be aware of the importance of sleep. It is

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WELL-BEING Sleep deprivation can affect a child's academic performance.

How much sleep do children really need? The table below highlights the recommended daily amounts which are required for different age groups. Age



1-4 weeks

15 to 18 hrs


2-12 months 14 to 15 hrs


1-2 years

11 to 14 hrs


3-5 years

10 to 13 hrs

School-aged children

6-13 years

9 to 11 hrs

Signs which could indicate a sleep-related problem • Snoring; • Breathing pauses during sleep (sleep apnoea); • Difficulty falling asleep; • Difficulty staying awake throughout the day; • Sleepwalking or nightmares; • Unexplained lowering of daytime performance; • Excessive sleep during holidays which may indicate they are making up for ‘lost sleep’. thought that around 25 per cent of children experience some form of sleep problem at one point in their childhood, making it essential for caregivers to notice telltale signs that could indicate a problem. Sleep deprivation can also have a number of consequences on your child’s social interactions, emotional well-being as well as academic performance. Sleep is essential to reset and rewire the body to allow for normal functioning during the day. Without enough rest, your child may struggle to focus at school, find it harder to interact with others and could even struggle with emotional problems. As time goes on, getting children to go to bed on time becomes an increasingly harder task due to the endless barrage of new technology and games at their fingertips which keep them 34 CHiLD MAY 2018

up at night. Parents must try their utmost to minimise these distractions in the evening and facilitate a relaxing environment which promotes sleep. It’s interesting to note that the majority of dreaming occurs in the latter third of the night. It is believed that dreams are a way for the brain to digest everything it has encountered throughout the day, allowing it to process emotions and assimilate memories. Parents should encourage children to read storybooks before they sleep which will help them to sleep soundly by spurring their imagination and filling their night with vibrant and vivid dreams. Although research is still in its infancy, scientists have shown that dreaming in itself may hold just as much importance in health maintenance as sleep.

Suggestions for a healthy bedtime routine • Establish a regular bedtime and stick to it (even over weekends). This will help your child’s body to establish a steady circadian rhythm. • Help your child to relax before bed by giving them a warm bath or reading them a story. • Stop them from taking any caffeinated drinks at least six hours before bedtime. • Limit sugary sweets and drinks or large meals very close to bedtime. • Make sure the house is quiet. • Try to keep their bedroom at an ambient temperature and as dark as they’ll permit. • Most importantly, make sure there is no TV, mobile phone, music or tablet around while they are trying to sleep. It is wise to set an ‘electronic curfew’ for your children – at least one hour before they go to bed.


Robotics in education: the state of play in 2018 Klaus Conrad visits the Malta Robotics Olympiad and notes how there has never been a better time for educators and parents to get serious about robotics in education. However, he points out that robots should, above all, be a creative outlet and teach about real-life skills. PHOTOS: MATTHEW MIRABELLI

he annual Malta Robotics Olympiad has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, establishing itself as Malta’s top technology event and encompassing not just robotics but also wider technology and engineering disciplines. The 2018 edition was no exception, attracting thousands of visitors who were treated to a wide variety of exhibits, ranging from technology as


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old as steam engines to the latest in high-tech robotics. It is interesting to note how much more crowded the field of robotics has become in recent years, especially in the education sphere. While Lego was the dominant platform just a few years ago and still enjoys wide popularity, it is also clear that there are many more platforms for educators and parents to consider today. In fact, there has never been a better time for educators and parents to get serious about robotics in education: the new national ICT syllabus actively


encourages the use of robotics and, with better choice, there are robots at every price point. But what makes a ‘good’ educational robot? How can we avoid robots becoming just another ‘flavour of the month’ investment in education, whether at home or in the classroom? How can we drive deep, meaningful engagement that creates real long-term growth in the learner? Robotics in the classroom must not be about learning how to ‘use’ a robot. Robots should instead be a creative outlet, a way to visualise and implement computational thinking skills in physical form. The function of the robot should be a result of the challenges we want to work on and we should not simply be following a preset list of things the robot can do. We need to encourage platforms that allow a wide range of creativity. Robotics should be tied in with other complimentary subjects and skill sets. We need to establish strong cross-curricular links for robots to be used in a variety of subjects across the entire range of Steam (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) subjects. But, maybe most importantly, we need robotics to teach real-life skills. Coding the robots should be as

“Robots should be a creative outlet, a way to visualise and implement computational thinking skills in physical form”

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TECHNOLOGY close as possible to real code, not abstracted iconography as was often the case a few years ago. Open-source languages and systems are a must. Parts should be real electronics, real switches and sensors, ideally off-the-shelf components that can be bought cheaply and easily, without having to invest in proprietary vendor components. We need robots that can be opened up, examined, taken apart and reassembled with new ideas and functionality added as required without incurring huge costs.

And maybe this is also where the Olympiad is lagging a little behind compared to similar events abroad: locally there is still a strong focus to present individual products, with preset functions and a selection of resources. Teachers are then expected to adopt these and implement as instructed. In most of the rest of the world, the emphasis in education has shifted to educators learning how to use a wide variety of platforms, gaining a deep understanding of fundamental processes and tools and building innovative resources based on opensource, open-technology platforms. Malta desperately needs to invest more in promoting affordable, accessible open-source platforms such as the Raspberry Pi or Arduino in education,

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“Malta desperately needs to invest more in promoting affordable, accessible open-source platforms”

so that we can build a strong base for future homegrown innovation. There is interest in these technologies, as initiatives like Malta’s first RaspberryJam event held earlier this year has shown. But to really grow such a community we have to introduce children to these technologies as early as possible, so

that they are not only competent but fluent in understanding how the technology can be used to meet challenges and seize opportunities that the world they grow up in will throw at them.

Klaus Conrad is director, Headstart Technology Ltd.


Notable exhibits at the Malta Robotics Olympiad 2018

• Featured prominently on the GO stand was Q.BO One, an open-source social robot, one of a new wave of robots designed to become our companions at home or a colleague at work. Robots like Q.BO are designed to bridge the capabilities of personal assistants like Siri or Google Home with the physical presence of robots. Q.BO is a great example of an open-platform robot, being based entirely on Raspberry Pi and Arduino, and can be integrated with cloud-based services from

Google or IBM to deliver artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. Children can get started by exploring what QBO can do, as the developers have included Scratch as a simple way to start Q.BO. • Another interesting item on the GO stand was a home automation system based on Raspberry Pi and using opensource software. Without having to replace existing appliances, a normal home can be transformed into a ‘smart’ home, allowing access and control of everything in the home from anywhere in the world through internet or Wi-Fi.



ALL ABOARD! Sheree Zielke gives parents tips on what to look out for when booking a family cruise.


ruising with children on today’s modern ships is a fairy tale come true for both children and their adult guardians. The majority of cruise lines offer extensive children’s programmes, allowing mother and father, or grandma and grandpa, time for themselves. But some cruise lines are very specific as to when and what age a child must be to travel on their ships. Cruise line management is aware that more children are sailing these days and have made preparations for them. Many cruise lines have set aside special

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areas just for children, similar to projects. In some cases, they may daycare centres, complete with partake in an entire theme, like pirates climbing toys, tiny pools and large or medieval fantasies, complete with playrooms filled with craft supplies, toys hats, face-paint, music and props. and games. Some also offer video Parents and grandparents will be game systems and large arcade games. pleased to note, that like a quality Special cruise staffers (youth daycare, all security precautions are coordinators) are hired specifically for taken and no child is ever released to their ability to be with children. These anyone but the guardian. coaches are gregarious and well-liked When choosing a cruise ship, check by the children left in their what the median age of the pascharge. Children are sengers is because fewer encouraged by children’s programmes staffers to take part will be available, if at all, “When in games and art on a ship catering to choosing a cruise a majority of older ship, check what travellers. the median age of the passengers is because It’s generally acfewer children’s cepted that the Disprogrammes will ney ships offer the be available, if at all, epitome in chilon a ship catering to dren’s programmes; a majority of older that makes sense travellers” since Disney is a giant in the child-entertaining business. Princess ships also have exemplary children’s programmes, especially on their longer cruises. But such programmes vary widely from ship to ship, even within the same cruise line, so do your research before booking your cruise. Babysitter services are generally available onboard most cruise ships for a fee; just check with your travel agent or study your cruise ship’s website before you book. But be aware that not all ships, like those in the Norwegian line, offer babysitting.

LEISURE Other things to note Parents should expect to be ‘beeped’ when leaving very young children (those still in diapers) in children’s programmes; most cruise staff will not change diapers. A parent will be alerted that their child needs a change. As to food, all cruise lines provide so many types of food that even the fussiest eater will be intrigued. Some ships, like the Crystal ships, offer a special Junior Cruisers menu. And most ships’ poolside grills offer children’s favourites like hot dogs, pizza and hamburgers. You may need to budget a little extra for ice cream, as some ships like the Grand Princess, charge extra for ice cream sundaes. Seasickness can be an issue, but nature seems to have spared babies and very young children from this horrible experience; probably because of all that time tossing about in the womb! However, be prepared and check with your doctor as to the best types of anti-seasickness medication to bring along for your child. Remember, the drugs must be given before seasickness symptoms occur or they are useless. Before planning to go onboard with a child, be sure to find out if the cruise line you are interested in, actually accepts children. The Cunard line is very firm and does not allow infants on board during some of its voyages like those cruises to Tahiti. And the line only accepts infants over the age of six months on certain voyages like those to Alaska and Mexico. Check each ship’s website to be sure. While you are checking cruise ship websites, you just might find that your ship is offering a ‘kids travel free’ promotion. Now wouldn’t that be the best way of all of cruising with your child?

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LEISURE Fun out at sea A list of cruise lines that regularly offer children’s programmes and childcare while at sea: • Carnival Cruise Line offers its Camp Ocean programme for children aged two and up. • Celebrity Cruises has children and teen pogrammes which include crafts, toys, video games, music and karaoke. Activities are divided into four groups by age. There is the Fun Factory for younger children plus the X Club, a supervised hangout for tweens and teens. • Costa Cruises offers the Costa Kids Programme for children aged three and up. They also have a Teens Club. • Crystal Cruises does not always offer children’s programmes, but when they do, they offer a very good service. Ask if their Junior Activities programmes are running before choosing this line. • Disney Cruise Line is a master when it comes to children’s activities. Expect to

see a mascot or two when you board this boat. The line offers its Oceaneer Club for kids aged three and up. Once on board, children can join the Castaway Club, which provides benefits for all future sailings with the Disney line. Try for useful tips and discount advice. • Norwegian Cruise Line offers many activities for every age group from two years onwards. Children can learn to juggle at Circus School in the programme Splash Academy (ages 3 to 12) while teens have themed parties in the Entourage programme (ages 13-17). • Princess Cruises invites children aged

three and up to its Camp Discovery which includes a forest-themed centre featuring hands-on activities and programmes, a games room, themed events, talent shows and much more. They also have activities for teens from 13 to 17. • Royal Caribbean is also a very familyfriendly cruise line which offers a variety of programmes for children as young as six months. The ship’s Adventure Ocean programme caters to children three years old and up. Check the individual cruise lines’ websites for more details.


MAKING TIME FOR YOUR CHILDREN With the demands on your time and attention never letting up, as a father you may be looking for ways to make time for what is most important to you: your children. Although it may seem daunting, with a little planning and determination, you can be there for your children and give them the attention and beautiful memories they need and deserve. Here are a few ideas: Commit and prioritise. As the wise saying goes: “We always have time for the things we put first.”

1. 2.

Plan ahead. This is one of the biggest keys to making sure you don’t miss out on quality family time. Put it on the schedule and work around it, rather than the other way around. Have ‘dad night’. Once a month, take your child out for a ‘daddy and me only’ night. If you have more than one child, simply take turns.


Ask interesting questions. Ask your child fun, interesting or specific questions to spice things up and get them to talk. For example, instead of asking, “Hi son, how was your day?” you might try, “Hey buddy, tell me the best thing and the worst thing about today.” You might be surprised at what you find out about your children!


Play games together. Games such as Pictionary or charades are terrific ‘daddy and me’ activities. They don’t take much time or preparation and provide many wonderful and fun memories.


Read through a novel together. Children of any age love reading, especially if daddy is the one reading to them. Reading through a novel or storybook will give your child something to look forward to and they’ll also be happy to remind you that it’s reading time! Designate a specific night for it to ensure you don’t miss it.


Have a weekly ‘big bash’. Even if you’ve been busy, you can still make it up by doing something special at least once a week. Remember, it doesn’t have to be huge to be special. Your toddler will love ‘baking’ sand cupcakes with you. Your six-year-old will be thrilled to see you struggle to get to the right circles in Twister! Your energetic little boy will have a ball playing football or visit the playground followed by a visit to the ice-cream truck.


Get your child involved in your life as well. Children want you to be a part of their lives but they also want to be a part of yours. Use kid-friendly language to talk about work and let them know they can ask you questions and talk about it whenever they like.


Bring work home. If you have extra work that you’d normally do at the office, why not try bringing it home and do it after you’ve spent time with your family? Providing for your family is extremely important but being a present parent is what they will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives.


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SHOP WINDOW Sun-safe swimwear and holiday accessories Marks & Spencer has a new range of children swimwear and holiday accessories. New Lycra® Xtra Lif chlorine-resistant technology means that swimsuits will last longer, without the fabric becoming opaque or losing elasticity, ensuring your kids will get more wear out of their swimmers. The quick-drying fabric also means swim shorts will not take long to dry out. There is also the new sun-safe swimwear, whose fabric provides protection against UV radiation and has been independently tested to give a UPF rating of 50+ Pack everything your children will need for a day at the seaside in a fun beach bag and keep their eyes protected from the sun’s rays with a pair of bright sunglasses.

Clearer skin

Swimsuits with sun-safe UPF50+ (3 months to 7 years) – €11

Good Things Pore-fectly Clear is a simple skincare routine that combines active charcoal with caffeine, willow bark extract and pomegranate to gently but effectively draw out impurities for deeply-cleansed, clearer-looking skin. This range has been specially formulated with calming yet powerful spot-fighting ingredients to soothe and clear oily, blemish-prone skin. Two additional blemish-fighting products include Good Things Overnight Serum to help reduce the appearance of blemishes and spots and to help prevent future breakouts, and Good Things Spot Clearing Gel to help stop spots in their tracks. The Good Things Skincare range is found in leading supermarkets and pharmacies. Exclusively distributed by Alfred Gera & Sons Ltd, tel: 2144 6205/6.

Planning the ideal bedroom for your child Your children will spend a considerable amount of time in their bedroom. Therefore, it is vital to create a comfortable environment, in which your child can play, relax and even work. When planning a new bedroom, it is essential to keep in mind that children grow rapidly, and before you know it, your child will become a teenager. Because of this, creating a space that your child can grow into is of utmost importance. The three key ingredients for a successful kid’s/ teen’s bedroom are storage, study space and a play/ chill area. Bedrooms in most modern apartments are normally restricted in size. No matter the age of the child, having a sufficient amount of storage will always be an issue, be it for the toys and games of a child or the books and files of a teenager. The Mundo Joven range offers various solutions on how to utilise and maximise the wall space available, using furniture such as corner wardrobes, bridge storage units, under bed storage and shelving units. The study area, even if comprising just a desk, is a must in every child’s bedroom. Therefore, the desk must be designed in a way which makes the study area as comfortable as possible. In the new Mundo Joven catalogue 2018, one will find a variety of different desks to suit all spaces, more colours, more options and more solutions. A playzone for young children, or a chilling area for the older teens, can be created by placing a small armchair in the room and a small unit for a TV/monitor

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and game console, creating a small living area for your child to enjoy alone or even with friends. In confined spaces, one can also use the divan bed as a seating area. Since every child is different, it is possible to completely personalise your room by using the wide range of wood and solid colours Mundo Joven has to offer. Finally, finishing off the room with suitable flooring will give the room colour, character and a clean surface. This will complete the room, thus creating a practical yet aesthetically-pleasing area. Quick-step flooring offers a full range of laminate or vinyl floors that will suit every room for a lifetime of enjoyment. Rimobel and Quick-Step products are available from R Living, Mrieħel Bypass, Qormi, tel. 2149 9699. For more information, visit or

Making bath time fun Munchkin offers a wide range of colourful, interactive toys that make bath time fun and enjoyable: from a Bath Fun Bubble Blower, Undersea Explorer, Bath Tea and Cupcake Sets and a large selection of bath toys. With their bright and vibrant colours, these toys are designed to help engage sensory skills as well as encourage your child to learn how to develop play patterns and interactive play. Munchkin also offers a wide range of feeding bottles, spill-proof cups, training cups, flip straw cups, dining sets, door bouncers, safety car mirrors, backpacks and much more. Munchkin is found in leading supermarkets, pharmacies and baby shops and is exclusively distributed by Alfred Gera & Sons Ltd, tel: 2144 6205/6.


Shop WiNdoW Clever toys for older children once children hit around seven to eight years of age, the challenging task of purchasing a gift for them is taken to a whole new level. But the newlylaunched Engino brand should make life easier. The brand, which is exclusively available at Early Learning Centre Rabat, Valletta, Gozo and online (free delivery for orders €50 and above), has received several awards from all over the world including ‘Best Green product’ and ‘Best Educational’ from dr Toy from the US, ‘Most innovative Toy’ from Toy Russia organisation and ‘Best Creative Fun’ from Tillywig organisation. Moreover, Engino has received the best SME award from the European Commission and the innovation award from the industrialist Association in Cyprus. The brand’s founder, a mechanical engineer and a teacher with 10 years’ experience in primary schools, wanted to create toys that inspire his students to become better problem-solvers and future innovators. The brand has been proven by academics to help children develop their analytical and creative skills and it is being used in schools in many countries such as the UK, US, Brazil, israel, Norway and Cyprus. And it is gradually becoming an integral part of the design and technology curriculum.

Say it with a blue ribbon The Blue Ribbon Campaign saw its start in the state of Virginia, the US, in 1989, when Bonnie Finney lost her three-year-old grandson Michael dickenson after he suffered from abuse inflicted upon him by his mother’s boyfriend. Bonnie tied a blue ribbon, symbolising her grandson’s bruises, to her car and drove around her community, encouraging them to do the same and spreading the word. Since that day, the blue ribbon has been distributed among the public during the months of April and May to raise awareness on the issues of child abuse and child neglect, and to encourage reporting when such issues are suspected. This way children are protected and live

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Kids’ summer fashion Next’s spring girlswear takes inspiration from a jungle safari. Giraffe and cheetah prints create characterful jersey basics paired with punchy floral outerwear. Washed brights grounded with soft grey marl make this the perfect trend for exploring! For a more subtle spring story, aloe is a pretty botanical-themed collection featuring statement cactus prints. Crisp white cottons are paired with Breton stripes and denim, all refreshed with a palette of sage green, mint and avocado. For the boys, Copenhagen is a casual story made up of ultra-cool statement t-shirts worn with trendy track bottoms. Camo print features on most pieces to create real street style and is teamed with soft whites and sand for a seasonal touch of cool. For something bolder, Ready Set Go is a selection of bright essentials. From rain jackets for those spring showers to fun retro slogan sweaters, this story will add a real pop to any wardrobe.

Meeting your baby’s development needs With 30 years of clinical experience in baby feeding, philips Avent has been designing and manufacturing products to meet your needs, whether breastfeeding, bottle feeding or combining the two. Then as your baby grows, the range’s interchangeable design features mean the products can be adapted to meet your baby’s developing needs. The range of products – from bottles, cups, soothers, electric and manual pumps to breast pads and monitors – are inspired by nature and have been developed through extensive research and clinical trials and, even more importantly, by listening to mothers. Philips Avent is exclusively distributed by Alfred Gera & Sons Ltd, tel: 2144 6205/6.

in a community where they feel can feel safe and secure. Aġenzija Appoġġ offers courses on positive parenting and other parenting courses. The public is encouraged to contact the agency on 2295 9000 or on supportline 179 if they know of any family which needs help or if they know of a child who is suffering from any kind of abuse. Children are our future and they have every right to grow up in a warm and nurturing environment with access to basic needs, a comforting caregiver and education. Their safety is the responsibility of every adult in our society; therefore, Aġenzija Appoġġ invites everyone to wear a blue ribbon and safeguard the safety of our children.


SHOP WINDOW Dry nights for your baby DryNites Bed Mats with ‘Stick and Stay Put’ are designed for ultimate undercover confidence. Highly absorbent with waterproof backing, the new peel off adhesive back sheet secures the bed mat to a mattress, keeping it in place for great night-long protection. DryNites Bed Mats are for children who sometimes wet the bed or simply for extra protection. DryNites Bed Mats offer the perfect solution for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Supporting healthy growth and development

Summer workshops Bricks4 Kidz Summer Workshops are an ideal activity for children aged between five and13 years. These workshops are led by experienced teachers and are built around a variety of exciting themes. Children can choose one or more from nine workshops that include STEM Builders, Game Design, Coding, Stop Motion Movie Maker, PreSchool Builders, Mining & Crafting, Robotics, Remote Control and Comic Creator. What is common to all workshops is that children will explore the world of science, technology, math and engineering using specialised Lego Technic pieces such as gears, axles and electric motors. For more information and registrations go to

Cerelac Infant Cereals provide the essential nutrients the infant needs to support healthy growth and development. These cereals provide infants who have small stomach capacity with nutrient-dense foods, which are enriched with key vitamins and minerals, specially selected to reduce the risk of micro-nutrient deficiencies and thus promote healthy growth and development.

Babylino wipes Thanks to their pure formula with chamomile and arnica extract, the new Babylino Sensitive wipes, fragrance free, cleanse and care for the baby’s sensitive skin while helping to protect against irritations and rashes. Each pack comes with a practical reclosable lid for better product preservation. For trade enquires, call Pemix Distributors on tel: 2143 7926. Visit for more information.



10% off at early learning centre This coupon is to be redeemed by June 17, 2018. It is not valid with any other offer. Online coupon code: child10off Kindly present this voucher to the cashier prior to payment. E-mail: Web:

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Choosing your kids' bedroom Parents understand that their child’s needs change as they grow up. This does not only apply to their clothing, feeding habits and education but also applies to their surroundings and, more specifically, their bedroom. In fact, several transitions are to be expected for the first 10 to 12 years of a child’s life due to the changes in size, maturity and personal development. Perhaps the most dynamic piece of furniture in your child’s room is the bed. Naturally, the size must be commensurate to the child’s height. Other functions and modifications may also be necessary depending on their other needs. Some people are under the misconception that all beds are alike. Some may even think that any type of bed would do as long as it can be slept on. In reality, there are many different kinds of children’s beds. Many beds have been infused with additional features and enhancements to fit the unique needs of a child and the preferences of the parent. Should it be functional, stylish, thematic, playful or all of the above? This is where Faer comes in, leading the way in the production of beds and bedroom furniture for children and teens. Established over 50 years ago, the company only makes use of materials that are child-friendly with low formaldehyde emissions. They make no use of cheap toxic materials which not only make their range safer for kids but also ensure greater durability. Faer’s choice of bedrooms is also extensive, from comfy traditional beds to bunk and loft beds. All models offer a good level of customisation and the option of inbuilt storage. To find out more about Faer’s range of bedrooms for both children and adults, visit Carmelo Delia’s showroom in Birkirkara. Furniture consultants will not only explain the extensive finishes and ranges of bedrooms available but will also go into great detail to explain what safety elements are a must when designing a bedroom.



Pampering your skin

Weaning is fun The latest Mothercare weaning range reduces the mess and takes the stress out of those first mealtimes. The Mothercare easy pop freezer pots make storing baby food easy. You can use them to refrigerate or freeze anything from breastmilk to purees in handy 60ml portion sizes, the ideal size for the early stages of eating. They have soft material on the bases which makes popping frozen cubes of food out easy. The tight-fitting lid means that you will not lose any breastmilk or food in the fridge or freezer. The lids are stackable so you can store the pots on top of each other neatly. The pots can also be used when out and about to take a little food with you for heating and serving. The Mothercare flexi-tip spoons are perfect for both baby and parent. The ergonomic handle has been specially designed for mum to comfortably hold using the ridged finger grooves and for the baby to grip from the chunkier base of the handle. The long spoon handle is also great for reaching into tall jars and containers so you can ensure no food is missed. Suitable from four months. The Mothercare free-flow cup is an essential first cup for your baby. The simpleto-use flip-up spout gives free-flowing liquid, allowing little ones to drink without needing to suck. When they’re done, simply push the spout back down to stop the cup from leaking when on your travels. The integrated handles are perfectly sized for little hands to hold, encouraging your child to feed themselves independently. The cup is also microwave safe – simply place the lid on top loosely. The twist-down travel cover keeps the straw hygienically clean when you’re putting the cup into your change bag or pushchair, making it great for use at home or on your travels. All components can be removed for cleaning and the cup is microwave safe – simply place the lid loosely on top. Suitable from 12 months. You can also keep your little one happy and hydrated with an insulated straw cup. This non-spill straw prevents leaks and spills, with a 100 per cent super-soft silicone straw to encourage little ones to feed themselves. The insulated base will conveniently keep your child’s drinks cooler for longer, at home or away. With specially designed indented areas, the easy grip cup base is suitable for little hands to hold, while the large, 340ml capacity is ideal for keeping the little one hydrated throughout the day. All products are easy to clean, dishwasher and microwave safe. Available from all Mothercare outlets, Sliema, Valletta, Fgura, Birkirkara and Gozo.

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Happy Naturals recognises that stressful lifestyles can leave one’s skin in need of some serious pampering. The Happy Naturals Spa Argan Oil range encompasses super moisturising and nourishing argan oil for the ultimate in spa therapy. This oil is widely recognised for its skincare benefits – it is exceptionally rich in vitamin E and omega essential fatty acids and therefore is well known for its anti-ageing, moisturising and anti-oxidant properties. The Happy Naturals Sea Mineral range combines essential oils with mineral-rich, energising Dead Sea salts to rejuvenate the skin and leave one feeling pampered and revitalised. Happy Naturals ranges are exclusively distributed by Alfred Gera & Sons Ltd, tel: 2144 6205/6.

Meeting your nutritional needs Women’s nutritional needs change during pregnancy and breastfeeding. So you might want to start making the right nutritional choices before you become pregnant as this is important to your baby’s health. One of those choices could be to start taking a multivitamin supplement containing folic acid before you are pregnant. Folic acid is a naturally-occurring vitamin which your body needs. If a woman does not get enough folic acid, her baby has a higher risk of developing a type of birth defect called neural tube defect (NTD). One way to help prevent NTDs is to make sure you get enough folic acid. While folic acid can be found in some foods, most international guidelines recommend that women should take a folic acid supplement at least 12 weeks before conception, throughout pregnancy, and four to six weeks after delivery or as long as breastfeeding continues. Starting a supplement before you get pregnant prepares your body for your future pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman’s need for a number of essential nutrients increases, for instance, extra iron is required to help maintain a healthy placenta. It is important to choose a multivitamin that is especially formulated for use during pregnancy. Nestlé Materna helps provide the vitamins and minerals you need during all stages of your pregnancy. After pregnancy, Nestlé Materna provides both calcium and vitamin D to help meet nutritional needs while breastfeeding. Nestlé Materna has the extra vitamins and minerals your body needs before, during and after pregnancy. Available in pharmacies.

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