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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.

A Rough Guide to Free Childcare Funding in England

A rough guide to free childcare funding in England

The rules surrounding free childcare funding in the UK can be confusing. You may have heard of the Government schemes for ’30 hours of free childcare’, or ’15 hours free funding’.  However, different age groups each have their own separate rules surrounding eligibility. In view of the complexities involved, we have put together a rough guide for early years age groups, to help clarify things. This should be useful for those looking for nursery and pre-school places for 2 to 4 year olds in particular. We’ll take each age group in turn:

Free childcare funding for 2 year olds

You may be eligible for up to 15 hours of free childcare funding for 2 year olds if you live in England and …

  • are receiving Income Support;
  • receive the guaranteed element of Pension Credit;
  • are receiving Income-based Job Seekers Allowance;
  • receive Income-related Employment & Support Allowance;
  • are receiving Universal Credit and your annual household income is no more than £15,400 after tax, excluding benefits;
  • receive Tax Credits and your annual household income is no more than £16,190 before tax;
  • are receiving the Working Tax Credit “4 week run-on” (payments you receive when your eligibility for Working Tax Credit ceases).

You may also be eligible if your 2 year old:

  • is subject to an Education, Health & Care plan;
  • has a statement of special educational needs;
  • is no longer in care following a special guardianship order, an adoption order or a child arrangements order;
  • receives a Disability Living Allowance;
  • is cared for by a local authority.

Separate rules apply for those who are non-EEA citizens who also cannot claim benefits.

15 hours free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds

For English nationals, 3 and 4 year old children are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week, for 38 weeks per year. That equates to 570 hours per year but it can only be used in conjunction with an approved childcare provider like Little Cedars Day Nursery in Streatham. 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for this until they start school in reception year, or reach compulsory schooling age if that’s later. Eligibility does not depend on income or the parents’/guardians’ work situation. Parents can start benefiting from the funding from the 1st of January, the 1st of April or the 1st of September after their child’s third birthday. Ask your local nursery, pre-school or council for more details.

30 hours free childcare funding

In addition to the above, 3 and 4 year olds may be eligible for an additional 15 hours of free childcare, taking the total to 30 hours a week, if certain criteria are met …

  • You can apply for the additional 15 hours of free childcare , bringing it to a total of 30 hours, at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, Tax Credits, Childcare Vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare.
  • If you are currently not working, you may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Employment & Support Allowance.
  • You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.

Earning criteria for working parent/parents/partners:

  • You must be working as a single parent or part of a couple that both work.
  • You must earn more than the weekly equivalent of 16 hours at the National Living Wage or Minimum Wage.
  • Neither of you can be earning a net income of more than £100,000, including any bonuses.

Learn more about eligibility here. If you feel that you do not quite meet these earnings criteria, it may still be worth enquiring as other conditions can sometimes apply. For example, a couple may still be eligible if one earns enough but the other is either a carer, is not well, is on parental leave, annual leave or sick leave. Another example is where a parent is self-employed, having started their business in the 12 months immediately prior to their application.

How to apply for 30 hours funding:

You can apply for the 30 hours funding through the Government website. You will need to go online and set up a childcare account. To do this you will need your National Insurance number (and, if you have a partner, their National Insurance number). If you are self-employed, also have your Unique Taxpayer Reference code (‘UTR’) at the ready. The online process will take about 20 minutes and it could take around 7 days to find out if you are eligible. Let us know if you need help with your application and we’ll be pleased to assist.

Other Government childcare funding schemes

You can also read our separate guide on free childcare funding available through Universal Credit and our Guide to the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme (click the bold links).

Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery & pre-school, Streatham

If you have any difficulties or have any queries regarding childcare funding, please get in touch with us. We can guide you through the process if you need help with your application. Feel free to call us on 0208 677 9675 too, or email us here and we’ll be happy to help!

Little Cedars is a day nursery and pre-school in Streatham, SW16 1TU. We’re very conveniently located for those searching for childcare in or near Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham in the London Borough of Wandsworth.

This is a rough guide only, so always check with us, or your local council. Additional costs such as food, outings and nappies are not funded by the Government, so potentially allow extra.