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Laughter for Little Ones – & Why it’s So Essential

Laughter for Little Ones - & Why it's So Essential

Have you seen the videos of babies laughing hysterically when paper is torn? For some inexplicable reason, they find it hilarious! It even became a whole trend on YouTube, so we’ve included an example here (skip any adverts at the beginning). It’s extremely funny — and the giggling baby is very cute!

Quite why the babies laugh at paper being torn, or during a game of peek-a-boo with a parent, is often a mystery. They seem to love it, though. It turns out that their ensuing laughter is very good for them, as well as being enormous fun to watch and to join in with.

Growing a Sense of Humour

Benefits of laughing for kidsLet’s first go back to the beginning. A sense of humour is apparently a learned aspect of a person’s character, to a fair extent. It’s something that develops and changes as a child gets older, rather than something they’re born with as a result of their DNA. As such, it’s important that babies and young children are given every opportunity to enjoy laughter and, while doing so, have fun with those around them. Laughing also is also closely linked to happiness, and being happy is, of course, priceless.

In one study, when babies were shown a toy duck that was then thrown to the ground, only the babies who giggled copied the action when they were given the toy. Clearly those babies understood the significance of the action and ‘got’ the joke!

The Benefits of Laughter for Little Ones

Many of the benefits of laughter are completely obvious; it cheers us up, it lightens our mood, it can make a stressful situation much more bearable and, no less importantly, laughing is fun! If we’ve laughed regularly throughout the day, we’re more likely to have enjoyed the day as a whole and we’re sure to think of it as a ‘good’ day. It’s going to be similar for babies, toddlers and under-fives.

However, there are many less obvious benefits that the very young can get from laughing regularly:

  • Laughing is great funLaughing helps children to develop better self-esteem;
  • It can help them to think a little bit differently and in a more creative way;
  • In so doing, it can also help improve their problem-solving skills as they ‘may look below the surface’ more often;
  • Laughing with friends, carers and parents helps closer bonds to develop;
  • It can be used to cheer other children up when they are upset and thereby improve social skills and empathy;
  • Laughing in the face of adversity can help boost future resilience, while also reducing anxiety;
  • It helps them to be more spontaneous, more playful and also not take things, including themselves, too seriously.

Medical benefits

There are also some medical benefits for children who laugh often. Research shows that children who laugh regularly are less likely to suffer from depression and are more resistant to physical problems and illnesses. Laughing:

  • Laughter has many medical benefits for childrenImproves mental health;
  • Releases endorphins (the ‘feel-good’ hormones);
  • Triggers the part of the brain that improves mood;
  • Lowers blood pressure, reduces blood sugar levels and improves circulation;
  • Reduces heart/pulse rates;
  • Strengthens immunity against illnesses;
  • Helps to mask pain;
  • Aids digestion;
  • Children have also been shown to sleep better as they go to bed happier and more at peace.

One magical thing about laughing is that it’s also contagious — so everyone around will also benefit! Try watching that video above of the baby with the torn paper; it’s impossible not to laugh along!

In our next post, later in the month, we develop this theme further with some shareable jokes for pre-school kids and may follow up later some time with some ideas that are sure to make them laugh out loud. So, please do come back soon.

Laughter at Little Cedars Nursery

Little Cedars Nursery is in StreathamThe staff at Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham understand all about the benefits of laughter for little ones. The staff benefit from it too, of course. Life at the nursery is great fun and we ensure that babies and children are all enjoying themselves as well as learning. That’s one of the reasons why learning through play works so well. The babies and children have immense fun with lots of giggles and laughter while at the same time learning about themselves, each other and the world around them. What could be better!

If you would like to explore the idea of a nursery place for your child at Little Cedars day nursery in Streatham, please do get in touch. We’re perfectly located for those looking for nurseries or pre-schools in Streatham or near to Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Tooting, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Balham and Furzedown.

For more information call 020 8677 9675, send us a message or arrange a nursery visit here. We’ll answer any questions and would be happy to show you around.

The Importance of Sleep for Babies & Toddlers

The importance of sleep for babies and toddlers

A baby sleeping with older brother

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much sleep should young children and babies get?

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

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

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

Sleep Hygiene

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

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

Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery

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

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

Your Toddler Needs to Go to Nursery. Here’s Why.

Your Toddler Needs to Go to Nursery. Here’s Why.

Reasons your toddler needs to go to nursery or pre-schoolThere are compelling reasons why under-fives should attend early years education and childcare settings like nurseries or pre-schools, or their equivalent — before starting school. Missing this crucial stage in their early years education and development may disadvantage the child — a fact that’s backed up by various studies.

Results of a Department for Education (DoE) study released in February 2020 highlight the benefits of attending early childhood education and care, all in incredible detail. We took a look at their 145 page report and picked out some of the key findings.

Benefits of attending Early Childhood Education & Care (ECEC)

  • Note: the term ‘Early Childhood Education & Care’ (ECEC for short) refers to non-parental childcare and early education that occurs before school. There are several different types, including nursery settings, pre-schools, registered childminders and so on, so the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) and the European Commission have adopted this term to encompass them all.

According to the DoE study, early childhood education and care has both short- and long-term positive effects on the educational, cognitive, behavioural and social outcomes of children. That’s no mean feat. A good educational grounding for under-fives is also shown to result in more positive social behaviour, better behavioural self-regulation, lower instances of emotional issues and less peer problems.

“Research … indicated that the benefits of high quality early education exist from as young as two years of age.” (Sammons et al., 2002)

There are many benefits of early childhood education & careSome of these benefits are even more pronounced for disadvantaged children who start to attend formal ECEC sessions no later than the age of two. The DoE impact study shows that 2-year-olds benefit most if they receive early education and care for an absolute minimum of 10 hours per week by the age of two. Three- and four-year-old children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit most from no less than 20 hours per week thereafter in the run-up to the start of primary school at age 5. Children who follow this approach have better verbal abilities when they start school and are also much more likely to achieve expected levels of personal attainment during reception year at school. The studies show that, with ECEC’s highly appropriate, structured preparation beforehand, children are able to hit the ground running once they transition to school.

It’s also interesting to note that, for children from households with the poorest home learning environments, there was a marked enhancement of verbal ability in year one of primary school for those who followed the above attendance approach prior to starting school. The early years education and care was clearly seen to have evened up the playing field in this respect.

Longer-term benefits of early years education & care

“15-year-olds who had attended some pre-primary education outperformed students who had not by about a year of achievement. ” (OECD report, 2011)

Benefits of ECEC can be lifelongAs well as having a positive effect on children’s readiness for school, there is also compelling evidence that early years education at good nursery/pre-school type settings has a marked, positive effect on children’s long-term attainment levels there – and indeed on their lifelong outcomes. As such, early years education and care represents an extremely solid foundation for children’s futures in general.

“ECEC interventions also boost children’s confidence and social skills, which provides a better foundation for success at school, and subsequently in the workplace.” (Sim 2018)

These are all profoundly important findings. Long-term studies have also revealed that educational success is likely to result in better success in employment during adulthood, improved social integration and even a general reduction in levels of criminality.

Benefits for families & society in general

Early childhood education and care doesn’t stop at benefiting children; it also benefits their families and society in general, in deep-seated ways. For example:

  • it allows parents to work, or re-enter the labour market after maternity leave;
  • it allows parents to develop their careers;
  • it helps to improve family income levels;
  • it may increase the potential for upward social mobility;
  • it reduces poverty;
  • it reduces welfare dependency;
  • it reduces crime rates;
  • and, of course, it ultimately improves the lives of children.

Nursery & pre-school for babies & under-fivesAre you looking at nursery/pre-school options for your baby or toddler?

In England, around 94% of 3- and 4-year-olds receive Government funding of some kind for childcare and early years education. For babies and children aged up to 2, it’s closer to 40% at last count. However, beginning any kind of education before attending primary school is not always a given; for one reason or another, there are a few children who only begin their education once they start primary school around the age of 5. For those who have the option for an earlier education but whose parents are unsure, we hope this article has helped to highlight just some of the many benefits of under-fives attending nurseries, pre-schools and childcare settings like Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham before the age of 5. The good news is that we support the Government-funded options for 15/30 hours of free childcare per week for eligible families. For those who are not eligible, our nursery fees are very competitive.  We’re based in Streatham, London SW16, so are also convenient for those looking for early years childcare around Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. For more information or to apply for a place at the nursery, call us on 020 8677 9675, send us a message or book a visit here. We’d love to tell you more and to show you around!

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.

The Benefits of Teaching Children to Grow Food

The Benefits of Teaching Children to Grow Food

Keeping children busy, entertained and learning is essential, including during the lock-down, whether or not they’re attending nursery or pre-school. It can be amazing fun too, if activities are carefully chosen. One really cool activity to tick all the boxes is to encourage children to grow food at home. Growing vegetables and herbs is a great place to start — and it’s relatively easy. One of the best things about the activity is that children don’t need a seed or seedling to get started. Essentially they can grow produce for free by ‘re-growing‘ offcuts from shop-bought vegetables and herbs. The resulting food could save the family money as well as teaching the children a huge amount, on many different levels.

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” (Robert Brault)

Children love growing vegetables and herbs

Home-grown herbs and vegetables make great saladsIt may surprise some to learn that you can buy some vegetables and herbs just once and never have to buy them again. The secret is knowing which, and how to re-grow them. It turns out that it’s pretty easy, so we encourage parents to help youngsters get started. Once they see growing shoots or roots and, later, vegetables or herbs that the family can actually eat, they’ll be so pleased that they made this little miracle possible. What’s more, it will have taught them something about where food comes from, how to grow it sustainably and how to look after the living plants. If you’re really lucky, it may even encourage them to take things a step further and get involved in food preparation and cooking later on. It’s amazing, actually, where such a simple, fun, activity can lead!

“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow.” (LeAura Alderson)

No garden? No problem!

Container planting is great when outdoor space is limitedIt’s possible, and indeed fairly easy, to grow your own produce even without a garden. So long as you look after your plants and give them water, soil and light as a bare minimum, they will grow. If you don’t have a garden, perhaps you have a small courtyard or patio where you can grow in containers. If you don’t have any outside areas at all, you can grow in flower pots and other containers on window sills, balconies, under skylights and so on. This makes growing produce possible almost anywhere, including in urban London in high-rise flats. After all, it’s in a plant’s nature to want to grow.

Vegetables & herbs kids can grow for free

Once you and your children have tried this, you may totally re-think how you deal with vegetable and herb ‘waste’. We hope so. The secret to re-growing free herbs and vegetables is to save some of those parts that often you’d usually cut off and discard. Some of them can be used to ‘seed’ a whole new plant and, ultimately, new produce that you can all eat.

  • A cutting or root section left in water for 1-3 weeks will grow roots Children could start with green onions or spring onions. These are particularly easy to ‘re-grow’. Later, perhaps, the children can apply the same approach to celery, lemon grass, Cos lettuce and Pak Choy (a type of Chinese cabbage). Simply save an inch or so thick section of your shop-bought root vegetables (perhaps the last you will ever need to buy), which includes the bottom part at the root end. All your children need to do is to place that section, root end downwards, in a glass of water. Leave them in the water and, after somewhere between 1 and 3 weeks, roots will start growing. Children will love monitoring this process each day and they will enjoy looking after and caring for a living thing. Once the roots are substantial enough, children can take them out of the glass and re-pot them in soil, ideally with a bit of compost if you have any. This can be in containers, appropriately sized flower pots or in the garden if you have access to one. Before long, your plants will give your children more, free herbs and vegetables that you can all enjoy.
  • Other vegetables that can be grown in similar ways, for next to nothing, include Swiss chard, lettuce (which tolerates shade fairly well) and beetroot.
  • Garlic, potatoes, coriander, spring greens & onions can all be re-grown Garlic cloves are also incredibly easy to regrow in a similar way. Perhaps at some point you’ve unintentionally allowed your shop-bought garlic cloves to ‘sprout’. Well, that’s how to start off. Rather than discarding them, your children can put them in water and allow roots to grow. Then, they should plant them out in soil and eventually they’ll end up with more, free, garlic cloves. What’s more, they will tend to taste more mild and delicate than shop-bought garlic — children will probably appreciate that. It’s the same with ginger roots, but allow months rather than weeks in their case.
  • If you ever buy carrots from the supermarket, look for the ones with green leaves (‘carrot greens’) sprouting from the top. Once you’ve prepared the carrots to eat, you’ll usually discard the top sections where the carrot greens sprout. Instead of throwing those away, show your child how planting them in a dish of water and sitting them on a well-lit windowsill will allow the sprouts to grow. You or your child can use the resulting carrot greens to garnish salads and similar.
  • Herbs & vegetables can be grown in pots & containers Herbs like Coriander, Rosemary and Basil can also be re-grown. Children can simply take scraps or clippings (4 inches long in the case of basil, 2-3 inches in the case of Rosemary) and place them in glasses of water in a well-lit spot on the windowsill. Once they have sprouted roots of about 2 or so inches long, these young ‘plants’ can be transplanted into soil or compost in pots. Your child will then be able to watch the plants flourish and grow into new herbs that can be harvested for food later on. The children will also soon discover that each of these herbs has a wonderful and distinctive taste and smell.
  • Potatoes are pretty easy for children to re-grow too. The only limitation is the space they need (ideally they would grow in the ground although you could also try ‘grow bags’ or deep pots if you don’t have access to a garden). Either way, old potatoes that have started sprouting are actually ready to plant. Cut each potato into two or three pieces (each with a growing section) and get your child to plant those in soil. Some vegetables and fruit can be grown from the seeds found inside themLater, when growing sprouts reach the surface, the child should keep those covered with soil (this is called ‘hilling’). Get your child to keep the soil moist but not over-saturated over the subsequent weeks. If planted in the spring, your children should be able to harvest potatoes in the summer.
  • Meanwhile, tomatoes and peppers can be grown from the seeds you’ll find inside shop-bought equivalents. Once sprouted they can be planted out into grow bags. A garden is not strictly necessary if you have a small outdoor space of some kind, for example a balcony. Vegetables like courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins can also be grown from seeds found inside their shop-bought counterparts, but only if you have the significant room they’d need to grow in a garden or other outdoor space.
  • Beans and sugar snaps are easy to grow Then, of course, your children can also experiment with nursery bought, or mail order seeds. Although not free, they’re reasonably inexpensive and also fun for children to grow if you follow the instructions and timing suggested on the seed packets. Beans of various kinds and sugar snaps are particularly easy to grow and usually result in an excellent crop. They will benefit from being in a garden or outdoor patio area, ideally, due to the space they require. They will need more vertical space than horizontal space, however, so even balcony planting may be possible if you have suitable grow bags.

By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world — we change ourselves.” (Jules Dervaes)

Children learn so much by growing food

There are so many lessons that children will learn if they grow their own food. Here are a just a few:
Growing food is great fun

  • Children will have fun and stay entertained, even during lock-down;
  • They will have learnt new skills;
  • They will understand nature and the natural world a little better;
  • They will learn where some food comes from;
  • They will learn that they can make things happen with effort, care and patience;
  • They will have a sense of responsibility, having cared for a living thing;
  • They are more likely to eat food that they have grown;
  • They will see how easy it is to save money;
  • They will learn that they don’t need to rely on electronic games and gadgets in order to have fun and to learn;
  • They will learn the art of trial and error, also learning from mistakes along the way;
  • They will have enjoyed working with you, their parent or guardian. Working closely together on a common interest may improve the bond between you;
  • They will also learn about eating healthy, fresh food.

If it all goes well, you may even find that your home-grown vegetables taste better than shop-bought produce. Peas, carrots and tomatoes often taste more sweet than those bought in shops, for example. Kids can taste the difference.

If you’re really lucky, you and your children will end up with more home-grown produce than you can eat. If so, it’s easy to freeze it, give the excess to friends, family and neighbours or to swap produce with others who have grown something different. The important thing is not to let your children’s hard work go to waste.

Contact Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham, London SE16

This article was brought to you by Little Cedars Day Nursery and pre-school in Aldrington Road, Streatham, in London SW16. For more information about our setting and the childcare services we provide for children from 3 months to 5 years of age, click any of the bold links, call 020 8677 9675, contact us here or email our manager by clicking this link.

A Rough Guide to Free Childcare Funding in England

A rough guide to free childcare funding in England

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

Free childcare funding for 2 year olds

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

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

You may also be eligible if your 2 year old:

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

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

15 hours free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds

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

30 hours free childcare funding

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

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

Earning criteria for working parent/parents/partners:

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

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

How to apply for 30 hours funding:

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

Other Government childcare funding schemes

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

Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery & pre-school, Streatham

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

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

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