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Screen Time for Children – How Much is Too Much?

Screen time for children - how much is too much?

Is screen time healthy for children?Recent studies show that use of connected screens and devices by children, including under-fives, is growing fast. The pandemic appears to have increased kids’ screen use too, as children have spent more time indoors and less time playing ‘in person’ with friends.

The big question for parents is: is all this screen time healthy for children? In this article, we’ll take a look …

First, Some Recent Statistics

According to Childwise, the leading research experts for children and young people, children are spending more and more time on connected devices. These are devices like mobiles, tablets, smart TVs, virtual assistants like Alexa and so on. Most feature a screen but all can connect to the Internet, to other devices and/or to people via Wi-Fi or data connection.

Here’s what the recent research has to say about children’s use of connected devices:

  • 50% of all children aged between 5 and 10 own a mobile.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of all children own a mobile, with the majority of them having one by the time they’re 7. Pretty much all of them are mobile phone owners by the age of 11.
  • Over 75% of under fives have access to a connected deviceOver 75% of children under five have access to a connected device, with up to 60% of preschoolers actually owning their own.
  • Under-fives were found to be using tablets on average for 9 hours a week.
  • Over a quarter of preschoolers were also found to have access to games consoles.
  • 83% of children have access to the Internet in their bedrooms.
  • Over half of children surveyed stated that they kept their phone next to their bed when sleeping.
  • 11 and 12-year-olds spend, on average, 4.2 hours per day online. This has grown significantly since the preceding year’s report, when it was 3.3 hours per day.
  • Over a quarter of all children surveyed are spending 4 to 6 hours per day online.
  • Children are watching, on average, 3.3 hours (under five: 3 hours) of video content every day, with TikTok and YouTube being their favourite video platforms.
  • The number of homes with a virtual assistant (e.g. Alexa etc.) has risen to 39%.
  • Due to the Pandemic, 45% of school children surveyed said they were worried that they might be falling behind at school, while 62% said that they were feeling lonely.

Most figures in the surveys had increased in the last 12 months, although there were occasional exceptions.

Are Parents Choosing the Content Their Children Access?

According to findings of the research, half of preschoolers found online content without parental input and 60% of children aged 3 to 4 are more than capable of deciding which apps they wanted to use.

Toddlers now confidently navigate digital platforms and use touchscreen devices unaided“Parents have always played a huge role in curating what [under-fives] consume and how their time is spent, but toddlers are now confidently navigating digital platforms for themselves, and using touchscreen devices with purpose and determination.” (Childwise)

Is Screen Time All Bad?

It’s generally accepted that too much screen time for children is not healthy for them. There are many reasons for this and we explore a few of the issues below …

  • Children need to keep fit and active rather than spending too much time inactive, in front of electronic screens. Exercise is incredibly important for children, whether they’re under five or older.
  • Also, it’s not healthy for them to disengage from the real world too much. Few ‘real world’ skills like physical, social interactions and honing of gross motor skills are possible when reliance is placed only on the virtual world through handheld and connected devices.
  • Screen time undertaken close to bedtime is also known to be a brain stimulant and that can adversely affect sleep patterns and the quality of sleep. This, in turn, can adversely affect concentration and energy levels and ultimately their ability to function and to learn optimally.
  • Some medical professionals and scientists say Some medical professionals and scientists say that the ‘RF wireless radiation’ emitted by Wi-Fi connected screens and devices may carry potential health risksthat the ‘RF wireless radiation’ emitted by Wi-Fi connected screens and devices may carry potential health risks particularly, they argue, for pregnant women, their unborn foetuses and the young. The very young, of course, have brains that are still at a critical development stage. For this reason, the experts concerned advocate that access to devices like mobile phones should be limited, removed from children’s bedrooms at night or, at the very least, placed in Flight Mode when possible. Using devices wired instead of using Wi-Fi apparently reduces risks. Use of them in hands-free mode is another useful approach, so that the devices are not so close to youngsters’ heads. We’re not experts ourselves, but these measures seem like sensible precautions.
  • Given the statistics about children, even toddlers, being able to access what they want on connected devices, some automatic Parental Controls would also seem sensible. For example, software from security companies like Norton allow great control over which websites can or can’t be accessed by children, and for how long.

“The battle to forge a healthy digital lifestyle is now a very real consideration for parents” (Childwise).

Parents need to control online content to safeguard childrenWhile time spent by children on connected screens and devices is rising, it’s not all bad news. The pandemic has also seen an increase in the time that parents have been spending with children, including on shared screen viewing as well as on other pastimes like baking, crafts and family activities. At the end of the day, it’s all about a healthy balance and, of course, adult supervision to ensure children’s wellbeing at all times.

Indeed, despite the sometimes alarming statistics, parents are in a prime position to influence what their children are exposed to on screens and connected devices. As such, that’s a golden opportunity to encourage content that’s not only stimulating and fun, but also educational. Programmes about nature or science are obvious examples, but there are many others.

Technology & Screen Time at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

When it comes to screen time for under-fives at Little Cedars Nursery, we understand both the benefits and the pitfalls. Technology has a great many benefits when used correctly and indeed is part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum at the nursery. However, for obvious reasons, any time spent online or with electronic screens is stringently monitored and controlled by our childcare professionals. We aim to maximise the positive benefits of technology, while at the same time keeping children as safe as possible. We also, of course, know the importance of physical activities and active play at the setting so, at the end of the day, it’s about getting the balance right.

Nursery Places in Streatham, Near Furzedown, Balham & Tooting

If yLittle Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park. Tooting, Furzedown & Balhamou are looking for a high quality nursery or pre-school place for your baby or child in and around Streatham, please do consider Little Cedars Nursery. We’re in Aldrington Road, SW16, so we’re also suitable for those looking for nurseries and pre-schools near to Furzedown, Balham, Tooting, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill and Streatham Park. Please choose a contact option below to get in touch:

The Ultimate Guide to Brushing Teeth — for Babies & Children

The Ultimate Guide to Brushing Teeth — for Babies & Children

It’s important for children to start their teeth cleaning regime right from the moment their first tooth appears. Good oral hygiene is important for teeth, health, and ultimately self-confidence when they’re a little older. It’s therefore essential for children to get used to cleaning teeth properly and visiting their dentist right from their early years.

When & How To Brush Baby/Toddler Teeth

Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they get their first tooth. On average, this is usually around 6 months although it does vary. Here is a good approach:

  1. How to brush your baby or child's teethFacing a mirror, sit your baby on your lap, facing away from you, with the back of their head against your chest or shoulder. The mirror in front of you both will allow the baby or toddler to learn from you and for you to clearly see what you’re doing. Sitting them with their head backing onto your chest will allow a stable head position when you come to brush. Toddlers a little older can perhaps stand in front of you instead, but otherwise the same approach usually works nicely.
  2. Using a small toothbrush, a ‘finger brush’ or, if they only have one or two teeth, even a piece of clean gauze wrapped around your finger, apply a small smear of age-appropriate* toothpaste if it’s for a baby or toddler up to 3, or a pea-sized amount for children aged over 3.
  3. You can then begin the process of brushing your baby’s teeth. Small, gentle, circular motions around all teeth and gums is a good approach when starting. Because of the view in the mirror, they will gradually learn how to do it themselves. You can also help to guide their hands initially when they first start trying themselves.
  4. For the 3-6-year-olds who have a pea-sized amount, encourage them to spit out any toothpaste and foam etc. There’s no need to rinse, because the fluoride in the toothpaste will work better without washing it completely away.
  5. Repeat their teeth brushing twice a day with one instance ideally being just before they go to bed. This ensures that their teeth are clean all night rather than allowing any build-up of plaque during the night hours when they’re asleep.
  6. Continue helping them until you can ensure that they’re able to brush their teeth properly, unaided. This could take them up to the age of 7 or more.

Teeth brushing can be made more fun for your child. For example, with music, by singing a song to your baby/toddler, making it part of a game, cleaning your own teeth at the same time or using a fun timer.

There’s a Phone App for Brushing Teeth!

Brush DJ teeth brushing phone app

The NHS even recommends a teeth brushing phone app that parents & carers can download — called ‘Brush DJ’ in the phone app stores (available for IOS and Android). It’s free (correct at time of writing), plays 2 minutes of fun music while the child’s teeth are brushed — and a whole lot more. Developed by a dentist, the timer’s purpose is to teach the child that it’s not a race — quite the opposite in fact. Ideally they need to give every tooth and gum area individual attention to ensure everything is very well cleaned. 2 minutes is a good benchmark for the whole teeth brushing exercise, so the app is ideal. It gives useful information, for example about cleaning in between teeth, and allows users to set reminders for dentist visits and suchlike.

* Toothpaste Type & Fluoride Content

Some parents may be aware of some negative information circulating about fluoride. For those who are really concerned, there are fluoride-free toothpaste options. However, in contrast, the UK’s NHS recommends¹ using fluoride toothpaste and suggests the following guidelines:

Up to 3 years of age:Use children’s fluoride toothpaste containing no less than 1,000ppm of fluoride (check label) or family toothpaste containing between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm of fluoride.Use only a smear
Children 3 to 6 years of age:Use children’s fluoride toothpaste containing no less than 1,000ppm of fluoride (check label) or family toothpaste containing 1,350ppm to 1,500ppm of fluoride.Use a pea-sized amount
Children aged 7 years & over:Use fluoride toothpaste containing 1,350ppm to 1,500ppm of fluoride (check label).Use a pea-sized amount

Safety Considerations

  • Always supervise babies and toddlers — they will need your help when they’re very young.
  • Don’t allow your baby or toddler to play with the toothbrush when it’s not being used. They should also not walk or run around with it, particularly with it in their mouth, as this would be a huge safety risk.
  • Discourage your child from swallowing or eating the toothpaste and never allow them to lick paste from the tube.

Take Children to the Dentist Early On

Take children to the dentist from an early ageIt’s important to get children used to visiting the dentist and for this to be a positive experience. Dentists can highlight any potential problems early on and regular visits will also ensure that children realise the importance of teeth cleaning and oral hygiene as they grow. Starting early is also more like to avoid the possibility of them being nervous about visiting the dentist (if you are nervous yourself, try not to let this show as it could project the fear onto your child). NHS dental treatment is free for UK children. Find a dentist here.

Go Easy on Sugar

Natural sugars are found in things like fruit, fruit juice, honey and even in whole milk. Added sugars are types of sugar that have been added as ingredients to foods by manufacturers. These can include sucrose, glucose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, hydrolysed starch, inverted sugar syrup, raw sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, muscovado sugar and so on.

Sugar and tooth decay go hand-in-hand

Avoid sugary drinksSugar and tooth decay go hand-in-hand, especially if too much sugar is in the diet and/or if toothbrushing isn’t regular and thorough. The amount of potential decay is also made worse the longer sugar stays on the teeth. Cutting down on sugar intake will help limit the problem, as will a good tooth brushing regime. Here’s what parents and carers of babies and young children can do:

  • Avoid giving little ones drinks with added sugars. Milk and water are usually best.
  • Check labels and ingredients so you know your child’s food and drink is not laced with sugars. That includes pre-prepared baby foods.
  • Encourage them to eat savoury foods rather than sugary ones.
  • Avoid giving children sweets and biscuits, except as occasional treats. Ask friends and family members to do the same.
  • If you give your little one fruit juice, limit it to once in the day (150ml) as part of their ‘five a day’ and, better still, dilute it with water (1 part fruit juice to 10 parts water).
  • Limit any sweet food and drink to meal times.
  • Brushing teeth after sweet foods and drinks is a good habit to get into.
  • If you need to buy medicine for your baby or child, as the pharmacist if a sugar-free version is available.
  • If your child needs a drink at night, only give formula or breast milk, or water. Sugar contained in milk is less likely to cause tooth decay so does not need to be avoided.
  • Avoid the use of bottles and valved bottles (from the age of 6 months) when giving children fruit juice or squash. Free-flowing alternatives like beakers mean any sugar or acid contained in the drink is less likely to bathe the teeth in sugar for so long. Acids found in fruit juice or squash can also harm teeth, by the way.

Getting it Right – the Benefits for Your Child

Children should be brushing their own teeth from about the age of 7Getting the approach right means healthier teeth and gums, fresher breath, better looking teeth, more self-confidence and potentially better health overall as the child grows up. Setting good teeth cleaning and tooth hygiene habits early on means children are more likely to continue the good work as they grow into adulthood. This includes regular, fear-free visits to the dentist for check-ups.

Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

This guide was brought to you by Little Cedars Nursery. We are an outstanding nursery and pre-school in Streatham, near Balham, Tooting and Furzedown in London SE16. We have just a few spaces available at time of writing so, if you are looking for high quality nurseries or childcare in this area, please get in touch:

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.