Is a Vegetarian Diet Safe for Children?

Is a Vegetarian Diet Safe for Children?

This month is often referred to as ‘Veganuary’, which is why vegan and vegetarian food, facts and meal ideas are all over social media at the moment. Parents/carers have many different reasons for raising their children on a plant-based diet. Whether it’s for health reasons, for the protection of animals, to protect the planet, for religious reasons or simply a matter of taste, more and more people are ‘going veggie’. Raising children as vegetarians or vegans is a natural extension of that. Today, we’ll begin to take look at considerations around vegetarianism for under-fives and children in general.

Studies show that a well-balanced vegetarian diet is a healthy diet.Let’s first take a look at the benefits of vegetarianism …

The Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Study after study has shown that a well-balanced vegetarian diet is generally a healthy diet. That ‘well-balanced’ element is a crucial one, however, and we’ll come to that later. That said, it’s widely accepted that a vegetarian diet:

    • is good for the heart, reducing the risk of getting heart disease;
    • usually leads to lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL), which could otherwise cause strokes;
    • reduces the risk of developing cancer;
    • lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of developing hypertension;
    • There are a huge number of health benefits for vegetarianism.is linked to a reduction in symptoms for those with asthma;
    • promotes good bone health;
    • lowers the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes;
    • reduces the risk of chronic disease;
    • usually results in a lower body mass index compared to that of meat eaters.

Kindness to Animals

What’s more, an obvious benefit of a vegetarian diet is that it does not require the death of any animals. That benefits the animals themselves, of course, but also the planet as a whole as we’ll see below. And, of course, it’s a good lesson in kindness for children as part of nurturing their moral compass.

Protecting the Planet

“Research shows that meat and dairy products are fuelling the climate crisis, while plant-based diets — focused on fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans — help protect the planet.”
(Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

A vegetarian diet will help the planet enormously.Scientific studies conclude that switching to a vegetarian diet will help the planet enormously. That’s because significantly less greenhouse gas is produced in growing crops compared to raising livestock. What’s more, scientists believe that the necessary reduction in green house gas emissions will be achieved far more swiftly through a widespread switch to vegetarianism than through what’s currently just a gradual shift away from the burning of fossil fuels. Growing crops rather than animals also causes far less pollution in waterways and oceans and also uses significantly less water. The benefits of vegetarianism to the planet are simply enormous.

“A global shift to a plant-based diet could reduce mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10% and 70%, respectively, by 2050.”
(Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

Learn much more about the the benefits of a plant-based diet, for the health of both humans and the planet, here.

The NHS says it's OK to raise children as vegetarians or vegans so long as they get all the nutrients they need.Is a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet Safe for Children?

Well, it’s good news there too. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), it’s perfectly OK to raise children as vegetarians or vegans, “so long as they get all the nutrients they need.” What’s more, they’ll go on to reap all of those aforementioned benefits and will generally tend to live more caring, greener lifestyles as they grow older. And getting all the requisite nutrients is not at all difficult once parents or carers know what’s required.

The Importance of a Well-Balanced Diet

“Children need plenty of energy and protein to help them grow and develop. It’s also important that vegetarian and vegan children get enough iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.”
(The NHS)

In our next post, we’ll go into more detail about the types of food, drink, vitamins and minerals that need to be included in order to achieve a well-balanced vegetarian diet for under-fives. So, come back again on Monday 31 January and you’ll see that a vegetarian diet is perfectly feasible and healthy for your little one(s) when you follow a few simple guidelines.

Healthy Food at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & Balham

Our own in-house chef always caters for special diets including vegetarians and vegans, as needed. This is all part of a healthy food regime at the setting, where food is freshly prepared using only the highest quality ingredients. Food and drink are, of course, included in our standard fees. Little Cedars is an outstanding nursery and pre-school in Streatham that’s perfect for babies, toddlers and children under five. It’s also conveniently close to Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Broadway, Tooting Common, Balham, Norbury as well as Colliers Wood. If you’d like to register a place for your child, to arrange a visit or simply have any questions, please get in touch.

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

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

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

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

Statutory Maternity Leave & Pay (Rough Guide)

Statutory Maternity Leave & Statutory Maternity Pay (Rough Guide)

When women have a new baby, they will need to take time off work to give birth and to look after the newborn during their first weeks or more. It’s a precious time for both mother and baby and the good news is that employed mothers are legally entitled to maternity leave under UK employment law. We'll concentrate purely on the rules for mothers who are employees in this postToday, we’ll take a look at how much time and money mothers are entitled to under Statutory Maternity Leave and what the eligibility requirements are. We’ll concentrate purely on the rules for mothers who are employees in this post. However, we will follow up to cover paternity leave, shared leave and support for self-employed mothers separately, in future guides.

Statutory Maternity Leave Entitlement

Eligible mothers are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave:

  • The first 26 weeks (i.e. first 6 months), known as Ordinary Maternity Leave;
  • The last 26 weeks (i.e. months 7 to 12), known as Additional Maternity Leave.

These are the statutory maximums, i.e. mothers do not need to take all 52 weeks off. However, they must take off the first 2 weeks from the date of birth as a minimum, or 4 weeks if they’re factory workers. (They can also arrange to share some of the remaining 50 weeks of their leave with their partner under Shared Parental Leave (‘SPL’) rules, which we’ll cover in the future).

Timing

Statutory Maternity Leave can begin up to 11 weeks prior to the baby’s anticipated due date. It must, however, begin no later than the day after birth if the baby is born early. For eligible mums, Statutory Maternity Leave (& Pay) must also start automatically in the event that the mum-to-be is off work for a medical illness, related to pregnancy, during the 4 weeks prior to the week the baby is due.

Eligibility

For Statutory Maternity Leave in the UK, just two main rules apply in regard to eligibilityThe good news is that, to be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave in the UK, just two main rules apply. You need to:

a). officially be an employee of a company 1 and
b). give your employer the right amount of advanced notice.

How long you have been employed is not a factor and it also doesn’t matter what you are paid or how many hours you work.

1. Not a ‘worker’, ‘contractor’, ‘office holder’ nor ‘self-employed’ (like a sub-contractor) under UK employment tax law.

Notice should be given at least 15 weeks before the baby’s due date. The notice may need to be in writing, depending on your employer’s preference. It needs to confirm the baby’s likely due date and when you would like to begin the maternity leave. Once notified, your employer then has 28 days to officially confirm the beginning and end dates for that leave.

Statutory Maternity Pay (‘SMP’)

Check out the rules around Statutory Maternity Pay (‘SMP’)Statutory Maternity Pay (‘SMP’) is available to mothers who:

  1. earn £120 minimum per week on average;
  2. have given their employer proof of pregnancy (usually an MATB1 certificate or letter from their doctor/midwife);
  3. have given their employer the correct notice (min. 28 days) of going on Statutory Maternity Leave;
  4. have worked for their employer for a minimum of 26 weeks (6 months) including into the 15th week preceding the anticipated due date;
  5. have not been in police custody during the SMP period.

Those whose income has dropped below an average of £120 per week due to being on furlough during the pandemic may still be eligible for SMP.

How Much Do You Get?

You can receive SMP for up to 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks, you receive 90% of your average gross weekly earnings. For the remaining 33 weeks if you take them, you receive the lower of £151.97 per week, or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings. They’re paid to you from your employer with tax and National Insurance deducted as if they’re part of your usual wages or salary. (Figures correct at August 2021).

Your Employment Rights

When you are away from work on Statutory Maternity Leave, a number of statutory employment rights are still protected. These include your right to a possible pay rise, your right to accrue holiday leave and your right to return to work when your maternity leave comes to an end.

Company Maternity Schemes

Some employers have their own Maternity/Paternity schemes. These must be at least equal to the statutory leave and pay schemes, however, many offer even greater allowances and benefits. So, always check with your employer or HR department to see what may be available.

Try the Online Tool

Use the Government's online tool to check if you are eligible to claim maternity/paternity leave and pay (as well as Maternity Allowance for self-employed mums)There’s a great online tool that you can use to check whether you are eligible to claim maternity/paternity leave and pay (as well as Maternity Allowance, which may help self-employed mums). It’ll also calculate how much you could receive. Head over to the Government tool here, ensure you have everything ready in the ‘Before you start’ section and click the green ‘Start now’ button.

If You’re Not Eligible

If you’re not eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave or Pay, other Government help options may be available. For example, for the self-employed, those who have recently stopped working, or are receiving one or more benefits. Click the bold blue link for more details.

Unpaid Parental Leave

Did you know that it’s possible to take unpaid parental leave if your child is under 18? In fact, eligible employees are entitled to up to 18 weeks off work before their child reaches the age of 18. Rules apply, of course, including a maximum of 4 weeks of unpaid parental leave being allowed in any one year. We cover eligibility and the finer detail in a separate post, so click the bold link earlier in this paragraph for the complete picture.

Outstanding Childcare in Streatham, for Your Baby, Toddler or Under-5

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamAre you looking for a high quality nursery in Streatham for your baby, toddler or under-five child? Little Cedars Day Nursery offers outstanding childcare in Streatham, close to Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Balham, Norbury & Colliers Wood.  We’re one of the very best nurseries in SW16 and open on weekdays throughout the year. We’d love to show you and your little one around, so you can see the setting in action, and to answer any questions that you might have. Please select an option:

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

Screen Time for Children – How Much is Too Much?

Screen time for children - how much is too much?

Is screen time healthy for children?Recent studies show that use of connected screens and devices by children, including under-fives, is growing fast. The pandemic appears to have increased kids’ screen use too, as children have spent more time indoors and less time playing ‘in person’ with friends.

The big question for parents is: is all this screen time healthy for children? In this article, we’ll take a look …

First, Some Recent Statistics

According to Childwise, the leading research experts for children and young people, children are spending more and more time on connected devices. These are devices like mobiles, tablets, smart TVs, virtual assistants like Alexa and so on. Most feature a screen but all can connect to the Internet, to other devices and/or to people via Wi-Fi or data connection.

Here’s what the recent research has to say about children’s use of connected devices:

  • 50% of all children aged between 5 and 10 own a mobile.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of all children own a mobile, with the majority of them having one by the time they’re 7. Pretty much all of them are mobile phone owners by the age of 11.
  • Over 75% of under fives have access to a connected deviceOver 75% of children under five have access to a connected device, with up to 60% of preschoolers actually owning their own.
  • Under-fives were found to be using tablets on average for 9 hours a week.
  • Over a quarter of preschoolers were also found to have access to games consoles.
  • 83% of children have access to the Internet in their bedrooms.
  • Over half of children surveyed stated that they kept their phone next to their bed when sleeping.
  • 11 and 12-year-olds spend, on average, 4.2 hours per day online. This has grown significantly since the preceding year’s report, when it was 3.3 hours per day.
  • Over a quarter of all children surveyed are spending 4 to 6 hours per day online.
  • Children are watching, on average, 3.3 hours (under five: 3 hours) of video content every day, with TikTok and YouTube being their favourite video platforms.
  • The number of homes with a virtual assistant (e.g. Alexa etc.) has risen to 39%.
  • Due to the Pandemic, 45% of school children surveyed said they were worried that they might be falling behind at school, while 62% said that they were feeling lonely.

Most figures in the surveys had increased in the last 12 months, although there were occasional exceptions.

Are Parents Choosing the Content Their Children Access?

According to findings of the research, half of preschoolers found online content without parental input and 60% of children aged 3 to 4 are more than capable of deciding which apps they wanted to use.

Toddlers now confidently navigate digital platforms and use touchscreen devices unaided“Parents have always played a huge role in curating what [under-fives] consume and how their time is spent, but toddlers are now confidently navigating digital platforms for themselves, and using touchscreen devices with purpose and determination.” (Childwise)

Is Screen Time All Bad?

It’s generally accepted that too much screen time for children is not healthy for them. There are many reasons for this and we explore a few of the issues below …

  • Children need to keep fit and active rather than spending too much time inactive, in front of electronic screens. Exercise is incredibly important for children, whether they’re under five or older.
  • Also, it’s not healthy for them to disengage from the real world too much. Few ‘real world’ skills like physical, social interactions and honing of gross motor skills are possible when reliance is placed only on the virtual world through handheld and connected devices.
  • Screen time undertaken close to bedtime is also known to be a brain stimulant and that can adversely affect sleep patterns and the quality of sleep. This, in turn, can adversely affect concentration and energy levels and ultimately their ability to function and to learn optimally.
  • Some medical professionals and scientists say Some medical professionals and scientists say that the ‘RF wireless radiation’ emitted by Wi-Fi connected screens and devices may carry potential health risksthat the ‘RF wireless radiation’ emitted by Wi-Fi connected screens and devices may carry potential health risks particularly, they argue, for pregnant women, their unborn foetuses and the young. The very young, of course, have brains that are still at a critical development stage. For this reason, the experts concerned advocate that access to devices like mobile phones should be limited, removed from children’s bedrooms at night or, at the very least, placed in Flight Mode when possible. Using devices wired instead of using Wi-Fi apparently reduces risks. Use of them in hands-free mode is another useful approach, so that the devices are not so close to youngsters’ heads. We’re not experts ourselves, but these measures seem like sensible precautions.
  • Given the statistics about children, even toddlers, being able to access what they want on connected devices, some automatic Parental Controls would also seem sensible. For example, software from security companies like Norton allow great control over which websites can or can’t be accessed by children, and for how long.

“The battle to forge a healthy digital lifestyle is now a very real consideration for parents” (Childwise).

Parents need to control online content to safeguard childrenWhile time spent by children on connected screens and devices is rising, it’s not all bad news. The pandemic has also seen an increase in the time that parents have been spending with children, including on shared screen viewing as well as on other pastimes like baking, crafts and family activities. At the end of the day, it’s all about a healthy balance and, of course, adult supervision to ensure children’s wellbeing at all times.

Indeed, despite the sometimes alarming statistics, parents are in a prime position to influence what their children are exposed to on screens and connected devices. As such, that’s a golden opportunity to encourage content that’s not only stimulating and fun, but also educational. Programmes about nature or science are obvious examples, but there are many others.

Technology & Screen Time at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

When it comes to screen time for under-fives at Little Cedars Nursery, we understand both the benefits and the pitfalls. Technology has a great many benefits when used correctly and indeed is part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum at the nursery. However, for obvious reasons, any time spent online or with electronic screens is stringently monitored and controlled by our childcare professionals. We aim to maximise the positive benefits of technology, while at the same time keeping children as safe as possible. We also, of course, know the importance of physical activities and active play at the setting so, at the end of the day, it’s about getting the balance right.

Nursery Places in Streatham, Near Furzedown, Balham & Tooting

If yLittle Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park. Tooting, Furzedown & Balhamou are looking for a high quality nursery or pre-school place for your baby or child in and around Streatham, please do consider Little Cedars Nursery. We’re in Aldrington Road, SW16, so we’re also suitable for those looking for nurseries and pre-schools near to Furzedown, Balham, Tooting, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill and Streatham Park. Please choose a contact option below to get in touch:

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