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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:

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 Importance of Sleep for Babies & Toddlers

The importance of sleep for babies and toddlers

A baby sleeping with older brother

We all know how detrimental a bad night’s sleep can can be to our general wellbeing. At the very least, it can make the following day a real struggle, perhaps make us feel irritable and certainly leave us underperforming. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at how sleep affects babies, toddlers and under-fives. It will be no surprise to hear that a good night’s sleep is even more important for the early years age group.

What are the benefits of a good night’s sleep to children?

Sleep has enormous benefits to the young and old and it has been the subject of many studies. Young children who get a decent night’s sleep are shown to:

  • be happier, have better moods and be more resilient;
  • have better attention spans;
  • be more alert;
  • have improved learning capacity and cognitive performance;
  • have better memory skills (e.g. improved vocabulary acquisition);
  • have improved development of motor skills;
  • have improved mental and physical health;
  • be less likely to be withdrawn, stressed or anxious;
  • have a reduced likelihood of developing high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression.
  • What’s more, children’s growth hormone is produced when the child is asleep. This is essential for healthy growth and function of the child’s body, particularly during early infancy.
  • Other hormone levels change when you sleep and this can help with anything from skin repair to muscle mass and even changes to body weight.

A very sleepy toddlerThese are significant benefits, so high quality sleep — and the right amount — is incredibly important.

“A quarter of children under the age of 5 don’t get adequate sleep” (National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information)

How much sleep should young children and babies get?

Studies suggest the following recommendations when it comes to the number of hours of sleep that children should regularly receive during their early years …

Recommended sleep time
  • 4-12 months old: 12-16 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)
  • 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)
  • 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) / The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)¹

Sleep Hygiene

Under-five toddler asleep with mumSleep Hygiene‘ is a term that refers to the whole routine around bedtime and sleeping, including important preparation measures during the run-up to bedtime A good sleep hygiene regime will help children get to sleep and to sleep soundly.

Parents can help to optimise children’s sleep quality in a number of ways:

  • Caffeine is a stimulant, so encourage children to limit their intake during the day and completely avoid it from lunchtime onwards. It can be found in hot drinks like tea and coffee as well as cold drinks including energy drinks and fizzy drinks like coke.
  • Conversely, a drink of warm milk in the evening before bedtime can have a soothing effect and help a child to get settled, ready to sleep.
  • Avoid giving children large meals too close to bedtime, as these can stop them from getting to sleep.
  • Exercise can play a big part in a child’s sleep pattern but it needs to be approached in the right way. While exercising vigorously soon before bed can lead to problems getting to sleep, exercising during the day can burn off excess energy and help children sleep well once it comes to bedtime later on. Some fresh air in the evening (for example, a leisurely outdoor walk) can also help children to feel sleepy once they get home.
  • Children’s bedrooms should have the right set-up. For example, they should not have access to anything that might stimulate their brains in the run-up to sleeping. Toys could be an unwanted distraction from sleep if present, however screens (TVs, handheld tablets, mobile phones etc.) should be totally avoided several hours before bedtime. Not only do they distract from sleeping but screens have also been shown to stimulate the brain even after they’ve been switched off — greatly hindering sleep.
  • Bedrooms should also be away from noisy areas of the house and the room should also be a comfortable, but slightly cool, temperature.
  • Children’s rooms should also be suitably lit to suit the child in question. Some young children sleep best in total darkness while others may sleep better if there is a night light in or close to their bedroom.
  • Giving them a suitable cuddly toy may also help them to feel more safe and secure.
  • Children should also be encouraged to visit the toilet immediately before bed. Doing so decreases the chances of them having to interrupt their sleep for a visit to the loo during the night.
  • Baby monitors are also useful so long as the child doesn’t end up using them simply as a way to communicate with parents in another room.
  • If children leave their bedrooms to seek out parents during the night, it’s a good idea to quietly lead them back to their beds, without debate where possible, and to be consistent about it. Otherwise, a precedent is set and they might do it more and more often. Such a habit would be detrimental to their sleep pattern. It’s important to be consistent and not to ‘cave in’ to the child, even if they try to be with parents repeatedly throughout the night. They’ll eventually get the message and their overall sleep pattern will benefit from doing so.

Preschoolers get tired tooThe biggest message is that setting up — and sticking to — a set bedtime routine will greatly help with the quality of your child’s sleep. It sets a pattern that their minds and bodies will become used to naturally. A regime of this nature can include winding-down activities like a warm bath or shower, a peaceful book-reading session, dimmed lights and so on in the approach to bedtime. The routine will prepare them automatically for sleep even during the run-up to actually sleeping.

Important Side Note: The importance of sleeping position when babies are in the womb

Aside from the obvious positive effects of sleep on children and adults, one surprising aspect of sleep has a direct impact on the wellbeing of unborn babies. Statistics suggest that the sleeping position of the parent can have a direct bearing on the foetus’s chance of survival. This is important stuff! According to NHS Start 4 Life², mothers-to-be should try to sleep on their sides, when possible, by the 28th week of pregnancy. Doing so will statistically reduce the risk of the baby being stillborn. Of course, once asleep, it’s only natural for you to move around into different positions, so the message is not to worry unduly if you wake up on your back when pregnant — it’s totally normal for this to happen. Simply go onto your side before returning back to sleep. Bending your knees will help you get comfortable on your side, facilitate easier breathing and put less pressure on your uterus. As an added bonus, it also helps to alleviate backache.

Sleep at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Babies take at least two naps at Little Cedars nursery, StreathamAt Little Cedars Day Nursery in Streatham, we understand the importance of sleep, particularly for babies and the youngest of the children. For that reason, we ensure that children have the opportunity of a nap both in the morning and in the afternoon. For example, babies sleep for about half an hour to an hour around 9.30am and then again after lunch, for 1 to 2 hours between about 1pm and 3pm. Preschoolers don’t have to sleep if they don’t want to, but are given the opportunity to do so — every child is different. We also take a lead from parents who may prefer their child to keep to a particular sleep pattern. If you would like more information about this topic, and how we approach it at the nursery, please do get in touch.

Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery

Little Cedars Day Nursery offers weekday childcare services in Streatham, London SW16, for babies (from 6 months) and children aged up to 5 years old. We’re based in Aldrington Road, so are convenient for anyone looking for a nursery or pre-school in and around Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. Call 020 8677 9675 for more details. You can also request more details, send us an email or arrange a visit here, so we can show you around the nursery.

Please note that this article is for general guidance only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are at all concerned about your child’s sleep, health or wellbeing, please seek advice from your child’s doctor or health professional.

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.

 

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.