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’ll follow up with a future post suggesting possible sensory-based activities that parents and carers can undertake with babies and children at home. So, watch this space!

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.

Free Childcare via Universal Credit: A Complete Guide

Free Childcare via Universal Credit: A Complete Guide

Education through creative play at nurseryWelcome to our guide to free childcare available specifically via Universal Credit. This builds upon our previous childcare funding guides, giving parents yet another potential way to get financial help towards childcare costs. Which scheme suits you best rather depends upon your individual situation as each has its own rules for eligibility. If one scheme doesn’t fit with your situation, another may. You may even find that you can apply for multiple schemes in certain circumstances, and we’ll also touch upon that in this guide. (To view our previous guides on other funding schemes, see our Rough Guide to Free childcare Funding in England and our Complete Guide to the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme).

Anyway, let’s get back to childcare funding specifically from Universal Credit

Firstly, what is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a Government funding system that was introduced in 2013 to simplify the welfare payment system. In essence, it helps people with their living costs, for example if they’re on low incomes or are not working. It also potentially includes funding for childcare, to help parents with the costs of looking after dependent children (more about that later). The scheme’s aim is to eventually replace 6 existing benefits** into a single, unified payment scheme. Payments are made monthly in England (sometimes twice a month in Scotland).

How much can you get towards childcare with Universal Credit?

If you are eligible, you may be able to reclaim up to 85% of childcare costs through Universal Credit. The most you can reclaim each month is usually £646 for one child or £1,108 for two children unless there are exceptional circumstances. You may also be able to claim for additional children under the scheme, but only if they were born before 6th April 2017. If eligible, you can claim for dependent children up to the 31st of August following their 16th birthday.

Your payments for childcare costs under the scheme are usually paid in arrears. This means you will need to pay the costs yourself and then claim the money back through your Universal Credit claim.

The amount you are paid in your job, if you have one, can affect how much your Universal Credit payments will be. If your earnings are more than usual in an “assessment” period, this can reduce your Universal Credit payment, including the amount of any help towards childcare costs.

Eligibility criteria

An under-five playing at pre-schoolTo be potentially eligible for childcare help through Universal credit, you must live in the UK, be on a low income or out of work and be aged 18 or over (although there are some exceptions for 16 and 17 year olds). You and your partner, if you have one, must also be under State Pension age and have no more than £16,000 in savings between you.

You, and you and your partner, if you live with them, usually* need to be employed or have an offer of employment, and be paying for childcare for a child or young person. Paid work does not include being engaged by a charity or a voluntary organisation or being a volunteer where the only pay is expenses. Also, if you stop work, you must inform Universal Credit of the change in your circumstances.

* Childcare costs may still be paid if one partner is employed and the other cannot look after the child/children because they have limited capabilities for work and work-related activities, care for a disabled adult or child, or are temporally absent from the household (e.g. in hospital, residential care or in custody).

You will not be eligible for Universal Credit if you already receive, or are eligible for, Severe Disability Premium.

Claiming back your childcare costs

You will need to tell the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) about costs of your childcare before the end of the “assessment period” following the one you have paid the fees for. This can be confirmed online via your Universal credit Account. In effect, you are then refunded for any eligible childcare payments via your Universal Credit payment. You can claim up to 3 assessment periods of childcare at a time. To get your childcare costs refunded and to avoid missing out, you should report the childcare costs as soon as possible after you have paid them.

What if you’re off sick or on maternity/paternity leave?

You can still get Universal Credit childcare costs for existing childcare if either you or your partner are receiving Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Shared parental Pay or Maternity Allowance.

What if you’re changing jobs, or coming to the end of one?

Early years creativityIf you have been offered new employment, you can ask for childcare costs for the month preceding the start of your new job. If you are coming to the end of your employment, you must inform the Department for Work and Pensions (‘DWP’) immediately. Help with childcare costs can be claimed at least a month after your employment ends to help you maintain childcare as you switch jobs.

What if you’re still receiving the ‘old’ Tax Credits?

** A few people remain in the ‘old’ schemes that were in place before Universal Credit came into being. These are Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income-based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), Income-related Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) and Working Tax Credit. If you’re still receiving benefits through one of those, it seems that there is no need to apply for Universal Credits unless you have a change of circumstances that needs to be reported, or you are requested to do so by the DWP.

TIP: It’s important to know that any existing Tax Credits will end once you or your partner apply for Universal Credit — even if you are not successful in your application. So, the message is: if you are receiving Tax Credits check your eligibility and do your research carefully before applying for Universal Credit.

What if you receive childcare vouchers?

If your childcare costs are met by a third party, for example via childcare vouchers supplied through an employer, you can only claim back the balance which you or your partner actually paid yourselves. However, earnings that have been converted into childcare vouchers do not need to be included when working out reductions to your Universal Credit pay.

What if you’re already receiving 15 or 30 hours free childcare funding?

You may still be entitled to apply for the 15 or 30 hours free childcare funding. Universal credit may be able to help towards any additional childcare costs over and above the 15 or 30 hours each week.

Can you only use one childcare provider?

A kindergarten settingYou can have more than one childcare provider. However, to apply for Government help with childcare you must use a registered/approved childcare provider. This generally means that the childcare provider is registered with Ofsted for England, The Care Inspectorate for Scotland or the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (‘CSSIW’) for Welsh settings.

You will need to tell Universal Credit details of the childcare providers you are using. These may include providers supplying childcare via a school, play scheme, nursery, club, a childminder or childcare agency, so long as they’re registered as above. Your provider will need to confirm their registration number, which you’ll need to provide in your application.

How to apply

Checklist

First, you’ll need to get the following ready: Details confirming what you pay for childcare costs; An email address; Your mobile phone handy if you have one; Your bank or building society account details, or credit union account information; A credit or debit card; Details about your housing situation, for example how much rent you pay; Income details including payslips; Savings and investment information and any income from property that you rent out; A driver’s licence or passport.

Then you can apply for Universal Credit payments here. Telephone the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644 if you run into any difficulty.

Childcare in Streatham, London SW16

This guide was brought to you by Little Cedars Day Nursery in Streatham, London SW16. We offer childcare services at our nursery and pre-school located in the London Borough of Wandsworth. We’re convenient for parents requiring weekday childcare for babies and under-fives near Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. Telephone 020 8677 9675 for more details or simply email us here and we’ll be delighted to tell you more about the nursery or to answer any questions. Alternatively, book a tour or the nursery here.

The Tax-Free Childcare Scheme – A Complete Guide

The Tax-Free Childcare scheme: a complete guide for parents

Back in February, we published our ‘Rough Guide to Free Childcare Funding in England‘. This proved very useful to eligible parents and guardians who wanted to understand more about the free childcare funding that was available from the Government. For any parent or guardian, totally free childcare is a no-brainer and is usually the best source of childcare funding to consider first. However, for those who are not eligible, there’s another scheme to consider, called the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. While you do have to pay for the childcare yourself, a kind of tax ‘rebate’ (of sorts) helps to cushion you from having to pay for the entire cost.

Young boy drawing at pre-schoolThe Tax-Free Childcare Scheme could save you thousands

The Tax-Free Childcare Scheme

Under the Government’s Tax-Free Childcare Scheme, the Government effectively offers up to £2,000 of help per child, per year, for childcare, or up to £4,000 per year if they are disabled. It’s rather like crediting you back some income tax on the (tax-paid) money you’re going to be spending on childcare, which is why the scheme is called the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme.

How it works

If you are eligible, you simply open a Tax-Free Childcare Account on the Government website. For every 80p you pay in, the Government will put in an additional 20p (this is the part that’s akin to getting the Income Tax back on the money you’re going to spend on childcare). Using this approach, you can save up to £10,000 for childcare, per child, in your Tax-Free Childcare account. As mentioned above, you get even more back from the Government if the child in question is disabled.

Rules for eligibility:

  • Nursery table with play clay and wooden letters The Tax-Free Childcare Scheme is available to parents of children up to the age of 11 inclusive, or 17 inclusive if they’re disabled.
  • You, and your partner, if you have one, need to be working. (If you are a single parent, that’s OK).
  • If one of you is not working but is in receipt of specific benefits, the other can still be eligible. Those received benefits include various disablement and incapacity allowances, Carer’s Allowance, contribution-based employment & support allowance and National Insurance credits awards for incapacity/limited capacity to work.
  • If you have not yet begun working, but will begin working within the next 31 days, you can still apply.
  • Being on sick leave does not stop you from being eligible.
  • Each partner in the household, if there is more than one, needs to earn £140 or more per week (this is tied to the National Minimum Wage i.e. the equivalent of working 16 hours per week, if over 25, at time of writing). Those who have been self-employed for less than a year are not subject to the minimum above. Those who have been self-employed for more than a year will need to use an average of income for the next 3 months or entire current tax year to see if they’re eligible on the above basis.
  • Each parent must earn less than £100k per annum.
  • Those on maternity, paternity or adoption leave are still eligible on the above basis, but can only claim for children they are not on parental leave for.
  • Your chosen childcare provider must be registered with the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme along with at least one of the following regulators: Ofsted, the Early Years Register or the Childcare Register.

Under-five girl painting rainbowAlong with helping to fund nursery places at places like Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, Tax-Free Childcare can also be used to fund the costs of other kinds of childcare service, so long as they’re registered as outlined above. Examples include play groups, breakfast clubs, some holiday activities like sports and even summer camps.

Is Eligibility affected if I’m working less due to coronavirus measures?

The short answer is no, i.e. if you’re temporarily working less because your work has been limited by the measures put in place to fight coronavirus, you can still claim.

How to apply for Tax-Free Childcare

To apply, sign up for Tax-Free Childcare at the Government site. It only takes 20 minutes or so. You’ll need your National Insurance number and your UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference) if you’re self-employed. If you have a partner that you are making a joint claim with, the same two things are required for them, but you only need one account for the both of you.

Once your application has been accepted (it’s usually pretty fast), the Government’s 20% contribution usually goes into your account within just a few hours of you crediting the account with your 80%. Please note that there is a maximum credit of £500 per quarter from the Government. For this reason, it’s wise to credit your account with your contributions all year round if you have particularly high childcare costs that come in one shorter period within the year.

Young girl with mermaid drawingTIP: If you want the Government’s contribution to go into your account faster, your payment needs to be paid by Bank Transfer (rather than, say, via a debit card or standing order, although those still work fine if you don’t mind waiting a while longer for the Government’s corresponding contribution).

How to pay your childcare provider

Once your Tax-Free Childcare account is showing available funds, these can be sent directly to your childcare provider by selecting them from within the account and then transferring the appropriate amount to them. As above, they will usually receive the payment very fast although obviously it takes a little longer if you make a payment over a weekend or Bank Holiday. Allow up to 3 working days, in a worst case scenario.

Looking for childcare services in Streatham or south west London?

Little Cedars Day Nursery is based in Streatham, London, SW16. If you’re in that area, we’d love to be your chosen childcare provider. We’re conveniently close to Streatham high street, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. We’re well-established and offer the very best childcare services at our nursery/pre-school in Aldrington Road (SW16 1TU). Our qualified staff and facilities for children are excellent, whether they’re a 3 month old baby or a five year old child. Call 020 8677 9675 or contact our Streatham nursery team here and we’d be delighted to tell you more about our nursery, or to arrange a visit so you can see the setting for yourself.

P.S. You may also be interested in our separate Guide to Childcare Funding Available Through Universal Credit.

 

Our Anti-COVID Measures as we Re-open the Nursery

Our Anti-COVID Measures as we Re-open the Nursery
On  June 1st, we re-opened Little Cedars Nursery at its Aldrington Road setting in Streatham, London SW16 1TU. Our thanks go to staff at our sister nursery, Beechcroft Nursery, for joining forces with us during the lock-down, to look after children of key workers alongside us. It’s wonderful to be back, though, as we can welcome old faces and new to our Streatham nursery and pre-school.

In view of the Government only recently easing the lock-down restrictions and with coronavirus still potentially at large, we have implemented stringent new health and safety measures at the nursery. These are being implemented to safeguard the health and wellbeing of babies, children, parents and staff.

“Everyone’s health is our topmost priority.”

Health & safety measures to keep you & your child safe from COVID-19

Here, we’ll outline what we are doing to keep you, you child and everyone at the nursery safe and well. These measures go well beyond Government guidelines and may be of comfort to those parents who are, understandably, a little nervous of sending their little ones back to nursery or pre-school so soon after lock-down.

Social distancing & extensive use of outdoor spaces

Moving much of the curriculum to our large outdoor areas will significantly reduce the risks that would otherwise be associated with more confined, indoor spaces. Outside, children are naturally going to have more room to themselves and the air they breathe will be cleaner – and will disperse to the atmosphere naturally. And, of course, we are ensuring everyone maintains good social distancing generally. Outside, we have made sure that there are sufficient covered areas outside to protect children and staff from the weather.

Small ‘bubble’ groups

We are also keeping babies and children within small ‘bubble’ groups. This will ensure that they are mixing with only a tiny number of individuals on a day-to-day basis. This vastly reduces the risks of catching contagions from one another. The bubble groups will be a size of 3, 4 or 6 children, depending upon the age group they fall into.

Limited numbers

Another excellent safeguarding measure is to limit the number of people attending the setting. For this reason, we will not take the nursery to full capacity while coronavirus is still at large. Again, this ensures that children and staff mix with as few people as possible.

Temperature checking

Temperatures of staff and children will be checked from time to time, as appropriate, using zero-contact electronic thermometers. That will allow us to get the earliest indication should someone begin to exhibit symptoms. We would then be able to take appropriate action i.e. to ensure that the symptomatic person isolates themselves at home rather than continuing to attend the nursery.

Track & Trace

In the unlikely event that anyone at the nursery does begin to exhibit possible symptoms of coronavirus, we will follow the Government’s Track & Trace policy. Anyone affected will be asked to take a test. They and their ‘bubble’ group will be required to self-isolate until the potential danger has passed. This will minimise the risk of the virus spreading to others.

New drop-off & collection rules for parents

We are asking parents to stagger their drop-off and collection times so that they encounter the minimum number of other people whilst doing so. Parents will not be granted entry to the nursery at the current time, so they must remain outside. While waiting, they will be required to keep a minimum of 2 metres away from others at all times.

New safety protocols for staff

Along with orchestrating the measures above, nursery staff will also be taking additional steps as part of their day-to-day precautions. These include:

  • Liberal use of antimicrobial wipes for equipment, surfaces, door handles, toys, etc.;
  • A change of clothes when they first arrive at the nursery in the morning, to ensure uniforms are fresh;
  • free of bacteria and viruses;
  • Wearing of face shields and double-gloving when changing nappies;
  • Wearing of top quality, medically approved ‘FPP3’ face masks whenever appropriate.

Special precautions for food and snacks

Our in-house chefs are already taking additional precautions when preparing food for the children. As well as the standard hygiene protocols that one would expect, the new measures include the wearing of masks and face visors when preparing food. This keeps meals and snacks pristine.

These measures put the health and safety of children, parents and staff first. We hope they put your mind at rest if you were at all tentative about your baby or child attending (or re-attending if you’re one of our existing families). Do, of course, get in contact with us if you’d like further reassurance.

Does your baby or child need childcare in the Streatham area?

If your baby or child needs a nursery/preschool place in the Streatham area of south-west London, we would be very happy to discuss this with you. We’d welcome the opportunity of telling you more details about the exceptional childcare services at the nursery, our ethos and all the amazing facilities available. Call 020 8677 9675 or email our manager here. We’ll be delighted to hear from you.

The Importance of Parental Involvement in Education

The importance of parental involvement in education

It has long been accepted that the involvement of parents in a child’s education and development is incredibly important, with many benefits for the child. It’s even more beneficial when involvement begins in the child’s early years. Helping children right from nursery means that they’re more likely to get their education foundations set up well. For example, a good foundation in reading and writing will help improve just about every other topic of learning going forwards. That’s why, at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, we encourage parents to involve themselves in their children’s learning, right from the start.

Parental involvement in education is shown to lead to a more rounded education and better grades overall. An improved comprehension of topics in turn leads to improved outcomes for the children involved. For example, the pupil may end up with a wider choice when it comes to choosing a university. It’s the same for their career path too, like a domino effect, increasing chances of a more successful career. The importance of parental involvement in a child’s education can therefore not be overstated.

“Parental effort is consistently associated with higher levels of achievement, and the magnitude of the effect of parental effort is substantial.” (Conway & Houtenville study, 2008)

“Students with […] parents operating in supportive roles are 52% more likely to enjoy school and get straight A’s than students whose parents are disengaged with what’s going on at school. This is especially the case during the earliest years of schooling, […] when students with active parents are almost twice as likely to succeed.” (Pinantoan, 2013)

Benefits of Parental involvement in education

The benefits of parental involvement in education include:

Improved focus on school work; Better social skills;
Greater comprehension of topics;Improved self-esteem;
Better grades;A more positive, optimistic attitude;
Enhanced organisation skills;The child becoming a more confident and rounded individual;
A higher level of responsibility in the child;A stronger bond between parent and child;
Lower truancy rates;Better communication skills;
Improved behaviour;A wider choice of topics being available e.g. when it comes to further education;
A greater capacity in the child to keep trying;Acceptance, potentially, at better university courses;
Moral support, making learning more pleasant for the child;A wider skill set for the child;
Encouragement when it’s tough e.g. when tests are near;Ultimately all of the above can lead to more opportunities for success, for example a better career with higher pay.

Studies have shown that parental involvement in a child’s education results in benefits regardless of parents’ education levels, their socioeconomic status or ethnic/racial background¹.

“Parental involvement in children’s learning improves children’s morale, attitude, academic achievement in all subjects and promotes better behaviour and social adjustment. It also helps children to be productive, responsible members of society.” (Centre for Child Well-Being, 2010)

How can parents involve themselves in their child’s education?

Parents can involve themselves in their child’s education in a number of ways. Discussing the child’s strengths and weaknesses with teachers and nursery staff is important. Actively engaging with educational settings at parent evenings and by joining school boards is also beneficial. A collaboration between parents and educational settings can lead to measurable improvements in a child’s academic and physical performance.

The educational involvement of parents while at home with their child has an immense, long-term, positive impact.

Parents can help their children educationally in a number of ways. This can include something as simple as proactively listening to their child reading at home. Similarly, helping the child understand and improve in areas where they are struggling at school is of huge benefit. Helping children with homework and encouraging them with sports activities are other great ways to support them.

Educational support from parents can come in many forms. This includes teaching directly, of course, but also mentoring, to support, encourage and inspire the child. Importantly too, parents must ensure that the child has a home environment that facilitates and encourages learning. They should also express high, but realistic, expectations for their child in terms of possible achievements and career paths.

Helping children throughout their school years works best when it’s approached in a natural, caring kind of way rather than enforcing it as a strict ‘discipline’. It could even be thought of as a kind of teamwork, in practice. This approach means that the child is encouraged, not forced. They will genuinely feel helped and given moral support. Home educational help then motivates the child in question, rather than being made to feel like a chore. And, of course, overall comprehension of topics is greatly enhanced when a parent takes their time to explain things in a relaxed home setting.

“When parents come to school regularly, it reinforces the view in the child’s mind that school and home are connected and that school is an integral part of the whole family’s life.” (Mapp K. and Henderson, A., 2002)

Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery to learn more

If you’d like to learn more about how you can support your child through nursery, pre-school and beyond, we’d be delighted to discuss it with you. Your support can hugely improve your child’s potential outcomes. Call us on 020 8677 9675 or come in and see us when the coronavirus crisis is over (arrange an appointment online here) and we can chat it through. We are a nursery and pre-school based at 27 Aldrington Road in Streatham, London SW16 1TU (click the link above to see a location map). We’re ideal for parents looking for nurseries and childcare services near Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham.

Nursery places for Key Workers in SW16 & SW17

Childcare for key workers in Streatham & Tooting

Key workers in Streatham & Tooting:
We can help you with childcare.

Following on from our Coronavirus Update, we’re reaching out to ‘key workers’ in the Streatham & Tooting areas. If you require childcare during the COVID-19 lock-down, we can help.

“If you need childcare in the London SW16 or SW17 area of London and are what the Government are categorising as a ‘Key Worker’, we can help with nursery places for your children.”

What is a Key Worker?

Loosely speaking a key worker, as defined by the Government, is anyone whose work is “critical to the COVID-19 response”. It also includes people working in one of the “critical sectors”. These are categories that they see as essential to keep the UK safe and the economy and infrastructure functioning. Where children of key workers cannot safely be cared for at home, they will be “prioritised for education provision”. That means eligibility for childcare at nurseries and pre-schools like Little Cedars Day Nursery and Beechcroft Day Nursery.

  • NHS staff and those working in health and social care, we can help you with nursery places for your children.
  • Teachers, childcare workers and education professionals, we can offer your child a nursery place.
  • Emergency services, MoD staff, armed forces critical to the response to the coronavirus pandemic and prison/probation staff, we can offer childcare for your children.
  • Workers in national or local government essential to the COVID-19 response: we have a place in our nursery for your children.
  • Transport and delivery workers may also be eligible for childcare in our London nurseries.
  • If you work in banking/finance, IT, postal services, delivery, utilities like oil, gas, electricity and water: we can also help with a nursery place for your child.

The list of eligible key worker categories is thankfully large, so those were just a few examples. To check whether you’re eligible for a childcare during the lock-down, check the full list of eligible key workers. Then get in touch with us (see below).

A Nursery/Pre-school for children of key workers in London SW16/SW17

We’ll temporarily operate from Tooting Bec during the lock-down. As we mentioned in our last post, Little Cedars Day Nursery (Streatham) has temporarily joined forces with our sister nursery Beechcroft Day Nursery. This is very close by (just a 7 minute drive) at 83 Beechcroft Road, London SW17 7BN (Tooting Bec). Read more