Adult Interaction Helps Infants for a Lifetime

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 Balham, Tooting, Furzedown, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill and Streatham Park.  Book a visit, register for a place, or get in touch for more information by choosing a button below:

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.

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, Furzedown, Balham and Tooting.  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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Rough Guide to Dyspraxia & ‘DCD’

Rough Guide to Dyspraxia & ‘DCD’

While most people have heard of dyslexia (see our recent guide), fewer are aware of a condition called dyspraxia. In this rough guide we give an overview as to what dyspraxia is, how it affects children, how to spot the signs of it and what can be done to mitigate its effects.

Please note: Dyspraxia is a form of Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or ‘DCD’ for short. Indeed, because there are different forms of dyspraxia, medical professionals generally tend to refer to the condition as DCD rather than dyspraxia. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll use either of the terms interchangeably to mean the type of dyspraxia that people are born with or develop naturally (not other types that may be the result of physical trauma like stroke or injury).

What is Dyspraxia/DCD?

In essence, dyspraxia (DCD) is a condition that causes problems with movement and co-ordination. When children have this, they may appear more clumsy than their peers and the condition will adversely affect how well they execute physical activities. For this reason, they may reach some of their key developmental milestones later than expected. There are varying degrees of the condition, so children who have it may exhibit symptoms sooner, later or more/less severely than others.

  • The condition cannot be cured, so needs to be managed (usually right into adulthood) in order to mitigate its effects.
  • Dyspraxia affects 3 to 4 times more boys than girls.
  • It’s not usually possible to get a definitive diagnosis before a child is at least 4 to 5.
  • The condition is also sometimes referred to as Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function (SDDMF).
  • Children with dyspraxia often have other conditions including ADHD, autism, dyslexia and/or sometimes problems with speech.

How Does it Affect Children?

Although dyspraxia usually has nothing to do with intelligence or the ability to think, the condition can really hold children back. As well as the innate inconvenience of not being good at co-ordinating movements and physical tasks, it can leave children prone to being less fit. This is simply because they’re not naturally co-ordinated enough to be good at sport and physical activities, so are less likely to partake in them.

Children with dyslexia/DCD may also have trouble with concentration, low attention spans, following instructions, copying information and organising themselves or other items. Due to the issues around the condition, they are often slower at picking up new skills. All of this can be very frustrating for them, so sometimes they develop behavioural problems too. Dyspraxia/DCD can make a child feel different, feel isolated, sometimes become the focus for bullying and often have trouble making friends. All of this can lead on to give sufferers a low sense of self-esteem.

Signs to Look Out For

Babies and toddlers with dyspraxia may start to exhibit a delay in starting to crawl, roll or sit. Before they’re one, they may also end up in odd body positions or have strange posture.

As they develop and grow older, they may show difficulty when they eventually walk, feed themselves, dress, draw and/or write. They may have trouble stacking things, playing with certain toys, using pencils, using cutlery, eating and generally co-ordinating their movements. Playground activities like running, jumping, and kicking or catching a ball may be difficult for them to co-ordinate correctly. Trouble with buttoning clothing when they’re older and tying show laces is also a classic sign.

Why Children Develop Dyspraxia

It’s not known why children develop dyspraxia/DCD but children are more likely to develop it …

  • if they were born prematurely;
  • if they were low in weight at birth;
  • if they come from a family with a history of it;
  • if their mothers drank alcohol or took illegal drugs whilst pregnant.

Diagnosing Dyspraxia/DCD

If you suspect that your baby, toddler or child may exhibiting possible symptoms of dyspraxia/DCD, you should consult your GP, Health Visitor or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child’s educational setting. Your child may then be referred to a specialist healthcare professional who can assess them. Diagnosis itself is usually undertaken by a paediatrician, often in tandem with an occupational therapist who will later be involved in treatment if the diagnosis turns out to be positive. Much more detail about dyspraxia/DCD diagnosis is available on the NHS website.

How to Help Children with Dyspraxia/DCD

While dyspraxia cannot be cured, there are ways to help children with the condition and indeed they may well require help for the long term. A tailored help plan is usually generated by a combination of healthcare and educational professionals in tandem with parents and the individual concerned. The plan will be designed to mitigate the specific challenges that a child is facing, so will differ from case to case. For example, a child may need help from a paediatric occupational therapist to master use of cutlery, writing, playing and dressing etc. And/or a clinical psychologist may be needed to help with the child’s mental health. An educational psychologist may be able to help the child overcome barriers to them progressing their education … and so on. Learn more about the types of treatment available for children with dyspraxia here.

The following video may also be useful as an illustration of how one family deals with childhood dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia & Special Educational Needs at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

It’s important for nursery staff, education professionals and parents to look out for the signs of possible dyspraxia, and any other conditions, in children under their care. The earlier symptoms are spotted, the more likely the child can be helped to best effect. While it’s not possible for children under 4 or 5 to be positively diagnosed with dyspraxia/DCD with full certainty, should a positive diagnosis be suspected, then a tailored learning and development programme can be put in place at the earliest opportunity. In this way, the child will be supported where needed and any adverse effects of the possible condition can be reduced to a minimum. Using this approach means that even children with special educational needs can thrive, achieving personal bests as they progress through their learning and development milestones.

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is one of the best nurseries in the area around Streatham, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting and Balham. We’re based at 27 Aldrington Road, Streatham, SW16 1TU and offer outstanding, weekday childcare services for babies, toddlers and preschoolers up to the age of 5. So, if you are looking for a high quality nursery or pre-school in any of these south west London areas, please make contact with us while a few places are still available (please choose a button):

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The Importance of Exercise for Under-Fives

The Importance of Exercise for Under-Fives

It’s accepted that regular exercise and keeping active are important to human health. This also applies to children under five — in fact it’s incredibly important during this crucial time in their development. In this article, we’ll take a look at the many benefits of exercise for the very young — and how much physical activity is recommended for toddlers and children in their early years.

Here we look at recommended exercise times for early yearsWhat are the Recommendations for Early Years Exercise?

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends1 that children under five should engage in at least 3 hours of physical activity each day, spread out over the course of the day. They go on to say:

“Children under the age of 5 should avoid being inactive for long periods. Watching TV for hours or being strapped into a buggy for too long isn’t good for their health and development.” (NHS)

This should come as no surprise, of course, but it’s important to take on board; official guidance is likely to be based upon decades of historical health data.

Meanwhile, as cited in Downing Street’s 2017 ‘Action Plan’ to fight childhood obesity, the UK’s chief medical officers also recommended 180 minutes (3 hours) of physical activity for children under five. (CMO UK Physical Activity Guidelines). Once again the suggestion is that this should be spread out through the day.

There are many benefits of active play for young childrenWhat are the Benefits of Early Years Exercise?

Exercise and physical activity in preschoolers and under-fives has many benefits. These include:

  • Firstly, it’s great fun for children! Indeed, energetic games and activities for young kids should be seen as an essential part of childhood.
  • It helps build up muscle strength and fitness.
  • It helps children to develop stronger bones.
  • Right from birth, physical activity and movement are significant in the creation of nerve connections in the brain
  • It naturally burns off calories that have been consumed by children through food/drink intake. This is particularly important if they have been ingesting superfluous calories or less-than-healthy things like sweets, sugary drinks or fatty junk food (although it’s best to avoid those, of course).
  • Regular exercise, in tandem with healthy eating, thereby helps children to maintain healthy weights and body mass indices. This is important because overweight youngsters are more prone to become overweight adults. It’s therefore an excellent approach to nip any weight problems in the bud, at this early age.
  • Avoiding weight problems through regular physical activity — and healthy, balanced eating — also helps reduce the likelihood of heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure later in life.

Regular exercise, in tandem with healthy eating, helps maintain a healthy weight & body mass index

  • Active play helps to improve social skills, behaviour and confidence in children.
  • Attention levels can also be seen to improve.
  • Regular exercise also helps children’s quality of sleep.
  • Physical activity helps the young to improve coordination and motor/movement skills.
  • It also helps to improve children’s moods and dispositions.

So, all in all, active play, physical activities and exercise are of huge benefit to children’s physical health and mental wellbeing.

Startling Facts

“One in five children are already overweight or obese before they start school” (NHS)

“[Only] one in ten children aged two to four meets the UK chief medical officers’ physical activity guidelines for this age group.” (NHS)

How parents can help children get enough exercise to stay healthy & fitHow Parents can Help

When at home, away from nursery or pre-school, parents can also encourage children to stay physically active so as to maintain their 180 minutes of active play each day. As well as all the usual activities that can be encouraged (football, netball, tag, formal exercise etc.) there are a number of excellent resources available for additional ideas. For example, Change 4 Life have a handy resource of physical activity-based games that young children can play. Even better, they’re inspired by characters from Disney and Pixar, so are going to prove very popular among the young. The character-based games are sure to inspire children to get active and have fun at the same time. Choose a game to see how it works.

“Remember, if you’re concerned about your child’s weight then your GP, practice nurse, school nurse or health visitor can give you help and advice.” (NHS advice)

How Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham helps children get enough physical activityActive Play & Exercise at Little Cedars Day Nursery, Streatham

As one of the key focuses of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework, physical development is at the core of the curriculum at Little Cedars Day Nursery. As such, children of all ages are encouraged to exercise through active play, every single day. Children are encouraged to be physically active via a variety of well thought-out physical activities and challenges, as appropriate for their particular age group. This is all carefully orchestrated and supervised by the staff and ‘Key Person’ allocated to each particular child. A whole myriad of high quality facilities, interactive equipment and toys also help to ensure that every child has a varied range of activities to enjoy. They have immense fun while their brains, minds and bodies develop along the way.

Nursery places for babies, toddlers and children in Streatham

Are you looking for an outstanding nursery in Streatham for your child? Or perhaps you’re nearby and are looking for high quality nurseries in or near to Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Tooting, Furzedown or Balham? If so, we currently have a few spaces left, so please do get in touch while they’re still available.

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11 Super Sensory Activities for Under-Fives

11 Super Sensory Activities for Under-Fives

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

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

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

Children love playing with bubblesSensory Play Ideas for Babies

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

Sensory play with paperPaper. Babies will love the feeling of scrunching up paper and will notice the sound as well as the contoured feel of their new creation. They may need a demonstration to get started, though. They’ll start to comprehend the concept that something in one form, like a pristine, wafer-thin sheet of paper, can be made into something completely different — in this case, perhaps a simple ‘ball’ of scrunched-up paper. Even tearing paper has been found to be enormous fun — and enormously funny — for babies. There’s just something about it that they find hilarious, so do check out the video via that bold link if you haven’t already seen it. Older children can take things several steps further with the addition of paint, or when they discover origami — but that’s a whole other topic.

Discovering different materialsDifferent objects & materials: babies will enjoy playing and learning about the properties, touch, feel and sound of different objects and materials. For example, (safe) wooden utensils, water in a closed beaker or bottle or small plastic or card boxes that they tap like a drum, or try to stack into a ‘wall’ — and so on. They’ll learn about physical properties of each along the way, including sounds, textures, touch and, if they include some carefully chosen food items, taste. It’s amazing what fun babies will have with such simple items — often learning far more from these than from purchased toys.

Babies & toddlers love discovering out in natureThe natural world: babies also greatly enjoy the simple pleasures offered by the natural world. A breeze on their faces may greatly intrigue them, even more so when they see leaves rustling and moving a little on the ground. The feel and texture of grass on the lawn or the sight of sunlight dappling through the trees or reflecting off puddles can be wondrous to them. Under close supervision, getting to know the textures, hues and smells of safe, natural objects outdoors can also be a source of sensory discovery.

Sensory Play Ideas for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Toddlers and preschoolers can take many of the above a step further now that they’re a little older.

Child making a sound shaker with pasta shells

Colour shakers: bottles filled with some water and the addition of food colouring or even glitter, beads and suchlike can be great fun for toddlers and preschoolers. Ensure lids are sealed and then they can shake them or swirl the contents and watch the colours mix or glitter sparkle. They’ll even be able to feel the momentum of the swirling liquid inside as they hold the shaken bottle.

Sound shakers: little ones can do something similar by sealing dry items like rice, breakfast cereals, popcorn or even stones or gravel inside bottles. Once sealed, the children can use them to discover the various sounds that they make when shaken. It could even introduce an long-term appreciation of music and rhythm.

Creating with paint handprintsHand & foot prints: preschoolers will never be bored with smothering their hands or feet in coloured paints, then making prints on paper or card. Footprints and handprints can be random or used to make images or patterns. This process is both creative and a sensory experience for them as the cold paint squelches between fingers or toes. They’ll learn so much including about mixing pigments, creating images from simple printed shapes, about the concept of paint eventually drying to form something semi-permanent and about different textures being formed, depending on the consistency of the paint. We take these discoveries for granted as adults, but we would originally have had to learn about them during our early, formative years.

Getting creative with foodFood creativity: toddlers can also take playing with food to the next level by introducing the concept of making images out of things like fruit- or vegetable-based sauces, cream or yogurt. Whole pictures can be made of food, using the hands, for example using broccoli for ‘trees’, peas for grassy areas and so on. The whole thing can smell great and even be tasted! Playing, hands-on, with food in this way can be fun and creative but also help children learn to accept new foods and tastes into their diets. However, care needs to be taken because proper mealtimes require good manners and children need to understand that food is not usually for playing with.

Under-five child playing with sandSensory sand: it’s very rare for little ones to dislike playing with sand, which allows youngsters to get hands-on creatively. They can learn about the unique and varying textures, consistencies and properties of sand, depending on how much moisture it contains. Dry sand has its own unique set of properties, acting and feeling almost like a powder. Very runny, wet sand is great fun as it can be used to run through the hands and ‘set’ into pointy mountain shapes that look quite magical. Or, when less water is added, sand can be fashioned into shapes and, of course, “castles”, using the hands or by filling buckets, hollow vessels, or tubs. Children can also press their hands and feet into level, damp sand in a sandpit or tray, to make impressions and patterns. It feels great too and is an almost essential part of childhood. Young children learn so much from this stimulating, multi-sensory type of play.

Sensory play with different materials and texturesPlaying with dough: whether bought or home-made, dough is always a big hit with young children. It can be fashioned with the hands into shapes, characters, animals and mini-sculptures. Using food colouring in dough also allows children to discover more about mixing pigments. Salt dough can also be baked (under the close supervision of an adult) so that it hardens into more permanent creations. Many types of dough even smell great too! What’s more, it can even lead to a bigger interest in cooking real, edible dough and other baked foods when they’re a little older.

Sensory gardens are a feast for the sensesA sensory garden. We’ve left perhaps the best until last. Making a sensory garden area with, or for, little ones will give them a magical experience. There are so many materials that can be used in the construction of sensory gardens, including soil, earth, pea shingle, tree bark, moss and so on. Plants themselves will also add to the fascinating mixture of textures, colours and even smells found within a sensory garden. It can be as small or large as you have room for and can even be achieved in containers, pots or on balconies for those who do not have gardens. It can take many forms so it’s design also gives children a wonderful creative opportunity. Sensory gardens are a complete feast for the senses for young children — adults too — encompassing touch (e.g. the textures of materials, moss and plants), smell (why not include some herbs — these smell wonderful and can be tasted too), potentially sound (crunchy gravel, rustling leaves etc.), sight (aesthetics, colour etc.) and will also give children ample opportunity to improve balance and body awareness as they construct and create in this unique space.

Sensory Play at the Nursery

At Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, we fully appreciate all the benefits of sensory play, so ensure that all babies and children have rich, multi-sensory learning and development opportunities and activities. Indeed, everything we do and offer has an underlying purpose, to the benefit of every child at the setting. Sensory play is only limited by the imagination and it’s sometimes amazing to see what children achieve through sensory play opportunities.

Does Your Baby or Child need a Nursery Place near Streatham?

If you are a parent or carer and are looking for outstanding nurseries in or around Streatham, Tooting, Furzedown or Balham, we’d be delighted to tell you more about Little Cedars. It offers high quality childcare and facilities and could well be a great fit for your child. If our nursery is of interest, please get in touch via one of the following options:

Apply for a Place Arrange a Visit Message Us 020 8677 9675

The Benefits of Sensory Play for Under-Fives

The benefits of sensory play for under-fives

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

The Senses

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

What is Sensory Play?

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

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

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

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

Additional benefits of sensory play for children include:

  • Recognition of objects, environments, situations and sensory attributes through sight, hearing, taste, touch or smell;
  • Recognition of their own physical self within the space and other things around them;
  • The development and improvement of motor functions including gross and fine motor skills;
  • Balance, safe movement and measured navigation within an environment or situation;
  • Improvement of language skills as children are able to better describe what they’ve interacted with through their senses;
  • Improved problem-solving skills as children are better equipped to think critically and even scientifically;
  • Improved attention. For example, using the new-found sensory abilities they will learn to cognitively separate one sensory stimulation from another. Using this skill, children can overcome some distractions, for example ‘filtering out’ background noise, to allow them to focus on something more important;
  • Learning to remove themselves from situations where there may be a ‘sensory overload’. This can really help with their mental wellbeing. For example, having learnt more about their individual senses, children will better understand why a particular situation may be too chaotic for their own good. Understanding why they’re feeling how they feel in frenetic situations can lead to better decision-making and wiser choices. This includes whether to take part in the situation or to move to a more peaceful environment;
  • Young children playing & learning about their sensesLearning skills around mindfulness: sensory play is, in itself, a therapeutic way to calm any anxiety or frustration and help children to re-centre themselves and become immersed ‘in the moment’;
  • Learning more about textures and how they can be replicated can also help very young children learn to ‘trust’ new foods that they may not have previously wanted to try. Spaghetti and soup would be great examples because sensory play can give them a positive association with such textures;
  • Sensory play takes children’s learning and development to a new level, giving them new ways to be creative and to explore and understand the world around them;
  • It also represents a great opportunity for group play and, in so doing, helps to improve children’s social skills;
  • With new pathways being formed in the brain, sensory play helps children to cope with more complex tasks and also enhances memory skills;
  • Sensory play can also help children with autism, particularly those with Sensory Processing Disorder (‘SPD’). The topic deserves its own stand-alone article, so we may follow up with a separate post on the topic in due course.

Conclusion

We can see that there are many benefits of sensory play for babies and young children. Indeed, it’s something that should be encouraged at home as well as at nursery or pre-school. In view of this, we follow this post with a new post featuring 11 sensory-based activities that parents and carers can undertake with babies and children at home.

Sensory Play at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Sensory play activity with staff at the Streatham NurseryBabies and children are, of course, given a huge variety of sensory-based play opportunities at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham in south west London. There are multi-sensory areas and equipment throughout the setting. For example, there is a separate area with multi-sensory equipment for babies. Children aged from 12 months to 2 years are also introduced to sensory activities, which include listening to music. Our toddlers aged between 2 and 3 also have a sensory zone of their own to explore and to learn new skills from. Our indoor and outdoor areas also have lots of sensory-based activities for the children to enjoy and learn from.

If you are interested in a childcare place for your baby, toddler or young child under five, we currently have a few places available in our Streatham Nursery, so do get in touch. The nursery is near to Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown & Balham. Click one of the buttons below to get started …

Apply for a Place Arrange a Visit Message Us 020 8677 9675

Nursery Jokes For Under-5s

Nursery Jokes For Under-5s

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

Our personal favourite is the last one  — “That boy just threw milk at me – how dairy!” — how funny!

As we said in our last post, laughter boosts the release of the ‘feel-good’ hormones (endorphins) and has a huge number of other benefits to growing children as well as to adults. Laughter boosts mood, resilience and self-esteem in children. It helps them to think differently and more creatively too. It also has several surprising health benefits — and a whole lot more. It can even be thought of as nature’s natural happiness medicine! Learn more about the benefits of laughter for children here.

We hope you enjoyed these children’s jokes as much as we enjoyed curating them. We’ll perhaps add some new jokes in the future if these prove popular.

Nursery Places in Streatham

These children’s jokes were brought to you by Little Cedars, an outstanding nursery and pre-school in Streatham, London SW16. We offer the highest quality childcare for under-fives near Streatham, Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown & Balham. If you are interested in a nursery place for your child, please do get in touch. Call 020 8677 9675 or arrange a visit here.

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

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

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

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

Growing a Sense of Humour

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

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

The Benefits of Laughter for Little Ones

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

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

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

Medical benefits

There are also some medical benefits for children who laugh often. Research shows that children who laugh regularly are less likely to suffer from depression and are more resistant to physical problems and illnesses. Laughing:

  • Laughter has many medical benefits for childrenImproves mental health;
  • Releases endorphins (the ‘feel-good’ hormones);
  • Triggers the part of the brain that improves mood;
  • Lowers blood pressure, reduces blood sugar levels and improves circulation;
  • Reduces heart/pulse rates;
  • Strengthens immunity against illnesses;
  • Helps to mask pain;
  • Aids digestion;
  • Children have also been shown to sleep better as they go to bed happier and more at peace.

One magical thing about laughing is that it’s also contagious — so everyone around will also benefit! Try watching that video above of the baby with the torn paper; it’s impossible not to laugh along!

In our next post, later in the month, we develop this theme further with some shareable jokes for pre-school kids and may follow up later some time with some ideas that are sure to make them laugh out loud. So, please do come back soon.

Laughter at Little Cedars Nursery

Little Cedars Nursery is in StreathamThe staff at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham understand all about the benefits of laughter for little ones. The staff benefit from it too, of course. Life at the nursery is great fun and we ensure that babies and children are all enjoying themselves as well as learning. That’s one of the reasons why learning through play works so well. The babies and children have immense fun with lots of giggles and laughter while at the same time learning about themselves, each other and the world around them. What could be better!

If you would like to explore the idea of a nursery place for your child at Little Cedars day nursery in Streatham, please do get in touch. We’re perfectly located for those looking for nurseries or pre-schools in Streatham or near to Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Tooting, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Balham and Furzedown.

For more information call 020 8677 9675, send us a message or arrange a nursery visit here. We’ll answer any questions and would be happy to show you around.

The Benefits of Teaching Children to Grow Food

The Benefits of Teaching Children to Grow Food

Keeping children busy, entertained and learning is essential, including during the lock-down, whether or not they’re attending nursery or pre-school. It can be amazing fun too, if activities are carefully chosen. One really cool activity to tick all the boxes is to encourage children to grow food at home. Growing vegetables and herbs is a great place to start — and it’s relatively easy. One of the best things about the activity is that children don’t need a seed or seedling to get started. Essentially they can grow produce for free by ‘re-growing‘ offcuts from shop-bought vegetables and herbs. The resulting food could save the family money as well as teaching the children a huge amount, on many different levels.

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” (Robert Brault)

Children love growing vegetables and herbs

Home-grown herbs and vegetables make great saladsIt may surprise some to learn that you can buy some vegetables and herbs just once and never have to buy them again. The secret is knowing which, and how to re-grow them. It turns out that it’s pretty easy, so we encourage parents to help youngsters get started. Once they see growing shoots or roots and, later, vegetables or herbs that the family can actually eat, they’ll be so pleased that they made this little miracle possible. What’s more, it will have taught them something about where food comes from, how to grow it sustainably and how to look after the living plants. If you’re really lucky, it may even encourage them to take things a step further and get involved in food preparation and cooking later on. It’s amazing, actually, where such a simple, fun, activity can lead!

“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow.” (LeAura Alderson)

No garden? No problem!

Container planting is great when outdoor space is limitedIt’s possible, and indeed fairly easy, to grow your own produce even without a garden. So long as you look after your plants and give them water, soil and light as a bare minimum, they will grow. If you don’t have a garden, perhaps you have a small courtyard or patio where you can grow in containers. If you don’t have any outside areas at all, you can grow in flower pots and other containers on window sills, balconies, under skylights and so on. This makes growing produce possible almost anywhere, including in urban London in high-rise flats. After all, it’s in a plant’s nature to want to grow.

Vegetables & herbs kids can grow for free

Once you and your children have tried this, you may totally re-think how you deal with vegetable and herb ‘waste’. We hope so. The secret to re-growing free herbs and vegetables is to save some of those parts that often you’d usually cut off and discard. Some of them can be used to ‘seed’ a whole new plant and, ultimately, new produce that you can all eat.

  • A cutting or root section left in water for 1-3 weeks will grow roots Children could start with green onions or spring onions. These are particularly easy to ‘re-grow’. Later, perhaps, the children can apply the same approach to celery, lemon grass, Cos lettuce and Pak Choy (a type of Chinese cabbage). Simply save an inch or so thick section of your shop-bought root vegetables (perhaps the last you will ever need to buy), which includes the bottom part at the root end. All your children need to do is to place that section, root end downwards, in a glass of water. Leave them in the water and, after somewhere between 1 and 3 weeks, roots will start growing. Children will love monitoring this process each day and they will enjoy looking after and caring for a living thing. Once the roots are substantial enough, children can take them out of the glass and re-pot them in soil, ideally with a bit of compost if you have any. This can be in containers, appropriately sized flower pots or in the garden if you have access to one. Before long, your plants will give your children more, free herbs and vegetables that you can all enjoy.
  • Other vegetables that can be grown in similar ways, for next to nothing, include Swiss chard, lettuce (which tolerates shade fairly well) and beetroot.
  • Garlic, potatoes, coriander, spring greens & onions can all be re-grown Garlic cloves are also incredibly easy to regrow in a similar way. Perhaps at some point you’ve unintentionally allowed your shop-bought garlic cloves to ‘sprout’. Well, that’s how to start off. Rather than discarding them, your children can put them in water and allow roots to grow. Then, they should plant them out in soil and eventually they’ll end up with more, free, garlic cloves. What’s more, they will tend to taste more mild and delicate than shop-bought garlic — children will probably appreciate that. It’s the same with ginger roots, but allow months rather than weeks in their case.
  • If you ever buy carrots from the supermarket, look for the ones with green leaves (‘carrot greens’) sprouting from the top. Once you’ve prepared the carrots to eat, you’ll usually discard the top sections where the carrot greens sprout. Instead of throwing those away, show your child how planting them in a dish of water and sitting them on a well-lit windowsill will allow the sprouts to grow. You or your child can use the resulting carrot greens to garnish salads and similar.
  • Herbs & vegetables can be grown in pots & containers Herbs like Coriander, Rosemary and Basil can also be re-grown. Children can simply take scraps or clippings (4 inches long in the case of basil, 2-3 inches in the case of Rosemary) and place them in glasses of water in a well-lit spot on the windowsill. Once they have sprouted roots of about 2 or so inches long, these young ‘plants’ can be transplanted into soil or compost in pots. Your child will then be able to watch the plants flourish and grow into new herbs that can be harvested for food later on. The children will also soon discover that each of these herbs has a wonderful and distinctive taste and smell.
  • Potatoes are pretty easy for children to re-grow too. The only limitation is the space they need (ideally they would grow in the ground although you could also try ‘grow bags’ or deep pots if you don’t have access to a garden). Either way, old potatoes that have started sprouting are actually ready to plant. Cut each potato into two or three pieces (each with a growing section) and get your child to plant those in soil. Some vegetables and fruit can be grown from the seeds found inside themLater, when growing sprouts reach the surface, the child should keep those covered with soil (this is called ‘hilling’). Get your child to keep the soil moist but not over-saturated over the subsequent weeks. If planted in the spring, your children should be able to harvest potatoes in the summer.
  • Meanwhile, tomatoes and peppers can be grown from the seeds you’ll find inside shop-bought equivalents. Once sprouted they can be planted out into grow bags. A garden is not strictly necessary if you have a small outdoor space of some kind, for example a balcony. Vegetables like courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins can also be grown from seeds found inside their shop-bought counterparts, but only if you have the significant room they’d need to grow in a garden or other outdoor space.
  • Beans and sugar snaps are easy to grow Then, of course, your children can also experiment with nursery bought, or mail order seeds. Although not free, they’re reasonably inexpensive and also fun for children to grow if you follow the instructions and timing suggested on the seed packets. Beans of various kinds and sugar snaps are particularly easy to grow and usually result in an excellent crop. They will benefit from being in a garden or outdoor patio area, ideally, due to the space they require. They will need more vertical space than horizontal space, however, so even balcony planting may be possible if you have suitable grow bags.

By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world — we change ourselves.” (Jules Dervaes)

Children learn so much by growing food

There are so many lessons that children will learn if they grow their own food. Here are a just a few:
Growing food is great fun

  • Children will have fun and stay entertained, even during lock-down;
  • They will have learnt new skills;
  • They will understand nature and the natural world a little better;
  • They will learn where some food comes from;
  • They will learn that they can make things happen with effort, care and patience;
  • They will have a sense of responsibility, having cared for a living thing;
  • They are more likely to eat food that they have grown;
  • They will see how easy it is to save money;
  • They will learn that they don’t need to rely on electronic games and gadgets in order to have fun and to learn;
  • They will learn the art of trial and error, also learning from mistakes along the way;
  • They will have enjoyed working with you, their parent or guardian. Working closely together on a common interest may improve the bond between you;
  • They will also learn about eating healthy, fresh food.

If it all goes well, you may even find that your home-grown vegetables taste better than shop-bought produce. Peas, carrots and tomatoes often taste more sweet than those bought in shops, for example. Kids can taste the difference.

If you’re really lucky, you and your children will end up with more home-grown produce than you can eat. If so, it’s easy to freeze it, give the excess to friends, family and neighbours or to swap produce with others who have grown something different. The important thing is not to let your children’s hard work go to waste.

Contact Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham, London SE16

This article was brought to you by Little Cedars Day Nursery and pre-school in Aldrington Road, Streatham, in London SW16. For more information about our setting and the childcare services we provide for children from 3 months to 5 years of age, click any of the bold links, call 020 8677 9675, contact us here or email our manager by clicking this link.