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

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

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

The Early Years Curriculum

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

First, the 3 ‘Prime Areas’:

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

1. Communication & Language

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

2. Physical Development

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

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

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

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

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

The 4 Additional ‘Specific Areas’:

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

4. Literacy

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

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

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

5. Mathematics

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

6. Understanding the World

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

7. Expressive Arts & Design

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

Changes to the EYFS in 2021

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

The EYFS Curriculum at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

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

A Nursery Place for your Child in Streatham

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

Kids Say the Funniest Things!

Kids Say the Funniest Things!

As every parent, carer or teacher knows, children say the funniest things! Particularly when they’re young, they tend to have a knack of being naturally comical. They can make you smile or laugh out loud when you’re least expecting it. With that in mind, here are a few of our favourite things that young children have said … enjoy!

Comical quotes by children

*THIS* is Why You Should Read With Your Child

*THIS* is Why You Should Read With Your Child

A young child reads with a parentIn April last year, we published a compelling article about the importance of parental involvement in the education of children. In today’s, we study the specific importance of reading with children and how doing so profoundly benefits those children. What’s more, those benefits have long-term positive effects on the education and outcomes for those children …

First, a Clarification

First, parents need to know that the biggest positive impact from reading is when parents read with children, not just to them. So, in other words, both parent and child need to be involved in the task of reading, in an interactive kind of way. In so doing, for example, the parent can be there to help the child tackle tricky words, perhaps pointing out individual syllables, how something should be pronounced, how it should be spelt, why certain things are spelt the way they are, and so on. As time goes by, those children will learn and begin to recognise the ‘shape’ of whole words, which will become more familiar to them and allow them to be instantly ‘computed’ by the child as they begin to read more often. This interactive help from the parent or carer will teach children the methodology as well as helping them directly with letter combinations, syllables, phonetics, etc.

The biggest positive impact from reading is when parents read with children, not just to them.

Some Obvious Benefits of Reading with Children

There are many obvious benefits to the child if a parent helps with readingReading with children also makes the task less daunting, particularly for the youngest children. Reading together also makes it more interesting and more fun. When it’s more interesting and more fun, the child is going to enjoy it more and naturally want to read more often — eventually independently — and all of that is priceless as part of their education and general knowledge going forwards. Reading can also bring parent and child closer through the time spent together. It can be great fun for the adult too, particularly when the child gets older and adults are exposed to classic children’s books that perhaps they were not, themselves, exposed to when they were young.

Fiction Books

Reading with children teaches them about English, spelling, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary, phonetics, comprehension and pronunciation. The regular and varied subject matter also helps children to open up their imaginations. This in turn will help them to become more creative, more imaginative individuals. This is true whether the reading material is fiction or non-fiction.

Non-Fiction Books

When it comes to non-fiction reading, of course there are a myriad of benefits to the child as they will be learning about many other topics along the way. So, reading carefully-selected factual material together will teach and benefit them on many levels. When they’re older, of course, this will help them to pinpoint and better comprehend relevant sections of text books when answering homework assignments.

Profound Additional Benefits of Reading With Children

Socio-economic Impacts

Sadly, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are statistically shown to perform less well then those from higher socio-economic backgrounds. Parents reading with children, however, has been proposed as a solution to this deficit — it may well even up the playing field, which is incredible when you think about it. Indeed, research shows that children who do not receive reading help from parents are highly likely to perform worse at school and to end up with poorer outcomes in life. Again, that’s a profoundly important finding.

Children who do not receive reading help from parents are highly likely to perform worse at school and to end up with poorer outcomes in life.

The Nuffield Foundation Study

Adults reading regularly with children throughout their early years was found to boost the children's language skills by the equivalent of 8 months.The Nuffield Foundation’s mission is to advance social wellbeing and educational opportunity. In a partnership with the University of Newcastle, the foundation funded a deep study1 using data going back 40 years. Its findings are astonishing. When adults read regularly with children throughout their early years, it was found that the children’s language skills were improved by the equivalent of 8 months. This was for children aged, on average in the study, just 3¼ years old. That’s virtually in the middle of their early years education, so an 8-month leap in language skills at that incredibly young age is amazing when you think about it.

Adults reading regularly with children throughout their early years was found to boost the children’s language skills by the equivalent of 8 months.

Conclusion

The benefits gained from parents reading with children, particularly in their early years, are clear to see. Reading boosts so many areas of a child’s education and the benefits are even greater when parents oversee and help with that reading. So, if you want your child to hit the ground running with their learning and development, read with them from an early age. Their comprehension, vocabulary, language skills, creativity, use of English, reading itself and overall literacy and knowledge of a wide variety of topics will benefit enormously. So too will their skills of empathy, their ability to express themselves, creativity and imagination. What’s more, by the time they leave nursery or pre-school, they’ll be even better prepared to hit the ground running by the time they start school at age 5. And many will also learn to love books and this can only help to benefit them further and enrich their lives as they grow older.

If you want your child to hit the ground running with their learning and development, read with them from an early age.

Reading at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Childcare professionals read with all children at Little Cedars Nursery in StreathamIt will come as no surprise, therefore, to learn that we put all of the above into practice at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham. Getting closely involved in children’s reading, using a huge variety of reading material in an interactive way, gives our nursery children the very best start in life. Indeed, our childcare professionals prepare them thoroughly for school by the time they leave us. They take with them reading, writing, literacy, language, vocabulary and self-expression skills in the process — and all this accomplished at least in part through guided reading.

If you’d like to consider the possibility of a place for your baby or child at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, please get in touch while we still have a few places available. We’re a nursery and pre-school offering outstanding weekday childcare near Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown & Balham in London SW16.

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.

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:

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 …

The Complete Guide to Choosing a Nursery

The Complete Guide to Choosing a Nursery

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

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

Choose a convenient nursery locationA Convenient Nursery Location

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

Social Proof

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

“With the new management this nursery is better than ever. Well done …!]”

“… her team are amazing in every way, with the attention and time they give to the children. Very good knowledge on childhood illnesses and Allergies.”

“Amazing nursery! Our daughter loved it here and all the staff are fantastic!”

So, that’s the kind of thing you need to look for — happy customers! You can also do a similar exercise via the Facebook profiles for each of your contenders. How many 5 Star reviews have they got? What were the comments, if any?

Check children are happy at the nurseryCompatible Opening Hours

The nursery’s opening hours will also need to be compatible with your working hours and allow sufficient time to drop off and collect, allowing for travel. This may help to whittle down your list of contenders a little. Many nurseries and pre-schools only operate during weekdays, so if you work at weekends, you may need to make other arrangements on those days or find one of the rare nurseries that is also open on Saturdays or Sundays. Similarly, you may require childcare all year round and not all nurseries/pre-schools offer that. Our Little Cedars example operates for 51 weeks of the year, only closing for public holidays and one week between Christmas and New Year, so that would be very convenient if you’re looking for an all-year nursery or pre-school in the Streatham area.

Ask Around

Also ask around your friends, family and perhaps neighbours for recommendations. These are worth their weight in gold! You could also consider asking for any recommendations on social media, for example on Facebook, appropriate Facebook groups, or on other parent groups and forums online.

Spend time on Nursery Websites

A huge amount can be learned from a visit to your nursery contenders’ websites. They should tell you about the nursery’s approach to early years learning and development, about safeguarding and security, their curriculum, staff quality, facilities, equipment, anti-COVID measures and a whole lot more. Pricing may also be important as a consideration and websites are usually a great way to appraise fee levels without having to ask directly. If your child has a brother or sister, also check to see if the nursery or pre-school offers a sibling discount. Find out if food and drink are included in the fees. These are just a few examples of the type of information that you can usually obtain just by visiting nursery/pre-school websites, assuming they’re well maintained.

Speak to the Nurseries

Once you have a short list together, call each of the nurseries and speak with them. You can get a great deal of insight by talking with staff members. They may be able to tell you much more about the nursery than can be gleaned from their website or social media profiles. Sometimes speaking to staff can turn up wonderful nuggets of information. For example, they may run a phone app for parents to allow them to receive regular updates about their child throughout the day. They may be able to tell you more about security at the nursery. They should also be able to tell you how they are approaching the effects of the pandemic and what measures are in place to keep everyone safe, whether they’ve won any awards, whether they’ve just had an Ofsted inspection that’s not yet published … and so on.

Excellent, high quality staff, who are all suitably qualified.Visit the Nurseries & Ask Questions

Once you’ve whittled down your nursery contender list to a manageable level, it’s also a great eye-opener to visit the nurseries on your short list. There’s nothing quite so insightful as taking a tour of the nursery contenders in order to see them in action on a standard nursery day. Take note of the facilities and equipment, how the staff interact with the babies and children and consider taking your child with you during the visit. Was the setting a ‘good fit’ for them? Was it homely and welcoming? Did the children there look happy? Were the facilities good? Were the activities varied and well-supervised? Were children’s individual needs catered for? Were babies and young children given enough time for naps? Is the setting well-kept and does it look professionally run? If your child has special dietary requirements or preferences, will these be catered for? Is the food high quality, healthy and well balanced? Do staff feed back to parents/carers regularly about their children? Do they keep progress notes in regard to children’s learning and development and, if so, can they be viewed at any time? What are the child-to-staff ratios? How are special needs catered for? Visiting the nursery will give you ample time to ask these and lots more questions.

Ofsted Reports

Ofsted is the ‘Office for Standards in Education’, the main body for childcare and educational settings in England. You should check out recent Ofsted reports for any childcare settings that you’re considering. These can show some great detail about the running of nurseries and pre-schools on your list. Assuming they’re properly registered childcare settings (which they absolutely should be), don’t be alarmed if you can’t find an Ofsted report if they’re quite new. Not all settings will have them as they happen every four years, so relatively new nurseries may not have an Ofsted Report as yet. If they’ve had one, though, the Ofsted website will show the report. At time of writing (late 2020) Little Cedars has not yet had their Ofsted Report as they were only registered in late 2017, but we’ll publish results the moment our first Ofsted report has been generated.

Ask about safety & safeguarding measuresNursery Security & Safeguarding

For parents and carers, the safety and security of babies and children will be every bit as important as a homely atmosphere, a nurturing environment, a good curriculum, caring staff and modern equipment. Ask the nursery about security and safety at the setting. Are there anti-intruder measures in place, like an entrance system, CCTV and so on? Are there measures in place to stop the children being able to leave the premises unintentionally? When children and babies are picked up at the end of the sessions, is there a water-tight protocol in place to ensure that little ones are picked up by only the right people? Ask your nursery contenders all these kinds of questions.

Are Free Childcare Schemes & Vouchers Supported?

Find out if your nursery/pre-school contenders support the “free Government-funded childcare hours”. At Little Cedars, we support both the 15 and 30 hour schemes for 2- to 4-year-olds, where eligible and when spaces permit of course. Read our Rough Guide to Free Childcare Funding to learn more about those.

Any questions?

We hope this guide helps as a guide to choosing a nursery for your under-five baby or child. It goes without saying that Little Cedars would be absolutely delighted if we are considered as a nursery/pre-school place for your baby or child in Streatham, near Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown or Balham in south west London. Do feel free to ask us any questions, book a visit, apply for a place or call for information and we’ll be very happy to help — click an option below:

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.

Fighting Obesity in Under-5s

Fighting Obesity in Under-5s

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

The shocking statistics

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

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

The link between background and obesity

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

What can parents do to help?

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

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

The positive impact of exercise

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

Exercise is a key component of healthy living for under-fivesHowever, regular exercise has many other potential benefits aside from the management of physical weight and body mass. These include:

  • Stronger muscles and bones;
  • Natural fitness and agility;
  • A better quality of sleep;
  • Less likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, depression etc.;
  • Evidence also suggests that academic performance is also likely to improve with regular exercise and involvement in sports etc.

Each year, the NHS spends more on the treatment of obesity and diabetes than it spends on the police, fire service and judicial system put together.

What is the Government doing to help fight childhood obesity?

The Government has a ten year plan to fight childhood obesityThe Government launched its ten year ‘Plan for Action’ to fight childhood obesity back in 2017 and has continued to expand the scheme since then. This initiative was timely in light of the strain that obesity puts on the NHS, made only worse by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As well as raising awareness of the issues surrounding childhood obesity, measures include things like the so-called ‘sugar tax’, where soft drinks are subject to a levy in order to persuade manufacturers to move towards healthier, reduced-sugar alternatives (a 20% reduction in sugar is a key aim). A similar campaign is being applied to sugar in foods, particularly those that appeal to children. For example, biscuits, confectionery, breakfast cereal, cakes, ice cream and suchlike. The aim is to eventually set caps on the amount of sugar and/or calories per 100g of product. Public Health England (‘PHE’) will monitor manufacturers’ responses to their campaigns and will apply additional “incentives” to improve should they be found wanting as time progresses.

The Government’s anti-obesity initiative also aims to develop a ‘nutrient profile’ model for food, to make healthy options more accessible in the public sector and to provide support towards the cost of healthy meals for those who need it most. Along with this, at least one hour’s exercise per day is now given as an official guideline for children of primary school age and older. Schools and early years settings are also receiving Government support with greater coordination of high quality sport and physical activity programmes being rolled out. Guidelines have also been announced to discourage the display of unhealthy foods at checkouts and to avoid them being included in any buy-one-get-one-free deals in supermarkets. There is now also talk of a ban on the advertising of junk food on TV or online before 9pm. You can learn more about what the Government is doing to tackle childhood obesity on their website.

What nurseries and schools can do

Some of the outdoor nursery equipment at Little Cedars, StreathamAt Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, we take physical development of children very seriously, so physical education is something that all children have available to them. All children are encouraged to be active, and interactive, so as to remain fit and to be able to hone their physical and motor skills. Indeed, this is a core element of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework that forms the basis of our curriculum.

We have excellent playing and learning equipment including extensive outdoor play areas at the nursery. These give children ample opportunities for physical activity of various kinds — and they’re also great fun! As well as helping to keep children naturally fit and healthy, the physical activity also helps them to learn new skills including hand-eye coordination, balance and so on.

Healthy eating is, of course, also part of our DNA at the setting. All food is freshly prepared by our in-house chef and uses only high quality, fresh ingredients. We serve 3 well-balanced meals and 2 healthy snacks to children attending all day, along with fresh water that’s available any time.

Are you looking for nursery places in or around Streatham?

If you’re looking for a suitable nursery for your baby or toddler in or around London SW16, we would love to hear from you. Little Cedars is a nursery and pre-school in Aldrington Road, Streatham, so is very convenient if you need high quality childcare close to Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. We offer childcare for babies aged 3 months right up to pre-school children aged 5. Call 020 8677 9675 for further information, email us here or book a visit here. We look forward to hearing from you!

This article is for general guidance only. Always seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about your baby or child’s health and wellbeing.

Healthy Eating for Under-Fives — A Complete Guide

Healthy Eating for Under-Fives — A Complete Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

How big is a portion?

How big is a portion?Make sure you give the correctly sized food portions. As a rule of thumb, one portion is generally about the size of the child’s cupped hand for things like rice, beans and other starchy foods of that nature. For proteins like meat and fish, the size of the palm of the child’s hand is about right. For cereal and fruit, an appropriate portion is about the size of the child’s fist. For a portion of one vegetable type, you can start something about the size of a child’s cupped hand but you do not need to limit it so much. For example, give them more vegetables if they are still hungry after eating everything on their plate and are asking for seconds.

Drinks

Don’t forget to make sure your child stays hydrated. Aim for 6 to 8 drinks per day. Water is best, but also include milk. Try to avoid sugary drinks, which can cause tooth decay and will be laden with calories.

Recognising when children are overweight

Our young children grow at different rates and come in all different shapes and sizes. It can therefore be difficult to gauge whether your child is overweight and the correct quantities of food are being given. Warning signs may include your child struggling to keep up with others when exercising or playing energetic games, wearing larger clothing that’s really meant for an older child, wanting portions better suited to someone older, or asking for more food once they’ve finished eating a reasonable sized meal.

If you are at all worried, seek professional advice. Your GP or health visitor should be able to advise you. On the flip-side, occasionally children’s diets may need boosting with extra vitamins. If you suspect this is the case for your child, also seek professional advice.

“Research shows children who stay a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn, and more self-confident.” (NHS)

The Impact of Childhood Obesity

A healthy saladChildhood obesity is a growing problem in the UK, with nearly a third of children aged two to fifteen being overweight or obese. What’s more, data shows that children are becoming overweight at ever-earlier ages and are generally eating less fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre than is recommended. The lack of a varied diet will leave children lacking in some essential vitamins and minerals. This is all of major concern. Obesity alone can lead to health issues in later life such as diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure and even cancer. It may also lead to bullying and self-consciousness which may adversely affect a child’s self-esteem and mental wellbeing.

Apart from medical conditions, the main causes of obesity are a poor diet rich in sugar, fat and salt and children consuming more calories than they are burning up. This is not helped by the media, which is overrun with adverts promoting unhealthy food, and some children having too little exercise. So, parents, nurseries, educational settings and parents alike all need to play their part in ensuring that children eat what’s good for them, and in appropriate quantities.

How can nurseries & pre-schools help?

“Children’s food preferences and eating habits are formed early in life and the time that they spend in early years settings provides an ideal opportunity to shape healthy behaviours.” (Public Health England)

A child eating fruitLittle Cedars Day Nursery recognises the incredibly important impact of a healthy diet on the young. For this reason, the nursery is committed to delivering a very healthy, high quality eating programme to all children at the setting. High quality, fresh ingredients are used each day and are prepared by our own on-site chef. Children attending for a full day will receive 3 meals plus a snack during the morning and another during the afternoon. Water is also available to drink all day. Our chefs are also happy to provide vegetarian and vegan meals and to cater for any other dietary requirements.

Get in touch

If you’d like to know more about healthy eating for under-fives at our Streatham nursery in London SW16, call us on 020 8677 9675 or email us here. We’ll be happy to answer any questions. You can also book a visit to the nursery here if you’d like to see the nursery/pre-school in action during the working week — we’d love to show you around.

This article is for general guidance only. Always seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about your baby or child’s health and wellbeing.