Growing Microgreens: A Fun, Educational Activity for Children

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Messy Play – for Under-Fives

The Benefits of Messy Play – for Under-Fives

Messy play is enjoyed universally amongst children, especially the very young. In fact, there is probably not a child in the UK that doesn’t enjoy it! Messy play is enjoyed universally amongst children, especially the very youngBeing let loose with coloured paints, art materials and creative opportunities is sure to bring a smile to their faces and a sense of enormous fun, creativity and discovery. No doubt too; they’ll be proud to show others their creations!

Is messy play all about having fun and being creative, though? Well, that’s important and it is partly about that. However, messy play also has a whole host of other benefits and purposes. In this article, we’ll take a look …

Learning Instinctively About the World

There’s something inherently natural about messy play — it instinctively appeals to children, giving them spontaneous ways to discover new aspects of the world and the properties of the things in it. Getting ‘hands-on’ with malleable media and colourful pigments surely is one of the most natural, fun ways for children to learn through play and discovery. Who doesn’t remember playing with wet sand on a beach, or being drawn to the joys of wet paint, mud or clay as a child? It simply is great fun and a way for children to let loose and get really messy — something they’re usually discouraged from doing.

Advancing Creativity & Self-Expression

Messy play allows children to express themselves in unbounded creative waysAs well as being enormous fun, messy play allows children to express themselves in unbounded creative ways. That’s important. Self-expression and creativity will help children to gain a sense of achievement and, through this subtle way, a greater sense of self-worth and confidence.

Building Blocks for Development

By learning about everything that messy play can teach them, children will also start to create building blocks upon which to develop intellectually and educationally. As well as learning about pigments, colours, form and the properties of different media, messy play will allow children to learn higher concepts. Just one example is planning. Here, they will learn how to decide on the order and structure of their activities before they actually begin them.

Improving Physical Skills & Strengths

Messy play is also a great opportunity for toddlers and preschoolers to build strength in their hands, to hone fine motor skills, and to improve coordination and even balance. Squeezing, pushing and pulling things like clay, or mixing and spreading pigments or glues all help children to improve their manual skills and build muscle in fingers, hands, arms and shoulders. Messy play helps children build strength in their hands, hone motor skills, and improve coordinationHand-eye coordination will also benefit, of course.

Gross motor skills can also be improved through messy play activities undertaken on a larger scale — for example playing in sandpits, creating large-scale art/sculptures and suchlike. What’s more, it’s all so much fun that children are completely unaware that they’re improving themselves as they engross themselves in the creative and playful aspects of the task. It’s all totally natural and, as such, messy play is a perfect example of learning and development through play.

Discovering New Senses

Messy play will also give children the opportunity to discover and recognise senses. Sight, touch, smell, sound and, if safe and appropriate, even taste senses can be stimulated through messy play. Through stimulation, children will get to learn more about themselves and the world around them. In terms of things in that world, it’ll also allow children to build up a picture of their own personal likes and dislikes. It also introduces children to spacial and material concepts, allowing them to recognise hardness, softness, solids, liquids, textures, form, colours and so on. Such concepts are important as foundations upon which to grow — as people and educationally.

Encouraging Independent & Team Working

As well as using messy play to practise independent working, it can also be done in small groups. In this way, children will begin to understand the power and importance of team work and co-operation, also learning things about leadership, communication, negotiation and problem-solving. That’s all incredibly important as they grow older, ultimately helping them at career level. Also, of course, it’s a great way for them to bond with peers.

Messy Play at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

We understand the many benefits of messy play at Little Cedars NurseryWe fully understand the many benefits of messy play at Little Cedars Nursery, of course. Indeed, it’s part of the curriculum. Under-fives are encouraged to learn through messy play using an enormous wealth of resources, equipment and materials at the setting. That’s both indoors and in our outside play areas. From paint and paper indoors to sandpits and water play outside, toddlers and preschoolers have a wonderful time with messy play at Little Cedars, all in a safe, structured, fun and educational environment.

Nursery Places in Streatham, Near Furzedown, Balham & Tooting

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is one of the best nurseries in Streatham, near Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park and Furzedown as well as Balham, Tooting, Tooting Bec, Norbury and Colliers Wood.  If you’d like to explore the opportunity of your baby, toddler or under-five child attending the setting, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to tell you more or even show you all around. Please select an option:

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Dyslexia – How to Spot the Early Warning Signs

Dyslexia - How to Spot the Early Warning Signs

Many dyslexic children are highly intelligentDespite many dyslexic people being highly intelligent, dyslexia makes it difficult for them to recognise words and/or be able to break them down into their smaller components. It is recognised as a Specific Learning Difficulty (‘SpLD’) and can seriously affect their education if not recognised and addressed early.

A dictionary defines dyslexia as “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence”. When it first came to the attention of doctors in the late 19th Century, it was more commonly referred to as “Word Blindness”, which pretty much sums up how dyslexia affects people afflicted by it.

The Adverse Effects of Dyslexia

Symptoms of dyslexia can include blurred, jumbled or even moving letters when readingSuch an affliction can have profound implications for a person. It will adversely affect their reading, writing and comprehension, thereby limiting their overall learning capability and hindering overall literacy. These are particularly critical skills during their early years as that’s at the start of their education, when the knock-on effects of such limiting factors will be at their most significant. It will slow down their progress in many topics and areas of education, also leading potentially to lower self-confidence and possibly even getting them mislabelled as ‘slow’ or ‘lazy’ by the unenlightened. Ultimately, it can severely limit their potential careers and life outcomes.

Those are incredibly unfair ramifications and that’s why we are taking a closer look at how parents, carers and education professionals can learn to spot the signs of dyslexia early, so that dyslexic children can be helped as soon as possible.

“The earlier a child with dyslexia is diagnosed, the more effective educational interventions are likely to be.” (NHS)

Early Warning Signs of Possible Dyslexia

In pre-school children, there are several things to watch out for. These include:

  • There are many signs to look out for when it comes to possible dyslexiaChildren finding it difficult to learn the alphabet;
  • Little interest in attempting to do so;
  • Difficulty pronouncing multi-syllable words (or phrases) including jumbling the the order of them — ‘flutterby’ instead of ‘butterfly’ for example;
  • Difficulty with rhyming words and even nursery rhymes;
  • Slower speech development compared to others in their year group;
  • Finding it difficult to express themselves verbally, including jumbling word order in sentences and having trouble recalling appropriate word(s) to use;
  • Slower development of fine motor skills, for example maintaining a regular rhythm on a percussive instrument.

We should add, though, that having any or even all of these problems does not, in itself, definitely mean that the child has dyslexia — they are just possible signs of it. Many children without dyslexia may have some of these symptoms, so it’s important not to jump to incorrect conclusions. The symptoms of dyslexia also vary greatly from person to person, so diagnosis is not easy.

Dyslexia Signs in School-Age Children

It may become easier to diagnose dyslexia in children once they start school, as they will be reading and writing more by that time. Signs of possible dyslexia to add to the list above may then include:

  • Dyslexic children can struggle both reading and writingThe child describing words and letters as visually jumbling, blurring or even moving around when they try to read them;
  • Giving poor written answers but good verbal ones;
  • Difficulty learning common sequences of words like months of the year, days in the week and, as we mentioned before, letters of the alphabet;
  • Difficulty following a sequence of instructions given at the same time (e.g. ‘put the fork on the plate, then take it to the kitchen’), but being OK if they are given separately;
  • Inconsistent spelling and incorrect letter order;
  • Mistaking numbers and letters for one another, for example using p instead of d or 9 instead of 6;
  • Slow reading and writing speeds, poor quality of handwriting and making mistakes when reading out loud;
  • A lower-than-average grasp of phonetics, phonology and ‘word attack’ skills, that might otherwise have helped a child to work out the possible meaning of multi-syllable/multi-part words through attention to the individual parts.

Learn more about assessment and diagnosis of dyslexia on the NHS site.

Is There a Cure for Dyslexia?

There is no cure for dyslexia, but measures can be taken to help mitigate the adverse effects of itThere is no cure for dyslexia, but measures to mitigate its effects can be taken by education professionals, parents, carers and even those affected by it. It’s incredibly important, though, for both parents and education professionals to try to recognise it early, for example at nursery or pre-school, so that a suitable teaching programme can be introduced as early as possible.

Dyslexia & Special Needs at Little Cedars Nursery

If staff or parents of children at our nursery suspect that a child may be dyslexic — or have any other special needs — it’s important to discuss it together as early as possible in the child’s education. In this way, an appropriate learning and development programme can be agreed; one that is tailored to suit the individual child’s needs, in the best possible way. Doing so as early as possible, ideally starting in their pre-school years, will help to limit any adverse effects caused by the condition. When properly addressed, there is no reason why a child with dyslexia shouldn’t be able to absolutely thrive, despite the condition. It goes without saying that we are always happy to discuss any concerns parents may have about their children — indeed we encourage it so that we can work together to address such concerns.

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is an outstanding nursery in Streatham SW16, near Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting and Balham. If you are looking for high quality nurseries or pre-schools in any of these areas, please get in touch and we’d be delighted to show you and your child/children around, so you can see the wonderful nursery facilities, happy children and exceptionally professional staff for yourself. Please get in touch, while a few places are still available, via one of the following:

Rough Guide to Weaning

Rough Guide to Weaning

The Cambridge Dictionary defines weaning as “the act or process of causing a baby or young animal to stop feeding on its mother’s milk and to start eating other food.” It’s all about babies moving from a liquid, milk-only diet to a more varied diet that includes “solid” foods (albeit usually mashed or blended initially). Parents can make the transition to solid foods stress-free and fun if they follow a few simple tipsAlso known as complimentary feeding, weaning is an important milestone for any parent or baby and usually occurs when the baby reaches the age of about 6 months. Sometimes babies simply tire of milk and weaning thereby comes naturally. In other cases, a baby needs a bit more encouragement to make their transition towards solids. Here, we’ll explore the whole topic of weaning in more detail, including ways parents can help to make the transition smoothly and stress-free for all parties.

How to Help the Weaning Process

First off, parents must realise that weaning is a gradual process i.e. there is a period of overlap where baby continues to drink milk and starts eating other foods. Usually, he or she will gradually eat a greater proportion of solids and less and less milk as time goes by, as opposed to suddenly changing from one to the other in one huge leap. So, weaning is a process, not a single step.

Moving to solid food can be exciting, surprising, confusing, hideous or anything in between for the baby. The world of textured food and new flavours is a whole new experience for baby; each mouthful can represent an explosion of new flavours, textures and adventure. This can be wonderful, or sometimes troubling to the child, depending on the individual and, of course, the tastes and textures involved. Therefore, starting slowly with tiny steps is fine; it’s OK if the baby does not want to eat much at first. They’ll gradually catch on as they get used to this brand new concept.

It’s OK if the baby does not want to eat much solid food at first. They’ll gradually catch on as they get used to this brand new concept.

Weaning should be fun for the infant!Weaning should be fun and it’s also the only time in a child’s life where they won’t have any preconceived ideas about what foods they “do or don’t like”. So, parents can experiment, within reason of course. It’s a time when introducing new foods to the baby comes naturally once the baby has caught on to the idea of this new experience.

Remember that the baby will take a few tries before they perfect the art of eating solid foods, so they may unwittingly push some food out again at first. Until now, they have only been used to breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle, so pushing food out their mouths initially may not mean that they don’t like what you’re feeding them. Give it another try. You’ll be able to ‘read’ their facial expressions anyway. Those are the real giveaway as to whether they enjoy a particular food, or find it repulsive. Their reactions can also be the cause of much laughter!

Tips For Weaning Success

There are several additional things parents can do to make weaning a success. Here are a few tips:

  • Toddlers need to be able to hold their heads up unaided, with good coordination, before they should be weanedDon’t rush it; set aside some time with baby so it’s relaxed, otherwise everyone can get stressed, especially initially.
  • Don’t try to wean them off breast milk too soon either. It’s the very best food for them during their first 6 months, for sure. You can learn more in our separate article all about the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother.
  • Don’t try to wean your baby until it’s physiologically ready. That means they need to be able to hold their own head up when in a seated position, they need to be able to swallow food successfully and they need to have good coordination between eyes, hands and mouth.
  • Is baby tired? Don’t try introducing them to solid foods right now if so. Wait until they’re wide awake and full of energy otherwise they simply won’t want to cooperate.
  • Purée (i.e. finely blend or mash) the foods, mashing them particularly well at the start of the weaning process. That way the solid foods are more like liquids, so will be less of a surprise to the baby bearing in mind they’ve only had milk up until this point. Try mashing ripe apples, bananas, pears and other soft fruits, then feeding them to baby with a weaning teaspoon (these are softer and more gentle in babies’ mouths). Try mashing cooked vegetables too, for example cauliflower, potato, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, carrots and so on. Suitably cooled down for safety, of course. All of these can make a very good purée that’ll slip down easily if the baby warms to the taste.
  • Offer baby just a little initially. They’ll soon let you know if they would like more. If they’re not convinced, demonstrate yourself eating a little bit and showing that you’re enjoying it.
  • Initially, you can follow a little bit of food up with a milk feed. This is a great way to introduce them slowly to solids.
  • Once they’re taking food from you, help them feed themselves either by hand or with a teaspoon (let them copy you). The skill of feeding themselves sometimes comes quite quickly but for others it can take more time.
  • Don’t worry if baby makes a mess. It’s natural at first and not something they should concentrate on initially. The important part is that the baby is beginning to try new foods, so you don’t want to distract from that. Coaching baby to be more tidy with their eating can come a bit later, after they’ve mastered the process of eating purées, mashed food and perhaps gone on to more solid food. A clean, plastic or pelican bib will help in the interim.
  • Infants can move on to finger-sized food that they can feed themselvesYou can later move on to whole, (adult) finger-sized pieces of very soft fruits that baby can learn to hold. However, do read the Health & Safety Considerations section below before moving to un-mashed foods.
  • Remember that babies may need to taste new foods multiple times before they accept them, so don’t give up if they first reject them. Try again another time and don’t ever force them to eat. If they turn their head away or clamp their mouth shut, they’ve had enough for now.
  • Avoid distractions for the baby at feeding times. So, remove phones, tablets, computers, toys and TVs at meal times. The baby needs to concentrate during this new eating experience.
  • Don’t expect a regular pattern; sometimes babies will eat more, other times less. A milk bottle will, for many, represent a comforter as well as a source of sustenance, so don’t be surprised if they prefer milk to solids when they’re feeling under-par or tired.

Huge care needs to be taken to avoid giving infants anything that’s going to represent a potential choking hazard.

Health & Safety Considerations

  • It goes without saying that food should be given to babies and infants at a suitable temperature. So, ensure that boiled vegetables, for example, are sufficiently cooled. Try them first yourself to make sure.
  • All eating sessions should be supervised by a parent or responsible adultHuge care needs to be taken to avoid giving infants anything that’s going to represent a potential choking hazard. Whole grapes, cherry tomatoes or anything else of a similar size would be examples of this as they are perfectly sized to block a baby’s airway if not first chopped up. Also avoid anything hard like nuts, raw vegetables or un-mashed apple and ensure that any pips/seeds/stones are removed from fruit and bones are removed from fish or meat.
  • Close adult supervision is always needed when infants are eating, particularly when they’re in the weaning process and don’t yet fully know what they’re doing.
  • Consult your GP or health visitor about weaning if your child was born prematurely.
  • Don’t add extra sugar or salt to your baby’s food, including during the cooking process. Avoid salty foods because salt is dangerous to babies. Avoid sugar because it can lead to a sweet tooth and that has many negative implications including tooth decay, weight issues, etc.
  • Food hygiene is, of course, essential during food preparation and while the child is eating. So ensure that hands, faces, plates, spoons, cups and surfaces (etc.) are clean.
  • Part of that is ensuring that the food itself is hygienic so, for example, fruit and vegetables must be washed. If serving raw fruit/veg, ensure they’re also peeled. If using eggs within baby foods, ensure they are stamped with the red ‘British Lion Code of Practice’ lion (to denote a low salmonella risk) and it’s safest if they are never served raw.
  • As babies are weaned off breast or formula milk, parents need to ensure that they are still benefiting from a balanced and varied diet. That’s true whether they are being brought up as meat eaters, vegetarians or vegans. Additional supplements may need to be considered for vegan diets, which may be low in vitamin B12, for example. GPs, health professionals and/or dieticians should certainly be consulted for advice before deciding to cut out dairy products from children’s diets, including milk once they are no longer taking breast milk or the recommended infant formula milk alternative up to the age of one. The NHS has more information about vegetarian and vegan diets for children here.
  • The NHS recommends that children aged between 6 months and 5 years of age take suitable Vitamin A, C and D supplements daily although babies drinking at least a pint of ‘first infant formula’ milk do not need the supplements as they’re included in the milk already.
  • Extreme care is needed by parents in relation to possible allergens. For this reason, it’s best to introduce only tiny amounts of possible allergens in the first instance, one at a time, so any adverse reaction can be spotted early. After all, this is the first time the baby is going to have eaten these new foods. The most common allergens are nuts, eggs, gluten, fish and cows’ milk. If in doubt or concerned about allergic reactions, consult your health worker or GP and, of course, call an ambulance immediately if your baby does have an adverse reaction to anything.

Going Forwards

By the age of 7 to 12 months, most babies will have transitioned to taking in 3 meals a day, along with their milk perhaps 4 times a day (reducing to 3 times a day at a year old). The ratio of solids to milk will then gradually decrease as the weeks go by. By the time they’re 12 months or older, they can also have two healthy snacks between meals.

Iron can be sought from fortified cereal, fish, milk, dark green vegetables, lentils and beans.Always try to maintain a varied diet for the infant, so they get all the vitamins and nutrients they need as they intake less and less milk. Ensure the foods contain sufficient iron, which can be sought from fortified cereal, fish, milk, dark green vegetables, lentils and beans. Giving them finger foods to hold and eat themselves is a great way to encourage them to feed themselves (under supervision, of course). As they grow older they can be encouraged to eat at the family table with parents/siblings and eventually upskill to using cutlery, along with eventually learning the rules around good table manners etc.

More information, including the types of food and milk that infants and toddlers can/should be having, can be found here.

We hope that you found our Rough Guide to Weaning useful. If so, please do feel free to share it on social media (copy this link) or to bookmark it for future reference.

A Streatham Nursery, Near Furzedown, Tooting & Balham

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is a high quality pre-school and nursery in Streatham. If you’re looking for nurseries near Furzedown, Tooting or Balham, it’s very close by, so may also suit you if you live or work in those areas. To find out more about the nursery and the high quality childcare on offer for babies and children up to 5, please get in touch using one of the buttons below.

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Guide to The ‘EYFS’ Early Years Curriculum in the UK

Guide to The ‘EYFS’ Early Years Curriculum in the UK

All Ofsted-registered early years childcare providers are required to adhere to a specific set of standards known as the Early Years Foundation Stage (‘EYFS’ for short). Ofsted registered early years settingThe EYFS framework sets the statutory approach required for pretty much every aspect of early years childcare and education provision in the UK. The standards cover the learning and development programmes, learning goals, approach to assessment, safeguarding, welfare of children, staffing, and much more. In this guide, however, we’ll focus purely on the 7 key areas of learning and development covered by the EYFS. Essentially, these form the core curriculum at nurseries like Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham. Let’s take a look …

The Early Years Curriculum

The EYFS’s early years curriculum requires a core focus on 7 areas for learning and development in children under five. These are all inter-connected in real terms.

First, the 3 ‘Prime Areas’:

These three areas of focus are considered ‘prime’ areas because progress in one will help towards progress in all the others. They are:

1. Communication & Language

Communication & language is one of the prime areas of the EYFS curriculumIt would be hard to overstate the importance of good communication and language skills, as they underpin early years progress in just about everything else. So, early years providers like Little Cedars encourage two-way interactions and language-rich communications between staff and children right from the outset. Childcare professionals will introduce new vocabulary regularly and help children to understand it and use it themselves through activities like story-telling, role play and question-and-answer sessions. Practitioners will regularly read with (not just to) children, using a wide variety of high quality reading materials, encouraging feedback and engagement from the children as they progress. In this way, new vocabulary is embedded, conversations come naturally and children will thrive in their language and communication skills.

2. Physical Development

Physical development is another prime area of the EYFS curriculumPhysical development is, of course, another key skill that is foundational for children. After all, it impacts on health, mobility, strength, fitness, agility, coordination, wellbeing and general happiness. So, great care is taken at nurseries like Little Cedars to help children hone their physical skills and development incrementally, to improve all of the above. This is done through the EYFS programmes that are set and customised for each individual child. Skills like balance, gross and fine motor skills, coordination, spatial awareness, hand/eye coordination, strength and agility will therefore gradually improve and become second nature to each child as they grow. Active children will generally become more healthy children. They will also improve social skills and confidence through the activities that they participate in alongside peers. It is also, of course, great fun!

Did you know: Hand-eye coordination is linked to early literacy.

3. Personal, Social & Emotional Development (‘PSED’)

Personal, social & emotional development (‘PSED’) is the third prime area of the EYFS curriculumHealth, happiness and even the development of early years cognitive function are all underpinned by children’s personal, social and emotional development (‘PSED’). Indeed, PSED forms the backbone of children’s relationships to all adults and peers around them — and also governs how they feel they fit in. That’s all incredibly important, so childcare settings like Little Cedars Nursery approach PSED as a ‘prime’ element within the EYFS curriculum. The result is that children are supported and support one another, they learn how to manage emotions and behaviours, how to eat healthy diets, look after themselves physically, and independently manage their own personal needs. All of this will have the knock-on effect of improving confidence and self-esteem and even allow them to set some of their own goals. Close bonds will be made with both staff and other children and conflicts will be more easily resolved peaceably.

Good personal, social and emotional development will, in turn, enhance all other areas of the EYFS curriculum and help prepare children for the transition to school and beyond.

The 4 Additional ‘Specific Areas’:

The four specific curriculum areas of focus, enhanced by all three prime areas above, are:

4. Literacy

Literacy is one of the EYFS's specific areas of focusReading and writing are crucial elements within every child’s education. Without these skills, learning about other topics would become much more difficult. Literacy is therefore a key area of focus within the EYFS learning and development framework. Like other nurseries, pre-schools and childcare settings that adhere to the EYFS approach, Little Cedars Nursery will therefore endeavour to encourage a love of reading within every child. Reading teaches children to comprehend language, vocabulary, grammar and spelling as well as learning more about the underlying topics themselves.

Writing takes this a step further to help children improve spelling, handwriting, composition and creativity within writing.

Early years practitioners will also encourage children to articulate what they intend to write verbally and also to read out loud from written material at times. Verbalising in this way helps children to improve speech and pronunciation skills and, before writing anything down, think more closely about sentence structure. Together, all these skills really stimulate children’s imaginations too, opening them up to an almost limitless range of topics and learning opportunities going forwards.

5. Mathematics

Mathematics is another of the EYFS's specific areas of focusNurseries, pre-schools, kindergartens and other childcare settings also recognise the importance of mathematics within children’s learning and development. The EYFS curriculum caters well for this, encouraging early years professionals to help children master counting first to 10 and later to 20 and beyond. Children will learn the patterns around numbers, including recognition of odd and even numbers, along with skills like simple addition and subtraction, and the ability to recognise low quantities without having to count. They will also learn to recognise when one quantity is more than, less than or equal to another. In so doing, children will also learn the vocabulary around mathematics in readiness for school once they leave their early years setting.

6. Understanding the World

Understanding the world is another specific area of the EYFS curriculumA good early years education is nothing unless children understand the world around them. The EYFS framework used by early years nurseries like Little Cedars builds in programmes to help children learn more about the world. This includes helping them to learn how to observe, recognise, describe and even draw what’s immediately around them as well as exposing them to environments like the natural world, local parks and museums. It even teaches them to recognise similarities and differences between other cultures, religions and communities in the UK and lives being lived abroad. They will get to know more about people’s roles in society too, for example through visits from police officers, firefighters and nurses. A broad range of written material (both fiction and non-fiction) will inform them further. Topics explored will touch on culture, technology, ecology, religion, community, nature and much, much more. This will enrich their knowledge and understanding of the world they live within, giving context to what they see, hear and read about as they grow older.

7. Expressive Arts & Design

Expressive arts & design is the another specific area of the EYFS curriculumExpressive arts and design are also integral elements within the EYFS curriculum. Early years childcare settings like Little Cedars ensure that children are given a wide range of opportunities to be creative and to free their imaginations. A huge variety of media, materials, tools and activities can be used by children to express themselves and communicate both visually and audibly. Colour, texture, form and function are explored along with opportunities for role play, story-telling, poetry, singing, performance and even dancing when appropriate.

Changes to the EYFS in 2021

The EYFS’s early years curriculum is undergoing some changes later this year (starting September 2021) which will put a greater focus on the development of early years language and vocabulary within each of the 7 key areas. Doing so aims to improve outcomes in each of those areas.

The EYFS Curriculum at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Little Cedars Nursery, StreathamLittle Cedars Nursery (Streatham) uses the EYFS framework to shape the educational activities and programmes that babies and children experience at the nursery. Part of this includes the setting of learning goals that each child needs to work towards as they gradually approach the age of 5, when they will move on to school. These are individual goals, tailored to the unique needs, interests, abilities – and any disabilities – of each individual child. A continuous regime of assessment will be undertaken by staff to monitor each child’s progress during their time with the nursery, with the learning programme adjusted, as necessary, along the way. A ‘Key Person’, allocated to each child, facilitates that assessment proactively. Additionally, staff will regularly engage with parents or carers/guardians to ensure that progress towards the learning and development goals is continued at home, wherever possible. Progress is communicated and a learning journal retained and available to parents at any time. In this way, each child achieves personal bests in all areas and everyone is kept up-to-date with the child’s progress.

A Nursery Place for your Child in Streatham

If you are interested in a nursery place for your baby or child at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, please contact us using one of the buttons below. Our nursery is based at 27 Aldrington Road in Streatham (London SW16) so is perfectly located if you are looking for nurseries, pre-schools or kindergartens near Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown or Balham.

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The Importance of Sleep for Babies & Toddlers

The importance of sleep for babies and toddlers

A baby sleeping with older brother

We 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

Under-five toddler asleep with mumSleep 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:

  • Caffeine is a stimulant, so encourage children to limit their intake during the day and completely avoid it from lunchtime onwards. It can be found in hot drinks like tea and coffee as well as cold drinks including energy drinks and fizzy drinks like coke.
  • Conversely, a drink of warm milk in the evening before bedtime can have a soothing effect and help a child to get settled, ready to sleep.
  • Avoid giving children large meals too close to bedtime, as these can stop them from getting to sleep.
  • Exercise can play a big part in a child’s sleep pattern but it needs to be approached in the right way. While exercising vigorously soon before bed can lead to problems getting to sleep, exercising during the day can burn off excess energy and help children sleep well once it comes to bedtime later on. Some fresh air in the evening (for example, a leisurely outdoor walk) can also help children to feel sleepy once they get home.
  • Children’s bedrooms should have the right set-up. For example, they should not have access to anything that might stimulate their brains in the run-up to sleeping. Toys could be an unwanted distraction from sleep if present, however screens (TVs, handheld tablets, mobile phones etc.) should be totally avoided several hours before bedtime. Not only do they distract from sleeping but screens have also been shown to stimulate the brain even after they’ve been switched off — greatly hindering sleep.
  • Bedrooms should also be away from noisy areas of the house and the room should also be a comfortable, but slightly cool, temperature.
  • Children’s rooms should also be suitably lit to suit the child in question. Some young children sleep best in total darkness while others may sleep better if there is a night light in or close to their bedroom.
  • Giving them a suitable cuddly toy may also help them to feel more safe and secure.
  • Children should also be encouraged to visit the toilet immediately before bed. Doing so decreases the chances of them having to interrupt their sleep for a visit to the loo during the night.
  • Baby monitors are also useful so long as the child doesn’t end up using them simply as a way to communicate with parents in another room.
  • If children leave their bedrooms to seek out parents during the night, it’s a good idea to quietly lead them back to their beds, without debate where possible, and to be consistent about it. Otherwise, a precedent is set and they might do it more and more often. Such a habit would be detrimental to their sleep pattern. It’s important to be consistent and not to ‘cave in’ to the child, even if they try to be with parents repeatedly throughout the night. They’ll eventually get the message and their overall sleep pattern will benefit from doing so.

Preschoolers get tired tooThe biggest message is that setting up — and sticking to — a set bedtime routine will greatly help with the quality of your child’s sleep. It sets a pattern that their minds and bodies will become used to naturally. A regime of this nature can include winding-down activities like a warm bath or shower, a peaceful book-reading session, dimmed lights and so on in the approach to bedtime. The routine will prepare them automatically for sleep even during the run-up to actually sleeping.

Important Side Note: The importance of sleeping position when babies are in the womb

Aside from the obvious positive effects of sleep on children and adults, one surprising aspect of sleep has a direct impact on the wellbeing of unborn babies. Statistics suggest that the sleeping position of the parent can have a direct bearing on the foetus’s chance of survival. This is important stuff! According to NHS Start 4 Life², mothers-to-be should try to sleep on their sides, when possible, by the 28th week of pregnancy. Doing so will statistically reduce the risk of the baby being stillborn. Of course, once asleep, it’s only natural for you to move around into different positions, so the message is not to worry unduly if you wake up on your back when pregnant — it’s totally normal for this to happen. Simply go onto your side before returning back to sleep. Bending your knees will help you get comfortable on your side, facilitate easier breathing and put less pressure on your uterus. As an added bonus, it also helps to alleviate backache.

Sleep at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Babies take at least two naps at Little Cedars nursery, StreathamAt Little Cedars Day Nursery in Streatham, we understand the importance of sleep, particularly for babies and the youngest of the children. For that reason, we ensure that children have the opportunity of a nap both in the morning and in the afternoon. For example, babies sleep for about half an hour to an hour around 9.30am and then again after lunch, for 1 to 2 hours between about 1pm and 3pm. Preschoolers don’t have to sleep if they don’t want to, but are given the opportunity to do so — every child is different. We also take a lead from parents who may prefer their child to keep to a particular sleep pattern. If you would like more information about this topic, and how we approach it at the nursery, please do get in touch.

Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery

Little Cedars Day Nursery offers weekday childcare services in Streatham, London SW16, for babies (from 6 months) and children aged up to 5 years old. We’re based in Aldrington Road, so are convenient for anyone looking for a nursery or pre-school in and around Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. Call 020 8677 9675 for more details. You can also request more details, send us an email or arrange a visit here, so we can show you around the nursery.

Please note that this article is for general guidance only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are at all concerned about your child’s sleep, health or wellbeing, please seek advice from your child’s doctor or health professional.

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)

There are many benefits of early childhood education & careSome 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 receive early education and care for an absolute minimum of 10 hours per week by the age of two. Three- and four-year-old children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit most from no less than 20 hours per week thereafter in the run-up to the start of primary school at age 5. Children who follow this approach have better verbal abilities when they start school and are also much more likely to achieve expected levels of personal attainment during reception year at school. The studies show that, with ECEC’s highly appropriate, structured preparation beforehand, children are able to hit the ground running once they transition to school.

It’s also interesting to note that, for children from households with the poorest home learning environments, there was a marked enhancement of verbal ability in year one of primary school for those who followed the above attendance approach prior to starting school. The early years education and care was clearly seen to have evened up the playing field in this respect.

Longer-term benefits of early years education & care

“15-year-olds who had attended some pre-primary education outperformed students who had not by about a year of achievement. ” (OECD report, 2011)

Benefits of ECEC can be lifelongAs well as having a positive effect on children’s readiness for school, there is also compelling evidence that early years education at good nursery/pre-school type settings has a marked, positive effect on children’s long-term attainment levels there – and indeed on their lifelong outcomes. As such, early years education and care represents an extremely solid foundation for children’s futures in general.

“ECEC interventions also boost children’s confidence and social skills, which provides a better foundation for success at school, and subsequently in the workplace.” (Sim 2018)

These are all profoundly important findings. Long-term studies have also revealed that educational success is likely to result in better success in employment during adulthood, improved social integration and even a general reduction in levels of criminality.

Benefits for families & society in general

Early childhood education and care doesn’t stop at benefiting children; it also benefits their families and society in general, in deep-seated ways. For example:

  • it allows parents to work, or re-enter the labour market after maternity leave;
  • it allows parents to develop their careers;
  • it helps to improve family income levels;
  • it may increase the potential for upward social mobility;
  • it reduces poverty;
  • it reduces welfare dependency;
  • it reduces crime rates;
  • and, of course, it ultimately improves the lives of children.

Nursery & pre-school for babies & under-fivesAre you looking at nursery/pre-school options for your baby or toddler?

In England, around 94% of 3- and 4-year-olds receive Government funding of some kind for childcare and early years education. For babies and children aged up to 2, it’s closer to 40% at last count. However, beginning any kind of education before attending primary school is not always a given; for one reason or another, there are a few children who only begin their education once they start primary school around the age of 5. For those who have the option for an earlier education but whose parents are unsure, we hope this article has helped to highlight just some of the many benefits of under-fives attending nurseries, pre-schools and childcare settings like Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham before the age of 5. The good news is that we support the Government-funded options for 15/30 hours of free childcare per week for eligible families. For those who are not eligible, our nursery fees are very competitive.  We’re based in Streatham, London SW16, so are also convenient for those looking for early years childcare around Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. For more information or to apply for a place at the nursery, call us on 020 8677 9675, send us a message or book a visit here. We’d love to tell you more and to show you around!