Meet Zelna Zeal, our Founder and Director
Since 2003, Zelna has supported thousands of toddlers to teens from all backgrounds, circumstances and demographics.
As the founder and director of The Kids Life Studio® Global Network and Kids Life Studio® Coach Academy, Zelna has been an advocate for Rebranding Childhood® and getting children to flourish through her play based approaches. With her background as a special needs teacher, school counsellor, university lecturer, clinical child psychologist and researcher she has extensive experience that bridges the divide between theory and practice.
Her experience is diverse and she has personally proven that her play based coaching model works in a variety of settings with a variety of children irrelevant of their circumstances.
She has worked with street children, children who have been trafficked, bipolar labelled teens, children of foreign diplomats, sexually abused girls and children with famous parents.
She believes that with the seeds of hope, every child can create a legacy of their own, regardless of their background, circumstances or abilities.
No matter what challenges children have faced, with hope, Zelna believes children can step into their power.
Where did it all begin?
Zelna’s early career with children kicked off in 1996 as a teacher in a special needs school. It was there that she realised the hidden strengths in children labelled as having “problems”.
She is an advocate for progressive solutions grounded in neuroscience and psychology that focus on nurturing leadership potential in children rather than focusing on what is going wrong and trying to fix it.
Her real turning point came when she was appointed in a short term teaching position in London at the turn of the millennium.
Appointed to work with a small group of behaviourally challenged children in preparation for their national exams, she quickly realised that the problems she was seeing stemmed from trauma and that this linked to their low self-esteem and related learning difficulties.
It was here that she started pioneering her Play Based Coaching methods in the classroom. This inspired her and planted the seed that at the time she didn’t realise would grow into the global network that the Kids Life Studio® is today.
What happened next?
Zelna started officially investing into learning more about life coaching for children in 2003 when she was teaching at a top private school in South Africa.
As the newly appointed Life Skills teacher and school counsellor, her task was to design and develop a bespoke school curriculum that focused on social and emotional learning (SEL).
She started and led a Pastoral Leadership initiative in the school, also designing and implementing a comprehensive anti-Bullying policy. Alongside this she was on the steering committee of the Guidance Advisory Team in supporting at risk learners.
This was when she started her research journey and soon realised that there were no programmes focused specifically on Kids Life Coaching.
She created her in depth Play Based Coaching model by incorporating psychology, neuroscience and education strategies tailored to each child’s unique needs.
She saw value in taking a research informed approach but felt it necessary to bridge the gap between best practices in academia and practical application that children could relate to.
Innovation and forward thinking
As the first practicing Kids Life Coach in South Africa, she soon gained recognition for her pioneering work in Play Based Coaching and gained extensive media attention.
This led to an interest from teachers, coaches, psychologists and other professionals interested in learning from her. Which is how The Kids Life Studio® evolved into an organisation with a global network of certified Play Based Coaches who share Zelna’s vision for empowering children.
In 2014, when she immigrated to England, Zelna expanded her business to include her online school Kids Life Studio® Coach Academy which has been the biggest contributing factor to the global expansion of her programmes.
Her Play Based Coaching model has now being culturally adapted around the world in multiple languages in countries as diverse as China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Australia, South Africa, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dubai and Kenya.
- Bachelor of Education Degree in Special Needs
- Honours Degree in Psychology of Education
- Masters in Clinical Child Psychology
- Current DPhil Psychiatry Researcher at Oxford University
- Bachelor of Education University Lecturer focusing on Inclusive Education, Behavioural Studies, Health & Social Development
- Honorary Fellowship (FHEA) for Teaching Excellence in Higher Education
- Member of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP)
- Advisor for the Future Global Leaders Forum
- Finalist in Business Woman of the Year
- Nominated finalist for Women in Business Awards
- Voting member of the World Federation for Mental Health
- Author of multiple books & motivational product developer
- Regular Guest slots on various Radio & TV talk shows
- Presentation of Research Papers at 2nd Global Childhood Conference at Oxford University & Edu Connect Conference in Barcelona
- British Psychological Association annual conference for the Division of Child & Educational Psychologists workshop presentation on the “Labelling of Children”
- Invited as Research Fellow for Queen Mary University London and part of their Global Policy Institute initiative
- Contributor to UK India partnership global Family Resilience Research Project
- Awarded title of “Iconic Women Creating a Better World for All” by the Women Economic Forum
- Presented as a guest speaker in Parliament in England on International Day of Innnocent Child Victims of Aggression
The Secret Parent
If you want to learn more about how Zelna Zeal overcame her own mental health challenges and built a global network of play based coaches, read her personal memoir “The Secret Parent: the hidden truths of life, parenting and childhood through the eyes of a kids life coach”.
In this snapshot, she whispers out loud the secrets which once held her back from finding and living her purpose fully. This gripping and poignant book reveals the previously hidden story behind her lonely and challenging healing journey through being childless, depressed and labelled as mentally ill.
In this book, she shares the interwoven stories of other peoples’ children whom she had the privilege of coaching. These children were the inspiration behind Zelna finding the strength to overcome her own personal challenges.
Full of uncomfortable truths, “The Secret Parent” shows you that your real worth is derived from who you choose to be, even when life has different ideas for you.