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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:

Fighting Obesity in Under-5s

Fighting Obesity in Under-5s

Sugar is one of the main causes of childhood obesityFollowing on from our post last month about healthy eating for under-fives, we thought we’d take a look at what can be done when eating has got a bit out of control in that age group. Childhood obesity has become a hot topic in recent times. Even the UK Government has weighed in with various initiatives being launched in the fight against it.

The shocking statistics

Childhood obesity is important to address because the National statistics are quite shocking:

  • Almost a third of children aged between 2 and 15 are either overweight or obese;
  • Children are becoming obese at ever-younger ages;
  • Once obese, children are remaining so for longer;
  • Obesity doubles the risk of premature death;
  • Once adulthood is reached, the chance of obese people developing Type 2 Diabetes is SEVEN times greater.
  • Obese people suffer more from heart disease and depression.

The link between background and obesity

Statistics from studies show that children living in deprived areas are most at risk from developing weight problems. Low-income families are affected the worst and in fact the risk of obesity in five year olds in low-income families is twice that of their more affluent counterparts. By the time they reach the age of eleven, the risk increases to three times for the children from poorer backgrounds.

What can parents do to help?

The positive impact of exercise on childrenLast month we published an excellent article about healthy eating for under-fives. There is lots of useful information there about children eating the right food types, correct portion sizes and much more — take a look. However, remaining at a healthy weight is not only about eating a healthy diet.

Parents can also help by ensuring that their children get regular exercise. This can be done through lifestyle choices that can be instilled into children from a very early age. For example, playing sports, gym exercise, walking, hiking and other physical activities. Indeed, research shows that building an active lifestyle that also involves healthy eating choices is one that can stick with the children even into adulthood.

The positive impact of exercise

Ensuring children get enough exercise is incredibly important in the fight against childhood, and indeed adult, obesity. After all, usually at the heart of obesity is a mismatch between the energy taken in as food/drink and the energy expended via physical activity.

Exercise is a key component of healthy living for under-fivesHowever, regular exercise has many other potential benefits aside from the management of physical weight and body mass. These include:

  • Stronger muscles and bones;
  • Natural fitness and agility;
  • A better quality of sleep;
  • Less likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, depression etc.;
  • Evidence also suggests that academic performance is also likely to improve with regular exercise and involvement in sports etc.

Each year, the NHS spends more on the treatment of obesity and diabetes than it spends on the police, fire service and judicial system put together.

What is the Government doing to help fight childhood obesity?

The Government has a ten year plan to fight childhood obesityThe Government launched its ten year ‘Plan for Action’ to fight childhood obesity back in 2017 and has continued to expand the scheme since then. This initiative was timely in light of the strain that obesity puts on the NHS, made only worse by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As well as raising awareness of the issues surrounding childhood obesity, measures include things like the so-called ‘sugar tax’, where soft drinks are subject to a levy in order to persuade manufacturers to move towards healthier, reduced-sugar alternatives (a 20% reduction in sugar is a key aim). A similar campaign is being applied to sugar in foods, particularly those that appeal to children. For example, biscuits, confectionery, breakfast cereal, cakes, ice cream and suchlike. The aim is to eventually set caps on the amount of sugar and/or calories per 100g of product. Public Health England (‘PHE’) will monitor manufacturers’ responses to their campaigns and will apply additional “incentives” to improve should they be found wanting as time progresses.

The Government’s anti-obesity initiative also aims to develop a ‘nutrient profile’ model for food, to make healthy options more accessible in the public sector and to provide support towards the cost of healthy meals for those who need it most. Along with this, at least one hour’s exercise per day is now given as an official guideline for children of primary school age and older. Schools and early years settings are also receiving Government support with greater coordination of high quality sport and physical activity programmes being rolled out. Guidelines have also been announced to discourage the display of unhealthy foods at checkouts and to avoid them being included in any buy-one-get-one-free deals in supermarkets. There is now also talk of a ban on the advertising of junk food on TV or online before 9pm. You can learn more about what the Government is doing to tackle childhood obesity on their website.

What nurseries and schools can do

Some of the outdoor nursery equipment at Little Cedars, StreathamAt Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, we take physical development of children very seriously, so physical education is something that all children have available to them. All children are encouraged to be active, and interactive, so as to remain fit and to be able to hone their physical and motor skills. Indeed, this is a core element of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework that forms the basis of our curriculum.

We have excellent playing and learning equipment including extensive outdoor play areas at the nursery. These give children ample opportunities for physical activity of various kinds — and they’re also great fun! As well as helping to keep children naturally fit and healthy, the physical activity also helps them to learn new skills including hand-eye coordination, balance and so on.

Healthy eating is, of course, also part of our DNA at the setting. All food is freshly prepared by our in-house chef and uses only high quality, fresh ingredients. We serve 3 well-balanced meals and 2 healthy snacks to children attending all day, along with fresh water that’s available any time.

Are you looking for nursery places in or around Streatham?

If you’re looking for a suitable nursery for your baby or toddler in or around London SW16, we would love to hear from you. Little Cedars is a nursery and pre-school in Aldrington Road, Streatham, so is very convenient if you need high quality childcare close to Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. We offer childcare for babies aged 3 months right up to pre-school children aged 5. Call 020 8677 9675 for further information, email us here or book a visit here. We look forward to hearing from you!

This article is for general guidance only. Always seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about your baby or child’s health and wellbeing.

Healthy Eating for Under-Fives — A Complete Guide

Healthy Eating for Under-Fives — A Complete Guide

Healthy eating for under fives - a complete guideWith families living busy lives these days, it’s not always easy to provide the very best nutritious meals for children. This is compounded by an abundance of ready meals and convenience food available in shops and advertised everywhere. However, healthy, balanced diets are incredibly important for children in their early years. Adopting a healthy diet early on can mean that some diseases associated with later life can be avoided. Healthy food also has other beneficial effects on growing children including sustained energy levels, improved cognitive activity, the evening out of a child’s moods, help with mental wellbeing and maintaining a healthy weight.

What should children be eating as part of a healthy lifestyle?

As a rough guide, toddlers need three meals per day plus two or three snacks. They also need to drink six to eight drinks per day.

“Experience of a variety of different foods at an early age increases acceptance of new foods, and provides a more diverse diet with the range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed for health.” (Public Health England)

Young children need a balanced diet, i.e. one that gives them all the elements that they need to remain healthy and thrive. There are four main food groups that form a good basis of healthy living. A rough guide is to try and include something from each food group in every meal, or within their snacks. The four core food groups are:

  • STARCH, which is found in bread, potato, rice cereal and pasta. Starch provides the energy children need as well as Vitamin B and calcium. You can choose wholegrain versions of these food types if you wish to introduce more fibre and nutrients, but this should only be introduced gradually.
  • FRUITS & VEGETABLES. These will provide a source of Vitamin C as well as many other nutrients. A rough guide is about 5 hand-sized portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Fresh is great, but it can also be canned, dried or frozen.
  • DAIRY, which can include cheese, yogurt and milk. Full fat versions are best for toddlers but semi-skimmed options can be given from the age of 2. A rough guide is about 3 portions a day.
  • PROTEIN, which is typically found in meat, fish, nuts, pulses and eggs. You can also use pulses like tofu and soya. These foods provide iron and zinc. Also try and give children an oily fish now and then, like salmon or fresh tuna. Try to include roughly two portions a day of the foods in the protein group.

How big is a portion?

How big is a portion?Make sure you give the correctly sized food portions. As a rule of thumb, one portion is generally about the size of the child’s cupped hand for things like rice, beans and other starchy foods of that nature. For proteins like meat and fish, the size of the palm of the child’s hand is about right. For cereal and fruit, an appropriate portion is about the size of the child’s fist. For a portion of one vegetable type, you can start something about the size of a child’s cupped hand but you do not need to limit it so much. For example, give them more vegetables if they are still hungry after eating everything on their plate and are asking for seconds.

Drinks

Don’t forget to make sure your child stays hydrated. Aim for 6 to 8 drinks per day. Water is best, but also include milk. Try to avoid sugary drinks, which can cause tooth decay and will be laden with calories.

Recognising when children are overweight

Our young children grow at different rates and come in all different shapes and sizes. It can therefore be difficult to gauge whether your child is overweight and the correct quantities of food are being given. Warning signs may include your child struggling to keep up with others when exercising or playing energetic games, wearing larger clothing that’s really meant for an older child, wanting portions better suited to someone older, or asking for more food once they’ve finished eating a reasonable sized meal.

If you are at all worried, seek professional advice. Your GP or health visitor should be able to advise you. On the flip-side, occasionally children’s diets may need boosting with extra vitamins. If you suspect this is the case for your child, also seek professional advice.

“Research shows children who stay a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn, and more self-confident.” (NHS)

The Impact of Childhood Obesity

A healthy saladChildhood obesity is a growing problem in the UK, with nearly a third of children aged two to fifteen being overweight or obese. What’s more, data shows that children are becoming overweight at ever-earlier ages and are generally eating less fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre than is recommended. The lack of a varied diet will leave children lacking in some essential vitamins and minerals. This is all of major concern. Obesity alone can lead to health issues in later life such as diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure and even cancer. It may also lead to bullying and self-consciousness which may adversely affect a child’s self-esteem and mental wellbeing.

Apart from medical conditions, the main causes of obesity are a poor diet rich in sugar, fat and salt and children consuming more calories than they are burning up. This is not helped by the media, which is overrun with adverts promoting unhealthy food, and some children having too little exercise. So, parents, nurseries, educational settings and parents alike all need to play their part in ensuring that children eat what’s good for them, and in appropriate quantities.

How can nurseries & pre-schools help?

“Children’s food preferences and eating habits are formed early in life and the time that they spend in early years settings provides an ideal opportunity to shape healthy behaviours.” (Public Health England)

A child eating fruitLittle Cedars Day Nursery recognises the incredibly important impact of a healthy diet on the young. For this reason, the nursery is committed to delivering a very healthy, high quality eating programme to all children at the setting. High quality, fresh ingredients are used each day and are prepared by our own on-site chef. Children attending for a full day will receive 3 meals plus a snack during the morning and another during the afternoon. Water is also available to drink all day. Our chefs are also happy to provide vegetarian and vegan meals and to cater for any other dietary requirements.

Get in touch

If you’d like to know more about healthy eating for under-fives at our Streatham nursery in London SW16, call us on 020 8677 9675 or email us here. We’ll be happy to answer any questions. You can also book a visit to the nursery here if you’d like to see the nursery/pre-school in action during the working week — we’d love to show you around.

This article is for general guidance only. Always seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about your baby or child’s health and wellbeing.