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Rough Guide to Dysgraphia

Rough Guide to Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that adversely affects children's ability to write coherently and/or spell.We previously covered dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. Today we’ll take a look at developmental dysgraphia; what it is, what the signs are and how to help children affected by the disorder.

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that adversely affects children’s ability to write coherently and/or spell. That’s in contrast to dyslexia, which affects their ability to read and, indeed, children with dysgraphia may have no trouble reading. As with so many learning disorders, dysgraphia has nothing to do with the level of a child’s intelligence. It affects more males than females and sometimes goes hand-in-hand with other conditions including ADHD.

What Are the 3 Types of Dysgraphia?

Dyslexic dysgraphia results in poor writing legibility specifically when the writing has not been copied from an existing written source. It also gets worse with longer texts. Copied written work, however, may be good although spelling is likely to be bad. This type of dysgraphia is not thought to be the result of poor motor skills nor is it thought to be caused by a neurological issues. Despite the name, dyslexic dysgraphia is unrelated to dyslexia.

Even drawing can be unintelligibleMotor dysgraphia is primarily the result of poor fine motor skills and poor dexterity, making the control needed for legible writing or drawings difficult. It may also be the result of poor muscle tone. In contrast to dyslexic dysgraphia, motor dysgraphia may result in poor writing legibility even when the words are copied. Spelling, however, is not adversely affected. Short bursts with unusually high concentration levels may result in better letter and word formation, but the level of concentration needed to achieve this is unsustainable over a longer period.

Spatial dysgraphia also results in mostly illegible writing and drawing, however in this case it’s the result of issues around spatial awareness. So, for example, written work may stray from the lines on lined paper and spacing between words will be poor. Both copied and spontaneous writing is usually illegible but spelling is normal.

Some dysgraphic children have more than one type of dysgraphia and it’s also worth noting that some may exhibit symptoms that do not necessarily fit straight into any of the 3 types above.

There is another type of dysgraphia that’s caused by neurological trauma, e.g. through a brain injury. However, we’ll concentrate here only on developmental dysgraphia.

What Causes Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is caused by neurological issues, although the exact cause is unknown. It may, though, be associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

What are the Signs of Dysgraphia?

Developmental dysgraphia can usually only be recognised once children start learning to write. For this reason, it’s seldom emerges until around the age of 5. It manifests itself when writing skills are significantly below what’s expected for a person’s intelligence, age and level of education.

Signs of possible dysgraphia include:

  • In all forms of the disorder, writing will be poor and often largely unintelligible;
  • Writing is likely to be very slow;
  • In some cases, spelling is also adversely affected;
  • DyWriting is likely to be very slow and can be exhausting for those affectedsgraphic children may also hold their writing instruments in an unusual way or have strange posture when writing;
  • The grip on the writing instrument may also be unusually tight and the child may also watch their hand when writing;
  • Pain may be experienced when trying to write or draw and those with the condition may assume this is normal. It may start in the forearm and potentially spread to the entire body. Stress can also bring this on in the dysgraphic;
  • Dysgraphic children my mix lower case with upper case letters. Numbers may also be difficult (so maths can also be adversely affected);
  • Sizing and spacing of letters and words will be irregular;
  • Letters and words may be incomplete, missing or simply wrong;
  • Communication via the written word will be a struggle;
  • Those with the condition may talk to themselves while writing, for example saying words out loud when writing them.

Additional Knock-On Effects

Because writing is so challenging, those with the condition may exhibit a reluctance around written tasks, often not completing them. This may be incorrectly construed as laziness to the uninitiated. Those with the disorder may also find writing very tiring, even for short texts. In a classroom situation, dysgraphia also makes the taking of notes extremely difficult and this can lead to additional problems around academic topics, for example keeping up with the curriculum.

Sadly, dysgraphic children’s difficulties around writing may also lead to low self-esteem and even anxiety and mental health issues. With the disorder holding a child back in so many ways, it can also lead to reduced prospects generally. So, the earlier the child is diagnosed, the more likely their challenges can be reduced to a minimum.

If positively diagnosed, an occupational therapist is usually at the forefront of any follow-up treatment.Diagnosing Dysgraphia

As with many learning disorders, it’s always wise to first contact a GP to ensure that the issue is not caused by some other condition, for example poor eyesight. If dysgraphia is still suspected thereafter, specialists may need to be involved in order to get a firm diagnosis. They may include a paediatrician, psychologist and occupational therapist who may test the child’s writing, fine motor and academic skills. Whilst doing so, the child’s pencil grip, posture and general approach to writing will also be appraised. If positively diagnosed, an occupational therapist is usually at the forefront of any follow-up treatment.

How to Help Children with Dysgraphia

Like many of the other learning disorders, there is no cure for dysgraphia. However, there are several ways that dysgraphic children can be helped, so the challenges they face are reduced. An occupational therapist may set a plan in motion to strengthen hands, fingers and wrists, for example. They may also recommend specific ways to improve writing.

Special papers can help children with dysgraphiaAt education settings, additional bespoke learning strategies and interventions, that all teaching professionals can employ, may include:

  • Allowing dysgraphic children more time to complete tasks (both classroom assignments and any tests);
  • Use of special writing instruments that may have different types of grip;
  • Use of special lined paper that has raised lines. This can help affected children to keep writing within the lines more easily;
  • Supply of pre-printed lesson notes, so there is less burden on the dysgraphic child to take handwritten notes;
  • Use of special tools, for example voice-to-text software, dictation machines and proofreading applications;
  • Bespoke learning and development plans, customised to the strengths and any weaknesses of the child;
  • Teaching professionals may also be able to offer dysgraphic children different ways to submit assignments, for example non-handwritten submissions.

Childcare/teaching professionals and parents/guardians should work together on a shared planChildcare/teaching professionals and parents/guardians should always work together and compare notes, so that all parties are fully informed about any challenges the child may have. By doing so, they can share strategies and each work with the child towards the same goals. It’s important to begin such work as early as possible, so that the impact of the disorder on the child’s life is minimised. Early diagnosis is therefore crucial.

Special Educational Needs at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamChildcare professionals at Little Cedars Nursery will support children with any learning disorders and disabilities as a matter of course. Although dysgraphia normally only manifests itself once children reach the age of about five, we will nevertheless watch out for possible signs during children’s pre-school years at the setting. If suspected, we’ll put in place a customised learning and development plan that will help them to overcome any challenges they may be facing. Our childcare staff, including our Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) will work with parents/guardians to support their children in the best way possible. Our aim is for each child to achieve personal bests in every area possible, so they’re ready and able for school when they leave us to begin their time in Reception year.

One of the Best Nurseries

Would you like your baby or under-five child to attend one of the best nurseries in Streatham,  Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting and Balham? If so, contact us for more information about Little Cedars Day Nursery, apply for a place or arrange a nursery/pre-school visit. We’d love to show you and your little one around:

Adult Interaction Helps Infants for a Lifetime

Adult Interaction Helps Infants for a Lifetime

A baby's brain forms more than a million new connections every second when you interact with them.The Government’s Early Years Foundation Stage (‘EYFS’) framework prescribes how adults should approach the education and development of children under five. As such, it forms the backbone of the curriculum at childcare settings like Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham. The EYFS guidelines were expanded this year (2021) and one aspect of early childhood development discussed therein merits closer exploration: the affect of adult interaction on an infant’s brain development. Here we take a look.

“A baby’s brain forms more than a million new connections every second when you interact with them.”

That’s an incredible statistic and one that was recently revised upwards, from a lower figure, by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.

The centre explains that a baby’s brain develops through early experiences, not just because of inherent genetics. They go on to describe how experiences govern the architecture of the developing brain and form the foundation for all future learning, behaviour, and health. The growth in new neural connections is by far the most prolific during the early years.Their research suggests that constructive experiences will build on and enhance the structure of the brain, whereas “adverse experiences early in life can impair brain architecture, with negative effects lasting into adulthood.

It’s rather akin to the building of a house, starting first with the foundations during the early years and building on those gradually, to complete the full structure. The initial foundations of the brain may encompass things like control of motor function, hand-eye coordination etc. Further sub-layers of more complex skills are brought in on top, through billions of new connections generated in the brain, as the child grows and experiences more things. Interactions with adults are key to that.

Although it happens throughout an individual’s life, the growth in these new neural connections is by far the most prolific during the early years. Optimising the structure and depth of those foundations through varied and useful experiences during the early years is therefore incredibly important. Doing so ensures that the foundations for the individual’s future are strong.

How Can Parents Help With Infant Brain Development?

Serve & Return

There is only one chance to build the brain of a child optimally — during the early years.The Harvard Center on the Developing Child suggests that parents1 can help babies and toddlers develop their brain architecture in the best way through regular and strategic interaction between adult and infant. They call the process ‘serve and return’. Think of it as a tennis metaphor— we’ll explain. First, the child may indicate an interest in an object or activity. That’s the serve of the tennis ball, if you like. The adult should look out for such indications of interest, recognise them as a kind of invitation from the child and then get involved with that object or activity with the child. Responding in this way is like the ‘return’ of the ball in the tennis metaphor. It’s a great approach because the child is indicating what they are interested in and therefore, when a parent responds through activity involving themselves with the source of interest, the child will naturally get more from the interaction. After all, it was they who first indicated an interest and an adult can now help them to get the most from it.

What Kind of Things are ‘Serves’?

A ‘serve’ by the child could simply be them pointing to an object. Or it could take the form of discarding one toy or game and moving onto another. When they’re older, it could take the form of a question, of course.

The ‘Return’

In each case, the parent should join in and the two begin playing with and exploring the object or activity of interest to the child. With the adult involved, the child is able to get much greater insight about the activity or focus of attention. So, it’s about watching out for signals of interest from the child and interacting with them around that focus of interest. The research suggests that this is very effective compared to forcing other things onto the child that might, at that point in time, be of lesser interest.

It’s about watching out for signals of interest from the child and interacting with them around that focus of interest.

What Else?

Repetition is also important during the early years.Repetition is also important. This helps to reinforce circuits in the brain. Reminding a child several times about something will naturally help them to understand and remember the point under scrutiny.

The ‘serve and return’ approach doesn’t only inform the child about objects and activities around them; such interactions with adults also teach and reinforce good social and language skills. They also nurture appropriate emotional responses in the child. Together these set strong foundations for the child’s growing cognitive abilities along with enhancing their general wellbeing, in readiness to build upon them at pre-school, school and ultimately the workplace.

The responses from parents need to be reliable and appropriate, of course; otherwise it could lead to sub-par learning and brain development and even possible behavioural issues. In the worst cases, where there is regular toxic interaction between parent and child, issues with learning, behaviour and physical/mental health can regrettably instil themselves in the child’s developing brain. Such outcomes can go on to adversely affect the whole life of the unfortunate individual.

Did You Know …

By the time they are 3, an infant’s brain will have developed to over four-fifths of its adult size.

Up to three-quarters of every meal goes towards the building of your baby’s brain.

Conclusion

It's therefore incredibly important for parents to interact proactively with children from the moment they are born.The research, as well as a good dose of common sense, shows the incredible importance of parents interacting well with children from the moment they are born. Their interaction and guidance will help the developing child to understand themselves, the world around them, and their place within it. Millions of brain connections are built with every interaction, building healthy foundations upon which the baby will grow into a well-rounded individual with the requisite cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills to handle life. It all comes down to love, responsive and responsible care, with parents matching the infant’s signals and needs with positive, insightful responses. The reassurance and tools such interactions give the infant will allow them to confidently, safely and comfortably explore and learn about the world and, going forwards, their place within it.

Outstanding Childcare in Streatham, South West London

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamIf you are looking for a really good pre-school or nursery for your childcare in Streatham, please do consider Little Cedars Day Nursery. We offer high quality childcare in the London SW16 area, so are also convenient for those looking for the best nurseries, pre-schools and childcare services in Balham, Tooting, Furzedown, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill and Streatham Park.  Book a visit, register for a place, or get in touch for more information by choosing a button below:

Apply for a Nursery Place Arrange a Visit or Email Us Here Telephone 020 8677 9675

1. We refer to parents throughout this piece for the sake of brevity, i.e. to avoid repetition. Parents is our placeholder to mean anything from parents to care-givers and guardians.

20 Amazing Baby Facts

20 Amazing Baby Facts

When preparing articles for this website, we often spot interesting baby facts that may surprise people. So, today, we thought we’d share 20 or so of our most surprising discoveries with you.  Many are a reminder of just how amazing babies really are!

1. Twenty Babies Born A Minute

Did you know, one baby is born every three seconds. That’s 20 every minute, 1200 every hour and nearly 29,000 every single day.

2. Rapidly Expanding Brains

A baby’s brain will more than double in size in their first year. By the time they’re five, it will have tripled in size compared to its size at birth. The brain will not finish fully developing, however, until the individual reaches their twenties. The brain of newborn boys may also grow faster in the first 3 months than that of newborn girls. It’s something that’s keenly debated amongst experts, though.

Babies are born with 50% more bones than adults.3. Almost 50% More Bones Than Adults

Babies are born with more bones than adults. In time, some will harden and fuse together into just a single bone. Babies’ heads have soft spots when newly born, but which don’t last. That’s because various, separate, bones form their skull at birth. Initially these are connected by something called ‘noggin’, but later the separate skull bones fuse together. Babies are born with around 300 bones. By the time they’re adult’s they will have just 206.

4. But No Kneecaps

Babies do not have kneecaps when they’re born! Had you ever noticed? These finish appearing only once the baby reaches at least 6 months of age.

5. Amazing Taste

Babies have about 30,000 taste buds when they’re born. This is three times as many as adults. This is accounted for by the baby having taste buds not only on their tongue, but also on the sides and roof of their mouths as well as on the tonsils and back of the throat. Despite this, they apparently can’t taste salt until they’re about 4 months old.

Newborn babies are short sighted, only being able to properly focus on an area 8 to 14 inches in front of them6. Not So Hot on Eye Sight

Newborn babies are short sighted, only being able to properly focus on an area 8 to 14 inches in front of them — that’s perfect for seeing mum when being breastfed when you think about it. This area of focus will increase with time, of course, and babies also use their peripheral vision to make up for the lack of deeper focus.

7. Fur, Gills & a Tail — Yes, Really!

According to the experts, foetuses have gills, fur and even a tail during development. All three end up disappearing either before birth or, often in the case of fur, within the first few weeks after being born. The tail will have become the coccyx and the ‘gills’, which are temporary slits (pharyngeal arches) in the neck, will have developed into jaw and ear bones by the time the babies have been born.

8. No Tears for Weeks

Babies don’t cry tears until they’re about a month old. Until then, it’s rather like ‘dry’ crying.

Newborns hold their breath underwater and even adapt their heart rate and peripheral blood vessels while submerged.9. Natural Born Swimmers (… Kind of)

Newborns hold their breath underwater automatically and even adapt their heart rate and peripheral blood vessels when doing so. We strongly advise against you testing this, of course, but apparently it’s true. This natural ability does not last past the age of six months, however.

10. Baby Time in the Womb

Some interesting statistics suggest that, on average, female babies remain in the womb a day longer than males, white babies remain there 5 days longer than black babies and Indian babies remain there 6 days longer than white babies. If true and not simply a momentary glitch, the reasons for this are a bit of a mystery.

11. No Memory Before Three

People’s long-term memories go back no earlier, in general, than the age of three. This is believed to be because either memory function hasn’t developed sufficiently until then or because memory may be tied to the ability to understand language.

12. Recognising Day & Night

It can take up to 12 weeks before a baby will recognise the difference between day and night. Hence, the irregular sleep pattern that can last until they’re 5 or so months of age.

13. Eyes to the Right

85% of newborn babies prefer to face to the right when lying on their back. The preference only lasts a few months, but may also be an indicator of whether they’ll turn out to be right-handed or left-handed.

Breastfeeding babies for at least 2 months halves the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)14. Is Breast Really is Best?

As well as protecting against diseases, breastfeeding babies for at least 2 months halves the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) — that’s incredible when you think about it. It also gives greater protection from SIDS the longer you continue.

15. And Breast Milk Adapts Like Magic

Expressed breast milk for a baby should never exceed 4oz per bottle no matter what age they are. While formula-fed infants have bigger bottles as they grow older, babies fed via bottles containing expressed breast milk should stick to 4oz (1 to 1½oz per hour) maximum. That’s because the breast milk adapts itself to their precise needs as they grow; it constantly changes its composition as the child gets older and that includes calorie content contained per ounce. That’s clever!

Human babies are the only primate babies that smile at their mother or father.16. The Only Smiling Primate

Human babies are the only primate babies that smile at their mother or father. That’s quite remarkable, although we wonder whether other primates have a different way of smiling that we don’t recognise or understand.

17. Special Birth Months

According to statistics, the most common date of birth is the 9th of September. This is closely followed by the 19th, 12th and 17th of September, in that order. Interestingly, babies born around this time stand the best chance of being the smartest in the class and going on to have the greatest success in life. We considered whether this could be linked to school starting in September, making these children the oldest, most mature pupils in the class at a time when learning and development is so crucial.

Meanwhile, people born in October seem to live the longest, living on average 160 more days than those born in the Spring.

Scientific evidence also points to the month of birth affecting personality. For example, those born in the summer months having the most optimistic outlooks.

18. And the Not So Special

Meanwhile, December, January and February are the least common months for births, with December 25th and 26th seeing the fewest during the entire year.

Firstborn children are 1.7 times more likely to live to the age of one hundred.19. Outcomes of Being First Born

Children who are first-born are 1.7 times more likely than their younger siblings to live to the age of one hundred. Those with young mothers at birth stand the greatest chance of doing so. The first born is statistically more likely to have better mental health but have a slightly higher propensity to be overweight or have high blood pressure. Firstborns are often natural leaders but younger siblings may experience that simply as bossiness when growing up!

20. The Origins of ‘Infant’

The term ‘infant’ comes from the Latin ‘infans’, which means ‘unable to speak‘ … which makes sense when you think about it.

We hope that you have found these surprising facts of interest and have perhaps learned something you didn’t know before — we certainly enjoyed putting them together for you.

High Quality Childcare in Streatham

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamWe are Little Cedars, a pre-school and childcare nursery in Streatham. As well as being one of the best nurseries in the London SW16 area, we would also make a convenient choice for anyone requiring childcare nurseries, pre-schools or playgroups in/around Balham, Tooting, Furzedown, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill and Streatham Park.  Why not book a visit, register for a nursery place, or ask any questions — our childcare professionals are here to help:

Apply for a Nursery Place Arrange a Visit or Email Us Here Telephone 020 8677 9675

Rough Guide to Dyspraxia & ‘DCD’

Rough Guide to Dyspraxia & ‘DCD’

While most people have heard of dyslexia (see our recent guide), fewer are aware of a condition called dyspraxia. In this rough guide we give an overview as to what dyspraxia is, how it affects children, how to spot the signs of it and what can be done to mitigate its effects.

Please note: Dyspraxia is a form of Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or ‘DCD’ for short. Indeed, because there are different forms of dyspraxia, medical professionals generally tend to refer to the condition as DCD rather than dyspraxia. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll use either of the terms interchangeably to mean the type of dyspraxia that people are born with or develop naturally (not other types that may be the result of physical trauma like stroke or injury).

What is Dyspraxia/DCD?

In essence, dyspraxia (DCD) is a condition that causes problems with movement and co-ordination. When children have this, they may appear more clumsy than their peers and the condition will adversely affect how well they execute physical activities. For this reason, they may reach some of their key developmental milestones later than expected. There are varying degrees of the condition, so children who have it may exhibit symptoms sooner, later or more/less severely than others.

  • The condition cannot be cured, so needs to be managed (usually right into adulthood) in order to mitigate its effects.
  • Dyspraxia affects 3 to 4 times more boys than girls.
  • It’s not usually possible to get a definitive diagnosis before a child is at least 4 to 5.
  • The condition is also sometimes referred to as Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function (SDDMF).
  • Children with dyspraxia often have other conditions including ADHD, autism, dyslexia and/or sometimes problems with speech.

How Does it Affect Children?

Although dyspraxia usually has nothing to do with intelligence or the ability to think, the condition can really hold children back. As well as the innate inconvenience of not being good at co-ordinating movements and physical tasks, it can leave children prone to being less fit. This is simply because they’re not naturally co-ordinated enough to be good at sport and physical activities, so are less likely to partake in them.

Children with dyslexia/DCD may also have trouble with concentration, low attention spans, following instructions, copying information and organising themselves or other items. Due to the issues around the condition, they are often slower at picking up new skills. All of this can be very frustrating for them, so sometimes they develop behavioural problems too. Dyspraxia/DCD can make a child feel different, feel isolated, sometimes become the focus for bullying and often have trouble making friends. All of this can lead on to give sufferers a low sense of self-esteem.

Signs to Look Out For

Babies and toddlers with dyspraxia may start to exhibit a delay in starting to crawl, roll or sit. Before they’re one, they may also end up in odd body positions or have strange posture.

As they develop and grow older, they may show difficulty when they eventually walk, feed themselves, dress, draw and/or write. They may have trouble stacking things, playing with certain toys, using pencils, using cutlery, eating and generally co-ordinating their movements. Playground activities like running, jumping, and kicking or catching a ball may be difficult for them to co-ordinate correctly. Trouble with buttoning clothing when they’re older and tying show laces is also a classic sign.

Why Children Develop Dyspraxia

It’s not known why children develop dyspraxia/DCD but children are more likely to develop it …

  • if they were born prematurely;
  • if they were low in weight at birth;
  • if they come from a family with a history of it;
  • if their mothers drank alcohol or took illegal drugs whilst pregnant.

Diagnosing Dyspraxia/DCD

If you suspect that your baby, toddler or child may exhibiting possible symptoms of dyspraxia/DCD, you should consult your GP, Health Visitor or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child’s educational setting. Your child may then be referred to a specialist healthcare professional who can assess them. Diagnosis itself is usually undertaken by a paediatrician, often in tandem with an occupational therapist who will later be involved in treatment if the diagnosis turns out to be positive. Much more detail about dyspraxia/DCD diagnosis is available on the NHS website.

How to Help Children with Dyspraxia/DCD

While dyspraxia cannot be cured, there are ways to help children with the condition and indeed they may well require help for the long term. A tailored help plan is usually generated by a combination of healthcare and educational professionals in tandem with parents and the individual concerned. The plan will be designed to mitigate the specific challenges that a child is facing, so will differ from case to case. For example, a child may need help from a paediatric occupational therapist to master use of cutlery, writing, playing and dressing etc. And/or a clinical psychologist may be needed to help with the child’s mental health. An educational psychologist may be able to help the child overcome barriers to them progressing their education … and so on. Learn more about the types of treatment available for children with dyspraxia here.

The following video may also be useful as an illustration of how one family deals with childhood dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia & Special Educational Needs at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

It’s important for nursery staff, education professionals and parents to look out for the signs of possible dyspraxia, and any other conditions, in children under their care. The earlier symptoms are spotted, the more likely the child can be helped to best effect. While it’s not possible for children under 4 or 5 to be positively diagnosed with dyspraxia/DCD with full certainty, should a positive diagnosis be suspected, then a tailored learning and development programme can be put in place at the earliest opportunity. In this way, the child will be supported where needed and any adverse effects of the possible condition can be reduced to a minimum. Using this approach means that even children with special educational needs can thrive, achieving personal bests as they progress through their learning and development milestones.

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is one of the best nurseries in the area around Streatham, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting and Balham. We’re based at 27 Aldrington Road, Streatham, SW16 1TU and offer outstanding, weekday childcare services for babies, toddlers and preschoolers up to the age of 5. So, if you are looking for a high quality nursery or pre-school in any of these south west London areas, please make contact with us while a few places are still available (please choose a button):

The Importance of Exercise for Under-Fives

The Importance of Exercise for Under-Fives

It’s accepted that regular exercise and keeping active are important to human health. This also applies to children under five — in fact it’s incredibly important during this crucial time in their development. In this article, we’ll take a look at the many benefits of exercise for the very young — and how much physical activity is recommended for toddlers and children in their early years.

Here we look at recommended exercise times for early yearsWhat are the Recommendations for Early Years Exercise?

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends1 that children under five should engage in at least 3 hours of physical activity each day, spread out over the course of the day. They go on to say:

“Children under the age of 5 should avoid being inactive for long periods. Watching TV for hours or being strapped into a buggy for too long isn’t good for their health and development.” (NHS)

This should come as no surprise, of course, but it’s important to take on board; official guidance is likely to be based upon decades of historical health data.

Meanwhile, as cited in Downing Street’s 2017 ‘Action Plan’ to fight childhood obesity, the UK’s chief medical officers also recommended 180 minutes (3 hours) of physical activity for children under five. (CMO UK Physical Activity Guidelines). Once again the suggestion is that this should be spread out through the day.

There are many benefits of active play for young childrenWhat are the Benefits of Early Years Exercise?

Exercise and physical activity in preschoolers and under-fives has many benefits. These include:

  • Firstly, it’s great fun for children! Indeed, energetic games and activities for young kids should be seen as an essential part of childhood.
  • It helps build up muscle strength and fitness.
  • It helps children to develop stronger bones.
  • Right from birth, physical activity and movement are significant in the creation of nerve connections in the brain
  • It naturally burns off calories that have been consumed by children through food/drink intake. This is particularly important if they have been ingesting superfluous calories or less-than-healthy things like sweets, sugary drinks or fatty junk food (although it’s best to avoid those, of course).
  • Regular exercise, in tandem with healthy eating, thereby helps children to maintain healthy weights and body mass indices. This is important because overweight youngsters are more prone to become overweight adults. It’s therefore an excellent approach to nip any weight problems in the bud, at this early age.
  • Avoiding weight problems through regular physical activity — and healthy, balanced eating — also helps reduce the likelihood of heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure later in life.

Regular exercise, in tandem with healthy eating, helps maintain a healthy weight & body mass index

  • Active play helps to improve social skills, behaviour and confidence in children.
  • Attention levels can also be seen to improve.
  • Regular exercise also helps children’s quality of sleep.
  • Physical activity helps the young to improve coordination and motor/movement skills.
  • It also helps to improve children’s moods and dispositions.

So, all in all, active play, physical activities and exercise are of huge benefit to children’s physical health and mental wellbeing.

Startling Facts

“One in five children are already overweight or obese before they start school” (NHS)

“[Only] one in ten children aged two to four meets the UK chief medical officers’ physical activity guidelines for this age group.” (NHS)

How parents can help children get enough exercise to stay healthy & fitHow Parents can Help

When at home, away from nursery or pre-school, parents can also encourage children to stay physically active so as to maintain their 180 minutes of active play each day. As well as all the usual activities that can be encouraged (football, netball, tag, formal exercise etc.) there are a number of excellent resources available for additional ideas. For example, Change 4 Life have a handy resource of physical activity-based games that young children can play. Even better, they’re inspired by characters from Disney and Pixar, so are going to prove very popular among the young. The character-based games are sure to inspire children to get active and have fun at the same time. Choose a game to see how it works.

“Remember, if you’re concerned about your child’s weight then your GP, practice nurse, school nurse or health visitor can give you help and advice.” (NHS advice)

How Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham helps children get enough physical activityActive Play & Exercise at Little Cedars Day Nursery, Streatham

As one of the key focuses of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework, physical development is at the core of the curriculum at Little Cedars Day Nursery. As such, children of all ages are encouraged to exercise through active play, every single day. Children are encouraged to be physically active via a variety of well thought-out physical activities and challenges, as appropriate for their particular age group. This is all carefully orchestrated and supervised by the staff and ‘Key Person’ allocated to each particular child. A whole myriad of high quality facilities, interactive equipment and toys also help to ensure that every child has a varied range of activities to enjoy. They have immense fun while their brains, minds and bodies develop along the way.

Nursery places for babies, toddlers and children in Streatham

Are you looking for an outstanding nursery in Streatham for your child? Or perhaps you’re nearby and are looking for high quality nurseries in or near to Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Tooting, Furzedown or Balham? If so, we currently have a few spaces left, so please do get in touch while they’re still available.

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11 Super Sensory Activities for Under-Fives

11 Super Sensory Activities for Under-Fives

In our last blog post we wrote a guide to the many benefits of sensory play. Take a look at that article for a reminder of how stimulation of the senses can help with the learning and development of babies and young children, in a myriad of different ways. From improved problem-solving and language skills to safer movement, better social skills, helping with autism and much more, the many benefits of sensory play are clear to see in that article. Follow the blue link above to take a look.

We promised to follow up with a post suggesting some sensory-based activities that parents or carers can undertake with babies or children at home. Our ideas below are great fun for babies, toddlers and children under five and such sensory activities can benefit them greatly.

Safety note: of course, you should always supervise your baby/child’s play and discovery to ensure they do not unwittingly harm themselves. Babies, for example, will often use their mouths, as well as their hands, to explore new objects, so remain vigilant and supervise them appropriately.

Children love playing with bubblesSensory Play Ideas for Babies

Babies love playing with bubbles. Under supervision, let them see the bubbles float slowly through the air and occasionally land without bursting. The baby will be able to see the rainbow colours swirling on the bubble surface, particularly when in flight. Babies will also enjoy it when a bubble lands on their skin with the most delicate of sensations, then another sensory ‘ping’ when it finally bursts. Bubbles stimulate sight and touch as well as giving babies a glimpse of some of the simple but magical things that the world has to offer.

Sensory play with paperPaper. Babies will love the feeling of scrunching up paper and will notice the sound as well as the contoured feel of their new creation. They may need a demonstration to get started, though. They’ll start to comprehend the concept that something in one form, like a pristine, wafer-thin sheet of paper, can be made into something completely different — in this case, perhaps a simple ‘ball’ of scrunched-up paper. Even tearing paper has been found to be enormous fun — and enormously funny — for babies. There’s just something about it that they find hilarious, so do check out the video via that bold link if you haven’t already seen it. Older children can take things several steps further with the addition of paint, or when they discover origami — but that’s a whole other topic.

Discovering different materialsDifferent objects & materials: babies will enjoy playing and learning about the properties, touch, feel and sound of different objects and materials. For example, (safe) wooden utensils, water in a closed beaker or bottle or small plastic or card boxes that they tap like a drum, or try to stack into a ‘wall’ — and so on. They’ll learn about physical properties of each along the way, including sounds, textures, touch and, if they include some carefully chosen food items, taste. It’s amazing what fun babies will have with such simple items — often learning far more from these than from purchased toys.

Babies & toddlers love discovering out in natureThe natural world: babies also greatly enjoy the simple pleasures offered by the natural world. A breeze on their faces may greatly intrigue them, even more so when they see leaves rustling and moving a little on the ground. The feel and texture of grass on the lawn or the sight of sunlight dappling through the trees or reflecting off puddles can be wondrous to them. Under close supervision, getting to know the textures, hues and smells of safe, natural objects outdoors can also be a source of sensory discovery.

Sensory Play Ideas for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Toddlers and preschoolers can take many of the above a step further now that they’re a little older.

Child making a sound shaker with pasta shells

Colour shakers: bottles filled with some water and the addition of food colouring or even glitter, beads and suchlike can be great fun for toddlers and preschoolers. Ensure lids are sealed and then they can shake them or swirl the contents and watch the colours mix or glitter sparkle. They’ll even be able to feel the momentum of the swirling liquid inside as they hold the shaken bottle.

Sound shakers: little ones can do something similar by sealing dry items like rice, breakfast cereals, popcorn or even stones or gravel inside bottles. Once sealed, the children can use them to discover the various sounds that they make when shaken. It could even introduce an long-term appreciation of music and rhythm.

Creating with paint handprintsHand & foot prints: preschoolers will never be bored with smothering their hands or feet in coloured paints, then making prints on paper or card. Footprints and handprints can be random or used to make images or patterns. This process is both creative and a sensory experience for them as the cold paint squelches between fingers or toes. They’ll learn so much including about mixing pigments, creating images from simple printed shapes, about the concept of paint eventually drying to form something semi-permanent and about different textures being formed, depending on the consistency of the paint. We take these discoveries for granted as adults, but we would originally have had to learn about them during our early, formative years.

Getting creative with foodFood creativity: toddlers can also take playing with food to the next level by introducing the concept of making images out of things like fruit- or vegetable-based sauces, cream or yogurt. Whole pictures can be made of food, using the hands, for example using broccoli for ‘trees’, peas for grassy areas and so on. The whole thing can smell great and even be tasted! Playing, hands-on, with food in this way can be fun and creative but also help children learn to accept new foods and tastes into their diets. However, care needs to be taken because proper mealtimes require good manners and children need to understand that food is not usually for playing with.

Under-five child playing with sandSensory sand: it’s very rare for little ones to dislike playing with sand, which allows youngsters to get hands-on creatively. They can learn about the unique and varying textures, consistencies and properties of sand, depending on how much moisture it contains. Dry sand has its own unique set of properties, acting and feeling almost like a powder. Very runny, wet sand is great fun as it can be used to run through the hands and ‘set’ into pointy mountain shapes that look quite magical. Or, when less water is added, sand can be fashioned into shapes and, of course, “castles”, using the hands or by filling buckets, hollow vessels, or tubs. Children can also press their hands and feet into level, damp sand in a sandpit or tray, to make impressions and patterns. It feels great too and is an almost essential part of childhood. Young children learn so much from this stimulating, multi-sensory type of play.

Sensory play with different materials and texturesPlaying with dough: whether bought or home-made, dough is always a big hit with young children. It can be fashioned with the hands into shapes, characters, animals and mini-sculptures. Using food colouring in dough also allows children to discover more about mixing pigments. Salt dough can also be baked (under the close supervision of an adult) so that it hardens into more permanent creations. Many types of dough even smell great too! What’s more, it can even lead to a bigger interest in cooking real, edible dough and other baked foods when they’re a little older.

Sensory gardens are a feast for the sensesA sensory garden. We’ve left perhaps the best until last. Making a sensory garden area with, or for, little ones will give them a magical experience. There are so many materials that can be used in the construction of sensory gardens, including soil, earth, pea shingle, tree bark, moss and so on. Plants themselves will also add to the fascinating mixture of textures, colours and even smells found within a sensory garden. It can be as small or large as you have room for and can even be achieved in containers, pots or on balconies for those who do not have gardens. It can take many forms so it’s design also gives children a wonderful creative opportunity. Sensory gardens are a complete feast for the senses for young children — adults too — encompassing touch (e.g. the textures of materials, moss and plants), smell (why not include some herbs — these smell wonderful and can be tasted too), potentially sound (crunchy gravel, rustling leaves etc.), sight (aesthetics, colour etc.) and will also give children ample opportunity to improve balance and body awareness as they construct and create in this unique space.

Sensory Play at the Nursery

At Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, we fully appreciate all the benefits of sensory play, so ensure that all babies and children have rich, multi-sensory learning and development opportunities and activities. Indeed, everything we do and offer has an underlying purpose, to the benefit of every child at the setting. Sensory play is only limited by the imagination and it’s sometimes amazing to see what children achieve through sensory play opportunities.

Does Your Baby or Child need a Nursery Place near Streatham?

If you are a parent or carer and are looking for outstanding nurseries in or around Streatham, Tooting, Furzedown or Balham, we’d be delighted to tell you more about Little Cedars. It offers high quality childcare and facilities and could well be a great fit for your child. If our nursery is of interest, please get in touch via one of the following options:

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The Benefits of Sensory Play for Under-Fives

The benefits of sensory play for under-fives

There are many benefits of sensory play to babies, toddlers and young childrenSensory play is incredibly important for under-fives. Babies and young children benefit enormously when their play activities stimulate the senses and in this article we’ll explore those benefits in some detail.

The Senses

For the purpose of this blog post, ‘senses’ will mean the famous five (touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing) plus a couple of others that are often overlooked; balance and body awareness (also known as ‘proprioception’). As with the core 5 senses, the two additions are critically important as part of the learning and development journey for little ones.

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory Play is any kind of play activity that involves stimulation of any of the senses outlined above. For example:

  • What is sensory play? We explain.activities that involve touch, where babies and children can acquaint themselves with the feelings of temperature, softness, hardness, pressure, vibration, roughness, smoothness etc.;
  • activities involving food, which can involve tasting to see whether the food is sweet, sour, savoury and so on;
  • play activities involving smell, which involve items that have a scent, whether natural like flower petals, fruit, organic materials and suchlike or man-made scents like diluted bubble bath and so on;
  • visual (sight) activities, where children explore colours, tones, visual textures, contrast, brightness and images, learning how to associate them with the real world;
  • hearing activities, where children experience the different types of sounds that surround them;
  • play activities that help them to learn to balance i.e. to counteract the effects of gravity;
  • activities that help children to develop a sense of spacial awareness i.e. of where their bodies are within their surroundings and in relation to objects and other people around them.

List of benefits of sensory play activities for early years childrenThe Benefits of Sensory Play

Sensory play allows children to learn more about the world around them, and all the things within it. As they learn, new pathways are formed within the brain and this helps to cement permanent associations between a particular sense and a particular situation, physical thing, or scenario. When this is achieved, the child will instantly and naturally recognise multiple layers of senses as they happen again in the future. That’s an important life skill and something that adults take for granted, but benefit from enormously.

Additional benefits of sensory play for children include:

  • Recognition of objects, environments, situations and sensory attributes through sight, hearing, taste, touch or smell;
  • Recognition of their own physical self within the space and other things around them;
  • The development and improvement of motor functions including gross and fine motor skills;
  • Balance, safe movement and measured navigation within an environment or situation;
  • Improvement of language skills as children are able to better describe what they’ve interacted with through their senses;
  • Improved problem-solving skills as children are better equipped to think critically and even scientifically;
  • Improved attention. For example, using the new-found sensory abilities they will learn to cognitively separate one sensory stimulation from another. Using this skill, children can overcome some distractions, for example ‘filtering out’ background noise, to allow them to focus on something more important;
  • Learning to remove themselves from situations where there may be a ‘sensory overload’. This can really help with their mental wellbeing. For example, having learnt more about their individual senses, children will better understand why a particular situation may be too chaotic for their own good. Understanding why they’re feeling how they feel in frenetic situations can lead to better decision-making and wiser choices. This includes whether to take part in the situation or to move to a more peaceful environment;
  • Young children playing & learning about their sensesLearning skills around mindfulness: sensory play is, in itself, a therapeutic way to calm any anxiety or frustration and help children to re-centre themselves and become immersed ‘in the moment’;
  • Learning more about textures and how they can be replicated can also help very young children learn to ‘trust’ new foods that they may not have previously wanted to try. Spaghetti and soup would be great examples because sensory play can give them a positive association with such textures;
  • Sensory play takes children’s learning and development to a new level, giving them new ways to be creative and to explore and understand the world around them;
  • It also represents a great opportunity for group play and, in so doing, helps to improve children’s social skills;
  • With new pathways being formed in the brain, sensory play helps children to cope with more complex tasks and also enhances memory skills;
  • Sensory play can also help children with autism, particularly those with Sensory Processing Disorder (‘SPD’). The topic deserves its own stand-alone article, so we may follow up with a separate post on the topic in due course.

Conclusion

We can see that there are many benefits of sensory play for babies and young children. Indeed, it’s something that should be encouraged at home as well as at nursery or pre-school. In view of this, we follow this post with a new post featuring 11 sensory-based activities that parents and carers can undertake with babies and children at home.

Sensory Play at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Sensory play activity with staff at the Streatham NurseryBabies and children are, of course, given a huge variety of sensory-based play opportunities at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham in south west London. There are multi-sensory areas and equipment throughout the setting. For example, there is a separate area with multi-sensory equipment for babies. Children aged from 12 months to 2 years are also introduced to sensory activities, which include listening to music. Our toddlers aged between 2 and 3 also have a sensory zone of their own to explore and to learn new skills from. Our indoor and outdoor areas also have lots of sensory-based activities for the children to enjoy and learn from.

If you are interested in a childcare place for your baby, toddler or young child under five, we currently have a few places available in our Streatham Nursery, so do get in touch. The nursery is near to Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown & Balham. Click one of the buttons below to get started …

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Nursery Jokes For Under-5s

Nursery Jokes For Under-5s

Following on from our post about the importance of laughter for children earlier this month, we thought it only fair to lend a hand with some laughter! With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite, funniest, jokes for preschoolers. Feel free to share these, send the page link to your friends and family or print them out for display (click each one to see a larger version). We adults at Little Cedars Day Nursery also found ourselves chuckling at each and every one of them — indeed they only made it into our list if we laughed out loud! Have fun with them — there are 24 to enjoy and to share on social media like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest ‘pins’ and so on …

Our personal favourite is the last one  — “That boy just threw milk at me – how dairy!” — how funny!

As we said in our last post, laughter boosts the release of the ‘feel-good’ hormones (endorphins) and has a huge number of other benefits to growing children as well as to adults. Laughter boosts mood, resilience and self-esteem in children. It helps them to think differently and more creatively too. It also has several surprising health benefits — and a whole lot more. It can even be thought of as nature’s natural happiness medicine! Learn more about the benefits of laughter for children here.

We hope you enjoyed these children’s jokes as much as we enjoyed curating them. We’ll perhaps add some new jokes in the future if these prove popular.

Nursery Places in Streatham

These children’s jokes were brought to you by Little Cedars, an outstanding nursery and pre-school in Streatham, London SW16. We offer the highest quality childcare for under-fives near Streatham, Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown & Balham. If you are interested in a nursery place for your child, please do get in touch. Call 020 8677 9675 or arrange a visit here.

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.