The benefits of baby massage

Relaxation is really important for mum, dad and baby and using baby massage techniques is one way you can promote this, while also being a chance for some quality bonding time together.

According to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), the benefits of baby massage include helping the long-term emotional health of a child, the development of body awareness and coordination, reducing post-natal depression and improving mother/baby relationships.

There are also lots of other benefits, from helping circulation, digestive and nervous systems, to stimulating growth hormones. It can also help manage and relieve the symptoms of teething, colic and colds.

And it’s not just for mums – dads may find introducing a regular massage routine helps them feel closer to baby, especially if they are spending time away at work.

So what is it?

Baby massage involves the gentle and rhythmic stroking of a baby, generally moving from the legs to the arms, hands and body. It can also include the gentle manipulation of joints, such as fingers and ankles. It is done with the hands and you may choose to use baby moisturiser or similar to help your hands glide smoothly.

What do parents say

Before I had my own children I taught the IAIM technique of baby massage to new parents. Along with all the other positive outcomes it is a great tool to enable parent and baby to communicate, by taking time out from a busy day to concentrate on what he or she is trying to tell you.

Babies are born ready and very willing to communicate as a survival skill, but signs can get lost or misinterpreted. Dads can also often feel at a loss when mum is breast feeding, so this gives them a specific task and makes them able to ‘do’ something.

In my own family the massage time has had importance with each successive child, as protected one-to-one time with each specific child. We have adapted the moves as they have got older and they also do it to each other now, which is lovely.

Want to find out more

Check out what baby massage clinics are taking place in your area. A good place to start is to contact your doctor’s office or to ask your health visitor.

Guest blog provided by Beverley Squire, a health visitor and mother of three from Devon

A tall tale for one little bookworm!

Earlier this year we launched a special ‘Let’s Get Kids Reading’ campaign, designed to help parents motivate and inspire their children to read.

We had a fantastic response from families, especially to a competition we ran on our interactive Facebook page.

Hundreds of parents entered and one little bookworm from Hampshire is now going to be kept very busy, after receiving a special delivery of his height in books!

5-year-old Jake was delighted when the pile of over 200 children’s books arrived, after mum Jeni Wareing was named the winner of our competition.

The precious cargo of books was personally delivered to Jake by CVS Sales Director Iain Williamson and team member Lucy Osbaldeston, who coordinated the campaign.

Jake was delighted with his prize and mum Jeni remarked: “They should keep him going for a while! Jake just loves reading and now our only problem is going to be choosing which book to read next!”

From astronomy and pirates to Roald Dahl classics, The Gruffalo and even Spider Man, when stacked up the diverse pile of reading books reaches just over a metre in height.

Congratulations Jake and well done Jeni! And don’t worry, if you weren’t the lucky winner this time around remember to keep checking our Facebook page, as we’ll be running another competition soon.

If you haven’t visited us on Facebook yet, we’d love you to stop by and say hello. You’ll find us here:

An award for Vicki as pupils benefit from ‘reading buddy’ scheme

An employee at Computershare has been honoured with a special award in recognition of her dedication and efforts in helping local primary school children improve their reading skills.

Vicki has been managing our Computershare Reading Buddy scheme, which sees employees volunteering to visit local primary schools for half an hour each week to listen to pupils reading.

Since becoming the reading buddy coordinator in 2010, Vicki has taken the scheme from strength to strength and has helped to more than triple the number of volunteers taking part.

The reading buddy initiative is part of a series of structured volunteering opportunities run by a charity called Ablaze. Last year over 800 volunteers donated more than 21,000 hours, impacting over 4,500 young people and helping to motivate children to develop an enjoyment of reading independently.

Ablaze has been so impressed by Vicki’s efforts that they have honoured her with a special award, which she received at a recent ceremony attended by charity representatives, volunteers, business leaders and young people from across the region.

“I think the buddy scheme is a fantastic project and I was delighted to get involved with it,” said Vicki. “The feedback from volunteers and the schools is amazing and we hope to grow our bank of volunteers even further this year, so we can help even more pupils with their reading.”

Here are some of the fantastic comments we have received from the schools:

Miss Emma Drew, head teacher at Fairfurlong Primary School, said: “Well done Vicki! We have always been really pleased with the support provided for us by the Computershare volunteers.  Most of the children we select for support are children who are below the correct levels for their age.

“Through the support of Computershare volunteers, the children learn the importance of practising their reading with an adult, get some "special" time with an adult that is about them, and make progress with their reading. Just 30 minutes a week does have a massive impact for the children at our school.”

Mark Lacey, head teacher at Parson Street Primary School, said: “We really value our partnership with Computershare. We are working hard with our whole school community to raise standards of literacy for our children and the fact that a local business like Computershare is willing to work with us in this endeavour is fantastic. We are so pleased to welcome volunteers here every week - they really make a difference!”

Tony Halloran, head teacher at St Pius X Primary School, said: “The contribution of Computershare reading volunteers to our school is invaluable. They help us to support children who would not normally read with an adult who is not a member of school staff. The children have built strong working relationships and friendship with 'their' volunteer (and they really are possessive about volunteers) and they are really appreciative of the time that is given.  Without the volunteers some of our children would not share or build a love of reading. Long may they come forward.”

Well done to Vicki and all our volunteers!

Parents refuse to scrimp on Christmas

With soaring inflation and utility bills you may think Christmas cheer would be the last thing on parents' minds, but it seems spending on presents for the kids is one thing Mums and Dads are just not willing to compromise on.

We asked over 1000 parents how much they plan to spend on presents for their children this Christmas and found that despite increasing financial pressures, 16% expected to spend over £300 in total on their kids’ presents this year. A further 19% said they’d shell out between £200-£300 and 5% are planning to spend over £500!

Christmas can be tough on the family bank balance, but even when budgets are squeezed parents still want to provide all they can for their children, the important thing is not to be left having to pay the price for Christmases past.

I read a recent survey by HSBC which showed 21% of parents will be borrowing money to pay for presents, while others will be relying on their overdraft, payday loans, personal loans and borrowing from friends and family.

If you’re a parent, then make sure you're making the most of all financial schemes and benefits you are entitled to, such as childcare vouchers, which can save a huge amount to be able to add to the Christmas present fund. If you’d like more information on childcare vouchers and the savings you can make, visit our website.

Also, consider other ways you can make savings this time of year. We’ve put together some simple ideas of fun ways for families to save some pennies and have a ‘home-made’ Christmas this year.

CVS’ tips for ‘making’ this Christmas the best ever:

Spending less can often mean giving more, especially when it comes to presents for relatives such as grandparents. Here are some ideas for ‘making’ Christmas:

• Get handy - Handmade Christmas cards are fun and easy to make, highly personal and will always be well received. One idea to try with the children is to create a design using an upside down hand print to become Santa’s face and beard. Stick on eyes and add rosy cheeks to bring extra charm to the design.

• Get cooking - Stained glass window biscuits make a beautiful and edible Christmas tree decoration. Use seasonal biscuit cutters to create trees, stars, bells and present shaped biscuits then cut out an identical shape in the centre of each biscuit and pop in a boiled sweet before putting in the oven. Remember to make a small hole at the top of each biscuit so you can thread ribbon through for hanging, then bake and decorate with icing.

• Get foraging - Pinecones can make a festive and charming decoration. They are versatile and can be painted and hung on the tree or around the home. Place in silver bowls/cups/candlesticks and top with glitter covered cardboard stars as tabletops; or even use them to decorate the cheese board and fruit bowl.

• Get snappy – Collect together photographs from Christmases past and from members of the family. See how far back you can go by involving grandparents, and see what precious stories and anecdotes can be uncovered along the way. Copy the images and use them to make unique place settings or gift tags.

What’s in a name? New parents prefer to keep it in the family

Parents can agonise for weeks about choosing the perfect name for their child. However, unlike many celebrity parents, we’ve found that most prefer to take inspiration from the names of grandparents and other family members.

We asked over 900 parents how they chose their children’s names; over a quarter (27%) said they named their child after a family member, in contrast to just 6% of parents who opted for a made up name. This may go some way to explain why names like Jack and Sophie continue to be amongst the most popular year after year.

And it seems that most parents questioned were uninspired by the cult of celebrity, with only 4% saying they named their child after a celebrity or famous sporting figure. A fifth of parents (20%) used baby books and a further 4% followed in the Beckham’s footsteps to name their child after a city.

More unusual decisions included naming a child after a music track, taking the name of a famous painter of cats, and for a pair of teachers - avoiding the name of any child they had taught in the past!

My wife and I debated for ages before settling on Gabriel for our baby boy. No family links or famous namesakes, we wanted a traditional and memorable name and it was simply the first one that both of us liked!

We work with thousands of parents and their children each year and whilst traditional names are still firm favourites, we have definitely seen a shift towards more unusual names in recent years as well; so who knows, perhaps we’ll see a Prime Minister Cruz or Queen Sparrow one day!

Here’s a few of those unusual names celebrities have given their children:
• American actress Natalie Portman recently named her new son Aleph after the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet
• Kate Hudson announced the arrival of Bingham Hawn Bellamy on July 9
• Pop star Pink has opted to name her daughter Willow Sage
• Singer Mariah Carey recently revealed the names of her new born twins as Monroe and Morocco
• Gwen Stefani’s children are Kingston and Zuma
• Nicole Ritchie’s two are called Sparrow James Midnight and Harlow Winter Kate
• The best of British, Jamie Oliver and wife Jules, have stayed with nature for their four children, Daisy Boo, Poppy Honey, Petal Blossom Rainbow and Buddy Bear.
• Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin chose Apple for their eldest child

How did you pick your children’s names? We’d love to hear from you either here on the blog, on Facebook or via Twitter (@CCVouchers)