20 Ways to Prepare Children for School

A guide to the ways parents can help prepare under-5s for starting school in Reception Year at age 5.In a follow-up to last month’s post about transitioning under-fives to nursery or pre-school, we now outline 20 ways parents can help prepare children for starting school as they approach the age of five. We’ve broken this down into a list of 20 easy-to-action suggestions:

1. A Good Early Years Education

Our absolute topmost tip is to ensure that children attend a good nursery/pre-school well before the age of five. Study after study has shown that a good early years education gives little ones a massive head start in terms of school readiness, with long-term benefits continuing even into adulthood.

2. Help Learning at Home

Parental involvement with children's early years education has also been shown to boost achievement, morale, attitude, behaviour and social skills.Parental involvement with children’s early years education has also been shown to boost achievement, morale, attitude, behaviour and social skills enormously. These are all things that will help them to hit the ground running once they start school. Home learning is even more powerful when designed to synchronise with what children are learning at their early years setting or school (like a two-pronged approach).

3. Read With Them

Reading with children in their early years can help boost language skills by 8 months — before they're even five!Reading with children, well ahead of them beginning school, has also been shown to boost their language skills, incredibly by the equivalent of as much as 8 months before they’re even five! The key is to read with them; not just to them. Learn more about the benefits of reading with under-fives here.

4. Forewarn Them

Forewarning children that they will be starting school around the age of five is also a sensible thing to do. It should be mentioned multiple times before they reach the age of five, so children learn to expect and accept it. Just treat it as normal (which, of course, it is to you and I) and be enthusiastic about it.

5. Listen Up

Children will fit in better at school if they are well prepared for it.Listen to any reservations your child may have about the prospect of starting school. Listening is important, so be on the look-out for any concerns and reservations they may have.

6. Answer Questions

Try to read between the lines too, as they may not be able to fully articulate everything they’re feeling at such a young age. Answer any questions they may have about school and take time to ensure they understand the answers.

7. Reassure Them

At all times reassure children when discussing anything about starting school and life there once they’ve started. Put their minds at rest. Focus on the positives. Mention the many benefits of school, so they look forward to it rather than getting anxious about it. After all, it’s fun, educational, they will make lots of new friends and there will be lots of new equipment to play with — and so on. You can also mention your own positive memories of school so that they know you’ve been through it yourself.

8. Encourage Independence

Nurturing children's independence well ahead of them beginning school will really help them.Children will greatly benefit in Reception Year at school if they’re already independent when they start. So, nurturing aspects of their independence well ahead of them beginning school is a good policy. For example, ensuring they know how to independently look after personal hygiene, dress themselves, tie shoe laces, dress, use the toilet, pack their bag and so on. If they can do this before they start school, it will help them enormously.

9. Encourage Social Skills

Social skills are another thing to nurture in children well before they begin school. Communication skills will help them to get on. Good manners, politeness and knowing right from wrong will also help them fit in, make friends and be positively viewed from the ‘get go’.

10. Identify A Friend

Ensuring children know a friendly face when they begin school will help them settle in better.Parents/guardians will also be wise to identify one or more of their children’s friends (or potential friends) that will also be starting school at the same time. Ensure they meet up and play regularly, before they’ve started school. In this way, there will be a friendly face at the school from the moment they start. It’ll help them feel more at home and less alone.

11. Show Them a Prospectus/Brochure/Website

It’s also a wise idea for children to acquaint themselves as much as possible with their new school, before they actually start. Therefore, obtaining a prospectus, brochure and/or taking a good look at the school’s website together would be an excellent idea for children. It’ll really help them to know what to expect.

12. Visit Ahead of Starting

Even better is a physical visit. Schools will offer open days or one can usually be arranged for children and their parents. Having a tour will help children get to know their way around the school, see the facilities, ask questions and bring the school into much clearer focus for the child. It’ll make it more tangible and less of a daunting prospect for the child if they already know it. Seeing the facilities and equipment may even excite them.

13. Pre-Sync Children’s Body Clocks

Getting enough sleep is essential for children's success at school.Several weeks before they start school, children should start to synchronise their day with the timings of the new school day. This should include getting up time in the morning and ideally even timings for lunch and suchlike. In this way, children’s body clocks will have adjusted in good time, before they actually start.

14. Ensure They Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is critically important for children. After all, they do not want to end up struggling to stay awake during their school lessons. Therefore setting a sensible bedtime — and sticking to it — is crucially important. A gradual wind-down towards bedtime will help them sleep well as will the avoidance of electronic screens in the run-up to bedtime.

15. Prepare Their Uniform/Clothing

Ensure that uniform, PE kit, stationery, lunch box & backpack etc. are all ready and labelled.Ensuring children have everything they need, at least a little ahead of starting in Reception, is a good approach. Check that you have all items of their uniform, PE kit, any stationery, lunch box if appropriate, backpack or bag and so on. Is everything marked with your child’s name? Usually it should be.

16. Do a Dummy School Run

Close to the time the child will start at their new school, it is a good idea for parents/guardians to do a dummy run to the school at the actual times the child will eventually be dropped off and picked up. In this way, parents/guardians can ensure that they won’t be late, which might otherwise cause more stress for both themselves and their child. It’s important for the first day, in particular, to be as stress-free as possible.

17. Help Them to Pre-Pack

Getting your child involved in actually packing their backpack or school bag (with supervision) will help them to acquaint themselves with everything in it. That way, if they need something when they’re at school, they’ll know they have it and where they can find it. Doing this the night before, with the exception of food if it needs to be kept refrigerated overnight, will mean there’s also less to do on Day One.

18. Be on Time On the Day

All this pre-planning should make it more likely that you’re on time at the school on the first day. That’s important, as a last-minute rush will only cause unnecessary stress for both you and your little one. So, ensure you leave for the journey in good time. And don’t be late at picking-up time!

19. Reassure & Don’t Fuss on the Day

If you’re anxious, stressed or sad on your child’s first day, don’t let on. It’s best to keep everything positive as far as your child is concerned. So, stay up-beat, calm and reassuring. As we said before, focus on the positives (“you’re going to have so much fun!” etc.) and it will all seem so much more ‘normal’ for your child — as normal as a walk in the park.

20. Ensure They Know Who Will Collect Them

Your child will need to know, ahead of time, who is collecting them.Your child will need to know, ahead of time, who is collecting them. If it’s not you, then they need to know clearly who it will be. They also need to be clear around their general safety rules, stranger danger and so on. Schools should also have safeguarding policies in place for unexpected scenarios. For example, if you are unexpectedly delayed and need to send someone else to collect your child, does the school have a password system in place to ensure that only the right person can collect your child? Find out.

Also, as a parent, you’ll need to ensure you have the requisite contact details for any relevant school personnel (e.g. the number of the main office/reception desk) in case you need to contact them for any reason. They must also have your number and any back-up contact details.

A Good Early Years Education at Little Cedars Nursery & Pre-school, Streatham

Little Cedars is a nursery & pre-school offering high quality childcare in Streatham, near Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Tooting Broadway, Furzedown, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood.Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham offers babies, toddlers and under-fives a really good early years education as part of its high quality childcare service. If you are looking for the best nurseries or pre-schools in the Streatham area, Little Cedars Nursery really should be on your short list. Children absolutely thrive at the setting, achieving personal bests in every area of the early years curriculum and becoming ‘ school ready’ by the time they leave us to move on to Reception at school. We offer outstandingly good childcare services in Streatham, near Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Streatham Common and Furzedown and are convenient for those living or working in Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Broadway, Tooting Common, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood. To arrange a visit, ask any questions or to apply for a place, please get in contact — simply choose a button below.

How to Transition Under-5s to Nursery or Pre-School

Attending nursery or pre-school for the first time is a massive step for little ones. There are ways you can make it plain sailing for them.Whether or not you’ve finished choosing a nursery or pre-school, you’ll need to prepare your little one in the run-up to attending. After all, going from spending all their time with parents/guardians to attending nursery or pre-school is a big step — it’s a massive change for them. In a worst case scenario, they’ll suddenly be in a new, unfamiliar place, surrounded by children and adults that they simply don’t know — and you won’t be there. However, there are a number of things that you can do to make the transition stress-free and even enjoyable for them. Today’s guide shows you exactly how to prepare your little one for nursery or pre-school.

Forewarn & Reassure Them

Well ahead of their nursery/pre-school start day, forewarn them regularly that that’s where they’ll be spending their days in the coming weeks. If you mention it reasonably often, they’ll come to accept the plan and they’ll be more mentally prepared once they start.

Explain why the change will happen too, in terms they’ll understand. For example, you could say it’s so that they can make new friends, play with exciting toys and have fun on amazing equipment you just don’t have at home.

Always be positive about it. Listen to any misgivings they may have too — and don’t let on if you have any yourself, otherwise they may pick up on those and it could worry them. Reassure them that nursery/pre-school is going to be huge fun. And, of course, answer any questions they may have, in a suitably reassuring way. Always take time to talk it over with them if they ask about it.

Help Little Ones With Independence

Helping children to be more independent will really help them once they start at nursery/pre-school.In the weeks or even months before their first day, toddlers and preschoolers will also benefit from becoming more independent. You can help to encourage this. For example, you could help them with toilet training, help them learn to dress themselves, encourage them to deal with personal hygiene, cleaning their hands and so on. Can they pack their own backpack? Do they know how to hang their coat up? Helping them to master all such skills will make them more confident and relaxed once they begin at nursery/pre-school.

Synchronise with the New Routine

Once you have chosen and been accepted by a nursery/pre-school, you’ll easily be able to clarify opening times, lunch times and so on. Using this, you can introduce equivalent timings to your child’s home life, so their body clock gets used to the same timings. This can include timing of snacks, meals, any morning or afternoon naps, but also include bedtime and timing of getting up and dressing in the morning. If your child’s body clock is already synchronised to the daily routine they’ll have at nursery/pre-school, then they’ll be far less likely to become tired once they make a start at the setting. That’s even more true if, of course, they are getting enough sleep. All such factors need to be built into the new routine well ahead of them actually starting. It should then be plain sailing and they’ll arrive at the setting alert and energised, ready for the exciting day ahead.

Take Your Child for a Pre-Visit!

Any good nursery or pre-school will be happy to show you and your child around.Any good nursery or pre-school will be more than willing to show you and your child around the setting — more than once if required. At Little Cedars Nursery, this is commonplace and it gives parents and children the opportunity to see the setting actually ‘in action’. They can ask questions, see all the amazing facilities, equipment and toys, speak to the childcare professionals and see if they feel at home. Settling-in sessions are also an option, prior to fully joining.

A Friendly Face

Knowing someone who will be at the same nursery or pre-school will help them settle in.Such sessions and visits are also a great way for children to get to know other children at the setting, or even to discover that an existing friend already attends. Knowing someone who will be at the same nursery or pre-school will help them settle straight in, being a friendly face to greet them from the moment they start. Getting to know the childcare practitioners ahead of starting is also going to help, of course, so they feel at home, secure and looked after by someone familiar, right from the word go.

The Day They Start

Be positive on the day they start. Be enthusiastic about them starting and remind them what good fun and how exciting it will be. Remember too, not to pass on any anxiety or misgivings you may have to your child – it will not help them to remain relaxed and positive if you’re giving negative signals.

Perhaps put their favourite cuddly toy or comforter into their bag, so it's there if they need it.Being fully prepared is a big part of the success of this important milestone. However, there are a few things parent/carers can do for children on the actual day they start nursery or pre-school.

  • Pack you child’s bag or backpack the evening before, so it’s not done in a rush on the day.
  • Ensure that everything is labelled with your child’s name.
  • If your child doesn’t yet know anyone at the nursery/pre-school, perhaps pop their favourite cuddly toy or comforter into their bag, so it’s there if they need it.
  • Make sure you’re already familiar with the route and then, on the day, set off in good time. Doing so will ensure that, traffic issues permitting, it’s not a rush. And don’t be late — it will only stress both you and your child out on this critically important day.

Remind your child that you'll be seeing them later when it's time for them to come home again.When you drop your child off, don’t make too much of a fuss about being apart from your child. Also, remind them that you’ll be seeing them later when it’s time for them to come home again. This will all reassure them. And, if you can, see if you can pair them up with a friend for them to go in with. Chances are, they’ll then hardly be able to contain themselves with excitement and will not even look back!

Starting at Little Cedars Nursery & Pre-school, Streatham

Little Cedars is a nursery & pre-school offering high quality childcare in Streatham, near Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Tooting Broadway, Furzedown, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood.Babies, toddlers and preschoolers will always get a warm welcome at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham. Our childcare professionals are all adept at putting children at ease from the moment they start. They’ll settle them in and ensure they are happy, safe and enjoying themselves right from the start.

If you are looking for the best nursery or pre-school in Streatham, do consider Little Cedars Nursery. We give children an amazing start in life, bringing out the very best in them in every area. We offer a first class childcare service in Streatham, just a stone’s throw from Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Streatham Common and Furzedown and also conveniently close to Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Broadway, Tooting Common, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood. To contact us, arrange a visit, apply for a place or simply ask a question, please use one of the buttons below and we’ll be happy to help.

The Quick Guide to Tummy Time

Building upper body strength in arms, shoulders, core and back will help babies in their physical development and mobility.Welcome to our quick guide to Tummy Time. One of the most important things for babies during their earliest development is to build strength, muscles, motor skills and coordination. In particular, learning to lift and safely move their heads is one of the most crucial skills at this young age. Strength and muscle coordination in their neck is therefore very important. That’s not easy when they’re newborns in their first few weeks because their head is comparatively large and heavy compared with their little bodies at that age. Building upper body strength in arms, shoulders, core and back will also greatly help them in their physical development and mobility, essentially helping them to perform and survive safely as humans. Tummy Time is a key tool in learning to accomplish all of these goals — and many more.

Tummy Time will eventually help toddlers learn to crawl.What is Tummy Time?

Tummy Time is the period in the day where a baby under twelve months, under close adult supervision*, will be placed on their tummies (the ‘prone’ position) whilst awake. It can be started right from their first week and generally can take place for 3-5 minutes, two to three times a day. The idea is for them to learn to lift and move their heads, arms and upper body, mainly in order to build strength. There are, however, several additional benefits to Tummy Time …

What are the Benefits of Tummy Time?

As well as strengthening muscles in the neck, arms, core and trunk muscles, Tummy Time has a number of additional benefits:

  • Tummy Time allows babies to better explore to gain improved sensory perception of everything in their immediate vicinity.It helps to stop the development of deformations in the skull. ‘Positional plagiocephaly’ (or ‘Flat Head Syndrome’) might otherwise occur if the baby is only positioned in a limited number of positions, i.e. mostly on its back. Bear in mind, of course, that at this young age the baby’s skull bones are far more flexible than those of an adult, so such deformations are more likely if the baby’s head is always lying in the same position.
  • Tummy Time also decreases the risk of the baby developing ‘Positional Torticollis’, which is a neck twisting problem that’s caused due to similar issues.
  • It also allows the baby to control his or her head more easily. That’s important in many ways, including being able to control what they see, to become aware of their surroundings from a safety perspective and to be able to interact with toys, objects and other individuals.
  • It may help initially to support babies with a rolled-up towel, blanket or similar.Making sense of sensory stimuli is also aided by the positive results of Tummy Time, as babies can better explore and gain improved sensory perception of everything in their immediate vicinity.
  • Tummy Time also encourages babies to use and strengthen their arms, to support their weight, to reach out for objects and so on. Such skills are all a part of improved coordination, better fine and gross motor skills and ultimately they will all help lead the infant to independent mobility as they grow older.

*A Word About Safety

Babies should only be placed onto their tummies when they’re awake and under continuous adult supervision. To avoid the risk of SIDS, babies should only sleep on their backs and never be allowed to fall asleep while on their tummies.

How to Encourage Tummy Time

Tummy Time may not come naturally to babies and indeed many babies will dislike it at first. That’s mainly because the very muscles that Tummy Time is designed to strengthen start out weak. Therefore, Tummy Time will initially be a struggle for many, if not most, and they may resist. It’s important to persevere, however. Parental encouragement is going to be required.

Try putting the baby in a prone position (on their tummy) on, say, a clean blanket or rug.Try putting the baby in a prone position (i.e. on their tummy) on, say, a clean blanket or rug. Lie down on your tummy too and face them, encouraging them to stay on their tummies by use of a game like peek-a-boo. If you can, try to get them to raise themselves onto their arms or, eventually, hands. Move yourself around a little, so they move too and strengthen their muscles. If they’re finding it too difficult initially, a rolled-up blanket underneath their chest may help to start them off. Don’t worry if at first they can only push themselves up on their arms or hands only for fleeting moments; they will gradually improve as they try more and more.

Tummy Time can also be practised in a cradle position.

You can also try the same thing with them lying on your tummy facing you, across your lap or cradled (supporting them underneath with a hand or arm), although the firmer floor option above will give them better resistance to push against, in order to build muscle strength. It’s also important to support their head when needed.

From the age of about 3 months, you can introduce toys and this will encourage them to move about more, e.g. to reach out and grab as well as change the direction they point their faces and so on. All of this will help build strength, motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

After 6 months, they should start to be able to support their weight on their arms in a raised, kind of 'press-up' position.After 6 months, they should start to be able to support their weight on their arms in a raised, kind of ‘press-up’ position. This can be encouraged with some support (and play) from you and they’ll get the hang of it with practise. Soon enough, they’ll also be able to roll sideways in either direction and get themselves back into the prone position when they want to. They’ll soon master the art of passing a toy from one hand to another at around this time. They’ll also be able to get themselves into a sitting position before they’re 9 months old, or thereabouts.

Between the ages of about 7 to 9 months old, you may well find they’ve progressed to crawling. By this time, there’s no huge need for them to continue with Tummy Time, although it’ll do no harm and will continue to build their strength, coordination and motor skills if continued.

Standing will usually come soon too, particularly if encouraged and, of course, supervised for safety purposes. Then, in the blink of an eye, the ultimate milestone will be accomplished as they begin walking and life starts a whole new chapter!

Childcare Places at Little Cedars, an Outstanding Nursery & Pre-school in Streatham

We hope our quick guide to Tummy Time is a useful reference. Of course, at Little Cedars, we also ensure that babies up to twelve months old get to benefit from Tummy Time sessions at the nursery — we know how important it is for their development.

Little Cedars is a nursery & pre-school offering high quality childcare in Streatham, near Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Tooting Broadway, Furzedown, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood.Little Cedars is a nursery and pre-school offering outstanding childcare services in Streatham. If you’re searching for a good nursery or pre-school near Streatham Common/Hill/Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec/Broadway/Common, Balham, Norbury or Colliers Wood, we’d make a great choice. Contact us for more information, to arrange a visit or to register your child for a place at the setting. We’re also always happy to answer any questions too …

Flexible Working Requests — Your Rights as a Parent

Perhaps you’d rather go part-time while your child is under five.If you were a full-time employee when you had your child, perhaps you’d rather go part time while your child is under five. Or maybe you want to explore the option of flexitime with your employer. Perhaps you’d like to ask if job sharing is possible, or whether you can work only on specific days of the week. What are the rules, though? Does your employer have to offer part-time or flexible working now you’re a parent, or are they under no statutory obligation to do so? Today we take a look at the rules.

In particular, new parents may start to re-think going back to work full time once maternity* leave comes to an end. The nearer their return date gets, the more new parents begin to think about the possible complications that may follow. These may include the ability to drop off or pick up their infant in time from the nursery, or even getting home in time to see them before their bedtime. Being apart can also be a real wrench after spending perhaps every hour of their parental leave with their infant.

Example

Florence works in sales of new homes for a large house builder. She works full time on weekdays, from 9.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. The sites where she works can be anywhere from 10 minutes away to over an hour-and-a-half from her home depending upon where she’s based at any particular time of the year.

Florence goes on maternity leave, fully intending to go back full time once it comes to an end. However, when the date for returning nears, she has a change of heart. Firstly, she’ll miss her child growing up too much if she goes back full time. Secondly, this may be compounded if her employer still expects her to work miles and miles away from home. That would make pick-up from the nursery in time impossible — indeed, she would have to find someone else to pick her child up. It may even mean that she will miss her infant’s evening bedtime on working days. She’s concerned that she just won’t get to see her child much and will miss out on a big part of their early childhood if her working pattern isn’t changed.

Florence decides to ask to go back part-time (3 days per week) and makes contact with her employer to make the request.

Considerations when making a Flexible Working Request

Parents may want to change working hours so that timing fits in with nursery drop-off and pick-up times.The rules state that employees can only make ONE request for a change to their contracted hours/days per year. This must be in writing and is called a ‘Flexible Working Request’. So Florence’s request will need to cover all bases because she won’t get another chance for another request until another year has passed.

So, Florence’s particular application needs to include:

  • the request to reduce from five-days-a-week to just three;
  • the request, if applicable, to reduce or alter the working hours so that the timings fit better with nursery drop-off and pick-up times;
  • a request to only be sent to working locations within shorter distances, so she can still make drop-off and pick-up times for her child’s childcare.

If she misses any of these out, she’ll have to wait another year before being able to re-apply, according to the rules. This assumes her employer is sticking inflexibly to the rules, of course; kind-hearted, family-friendly employers may indeed allow more flexibility but employers are under no statutory obligation to do so.

It’s important to understand is that, while an eligible employee has a right to apply for a flexible working request and their employer is obligated to consider it, they are not obligated to accept it if it means that their business will no longer function properly.

The employee must also have been employed in the job for no less than 26 weeks (6 months) in order to be eligible to make the request, by the way. However, again, some more family-friendly employers may be more flexible even though they’re not obliged to be by law.

The Employer’s Response

The employer must consider the facts around flexible working applications carefully and fairly.The employer must give the employee who makes the Flexible Working Request a decision within 3 months unless the employee agrees to extend that time. This must be done having considered the facts carefully and fairly and without basing it on just a ‘personal’ opinion. They should also discuss the application with the applicant and, if it’s not possible to accept the specific suggestions requested, they should consider whether alternative options are possible.

Unsuccessful Applications

Employers can turn down requests outright if they feel their business will not be able to function properly if the new suggestions are put in place. Examples of reasons why an application for Flexible Working Requests may lawfully be turned down can be seen here. It is possible for the employee to appeal the decision if they feel all factors have not been considered or if the correct policies have not been properly followed. It’s also possible for them to take legal action (an employment tribunal) or to apply to the ACAS Arbitration Scheme in some circumstances (see previous link and scroll down for further information about that).

Successful Applications

If the employer approves the parent’s flexible working application, then the employee’s employment contract will usually need to be updated to reflect the new working pattern. Employers should also confirm the agreed changes in writing, including start dates, working hours, pay, location, holiday entitlement and so on.

Little Cedars Day Nursery: Good Childcare in Streatham

We hope this rough guide to Flexible Working Requests is useful and wish anyone making one the very best of luck for a successful outcome.

Little Cedars is a nursery & pre-school offering high quality childcare in Streatham, near Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Tooting Broadway, Furzedown, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood.We are Little Cedars, an excellent nursery and pre-school in Streatham. We’re also very convenient for those looking for nurseries and childcare services near Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Broadway, Tooting Common, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood. Please contact us with any questions, to arrange a visit or to apply for a place for your child. We’ll be happy to help:

*N.B. we say maternity leave throughout this article for the sake of brevity. However, the rules also apply for those who have been on paternity leave, parental leave or even if parents haven’t been on leave at all — and simply want to alter their working days/times to better suit their young families.

Quick Guide to Milk - for Babies & Infants

As promised in our last post, we next take look at the many types of milk for babies and infants in the UK. There really are a myriad of options, so this guide should prove useful and help make sense of the choices available.

Breast Milk

Breast milk really is nature’s perfect food for babies, however there are many reasons why formula milk may be preferred.Our “Benefits of Breastfeeding” post described in great detail how breast milk really is nature’s perfect food for babies. It’s tailored to the needs of the baby and even adapts as the baby grows. As well as essential vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins, it also passes antibodies, hormones and polyunsaturated fatty acids to the baby. All these things are incredibly important to the growing infant and many are simply not possible with formula milk and alternatives to breast milk. That said, there are many reasons why parents may switch to other alternatives and that’s where today’s guide should prove most useful.

Formula Milk

There is a confusingly large variety of formula milks on the market.The variety of formula milks is surprisingly large, not helped by the fact that different brands call some of them by different names. Some products and names also seem to have been developed in order to cover small niches, many of which are actually already adequately covered by larger, existing product lines (‘Toddler Milk’ and ‘Growing-Up Milk’ are two examples cited by the NHS). Then add in the fact that many are sold as liquid and also as powder that needs to be made up. The choice can be overwhelming, which is where the following guide can help …

Growing Microgreens: A Fun, Educational Activity for Children

Microgreens are an easy-to-grow crop that can be grown by children and parents any time of year.Back in April last year, we wrote an article about teaching children to grow food like vegetables and herbs at home — and its many benefits. It turned out to be enormously popular, so today we follow up with a guide to growing microgreens, for children. This activity is great fun, very educational and the result is extremely nutritious food!

What Are Microgreens?

Also known as micro leaves, microgreens are an easy-to-grow crop that can be grown by children and parents any time of year. What’s more, they can be grown indoors, without needing much room, and all at negligible cost. Take a look at the photos and you’ll soon get the idea of what type of crop they are; they’re basically the very young sprouting leaves and shoots of things like root vegetables, young herbs and leafy greens. We’ll go into more detail about those shortly.

Why Children Should Grow Microgreens

Once ready, microgreens can be used as salads and garnishes.Microgreens are great fun and extremely easy for children to grow. Once ready, they can be used rather like salads and garnishes. They are very tasty and are extremely nutritious.

Because they’re so compact, they can also be grown in virtually any household. They can be grown indoors too, for example on a windowsill, so families without gardens can also enjoy growing them. What’s more, getting children to grow microgreens may save money for the household.

Growing microgreens will really educate children about nature and the importance of caring for a living thing. It’ll help them learn new skills, teach them to be responsible and also help them learn more about where food comes from.

Growing their own food may also make children more likely to try different foods, particularly natural ones like these that are so good for them. All things considered, this fun, natural, educational activity is a total win-win!

What They Are Grown In

Microgreens can be grown in small spaces like windowsills, indoors.Microgreens are traditionally grown in shallow seed trays, which are inexpensive to buy. However, at home, they can just as easily be grown in flower pots, used yoghurt pots, empty egg cartons, the trays from ready-meals or even cut-down cardboard cores from kitchen rolls. So long as water is allowed to drain from them and they can support at least a shallow depth of compost, these can all be suitable. Plastic cartons will need a few holes punched in the bottom to allow for drainage, so parents might need to organise that in order to avoid their children hurting themselves. Other than that, it’s plain sailing for supervised children to do themselves.

What Else is Needed?

Microgreens are usually grown from seeds and, for those, you have a couple of options. Both are very inexpensive. You can use either:

Suitable seeds include rocket, beetroot, spinach, red cabbage, fennel, broccoli, radish and mustard.Suitable seeds include: rocket, a type of strongly-flavoured lettuce; beetroot, with their lovely red stems and mild, earthy taste; spinach, which also has a mild flavour and is full of goodness; red cabbage, which is also rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals; fennel, which will have a distinctive aniseed flavour; broccoli, which will grow into sprouts that have a slightly spicy taste; radish seeds, which also grow into leaves that taste a little fiery; and also mustard seeds (for children who are OK with even more hot, spicy flavours).

The only other things that are needed for children to grow microgreens are water, drip trays and some compost.

  • For the compost, ‘Multi-Purpose Compost’ or ‘Seed & Cuttings Compost’ are both perfect. Peat-free versions of those are even better, as they’re kinder to the environment.
  • You’ll need some seed ‘drip trays’ to place under your trays or pots of microgreens. As the name suggests, these are simply trays to catch the draining water and to protect your windowsill etc. They’re inexpensive to buy but, if you’re on a budget, a saucer or suitably shaped plastic carton of some sort will be fine, so long as it’s watertight underneath and is shallow enough. This is also a great way to recycle plastic and show your child how easy it is to do so.

Setting Up & Sewing the Seeds

Setting up is easy:

  • As soon as shoots appear, remove any covering and ensure the compost is kept moist.First, your child should fill the seed trays, flower pots or equivalent, almost to the top, with some compost.
  • Then firm it down a little so it is flat and even.
  • If they want to manually space out the seeds individually, then they can use a fingertip to indent where the seeds will go, then pop a seed into each indent.
  • Otherwise, the fastest and easiest approach is to lightly sprinkle the seeds onto the compost. Be sure to do it lightly (tip: sprinkle from a little bit of a height to make this easier). Your child should avoid allowing the seeds to clump or be spread too densely, otherwise problems can occur once they start to grow.
  • Optionally, the seeds can then be covered with a light sprinkling of more compost, just to keep them in place while still allowing some light to get to them.
  • Water lightly (outside may be best to avoid any mess indoors). Be gentle when watering so the seeds do not simply wash away.
  • Place the pots or trays of seeds back on the windowsill or similar. Wherever they are placed, it needs to be in full daylight during the day and also ventilated.
  • Optionally, they can be temporarily covered with a piece of kitchen towel or cling film, but this is only while the seeds germinate.
  • Your child should check daily to ensure that the compost stays moist. If needed, water gently from above or, if seed trays are shallow, put some water into the drip trays so the compost draws it up.
  • Snipping them at their bases instead of pulling them up may allow them to regrow, so they can be harvested more than once.As as shoots begin to appear (usually after just a few days), remove any covering if used and continue to ensure that the compost is always kept moist, but not over-watered.

Harvesting your Microgreens

In just one to two weeks, you should have a nice ‘blanket’ of shoots and baby leaves growing beautifully. The idea with microgreens is to harvest them while they have baby leaves, before mature leaves start to form. So, they should be harvested while still very young. Snipping them at their bases instead of pulling them up may allow them to regrow, so they can be harvested more than once.

Microgreen Meals

Full of vitamins and minerals, microgreens can be used in a huge number of different meals.Once harvested, they should be rinsed to get rid of any stray compost. They are delicious to eat and, depending on the seeds grown, have a huge variety of tastes and colours. Children and parents alike can benefit from the nutritious and tasty shoots as part of a variety of meal types. Full of vitamins and minerals, they can be used in salads, as pizza toppings, garnishes, toppings for risottos, soups and pastas, as fillings in sandwiches, sprinkled on top of baked potatoes or into burgers and much more. They’re very adaptable and, with their distinctive tastes and textures, will make any meal really special.

Childcare Excellence in Streatham, SW16

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamChildren will love growing these little edible plants and harvesting them for food. They will learn so much along the way, building to a great sense of achievement in what is a great home learning activity. Learning at home is just as essential as all the learning that takes place at nurseries like Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham. Children will learn best when it’s a true partnership between nurseries/pre-schools and parents, so we encourage regular feedback and cooperation.

If you are looking for outstanding nurseries in Streatham for your baby or under-five child, please get in touch with Little Cedars Nursery. Our nursery is also near Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Broadway, Tooting Common, Balham, Norbury and Colliers Wood, so get in touch if you’d like to discuss or register a place for your child. We’d love to show you around …

Rough Guide to Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that adversely affects children's ability to write coherently and/or spell.We previously covered dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. Today we’ll take a look at developmental dysgraphia; what it is, what the signs are and how to help children affected by the disorder.

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that adversely affects children’s ability to write coherently and/or spell. That’s in contrast to dyslexia, which affects their ability to read and, indeed, children with dysgraphia may have no trouble reading. As with so many learning disorders, dysgraphia has nothing to do with the level of a child’s intelligence. It affects more males than females and sometimes goes hand-in-hand with other conditions including ADHD.

What Are the 3 Types of Dysgraphia?

Dyslexic dysgraphia results in poor writing legibility specifically when the writing has not been copied from an existing written source. It also gets worse with longer texts. Copied written work, however, may be good although spelling is likely to be bad. This type of dysgraphia is not thought to be the result of poor motor skills nor is it thought to be caused by a neurological issues. Despite the name, dyslexic dysgraphia is unrelated to dyslexia.

Even drawing can be unintelligibleMotor dysgraphia is primarily the result of poor fine motor skills and poor dexterity, making the control needed for legible writing or drawings difficult. It may also be the result of poor muscle tone. In contrast to dyslexic dysgraphia, motor dysgraphia may result in poor writing legibility even when the words are copied. Spelling, however, is not adversely affected. Short bursts with unusually high concentration levels may result in better letter and word formation, but the level of concentration needed to achieve this is unsustainable over a longer period.

Spatial dysgraphia also results in mostly illegible writing and drawing, however in this case it’s the result of issues around spatial awareness. So, for example, written work may stray from the lines on lined paper and spacing between words will be poor. Both copied and spontaneous writing is usually illegible but spelling is normal.

Some dysgraphic children have more than one type of dysgraphia and it’s also worth noting that some may exhibit symptoms that do not necessarily fit straight into any of the 3 types above.

There is another type of dysgraphia that’s caused by neurological trauma, e.g. through a brain injury. However, we’ll concentrate here only on developmental dysgraphia.

What Causes Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is caused by neurological issues, although the exact cause is unknown. It may, though, be associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

What are the Signs of Dysgraphia?

Developmental dysgraphia can usually only be recognised once children start learning to write. For this reason, it’s seldom emerges until around the age of 5. It manifests itself when writing skills are significantly below what’s expected for a person’s intelligence, age and level of education.

Signs of possible dysgraphia include:

  • In all forms of the disorder, writing will be poor and often largely unintelligible;
  • Writing is likely to be very slow;
  • In some cases, spelling is also adversely affected;
  • DyWriting is likely to be very slow and can be exhausting for those affectedsgraphic children may also hold their writing instruments in an unusual way or have strange posture when writing;
  • The grip on the writing instrument may also be unusually tight and the child may also watch their hand when writing;
  • Pain may be experienced when trying to write or draw and those with the condition may assume this is normal. It may start in the forearm and potentially spread to the entire body. Stress can also bring this on in the dysgraphic;
  • Dysgraphic children my mix lower case with upper case letters. Numbers may also be difficult (so maths can also be adversely affected);
  • Sizing and spacing of letters and words will be irregular;
  • Letters and words may be incomplete, missing or simply wrong;
  • Communication via the written word will be a struggle;
  • Those with the condition may talk to themselves while writing, for example saying words out loud when writing them.

Additional Knock-On Effects

Because writing is so challenging, those with the condition may exhibit a reluctance around written tasks, often not completing them. This may be incorrectly construed as laziness to the uninitiated. Those with the disorder may also find writing very tiring, even for short texts. In a classroom situation, dysgraphia also makes the taking of notes extremely difficult and this can lead to additional problems around academic topics, for example keeping up with the curriculum.

Sadly, dysgraphic children’s difficulties around writing may also lead to low self-esteem and even anxiety and mental health issues. With the disorder holding a child back in so many ways, it can also lead to reduced prospects generally. So, the earlier the child is diagnosed, the more likely their challenges can be reduced to a minimum.

If positively diagnosed, an occupational therapist is usually at the forefront of any follow-up treatment.Diagnosing Dysgraphia

As with many learning disorders, it’s always wise to first contact a GP to ensure that the issue is not caused by some other condition, for example poor eyesight. If dysgraphia is still suspected thereafter, specialists may need to be involved in order to get a firm diagnosis. They may include a paediatrician, psychologist and occupational therapist who may test the child’s writing, fine motor and academic skills. Whilst doing so, the child’s pencil grip, posture and general approach to writing will also be appraised. If positively diagnosed, an occupational therapist is usually at the forefront of any follow-up treatment.

How to Help Children with Dysgraphia

Like many of the other learning disorders, there is no cure for dysgraphia. However, there are several ways that dysgraphic children can be helped, so the challenges they face are reduced. An occupational therapist may set a plan in motion to strengthen hands, fingers and wrists, for example. They may also recommend specific ways to improve writing.

Special papers can help children with dysgraphiaAt education settings, additional bespoke learning strategies and interventions, that all teaching professionals can employ, may include:

  • Allowing dysgraphic children more time to complete tasks (both classroom assignments and any tests);
  • Use of special writing instruments that may have different types of grip;
  • Use of special lined paper that has raised lines. This can help affected children to keep writing within the lines more easily;
  • Supply of pre-printed lesson notes, so there is less burden on the dysgraphic child to take handwritten notes;
  • Use of special tools, for example voice-to-text software, dictation machines and proofreading applications;
  • Bespoke learning and development plans, customised to the strengths and any weaknesses of the child;
  • Teaching professionals may also be able to offer dysgraphic children different ways to submit assignments, for example non-handwritten submissions.

Childcare/teaching professionals and parents/guardians should work together on a shared planChildcare/teaching professionals and parents/guardians should always work together and compare notes, so that all parties are fully informed about any challenges the child may have. By doing so, they can share strategies and each work with the child towards the same goals. It’s important to begin such work as early as possible, so that the impact of the disorder on the child’s life is minimised. Early diagnosis is therefore crucial.

Special Educational Needs at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamChildcare professionals at Little Cedars Nursery will support children with any learning disorders and disabilities as a matter of course. Although dysgraphia normally only manifests itself once children reach the age of about five, we will nevertheless watch out for possible signs during children’s pre-school years at the setting. If suspected, we’ll put in place a customised learning and development plan that will help them to overcome any challenges they may be facing. Our childcare staff, including our Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) will work with parents/guardians to support their children in the best way possible. Our aim is for each child to achieve personal bests in every area possible, so they’re ready and able for school when they leave us to begin their time in Reception year.

One of the Best Nurseries

Would you like your baby or under-five child to attend one of the best nurseries in Streatham,  Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Balham, Norbury & Colliers Wood? If so, contact us for more information about Little Cedars Day Nursery, apply for a place or arrange a nursery/pre-school visit. We’d love to show you and your little one around:

Dyscalculia: FAQs for Parents

Around 5% of children of school age are thought to have dyscalculia.In today’s guide, we answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Dyscalculia, particularly in relation to children, including preschoolers. Around 5% of children of school age are thought to have dyscalculia.

Isn’t Dyscalculia like Dyslexia, but for Numbers?

Not really. Both conditions can make learning maths tricky, but they are quite different. Learn more about dyslexia here, or read on to learn about dyscalculia.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has dyscalculia. So do pop stars Robbie Williams and Cher. Even Benjamin Franklin had the condition.

What is Dyscalculia?

Put simply, dyscalculia is a difficulty in understanding numbers. Indeed, it’s sometimes referred to as an arithmetic-related learning disability. Research into it is currently only at an early stage. People suffering from the condition will find all mathematical activities troublesome. Even concepts like whether a number is larger or smaller than another may be difficult to comprehend, so even more advanced mathematical concepts will be very difficult for sufferers to grasp. As with dyslexia, the condition can afflict people of any level of intelligence. However, there are thought to be possible links between dyscalculia and Asperger’s Syndrome or even Autism in some cases. Those with ADHD are also often prone to learning disorders like dyscalculia.

What are the Signs/Symptoms of Dyscalculia?

Children with dyscalculia have difficulty understanding number concepts.A few of the possible signs of dyscalculia include:

    • Difficulty understanding numbers and in acquiring mathematical skills;
    • Difficulty manipulating and comparing numbers and quantities;
    • Difficulty remembering number facts and procedures;
    • At pre-school age, children may have difficulty grasping the link between number symbol “4” and the word “four”;
    • They may also be unable to connect the number to the same quantity of objects;
    • Preschoolers may even be unable to grasp the concept of counting, what it all means and how it applies to everyday objects and scenarios;
    • They may also be unable to reliably count in the correct order, without error;
    • Once they start school, children with dyscalculia may have difficulty with simple addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, number facts and even mathematical symbols like + and -;
    • Graphs and charts based on numbers may seem meaningless to them;
    • Children with dyscalculia may use fingers to count long after their peers have moved on to mental arithmetic.They may also continue to use fingers to count long after their contemporaries have moved on to mental counting;
    • Dyscalculia can manifest itself in games, for example draughts and chess. A sense of direction and the planning of moves may not come naturally;
    • Even simple keeping of score during sports games like cricket, netball or football may be troublesome;
    • Later on, money management may also be a problem;
    • Older children who are aware that they have the condition may become anxious about attempting any mathematical problem. This could even turn into phobia around going to school and diminished self-confidence;
    • It’s also worth noting that many people who have dyscalculia may also have problems with their memory;
    • The condition may also adversely affect how well the brain and eyes work together. This can make coordination and judging of distances more difficult.

Please note: with all the possible symptoms mentioned in this guide, having symptoms does not necessarily prove the existence of the condition. It’s therefore important not to jump to conclusions without proper, professional, appraisal. It is crucial to ensure that the problem is not caused by something entirely different, for example poor eyesight or hearing. For this reason, an appraisal and any guidance from a doctor, educational psychologist and/or paediatrician would be wise. Although various tests and commercial appraisal services exist, it’s important to understand that no watertight test for dyscalculia has yet been developed.

Is there a Cure for the Condition?

Children with dyscalculia can be very gifted in areas like creativity, strategic thinking, problem solving, practical abilities & intuition.Just as with dyslexia, there is no cure for dyscalculia. However, there are many ways to help children cope with its effects. It’s also worth bearing in mind that children with dyscalculia can be very gifted in other areas, for example creativity, strategic thinking, problem solving, practical abilities and often great intuition.

How Can Children with Dyscalculia be Helped?

There are several ways in which parents, carers, teachers and early years professionals can help children overcome the limitations of dyscalculia:

  • Using small objects (e.g. counters etc.) can help to demonstrate how numbers work and are applied;
  • Practise can build up mathematics confidence;
  • Giving a child with dyscalculia extra time for any task involving numbers and maths can also help;
  • Break larger numerical tasks down into a series of smaller steps;
  • Ensure affected children have ample access to visible reference such as number charts, multiplication tables, formulae when their older, etc.;
  • Calculators will also help when not testing mental or written arithmetic;
  • Children with dyscalculia may also benefit from the use of graph paper, which will allow them to more confidently line up numbers and calculation steps;
  • Specific teaching strategies may also be required, including possible multi-sensory approaches.They can also benefit when important words and numbers are highlighted (to draw attention to their importance);
  • Children with dyscalculia will also benefit from an early view of a new topic or concept. ‘Pre-teaching’, in other words;
  • One-to-one teaching will be helpful so that concepts are given deeper explanation and repeated demonstration where needed;
  • Specific teaching strategies may also be required, including possible multi-sensory solutions;
  • Physical and software tools may also be available;
  • Continuous assessment of the child’s numeracy and maths skills is also beneficial.
  • Last but not least, it’s also important for parents, teachers, carers and childcare professionals to talk to each other and to compare findings about the child’s abilities and any disabilities. In this way, help can be given sooner if needed.

Special Educational Needs at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamChildcare professionals at Little Cedars Nursery will look out for possible signs of dyscalculia — and any other learning difficulties — as a matter of course. If we spot anything, we’ll liaise with parents, guardians or carers to discuss ways in which we can all help, together. There are many ways to help children with learning difficulties. That’s true whether they’re at the nursery, at home, or when they are ready to move on to school. Helping children with challenges and any special educational needs is all part of the service at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham. Indeed, one of our main goals is to help each child become the very best version of themselves.

If you are looking for an outstanding childcare nursery in Streatham, or near Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Balham, Norbury or Colliers Wood, please get in touch to register your child for a possible place, or to request further information:

Parents: Your Right to 18 Weeks of Unpaid Parental Leave

Our statutory maternity leave & pay guide from August 2021 briefly touched upon a parent’s right to unpaid parental leave. As promised, we now come back to the topic in more detail, below.

Employed parents are entitled to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave before their child reaches the age of 18.Your Right to Unpaid Parental Leave

It’s fair to say that many employed parents* in the UK are unaware of their right to take parental leave on an unpaid basis. In fact, employees are entitled to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave before their child reaches the age of 18. That’s significant time off in addition to any standard annual leave. It’s per child too.

*While we use the term “parents”, the rules apply to those with ‘parental responsibility’ over the child. This includes parents who are named on the child’s birth certificate or adoption certificate, or those who officially have, or expect to have, parental responsibility(i)  over the child. Foster parents are not eligible unless they are legally recognised as having parental responsibility e.g. via a successful UK court application.

Why Take Unpaid Parental Leave?

Parenting is an incredibly important task. However, it’s not always easy for working parents to find enough family time with their children, even at important milestones in their children’s lives. Aside from holidays and breaks, sometimes parents simply need additional time off to gain necessary time with, or for, their children. Unpaid parental leave can be useful when appraising nurseries, pre-schools, schools and further education settings.For example, there may come a time when parents need to look at nurseries, pre-schools, primary and secondary schools and, as children approach their mid teens, further education settings. Other reasons to take time off might include time for parents to visit relatives with the children, or to investigate extra-curricular activities such as sports clubs, or simply to spend quality time with their children.

The good news is that most parents who are employees in the UK are entitled to additional time off, on an unpaid basis, from their employer. Although it’s unpaid leave, it can be an absolute Godsend to busy parents, who may well appreciate the time off even if they have to go without pay during their absence. Rules apply, of course, but it’s fair to say that many parents do not make the most of this opportunity.

How Much Unpaid Leave Are Parents Entitled To?

Parents can take 18 weeks of unpaid leave per child until the child reaches the age of 18. The maximum they can take in any one year is 4 weeks (again, per child) unless their employer agrees to more. Unpaid parental leave must be taken in whole weeks rather than sporadic days. Should an employee only work for, say, 4 days per week, then their week off is essentially the same as that. Should their working pattern be more random, then an average of how many days they work per week is computed from working times over the whole year.

What if Parents Change Jobs?

Taking unpaid leave may be particularly useful when maternity or paternity leave comes to an end.It doesn’t really matter if you change jobs. The rules around unpaid parental leave apply in relation to your child(ren); not your employer. So, if you change jobs and have already used up 9 weeks of unpaid leave for one child during your previous job, then you can still use another 9 weeks, so long as it’s taken before your child reaches the age of 18.

What Other Rules Apply Around Eligibility?

In addition to the rules discussed above, an eligible parent must have been employed by their current employer for at least one year before making a claim. They must be an employee (not a contractor/sub-contractor, agency worker, ‘worker’ or self-employed).

Employers have a right to ask to see a birth certificate or other proof showing parental responsibility over the child in question. And, of course, the child for whom the claim is being made must be under 18.

Claiming Unpaid Parental Leave

Just 3 weeks' notice must be given to the employer, but they can postpone it for up to six months if there is good reason to do so.To claim a period of unpaid parental leave, just 21 days (3 weeks) of notice must be given to the employer and this must state the start and finish dates. It can be confirmed verbally although employers may request the notice in writing.

Given that 3 weeks’ notice is not long in the business world, an employer has the right to request a postponement of the unpaid parental leave if there is a fair reason for doing so. An example would be where such leave would cause significant disruption to the smooth running of the business — perhaps suitable cover cannot be arranged in time. However, in such a scenario, the employer must confirm in writing, within a week of the original request, why the leave is being denied. They must also suggest a new date for it to begin. This must be no later than 6 months after the original date and must be for the same number of weeks originally requested.

Make the Most of Your Parental Leave Allowance

So, all in all, it’s pretty straight forward to get extra leave off work to spend with, or for, your children. Although this particular type of leave is unpaid, sometimes time is the most precious commodity of all — often far more important than money. There’s also only one chance to make the most of your child’s childhood, so unpaid leave is worth thinking about from time to time, while you still have rights to it under UK employment law.

A Wonderful Childcare Nursery in Streatham, SW16

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamWe hope that the information brought to you here is useful. We are Little Cedars, a wonderful nursery in Streatham, supplying an outstanding childcare service in and around Streatham, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec, Norbury, Balham and Colliers Wood.  Why not book a visit with your child to see the setting in action, register for a place, or contact us to ask any questions — we’ll be happy to help.

Apply for a Nursery Place Arrange a Visit or Email Us Here Telephone 020 8677 9675

Adult Interaction Helps Infants for a Lifetime

A baby's brain forms more than a million new connections every second when you interact with them.The Government’s Early Years Foundation Stage (‘EYFS’) framework prescribes how adults should approach the education and development of children under five. As such, it forms the backbone of the curriculum at childcare settings like Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham. The EYFS guidelines were expanded this year (2021) and one aspect of early childhood development discussed therein merits closer exploration: the affect of adult interaction on an infant’s brain development. Here we take a look.

“A baby’s brain forms more than a million new connections every second when you interact with them.”

That’s an incredible statistic and one that was recently revised upwards, from a lower figure, by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.

The centre explains that a baby’s brain develops through early experiences, not just because of inherent genetics. They go on to describe how experiences govern the architecture of the developing brain and form the foundation for all future learning, behaviour, and health. The growth in new neural connections is by far the most prolific during the early years.Their research suggests that constructive experiences will build on and enhance the structure of the brain, whereas “adverse experiences early in life can impair brain architecture, with negative effects lasting into adulthood.

It’s rather akin to the building of a house, starting first with the foundations during the early years and building on those gradually, to complete the full structure. The initial foundations of the brain may encompass things like control of motor function, hand-eye coordination etc. Further sub-layers of more complex skills are brought in on top, through billions of new connections generated in the brain, as the child grows and experiences more things. Interactions with adults are key to that.

Although it happens throughout an individual’s life, the growth in these new neural connections is by far the most prolific during the early years. Optimising the structure and depth of those foundations through varied and useful experiences during the early years is therefore incredibly important. Doing so ensures that the foundations for the individual’s future are strong.

How Can Parents Help With Infant Brain Development?

Serve & Return

There is only one chance to build the brain of a child optimally — during the early years.The Harvard Center on the Developing Child suggests that parents1 can help babies and toddlers develop their brain architecture in the best way through regular and strategic interaction between adult and infant. They call the process ‘serve and return’. Think of it as a tennis metaphor— we’ll explain. First, the child may indicate an interest in an object or activity. That’s the serve of the tennis ball, if you like. The adult should look out for such indications of interest, recognise them as a kind of invitation from the child and then get involved with that object or activity with the child. Responding in this way is like the ‘return’ of the ball in the tennis metaphor. It’s a great approach because the child is indicating what they are interested in and therefore, when a parent responds through activity involving themselves with the source of interest, the child will naturally get more from the interaction. After all, it was they who first indicated an interest and an adult can now help them to get the most from it.

What Kind of Things are ‘Serves’?

A ‘serve’ by the child could simply be them pointing to an object. Or it could take the form of discarding one toy or game and moving onto another. When they’re older, it could take the form of a question, of course.

The ‘Return’

In each case, the parent should join in and the two begin playing with and exploring the object or activity of interest to the child. With the adult involved, the child is able to get much greater insight about the activity or focus of attention. So, it’s about watching out for signals of interest from the child and interacting with them around that focus of interest. The research suggests that this is very effective compared to forcing other things onto the child that might, at that point in time, be of lesser interest.

It’s about watching out for signals of interest from the child and interacting with them around that focus of interest.

What Else?

Repetition is also important during the early years.Repetition is also important. This helps to reinforce circuits in the brain. Reminding a child several times about something will naturally help them to understand and remember the point under scrutiny.

The ‘serve and return’ approach doesn’t only inform the child about objects and activities around them; such interactions with adults also teach and reinforce good social and language skills. They also nurture appropriate emotional responses in the child. Together these set strong foundations for the child’s growing cognitive abilities along with enhancing their general wellbeing, in readiness to build upon them at pre-school, school and ultimately the workplace.

The responses from parents need to be reliable and appropriate, of course; otherwise it could lead to sub-par learning and brain development and even possible behavioural issues. In the worst cases, where there is regular toxic interaction between parent and child, issues with learning, behaviour and physical/mental health can regrettably instil themselves in the child’s developing brain. Such outcomes can go on to adversely affect the whole life of the unfortunate individual.

Did You Know …

By the time they are 3, an infant’s brain will have developed to over four-fifths of its adult size.

Up to three-quarters of every meal goes towards the building of your baby’s brain.

Conclusion

It's therefore incredibly important for parents to interact proactively with children from the moment they are born.The research, as well as a good dose of common sense, shows the incredible importance of parents interacting well with children from the moment they are born. Their interaction and guidance will help the developing child to understand themselves, the world around them, and their place within it. Millions of brain connections are built with every interaction, building healthy foundations upon which the baby will grow into a well-rounded individual with the requisite cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills to handle life. It all comes down to love, responsive and responsible care, with parents matching the infant’s signals and needs with positive, insightful responses. The reassurance and tools such interactions give the infant will allow them to confidently, safely and comfortably explore and learn about the world and, going forwards, their place within it.

Outstanding Childcare in Streatham, South West London

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamIf you are looking for a really good pre-school or nursery for your childcare in Streatham, please do consider Little Cedars Day Nursery. We offer high quality childcare in the London SW16 area, so are also convenient for those looking for the best nurseries, pre-schools and childcare services in Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec, Balham, Norbury & Colliers Wood.  Book a visit, register for a place, or get in touch for more information by choosing a button below:

Apply for a Nursery Place Arrange a Visit or Email Us Here Telephone 020 8677 9675

1. We refer to parents throughout this piece for the sake of brevity, i.e. to avoid repetition. Parents is our placeholder to mean anything from parents to care-givers and guardians.