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11 Super Sensory Activities for Under-Fives

11 Super Sensory Activities for Under-Fives

In our last blog post we wrote a guide to the many benefits of sensory play. Take a look at that article for a reminder of how stimulation of the senses can help with the learning and development of babies and young children, in a myriad of different ways. From improved problem-solving and language skills to safer movement, better social skills, helping with autism and much more, the many benefits of sensory play are clear to see in that article. Follow the blue link above to take a look.

We promised to follow up with a post suggesting some sensory-based activities that parents or carers can undertake with babies or children at home. Our ideas below are great fun for babies, toddlers and children under five and such sensory activities can benefit them greatly.

Safety note: of course, you should always supervise your baby/child’s play and discovery to ensure they do not unwittingly harm themselves. Babies, for example, will often use their mouths, as well as their hands, to explore new objects, so remain vigilant and supervise them appropriately.

Children love playing with bubblesSensory Play Ideas for Babies

Babies love playing with bubbles. Under supervision, let them see the bubbles float slowly through the air and occasionally land without bursting. The baby will be able to see the rainbow colours swirling on the bubble surface, particularly when in flight. Babies will also enjoy it when a bubble lands on their skin with the most delicate of sensations, then another sensory ‘ping’ when it finally bursts. Bubbles stimulate sight and touch as well as giving babies a glimpse of some of the simple but magical things that the world has to offer.

The Benefits of Sensory Play for Under-Fives

The benefits of sensory play for under-fives

There are many benefits of sensory play to babies, toddlers and young childrenSensory play is incredibly important for under-fives. Babies and young children benefit enormously when their play activities stimulate the senses and in this article we’ll explore those benefits in some detail.

The Senses

For the purpose of this blog post, ‘senses’ will mean the famous five (touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing) plus a couple of others that are often overlooked; balance and body awareness (also known as ‘proprioception’). As with the core 5 senses, the two additions are critically important as part of the learning and development journey for little ones.

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory Play is any kind of play activity that involves stimulation of any of the senses outlined above. For example:

  • What is sensory play? We explain.activities that involve touch, where babies and children can acquaint themselves with the feelings of temperature, softness, hardness, pressure, vibration, roughness, smoothness etc.;
  • activities involving food, which can involve tasting to see whether the food is sweet, sour, savoury and so on;
  • play activities involving smell, which involve items that have a scent, whether natural like flower petals, fruit, organic materials and suchlike or man-made scents like diluted bubble bath and so on;
  • visual (sight) activities, where children explore colours, tones, visual textures, contrast, brightness and images, learning how to associate them with the real world;
  • hearing activities, where children experience the different types of sounds that surround them;
  • play activities that help them to learn to balance i.e. to counteract the effects of gravity;
  • activities that help children to develop a sense of spacial awareness i.e. of where their bodies are within their surroundings and in relation to objects and other people around them.

List of benefits of sensory play activities for early years childrenThe Benefits of Sensory Play

Sensory play allows children to learn more about the world around them, and all the things within it. As they learn, new pathways are formed within the brain and this helps to cement permanent associations between a particular sense and a particular situation, physical thing, or scenario. When this is achieved, the child will instantly and naturally recognise multiple layers of senses as they happen again in the future. That’s an important life skill and something that adults take for granted, but benefit from enormously.

Additional benefits of sensory play for children include …

The Complete Guide to Choosing a Nursery

The Complete Guide to Choosing a Nursery

One of the key challenges that affects parents is how to choose the best nursery or pre-school for their little one. Babies can go to nursery at just a few months old and Government funding for childcare kicks in from as early as 2 years of age. So, the choice of nursery is a decision that, for many, needs to be made very early in a child’s life.

What is the best way of choosing the most appropriate nursery or pre-school for your child? What factors should be taken into consideration? This guide clearly explains the key considerations and provides a useful road map to find the perfect nursery or pre-school match for an individual child.

Choose a convenient nursery locationA Convenient Nursery Location

The most obvious factor to consider is location. After all, you will usually want your child’s nursery or pre-school to be close to either your home or place of work — or somewhere en route — so they’re easy to drop off and pick up. With a quick Google map search for nurseries in your desired area, you’ll already be able to generate a great list of possible contenders.

Social Proof

While you’re still on the search results page, you can check how well the various nurseries have been reviewed on Google. Little Cedars has an average rating of 4.4 out of a possible 5 stars on their Google listing, for example — that’s very good. If you dig a little deeper, you can see that, of the 7 total customer reviews, 4 of them were rated at the full 5 stars, which again is extremely good. You can also see any comments with some reviews, where people left them. In our

Nursery Jokes For Under-5s

Nursery Jokes For Under-5s

Following on from our post about the importance of laughter for children earlier this month, we thought it only fair to lend a hand with some laughter! With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite, funniest, jokes for preschoolers. Feel free to share these, send the page link to your friends and family or print them out for display (click each one to see a larger version). We adults at Little Cedars Day Nursery also found ourselves chuckling at each and every one of them — indeed they only made it into our list if we laughed out loud! Have fun with them — there are 24 to enjoy and to share on social media like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest ‘pins’ and so on …

Laughter for Little Ones – & Why it’s So Essential

Laughter for Little Ones - & Why it's So Essential

Have you seen the videos of babies laughing hysterically when paper is torn? For some inexplicable reason, they find it hilarious! It even became a whole trend on YouTube, so we’ve included an example here (skip any adverts at the beginning). It’s extremely funny — and the giggling baby is very cute!

Quite why the babies laugh at paper being torn, or during a game of peek-a-boo with a parent, is often a mystery. They seem to love it, though. It turns out that their ensuing laughter is very good for them, as well as being enormous fun to watch and to join in with.

Growing a Sense of Humour

Benefits of laughing for kidsLet’s first go back to the beginning. A sense of humour is apparently a learned aspect of a person’s character, to a fair extent. It’s something that develops and changes as a child gets older, rather than something they’re born with as a result of their DNA. As such, it’s important that babies and young children are given every opportunity to enjoy laughter and, while doing so, have fun with those around them. Laughing also is also closely linked to happiness, and being happy is, of course, priceless.

In one study, when babies were shown a toy duck that was then thrown to the ground, only the babies who giggled copied the action when they were given the toy. Clearly those babies understood the significance of the action and ‘got’ the joke!

The Benefits of Laughter for Little Ones

Many of the benefits of laughter are completely obvious; it cheers us up, it lightens our mood, it can make a stressful situation much more bearable and, no less importantly, laughing is fun! If we’ve laughed regularly throughout the day, we’re more likely to have enjoyed the day as a whole and we’re sure to think of it as a ‘good’ day. It’s going to be similar for babies, toddlers and under-fives.

However, there are many less obvious benefits that the very young can get from laughing regularly:

  • Laughing is great funLaughing helps children to develop better self-esteem;
  • It can help them to think a little bit differently and in a more creative way;
  • In so doing, it can also help improve their problem-solving skills as they ‘may look below the surface’ more often;
  • Laughing with friends, carers and parents helps closer bonds to develop;
  • It can be used to cheer other children up when they are upset and thereby improve social skills and empathy;
  • Laughing in the face of adversity can help boost future resilience, while also reducing anxiety;
  • It helps them to be more spontaneous, more playful and also not take things, including themselves, too seriously.

Medical benefits

There are also some medical benefits for children who laugh often. Research shows that

FREE Food, Milk & Vitamins! A Guide to the Healthy Start Scheme

FREE Food, Milk & Vitamins! A Guide to the Healthy Start Scheme

Healthy eating is also yummy!Are you pregnant, or a parent with a child under four? If so, your family may be eligible for free healthy food, milk and vitamin supplements. In England, some of these free items are available under the ‘Healthy Start’ scheme, which we’ll explain in this quick-start guide.

At time of writing, the free items are available through vouchers that can be redeemed in any of the 21,000 or so physical shops, supermarkets and pharmacies that have signed up to accept them. Each voucher is currently worth £3.10 and you can get 1 every week if you are pregnant or have a child aged between 1 and 4 years of age, or 2 vouchers per week if your child is under 1.

LATEST UPDATE: the NHS has also begun testing a new alternative where money is paid into your account instead of supplying vouchers. This beta test is running right now, on an invitation-only basis via a letter from the NHS. Hopefully it’ll be rolled out country-wide if successful. If so, it could cure the current issue whereby vouchers cannot be used to pay for food, vitamins and milk online. Clearly, that’s a significant issue in view of the pandemic and the move to shopping more online.

So, what free stuff can you get?

Vouchers are redeemable in thousands of shops, supermarkets & pharmaciesEligible individuals can get the following, absolutely free:

  • Cow’s milk;
  • Infant formula milk;
  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables;
  • Pulses;
  • Free vitamin supplements for breastfeeding mums;
  • Free vitamin drops for young children (6 months to 4 years) …

The Importance of Sleep for Babies & Toddlers

The importance of sleep for babies and toddlers

A baby sleeping with older brotherWe all know how detrimental a bad night’s sleep can can be to our general wellbeing. At the very least, it can make the following day a real struggle, perhaps make us feel irritable and certainly leave us underperforming. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at how sleep affects babies, toddlers and under-fives. It will be no surprise to hear that a good night’s sleep is even more important for the early years age group.

What are the benefits of a good night’s sleep to children?

Sleep has enormous benefits to the young and old and it has been the subject of many studies. Young children who get a decent night’s sleep are shown to:

  • be happier, have better moods and be more resilient;
  • have better attention spans;
  • be more alert;
  • have improved learning capacity and cognitive performance;
  • have better memory skills (e.g. improved vocabulary acquisition);
  • have improved development of motor skills;
  • have improved mental and physical health;
  • be less likely to be withdrawn, stressed or anxious;
  • have a reduced likelihood of developing high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression.
  • What’s more, children’s growth hormone is produced when the child is asleep. This is essential for healthy growth and function of the child’s body, particularly during early infancy.
  • Other hormone levels change when you sleep and this can help with anything from skin repair to muscle mass and even changes to body weight.

A very sleepy toddlerThese are significant benefits, so high quality sleep — and the right amount — is incredibly important.

“A quarter of children under the age of 5 don’t get adequate sleep” (National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information)

How much sleep should young children and babies get?

Studies suggest the following recommendations when it comes to the number of hours of sleep that children should regularly receive during their early years …

Recommended sleep time
  • 4-12 months old: 12-16 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)
  • 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)
  • 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) / The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)¹

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Hygiene‘ is a term that refers to the whole routine around bedtime and sleeping, including important preparation measures during the run-up to bedtime A good sleep hygiene regime will help children get to sleep and to sleep soundly.

Parents can help to optimise children’s sleep quality in a number of ways: …

Your Toddler Needs to Go to Nursery. Here’s Why.

Your Toddler Needs to Go to Nursery. Here’s Why.

Reasons your toddler needs to go to nursery or pre-schoolThere are compelling reasons why under-fives should attend early years education and childcare settings like nurseries or pre-schools, or their equivalent — before starting school. Missing this crucial stage in their early years education and development may disadvantage the child — a fact that’s backed up by various studies.

Results of a Department for Education (DoE) study released in February 2020 highlight the benefits of attending early childhood education and care, all in incredible detail. We took a look at their 145 page report and picked out some of the key findings.

Benefits of attending Early Childhood Education & Care (ECEC)

  • Note: the term ‘Early Childhood Education & Care’ (ECEC for short) refers to non-parental childcare and early education that occurs before school. There are several different types, including nursery settings, pre-schools, registered childminders and so on, so the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) and the European Commission have adopted this term to encompass them all.

According to the DoE study, early childhood education and care has both short- and long-term positive effects on the educational, cognitive, behavioural and social outcomes of children. That’s no mean feat. A good educational grounding for under-fives is also shown to result in more positive social behaviour, better behavioural self-regulation, lower instances of emotional issues and less peer problems.

“Research … indicated that the benefits of high quality early education exist from as young as two years of age.” (Sammons et al., 2002)

Some of these benefits are even more pronounced for disadvantaged children who start to attend formal ECEC sessions no later than the age of two. The DoE impact study shows that 2-year-olds benefit most if they …

Fighting Obesity in Under-5s

Fighting Obesity in Under-5s

Sugar is one of the main causes of childhood obesityFollowing on from our post last month about healthy eating for under-fives, we thought we’d take a look at what can be done when eating has got a bit out of control in that age group. Childhood obesity has become a hot topic in recent times. Even the UK Government has weighed in with various initiatives being launched in the fight against it.

The shocking statistics

Childhood obesity is important to address because the National statistics are quite shocking:

  • Almost a third of children aged between 2 and 15 are either overweight or obese;
  • Children are becoming obese at ever-younger ages;
  • Once obese, children are remaining so for longer;
  • Obesity doubles the risk of premature death;
  • Once adulthood is reached, the chance of obese people developing Type 2 Diabetes is SEVEN times greater.
  • Obese people suffer more from heart disease and depression.

The link between background and obesity

Statistics from studies show that children living in deprived areas are most at risk from developing weight problems. Low-income families are affected the worst and in fact the risk of obesity in five year olds in low-income families is twice that of their more affluent counterparts. By the time they reach the age of eleven, the risk increases to three times for the children from poorer backgrounds.

What can parents do to help?

The positive impact of exercise on childrenLast month we published an excellent article about healthy eating for under-fives. There is lots of useful information there about children eating the right food types, correct portion sizes and much more — take a look. However, remaining at a healthy weight is not only about eating a healthy diet.

Parents can also help by ensuring that their children get regular exercise. This can be done through lifestyle choices that can be instilled into children from a very early age. For example, playing sports, gym exercise, walking, hiking and other physical activities. Indeed, research shows that building an active lifestyle that also involves healthy eating choices is one that can stick with the children even into adulthood.

The positive impact of exercise

Ensuring children get enough exercise is incredibly important in the fight against childhood, and indeed adult, obesity. After all, usually at the heart of obesity is a mismatch between the energy taken in as food/drink and the energy expended via physical activity.

However, regular exercise has many other potential benefits aside from the management of physical weight and body mass. These include:

Healthy Eating for Under-Fives — A Complete Guide

Healthy Eating for Under-Fives — A Complete Guide

Healthy eating for under fives - a complete guideWith families living busy lives these days, it’s not always easy to provide the very best nutritious meals for children. This is compounded by an abundance of ready meals and convenience food available in shops and advertised everywhere. However, healthy, balanced diets are incredibly important for children in their early years. Adopting a healthy diet early on can mean that some diseases associated with later life can be avoided. Healthy food also has other beneficial effects on growing children including sustained energy levels, improved cognitive activity, the evening out of a child’s moods, help with mental wellbeing and maintaining a healthy weight.

What should children be eating as part of a healthy lifestyle?

As a rough guide, toddlers need three meals per day plus two or three snacks. They also need to drink six to eight drinks per day.

“Experience of a variety of different foods at an early age increases acceptance of new foods, and provides a more diverse diet with the range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed for health.” (Public Health England)

Young children need a balanced diet, i.e. one that gives them all the elements that they need to remain healthy and thrive. There are four main food groups that form a good basis of healthy living. A rough guide is to try and include something from each food group in every meal, or within their snacks. The four core food groups are:

  • STARCH, which is found in bread, potato, rice cereal and pasta. Starch provides the energy children need as well as Vitamin B and calcium. You can choose wholegrain versions of these food types if you wish to introduce more fibre and nutrients, but this should only be introduced gradually.
  • FRUITS & VEGETABLES. These will provide a source of Vitamin C as well as many other nutrients. A rough guide is about 5 hand-sized portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Fresh is great, but it can also be canned, dried or frozen.
  • DAIRY, which can include cheese, yogurt and milk. Full fat versions are best for toddlers but semi-skimmed options can be given from the age of 2. A rough guide is about 3 portions a day.
  • PROTEIN, which is typically found in meat, fish, nuts, pulses and eggs. You can also use pulses like tofu and soya. These foods provide iron and zinc. Also try and give children an oily fish now and then, like salmon or fresh tuna. Try to include roughly two portions a day of the foods in the protein group.

How big is a portion?

Make sure you give the correctly sized food portions. As a rule of thumb, one portion is generally about the size of