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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.

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

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

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

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

Growing a Sense of Humour

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

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

The Benefits of Laughter for Little Ones

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

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

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

Medical benefits

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

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

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

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

Laughter at Little Cedars Nursery

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

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

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

FREE Food, Milk & Vitamins! A Guide to the Healthy Start Scheme

FREE Food, Milk & Vitamins! A Guide to the Healthy Start Scheme

Healthy eating is also yummy!Are you pregnant, or a parent with a child under four? If so, your family may be eligible for free healthy food, milk and vitamin supplements. In England, some of these free items are available under the ‘Healthy Start’ scheme, which we’ll explain in this quick-start guide.

At time of writing, the free items are available through vouchers that can be redeemed in any of the 21,000 or so physical shops, supermarkets and pharmacies that have signed up to accept them. Each voucher is currently worth £3.10 and you can get 1 every week if you are pregnant or have a child aged between 1 and 4 years of age, or 2 vouchers per week if your child is under 1.

LATEST UPDATE: the NHS has also begun testing a new alternative where money is paid into your account instead of supplying vouchers. This beta test is running right now, on an invitation-only basis via a letter from the NHS. Hopefully it’ll be rolled out country-wide if successful. If so, it could cure the current issue whereby vouchers cannot be used to pay for food, vitamins and milk online. Clearly, that’s a significant issue in view of the pandemic and the move to shopping more online.

So, what free stuff can you get?

Vouchers are redeemable in thousands of shops, supermarkets & pharmaciesEligible individuals can get the following, absolutely free:

  • Cow’s milk;
  • Infant formula milk;
  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables;
  • Pulses;
  • Free vitamin supplements for breastfeeding mums;
  • Free vitamin drops for young children (6 months to 4 years).

Free milk

This must be plain cow’s milk that’s also pasteurised, sterilised, UHT or long-life.

  • It can be skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole milk.
  • It can’t be flavoured, coloured, evaporated, condensed, powdered (except for infant formula milk), sold as a milkshake, vitamin-enriched or have anything else added to it.
  • It can’t be anything other than cow’s milk, for example soya milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, goat or sheep’s milk etc.).

Free infant formula milk

Fruit, vegetables & milkThe infant formula milk:

  • must state that it’s a nutritionally complete stage one formula milk that’s suitable for use from birth.
  • mustn’t be ‘follow-on’ milk.
  • must be based on cow’s milk. You can’t get formula milk based on soya milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, goat’s milk etc.

Free fruit & vegetables

The free fruit and vegetables:

  • can include any that are fresh, frozen or tinned.
  • can include any that are supplied loose, packaged, sliced, chopped, mixed, whole or supplied in water.
  • can include fruit in fruit juice.
  • can’t include any that have had fat, oil, salt, sugar or flavouring added.
  • can’t include any that have been dried, pre-cooked or made into things like smoothies.

Free pulses

The pulses, including things like lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas:

  • can include any that are fresh, dried or tinned.
  • can’t include any that have had fat, oil, salt, sugar or flavouring added.

Free vitamin supplements

Free vitamin supplements for pregnant women and children aged up to 4 years oldThese free vitamin supplements are important for pregnant women, breastfeeding mums, babies and young children because many are deficient in them at this stage in their lives.

For children aged up to 4, they are in drop form and contain vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D. They are suitable for vegetarians and do not contain milk, eggs, gluten, soya or peanuts. Each bottle should last for 8 weeks. Note that children who are consuming 500ml per day of nutritionally complete formula milk do not need the additional vitamin supplements.

For pregnant women and nursing mums, the supplements are in tablet form and contain vitamin C, vitamin D and folic acid. They are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and do not contain colouring, flavouring or preservatives. They also contain no gluten, wheat, salt, egg or fish. Eligible mothers are supplied with 8 weeks’ worth of tablets at a time.

The vitamin supplements are distributed to stockists by the NHS and are ‘Healthy Start’ branded. Only this brand is available free under the Healthy Start scheme.

Eligibility

Families can save a little on their shopping bills with Healthy Start couponsIn order to be eligible for Healthy Start vouchers, you need:

  • to be 10 or more weeks’ pregnant and/or
  • to have 1 or more children under 4.

Eligibility also requires that you must* be in receipt of at least one of the following:

  • Income Support;
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance;
  • Income-related Employment & Support Allowance;
  • Pension Credit;
  • Universal Credit (only for families earning £408 each month, or less, from employment);
  • Working Tax Credit (only for families receiving the 4 week ‘run-on’ payment after they’ve stopped qualifying for it);
  • Child Tax Credit (only for families with an income of £16,190 or less per annum).
    * Except if you’re under 18.

How to apply for the vouchers

Currently, most people need to apply for Healthy Start vouchers, by filling in an application form. Download the application form here, print it out and fill it in. It will also need to be signed by your registered doctor, health visitor, midwife or health professional. Then it will need to be posted (free) to the following address:

The Healthy Start scheme means free food, milk & vitamins for families

Freepost RRTR-SYAE-JKCR
Healthy Start Issuing Unit
PO Box 1067
Warrington
WA55 1EG

Call the Healthy Start helpline if you have any queries (0345 607 6823).

Childcare services in Streatham, London SW16

We hope that this guide is useful to pregnant ladies and parents of babies or under-fives. We are an outstanding nursery in Streatham, London SW16, offering exceptionally high quality childcare services for babies, toddlers and preschoolers within this age group. If you’d like to learn more about our nursery, please call 020 8677 9675 or send us a message here. We’ll answer any questions and would be happy to book you in for a nursery visit if you are considering a nursery place here for your baby or child. We’re convenient for those looking for nurseries near Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown & Balham.

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.