Jokes to Tickle Tots: for toddlers, preschoolers & under 5s

Here’s a little something to amuse the little ones in your life — a dozen jokes suitable for young children, including preschoolers and toddlers.  Please feel free to bookmark them in your browser or to share them on social media as these will brighten anyone’s day! Our own personal favourite is the Elephant joke. Take a look (click for a larger view) …

Laughter is important.

Science has proved again and again that laughter is good for you, whether you are a child or an adult. However, a sense of humour is a learned thing apparently; we’re not born with it. So, regular exposure to funny things when we’re very young will help us to develop an appreciation of amusing things and to grow our own unique sense of humour. With that in place, children learn to see the world in alternative ways and this, in turn, helps them to think more creatively.

When we laugh, our brain releases endorphins and these make us feel good, lifting our spirit and mood. In short, it can make us happy. Laughter is even known to help us become less prone to ailments like depression and resilient against physical illness. It also helps us cope in the face of adversity. Laughter can help children to have greater self-esteem and it can improve their social skills with those around them. It can even mask pain. There are so many benefits! (Perhaps we’ll go into more depth about the merits of laughter in a future post).

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps and Bounds is a nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham (near Bearwood, Smethwick, Harborne and Ladywood) with its own Forest School. We offer outstanding childcare for babies and under-fives and, through a learning and development programme tailored for each child, ensure they are school-ready by the time they leave us. If you’d like to explore the possibility of your child attending one of Birmingham’s best nurseries, please get in touch:

Rough Guide to Dyslexia in Under-Fives

Dyslexia can really hold children back, particularly if not diagnosed earlyDyslexia can really hold children back. Because it affects children’s ability to read and write, it can adversely affect their overall education and impede their life chances once they’re older. That’s despite the fact that many dyslexic children are highly intelligent individuals with no other limiting conditions. As such, it’s a very unfair affliction for children to have to deal with. Thank goodness, though, modern society has recognised the condition and education professionals and parents now have a much clearer picture of both the early signs of dyslexia and the measures available to help children affected by it.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is summed up most simply by the 19th Century description of it. Back then, it was known simply as word blindness although it was not as well understood then as it is today.

“Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling” — Definition of dyslexia by the 2009 Rose Committee Report2, as recognised by the Department of Education

How Does Dyslexia Affect Children?

With dyslexia, words and letters are often described as ‘jumbling up’ or ‘moving around’ in such a way that they are unintelligibleTo give those without the condition an idea of its effects, words and letters are often described as ‘jumbling up’ or ‘moving around’ in such a way that they are unintelligible. Clearly they are not physically moving in reality, though — the condition is a neurobiological one.

Clearly, such difficulties will, in turn, adversely affect children’s reading, writing, spelling, comprehension and general ability to learn. That combination represents quite a challenge for pupils, education professionals and parents. It can also severely limit children’s confidence in themselves and make them feel isolated and ‘different’. So, it’s incredibly important to diagnose dyslexia in children as early as possible.

Possible Symptoms of Dyslexia

Dyslexia ‘symptoms’ (for want of a better term) vary from individual to individual, so are not clear cut. However, parents and early years/education professionals should look out for the following:

  • Children struggling to learn the alphabet, and having limited interest in doing so;
  • Children struggling to remember the order of things like days of the week, months of the year, etc;
  • Children having difficulty recognising the sounds of individual letters;
  • Children having difficulty recognising combinations of letters as sounds within words;
  • Children having trouble with phonetics and spelling generally;
  • Children having difficulty reading and writing;
  • Children mispronouncing multi-syllable words and jumbling the order of some of them;
  • Children having difficulties with the concept of rhyming words;
  • Slower than expected speech development;
  • Children giving good verbal answers to questions, but poor written ones;
  • Children struggling to follow the order of even a short list of instructions requested of them, but being able to complete the tasks if individual steps were given to them separately, one at a time;
  • Interestingly, sometimes unexpected difficulty with the fine motor skills required to maintain a consistent rhythm, e.g. on a drum or cymbal;

Assessment

We should add, though, that any instances of the above do not necessarily mean that a child is dyslexic as many young children struggle from time to time with some of the issues shown. For a proper diagnosis, official assessments are available.

Is there a Cure for Dyslexia?

There is no cure for dyslexia, but it's adverse effects can be mitigated and the earlier diagnosis is made, the betterThere is no cure for dyslexia, but it’s adverse effects can be mitigated and the earlier diagnosis is made, the better. Once diagnosed, parents, nursery/pre-school staff and education professionals can put measures in place to help the child cope and indeed overcome many of the barriers that dyslexia presents. It’s also heartening to note that many dyslexic children end up absolutely excelling in other areas:

“The strengths of [dyslexic] individuals can be many and varied: these can include artistic/design skills, verbal/visual creativity, and an original way of visualising/solving problems.” — The British Dyslexia Association (BDA)

Dyslexia & SpLD at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery

Children with Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties (‘SpLD’) are well catered for at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. Indeed, we have our own, qualified, Special Education Needs Coordinator (‘SENCo’) at the setting. Leaps & Bounds Nursery has its own, qualified, Special Education Needs Coordinator (‘SENCo’)As a matter of course, our nursery staff will look out for possible signs of dyslexia and other SpLDs. We will discuss any concerns with parents and take appropriate action whenever required. If positively diagnosed, our tailored programme for learning and development will build in measures to help any children affected, in any way we can. These are bespoke programmes that are made-to-measure for each individual, so making allowances for SpLDs is all part and parcel of what we do at the nursery.

Nursery Places Available in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16Please get in touch if you are looking for nursery places in Edgbaston or near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick. We offer the highest quality weekday childcare for babies, toddlers and under-fives and are also one of the few Forest Schools in the Birmingham area. These are great if you would like your child to enjoy and learn from everything nature and the outdoors has to offer.

Interested? Please call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here. We can’t wait to tell you more and to show you and your little one around!

2: The Rose Report (2009): Report on Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties. DCFS Publications (Ref DCSF-00659-2009)

The Importance of Early Years Education
If you are in any doubt as to whether to send your child to nursery/pre-school, then this post is especially for you. It will show, in no uncertain terms, that early years education is incredibly important for children, benefiting them throughout childhood and right through into adulthood. Study after study has reached this same conclusion and, in today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at the findings of just two of the key studies.

“What we found, quite convincingly in the study, is that pre-school matters. Pre-school matters for children’s short-, medium- and long-term development.” (Brenda Taggart, UCL Institute of Education & a principal investigator of the EPPSE study)

 The UK’s EPPSE Study

The Effective Pre-School, Primary & Secondary Education (EPPSE) study began in 1997. It followed the progress of a cohort of over 3,000 children, then aged around 3, from first attending pre-school right through their subsequent education at school up to the age of 16. It compares them to other children of the same age who did not attend high quality early years education/pre-school.
The results are crystal clear and have gone on to be referenced worldwide by such organisations as UNICEF and UNESCO. Indeed, they have helped to shape UK early years education ever since, including not only the curriculum itself, but also teacher training and pedagogy (the approach to, and practice of, teaching). What’s more, their impact has been so strong that it led to the UK Government introducing free early years education for all UK children aged 3 to 4 and also childcare funding for 2-year-olds from the poorest 40% of UK households.

Findings

Children who experienced a high quality early years education:

  • Are more likely to go on to higher education;
  • Attain better academic results including improved grades for English and mathematics;
  • Attain a higher number of GCSEs from grades A to C;
  • Tend to be more well-behaved, including improved self-regulation, better behaviour and improved peer relationships;
  • Are less prone to hyperactivity;
  • Are still positively benefiting from their pre-school educations;
  • With the better results and depth of education gained, children who attended pre-school are also statistically more likely to earn more during their working lifetimes.

“Children at 16 were still being influenced by their pre-school experience on many of their outcomes.”

In the video below, Brenda Taggart (UCL Institute of Education and one of the principal investigators of the EPPSE study) gives a brief overview of the study’s findings:

“Pre-school is not only good for children; it’s good for families, and it’s good for our country.”

 Society Also Benefits from Pre-School Education

It’s not only the children themselves who benefit from an early years education. Because of their increased earnings potential, children who attended pre-school will pay more tax to the UK Exchequer, which is good for the country and society in general. The American study below found even more benefits to society …

The American Study

A similar study in America followed a cohort of 1500 children from low-income families, right from pre-school through to the age of 28 so far. That study found similar benefits to the UK’s EPPSE study, along with several additional findings:

  • An early years education translated to lower rates of serious crime and less likelihood of prison incarceration in later life;
  • It also resulted in a lower likelihood of developing depression;
  • Every 1 dollar spent on early years education resulted in between $4 and $11 of economic gain over the life of each individual;
  • It also showed a reduction in the instances of neglect, child abuse and substance abuse;
  • The American study also clearly demonstrates the critical importance and long-term positive impact of ensuring school readiness by the time children are 5.

Early Years Learning & Development at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Birmingham

So, the message is clear — early years education at nursery or pre-school really matters. At Leaps & Bounds Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, we’re well aware of this, of course. Every single thing we do has a purpose and our childcare professionals do everything they can to ensure that the early years education is of the highest possible quality. With a learning and development curriculum designed and tailored to each individual baby, toddler or preschooler, they naturally achieve personal bests in every area. That’s a powerful start for such young children. It means that they will be school-ready by the time they leave us around the age of five. They can hit the ground running and easily build upon the learning and development foundations gained during their time with us. In this way, they are likely to absolutely thrive during their school years and well beyond. The studies prove it!
Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16If you would like to explore the opportunity of your child attending our outstanding nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, please get in touch. We may suit you if you are looking for the best nurseries and pre-schools near Bearwood, Smethwick, Harborne or Ladywood. Leaps & Bounds is also a Forest School setting, allowing children to benefit from learning in a natural environment during those sessions. Places are limited, so please call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here and we’ll be happy to tell you more or to show you/your child around.

Fun Counting Activities for Under-5s
Giving children an early start with their numeracy is shown to increase outcomes for them generallyIn our last blog post we discussed how young children can and should be encouraged to master the art of counting early in their lives — ideally in their pre-school years. To recap in brief, giving them an early start with their numeracy is shown to increase outcomes for them generally, including a greater likelihood of staying in education for longer, a better chance of finding a job when they leave education and increased earning potential during their adult careers. The article also reminded readers of the profound importance of parental involvement in their children’s educations.

Here in this new post, we follow up with some fun number, counting and maths-based games and activities that preschoolers can enjoy at home with parents. These will make counting and numeracy fun for under-fives. After all, learning through play really is the best way for them to learn. Indeed, we use precisely that approach ourselves, at the nursery here in Birmingham.

Making numbers look like characters makes them more fun‘Number Order’ Games

Get your child to write numbers (e.g. between 1 and 10 or 1 and 20), each one going on a different sheet of paper. These can be small sheets, perhaps the size of playing cards, or A6 (a quarter of A4). The numbers can be simple or fancy — perhaps you and your child could get creative and make it colourful and illustrative, so it’s more fun. Numbers could even represent animals or characters, with faces, like our example. Once you have separate numbers on separate sheets, jumble them up and ask your child to put them into the right order. You could ask them to order them first from 1 upwards (perhaps start with 1 to 5 initially), then later in reverse order. Work your way up to 20 or more once the child is doing well. Soon counting will be second nature. Check how they do and help point them in the right direction if needed. Consider giving your child a reward for good effort.

Reward your child for good effort.

When they’re more advanced or a little older, you could even introduce simple addition and subtraction or progress to simple multiplication and division.

‘Number Matching’ Games

‘Number Matching’ Game: Dominoes

Helping very young children to learn how to match numbers or quantities will be very helpful as it’ll help them understand the concept in the real world. One of the very best ways to introduce this is to teach them how to play dominoes. With this game, the number or dots needs to match on adjoining dominoes, so it really is a simple, fun and effective way to introduce the concept of matching numbers or quantities to children. It’ll help children count more confidently and be able to recognise the number of dots instantly, after a little time practising. And, if you don’t have any dominoes, they’re easy to make on bits of paper or card and indeed children may enjoy making them. Dice are another option.

‘One More or One Less’ Activities

Activities that encourage children to work out whether something has one more or less than something else are a great way to introduce maths terminology into children’s vocabulary. They also help young children to grasp simple mathematical concepts. For example:

  • Learning mathematical terminogy through playAs a first introduction to the very young, make two equal stacks of small, stackable objects (e.g. dominoes, biscuits, coins, empty matchboxes, counters from a draughts game or building blocks — anything, really, so long as it stacks nicely and has a visible thickness). Ask the child to take away one object from a pile, then ask them to tell you which is taller and which is shorter. Also ask the child to count the stacks to tell you how many items are in each. Maybe add or subtract one more item from a pile and repeat.
  • You can do something similar with non-stackable items, for example, fruit. These can be made into less regimented piles rather than stacks. Ask your child to count the items in each pile so that they can ensure that one pile contains one extra item compared to the other. Ask them which pile is larger or taller and which is smaller or shorter. Piles of objects are also a good opportunity to get the child to grasp the concept of estimating.

    Counting fruit in a game of shops

    Once they’ve estimated, they can then count the objects to see how close they were to the right answer. Estimating will be another mathematical term that they now understand and they’ll also have had counting practice to boot.

  • Still working with two piles of objects, ask which one has more and which has less than the other. This is a simple first step towards the concept of addition and subtraction.
  • A similar activity can also be set on top of some weighing scales. Ask the child which pile is heaviest and which is lightest. Adding the element of a readable number, visible on the scales, also gives them a visual link between numbers and quantities of real-life objects.

Play ‘Shops’

All of the concepts above can now easily be put into practice via a game of ‘shops’. Toddlers and children will love pretending to be either the shopkeeper or the shopper. The shop “products” will, of course, need to be counted at the checkout and some items may need weighing — for example vegetables or fruit. Playing shops will focus a child’s mind on the importance of counting and number accuracy at the same time as introducing simple concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication and even money. Such activities are great ways to teach children about simple maths terminology, in preparation for more complex mathematical challenges when they’re a little older.

Praise Them

Praise children when they put in a good effort, not just when they get it right

However well or badly your child does with the number activities and games, praise their effort when they’re trying. Help them when they get it wrong and try to explain things to them. They’ll pick things up if the mood is light but scolding them when they get it wrong may well put them off numbers and maths completely. As we said in our original article last month, try not to ‘imprint’ any hatred of maths that you might have onto them and don’t ever say anything like ‘I was never any good at maths at your age’ as it may give them an excuse not to fully commit to trying. However well they’ve done in activities and games like the above, always praise them for putting in a good effort. As we said previously, rewarding effort is important and is more likely to encourage them to return to the activities with enthusiasm in the future.

Going Forwards

Start children early on numbers & maths - it'll set the up well for when they're older, at schoolChildren who enjoy maths are usually those who like to learn generally. So, try to encourage young children to bring maths into every day activities. For example, counting their steps on a walk, counting stairs as they go up or down them, counting cars passing and so on. It makes it more fun and they’ll learn to enjoy challenges. Before you know it they’ll be a bit older, coping with numbers will become second nature, and they’ll be nicely prepared for more advanced mathematics at school. You’ll then be able to interact with them in more complex number-based games. Ultimately, these might involve multiplication, where you can test them on their times tables, and eventually division, fractions, algebra and more. It all starts with simple counting, though, so it’s important to make a start early, so they’re not held back.

Count on Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

If you are looking for outstanding nurseries, pre-schools and childcare in Edgbaston, or Birmingham, please consider Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. We are a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston (B16), near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. We too encourage our toddlers and under-fives with their counting and numeracy using a wide variety of activities, toys, games and interactive equipment. It’s a key part of the curriculum at the setting, in fact. So, by the time they leave us around the age of 5, they are ‘school ready’ with a great grounding and, as such, should enjoy a smooth transition. If our Edgbaston nursery/pre-school is of potential interest, please call 0121 246 4922 for more details, contact us, or book a visit here. Spaces are limited but, at time of writing, we have just a few available places for babies, toddlers and children aged up to five.

Parents: The Secret to a Child's Success!
Parents, YOU are the secret to your child’s success!Parents, YOU are the secret to your child’s success!

Specifically, you are an incredibly important part of your child’s education and, if you are actively involved in it, your child will benefit significantly. Study after study shows that children benefit enormously in their learning and development if parents are actively engaged in their education. The greatest benefit is when parents involve themselves right from the early years. What’s more, the benefits can have a life-long positive impact on outcomes for those children. Here’s the conclusion of just one study:

“Students with […] parents operating in supportive roles are 52% more likely to enjoy school and get straight A’s than students whose parents are disengaged with what’s going on at school. This is especially the case during the earliest years of schooling, […] when students with active parents are almost twice as likely to succeed.” (Pinantoan, 2013)

Those are incredible statistics, particularly in the case of early years education. In view of this, we’ll take a look at how and why parents should involve themselves in their children’s educations and how this involvement will benefit the children.

What we mean by parental involvement in educationFirst, Though, What Does Parental Involvement Involve?

By ‘parental involvement’ in children’s educations, we mean that parents actively involve themselves in what’s going on at nursery, pre-school, school or further education. This includes ensuring they understand how the child is progressing, helping children understand the curriculum topics and activities, assisting with problem areas, helping with homework when needed and connecting with teachers and education staff to ensure the collaborative support is ‘fully rounded’.

Ideally, parents should:

  • Engage with teaching staff at open days/evenings;
  • Regularly engage with key nursery school staff outside of open days, so parents understand what the current focus is — they can then better support their children’s learning;
  • Agree the child’s strengths and weaknesses with staff so as to help improve those weaknesses in a joined-up, strategic way;
  • Encourage children through praise and help whenever needed — children will be happier and achieve more with a parent’s moral support;
  • Let children know that expectations are high, but realistically achievable (without being unpleasantly strict);
  • Allocate a part of the house as a quiet space, that’s free of distractions, where their child can focus and study in peace and quiet. Ensure they have everything they need there to accomplish their work;
  • Read to children and listen to them reading;Child with parents, reading a book
  • Check their grammar and spelling and ensure they learn from any mistakes — for example, writing the correct spelling of a problem word ten times. If parents are not great at spelling and grammar themselves, then applications like Microsoft Word can spell- and grammar-check for them (although do not allow children to rely on this — they need to learn from mistakes highlighted rather than relying on auto-correct);
  • Refer to the appropriate curriculum-based text books with children, to proactively help them find answers to questions and solve problems together;
  • Test children on their knowledge of a topic, particularly when exams and tests are imminent. This can be very beneficial in identifying areas where the child needs more study;
  • Proactively choose (and visit) the best educational settings for their particular child — not simply allow momentum and inactivity to select for them. (Read our excellent write-up on how Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery Ticks All the Boxes if your child is under five and is looking for an outstanding nursery or pre-school in Edgbaston or the Birmingham area);
  • Regularly check and contribute to the Personal Development Folder that your child’s nursery or pre-school will be maintaining for your child. Read notes therein from the nursery staff and identify potential problem areas where you can help.

The Benefits of Parents Being Actively Involved in their Children’s Education

We’ve already hinted at a few of the ways that children will benefit from parents being actively involved in their education. We’ll now look in more detail.

“Parents who invest time and place value on their children’s education will have children who are more successful in school. (Meador)

The benefits of parental involvement in the education of childrenParental involvement in children’s education benefits the child in a wide variety of ways, including:

  • Statistically proven behaviour improvements and lower truancy rates;
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence;
  • Reduced stress and anxiety levels, with a more positive ‘can do’ attitude;
  • Improved skills and knowledge that’ll stand them in good stead going forwards;
  • A happier outlook, higher morale and a better quality of life;
  • Improved core subjects like English & maths that will help improve all other subjects;
  • Improved communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, organisation and focus;
  • Closer bonds with parents;
  • Hands-on help understanding problem areas;
  • Children will be better prepared for tests and exams;
  • They are statistically proven to achieve better grades;
  • With better grades, they are likely to have a better choice of schools and further education establishments, including universities when they’re older;
  • Ultimately, with better educations and qualifications, their careers, life choices and earning potential as adults are likely to be superior.

With better educations and qualifications, children’s career and life choices will also be improved.

The benefits of parents being proactively involved in children’s educations cannot be overstated — they are potentially huge. When handled well, it can help children learn more, get better grades, be less stressed, end up in better education/further education institutions (including university choices when they’re older) and, ultimately, improve their career choices and earning potential. That is priceless!

How we help at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, BirminghamAt Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Birmingham

At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, we really encourage parents to be involved in their children’s educations. With a myriad of proven, long-term benefits, it makes total sense for nursery staff and parents/carers to collaborate. With improved outcomes across the board, this collaboration and proactive involvement of parents is all in the best interests of every child. It makes such a difference.

Our learning and development programmes are tailored to the strengths, weaknesses, skills and interests of each individual child under the guidance of a ‘Key Person’ who is allocated to each individual. Parents are encouraged to keep abreast of these programmes through regular dialogue with nursery staff, so that the good work can be further supported while children are at home. A continuous progress journal is also maintained for every child and parents can access these at any time. We even encourage them to make additions in respect of children’s progress outside of the nursery so that a more rounded picture is painted.

Nursery places in Birmingham Available

If you are looking for good nurseries in Birmingham, we’d love to hear from you. We have just a few places available in our nursery in Edgbaston, near Birmingham. Its location may also suit those looking for pre-schools, nurseries or childcare services near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood, Smethwick around the B16 postcode zone. If you’d like to explore the idea of your child attending this outstanding childcare setting, please contact us (or book a visit) here, or call 0121 246 4922 for further information. We’d love to meet you and your child and to show you around!

Top 10 Nature Activities for Children
Following our November article, “Nature & it’s Amazing Benefits for Children”, we thought we’d follow up with some wonderful nature-based activity ideas for children to enjoy. As we saw in the aforementioned article, nature has enormous and incredibly varied benefits for children; even more so in their early years. Without going over previous ground in too much detail again here, nature benefits children’s minds, spirits and bodies and improves mental and physical health. The range of benefits is huge.
Slow worm found in the garden undergrowth on a sunny dayWith this in mind, we have put together our top ten list of activities that parents and carers can organise for their children in the natural environment.

1. A mini-beast hunt!

Whether undertaken in the garden, park or countryside, a mini-beast hunt is always a popular hit with young children. Fun and educational, a hunt for little creatures in a natural environment will always give children a real sense of discovery, adventure and accomplishment. See if they can find a bee, a spider, frog, ladybird, worm, ant, slug, snail, a slow worm. Or they could look for larger animals like birds, foxes and rabbits. Teach them to respect the creatures (even the scary ones) and to handle them with great care if touching them or picking them up. They’ll hopefully learn that each of these is a little being that’s going about its life and has its own needs and wants, just like humans, only a little different.

2. Feeding birds

Feeding birds is a great activity for childrenLeaving out suitable food for birds in the garden, balcony or windowsill can be a wonderful opportunity to see the different varieties of birds that live in the neighbourhood. A fun, creative way to do this is to save your used kitchen roll tubes and spread peanut butter onto them (so long as it’s the type with no added salt or sugar) and then that can be rolled in bird seed, which should stick. The finished rolls can be threaded with string and hung out for birds in suitable places. The best locations are off the ground (to protect from any cats) and ideally under the shade of a larger tree or overhang of some kind (so that they’re safe from birds of prey above). Note, too, that birds often take several days to begin to ‘trust’ any new addition to their neighbourhood, so don’t worry if they don’t come straight down for their new food — it may take a while. Feeding birds in this way can help children to learn the different types of birds as well as being a ‘natural’ activity that’s suitable in all weathers. After all, only the birds actually need to be outside in this case!

3. Gardening & Growing

If you have access to a garden, balcony, allotment or even windowsill, gardening can be immense fun for little ones. Tending to seedlings, planting seeds and even weeding can be an entertaining and worthwhile pastime for them. Children will also love watering them, picking flowers to make a nice bouquet or even harvesting fruit, vegetables and herbs to add to meals later on. Gardening is educational on so many levels and also gives children a useful sense of responsibility.

4. Building activities

Pebble stacks and other building activities are great fun for kidsThe outdoor world gives children wonderful opportunities for building things. For example, children can use sticks and small branches to build dens or camps. Another fun activity is to build wood block, rock or pebble ‘stacks’. These can look almost mystical when several are built. Take a look at the photo of our example. Remember, though, that health and safety is paramount, so young children will need supervision.

5. Creative activities

Gardens, hedgerows and the countryside can also give children excellent opportunities to be creative. For example, they can collect petals from different types of flowers. There are a few different, fun, things they can then do with them:

  • Mix them all together into a kind of natural confetti.
  • Make them into scented water by immersing them into a bowl of water and leaving them to soak.
  • Put them into a thin, plastic beaker, fill with water and then leave to set as ice in the freezer. These look fantastic when popped out after freezing — almost like a ‘frosty’ paperweight with the lovely petals showing through. Leave in the garden to gradually melt – they look wonderful.

Other fun, creative pastimes in nature include making daisy chains, threading leaves with rustic string (this is called ‘leaf threading’) and the resultant leaf chains can then be displayed indoors or hung up outdoors somewhere. Another fun activity involving leaves is face-making. Grab some paper plates, then harvest some leaves, small twigs and petals and then make them into faces on the plates (the plates forming the head).

6. A country walk of discovery

Baby rabbit spotted on a country walkIntroducing children to country walks or walks in the park during their early years will be enough to give many a lifelong interest in nature and the natural world. Walking can be a real adventure as you discover new places, sometimes amazing views and a variety of interesting flora and fauna. Walking in nature can be a real feast for the senses and it’ll help keep children more fit, both physically and mentally. It’ll also educate them gradually as they learn to recognise different types of trees, flowers, birds, animals and insects. Here’s a photo of a baby rabbit that we discovered on one of our walks.

7. Cycling

Similarly, cycling can get children out into the natural world and make it great fun. Whether it’s a toddler using a tricycle or a preschooler using a scooter or two-wheeled bike, this is an opportunity for all ages so long as the terrain is carefully chosen — ideally fairly flat, smooth and not muddy, especially for the young. Parks can be great as they tend to have decent trails and routes to follow, but respect walkers and give them the right of way, particularly on paths.

8. Picnics

In the spring, summer or autumn, there will be ample opportunities to have a picnic outside instead of eating at home. This can be in the garden, local park or countryside. Picnics can be immense fun and are an easy way to get children interested in the outdoor environment. Setting down a picnic on a grassy area also gives you all a ‘base’ around which children can play and explore after eating. A game of hide and seek will be an obvious extension of this. When they’re older and more self-sufficient, this can be developed further by expanding to more adventurous locations like riverbanks (so long as they can swim confidently) and more rugged countryside.

9. Camping

Fun with shelters at Forest SchoolUnder supervision, camping out in the garden or in the countryside can take picnics and country walks to the next level. You can combine them with an overnight stay under canvas. This can be as formal or ‘wild’ as parents see fit. Overnight camping, and all that goes with it, opens up a whole new world to children who will be able to enjoy new adventures under the stars, immersed in the elements, perhaps even learning how food or even toasted marshmallows can be cooked away from home on a natural, foraged log fire. Don’t forget, though; safety first!

10. Join a Forest School

Our top tip is for children to join a Forest School. At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, we run a Forest School for children aged up to five years of age in the Birmingham area. For people elsewhere, there are many others dotted around the country for children of all ages. Forest School gives children access to the natural environment, giving children the chance to enjoy nature, discover new skills, enjoy all the benefits of ‘The Great Outdoors’ and have enormous fun whilst doing so. It can positively change children’s outlooks on the world and this can benefit them mentally and physically for the rest of their lives. Learn everything you need to know about Forest School in our “Complete Guide to Forest School” here.

For those who don’t have a Forest School nearby, our activity ideas above may be useful for parents and carers. With these, they can help children have fun, learn and benefit from everything nature has to offer in gardens, parks and natural outdoor spaces nearby.

Contact our Birmingham Nursery

Leaps & Bounds would love to hear from you if you have a baby or child under five and are looking for suitable nurseries in the Edgbaston, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood, Smethwick and Birmingham areas. Contact us or book a visit here, or call 0121 246 4922 to speak to our staff. We’ll be happy to discuss a suitable childcare place for your child, to arrange a tour or to answer any questions that you might have.

Nature & it's Amazing Benefits for Children
Young girl enjoys playing with autumn leavesBack in June we published our Complete Guide to Forest School and this explained how children can enjoy, learn and benefit from the natural world as part of their nursery experience. Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery has its own Forest School in Birmingham, so it’s something that all our under-fives enjoy as a matter of course.

In this new post we’ll explore the overall benefits of nature for young children. What does it do for them? How does it affect them? What are its long-term benefits? Let’s take a look …

Nature and playing in the natural world is good for children. Study after study concludes that children who spend time outside are happier, smarter, fitter, more attentive and less anxious than those who spend their time indoors.

Nature Benefits the Mind

Nature is enormously beneficial for children’s emotional and mental wellbeing.

  • Nature stimulates children's imaginations and sense of wonder Nature stimulates children’s imaginations. Watch children in the countryside for just a few moments and you can soon see their creativity kicking in, utilising the natural environment and materials around them in all manner of creative ways. Nature is an exceptional source of inspiration.
  • The natural world makes children think deeply. Children of all ages will look at natural objects, plants and animals and then look closer. They’ll ask questions about them, learning by discovery too, and build a huge knowledge about the natural world and all the things in it. It can often make them really think profound thoughts about where we came from, what it might be like to be a wild animal, why the flowers and trees change with the seasons, and so on.
  • The natural world is a wonderful stress-buster. Outside, in nature, children enter a completely different world and can leave the stresses of the modern world behind, almost instantly.
  • Being out in the natural world can boost children’s self-confidence by giving them more freedom to go in one direction or another, to create a myriad of activities within their surroundings and to simply be themselves.
  • The natural world gives children freedomOutdoors, children can be more free than in any other situation. With this new-found freedom, they can really ‘live’ and see a new side of life that will appeal to their inner instincts and natural sense of adventure.
  • Nature also teaches children about responsibility and self-control. Giving a child the responsibility to care for plants, or to put out seeds for the wildlife, teaches them valuable lessons about caring for other living things — and the responsibility that requires. Empathy will follow naturally.
  • It’s similar with the element of risk. They will quickly learn to risk-assess in the endless bounds and variety of the natural environment. That’s incredibly important.
  • Outdoor play is shown to improve children’s focus, especially for those with ADHD. It’s also shown to increase mental energy and short-term memory skills.

A study by the American Institute for Research found that children learning in outdoor classroom environments achieved a 27% improvement in science scores.

Nature Benefits the Body

Regular access to nature has enormous benefits for the physical health and bodies of people of all ages — especially growing children. These include:

  • Nature benefits the bodyRegular exercise is great for kids. Running around and playing in the natural world gives children space to really run free and to improve their physical fitness. Doing so will also help them to maintain healthy body mass indices and respiratory function.
  • This exercise, and the hugely varied activities that are possible out in the natural world, are sure to improve children’s motor skills, strength and physical resilience.
  • Nature stimulates far more senses than most indoor activities. The outdoors is a rich, sensory environment; children can see, hear, touch, feel and smell. In stark contrast, TV, other screen-based activities and most toys stimulate just a narrow range of children’s senses.
  • A child who appreciates nature is more likely to appreciate the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, for example in relation to physical exercise and healthy eating choices.
  • Studies also show that babies sleep better at night if they’ve been out in the fresh air during the daytime.

Another study in 2019 found that adults who had low exposure to outdoor environments as children had far worse mental health than those who had good access.

Nature Benefits the Spirit

  • Nature has many spiritual benefits for children Children who connect deeply with nature are more likely to become environmentally conscious individuals. That’s good for the spirit — and the planet itself.
  • The natural world is full of beauty and wonder. When children learn to appreciate this, the benefits are truly profound.
  • Playing close to nature, away from the boundaries of homes and schools, opens up a whole new world to children. In this bigger world, new friends can be made and new interests can evolve together into the future. It’s also something that can become a shared interest within families themselves.
  • An appreciation for nature and the Great Outdoors can have life-long positive effects that can be carried forwards well into adulthood.
  • Appreciating nature can also give children a sense of priority. For example, to highlight things that really matter in the bigger scheme of things. This bigger perspective can really help when insignificant things are bringing a child down.
  • The natural world creates a feeling of pleasure at a deep level. When life in the modern environment is causing stress and discomfort, a walk out in the fresh air is sure to blow out the cobwebs and raise one’s mood. Mindfulness also goes hand-in-hand with the peace available in the natural world.

Children don’t remember their best ever day in front of the TV, but a day’s adventure with nature is hard to forget.

Conclusions

Nature is a wonderful teacherNature is an amazing teacher. Importantly, it teaches children just as much about themselves as it does about the natural world itself. Children who spend time with nature at an early age awaken previously undiscovered skills like leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, independence, using tools and many more. These are also skills they can take with them into the world as they grow towards adulthood.

Nature is a wonderful equaliser too. It doesn’t judge or rank children. It doesn’t exclude anyone and indeed is a wonderful connector. It also gives children the opportunity of adventure, of discovery, of an escape from today’s technological and often man-made world. Everything in nature is real and, when you take a moment to take a close look, it’s exciting and amazing in equal measure. The Great Outdoors really is great! It’s often a whole new world for those who’ve previously spent most time indoors or in a city. As such, it represents almost endless possibilities. Nature allows play and discovery to be unstructured and, a such, open-ended, offering unrivalled opportunities. What’s more, it can be incredible fun for under-fives and, indeed, children of any age.

Enjoying Nature in our Birmingham Forest School

Forest School gives children opportunities for adventure outdoorsLeaps & Bounds is incredibly proud to offer its Birmingham Forest School to children attending the nursery. It promises to positively change their outlook and profoundly improve their lives — quite possibly forever. Learn more about how children can benefit from nature and the natural world in our Complete Guide to Forest School here.

If you would like to explore the possibility of enrolling your child into Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and its Forest School, call 0121 246 4922 or contact us to arrange a visit here. We are an outstanding nursery and pre-school based in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick.

(Check out our other post about activities that any child can enjoy outside with nature, where fun and discovery are free).

The 7 Key Learning & Development Programmes of the EYFS
Early years education at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, BirminghamIn last month’s Rough Guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), we touched upon the 7 EYFS learning and development programmes and their goals, promising to come back to them in much greater detail. We’ll now take a closer look, so that parents can learn more about the programme that their under-fives are experiencing at nurseries like ours, as part of their preparation to become ‘school-ready’ by the time they are five.

The 7 Key Learning & Development Programmes of the EYFS

The 7 key learning and development programmes, covered by the EYFS, include three primary areas of focus plus 4 additional areas. In many ways, the seven represent the learning and development curriculum at early years settings like Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston. They form an educational structure that also includes a set of goals for each child to attain. Together, they allow children to learn and develop through play, exploration, active learning, creativity and critical thinking.

The 3 primary areas of learning and development

Childcare professionals in England focus most strongly on the three prime areas of learning and development, particularly for the youngest children. These are essential skills that every child needs in order to learn and develop optimally. They form essential building blocks needed as foundations for the other four areas of focus (we’ll come to those later in this article). The three prime areas also allow childcare practitioners to recognise if a child has special educational needs, challenges or disabilities. If so, these can be discussed with the parent or carer and appropriate support options can then be sought if needed.

Learning and development at the nurseryThe three primary areas of learning and development are:

  • Communication & language;
  • Physical development;
  • Personal, social & emotional development.

We’ll take a look at each in turn …

Communication & language

The communication module is all about the children developing their listening, attention, comprehension and speaking skills. Childcare practitioners will look out for them actually listening attentively in a variety of situations. For example, these would include story-telling and spoken engagement from both adults and other children around them. Staff will watch to ensure that they comprehend what’s being communicated, understand verbal instructions, ask relevant questions and generally respond to what’s been communicated in appropriate ways. They will be encouraged to speak and communicate their understanding of what’s being said in appropriate spoken form including, for example, the correct use of past, present and future tenses. All in all, the aim is for them to become confident in their communication skills and be able to express themselves, whatever the situation.

Physical development

The physical development part of the EYFS programme is all about the children developing physical skills, like movement control and coordination, including both small and large types of movement. It’s important for these skills to develop in a wide range of situations. These might include things like successfully holding and using a writing instrument, negotiating larger spaces and handling a variety of tools and equipment in safe and appropriate ways. Personal, social & emotional developmentThis is taken a step further by instilling in the children the importance of physical exercise and a healthy diet. The children’s personal needs also come into this module and, as part of this, they are encouraged to dress themselves and use toilet facilities independently and to be mindful of their own, personal hygiene.

Personal, social & emotional development

EYFS’s personal, social and emotional development module aims to help children to become more self-aware, self-confident in themselves, aware of their own feelings and sensitive to those of others. It also helps them to foster good relationships with those around them and to behave appropriately while, at the same time, understanding what is not acceptable in terms of behaviour. The programme helps children to become more confident in their own abilities and be a cooperative individual within their group. They should recognise their own needs, and be able to politely verbalise them, while remaining sensitive to the needs of others. With a sense of mutual respect, they should develop a positive sense of themselves, enhance their social skills and deepen their emotional intelligence. Positive relationships should thereby grow naturally.

The 4 additional areas of learning and development

The three prime areas above form a strong learning and development foundation for the remaining four areas of focus.

Reading with a young childThe four additional areas of learning and development are:

  • Literacy;
  • Mathematics;
  • Understanding the world;
  • Expressive arts & design.

We’ll take a look at each in turn …

Literacy

The literacy component of the EYFS curriculum is about reading and writing.

In regard to reading, children will become familiar with letters and phonics and should be able to link these to spoken words. As they progress, they should soon be able to read and comprehend reasonably simple sentences and even some of the more common irregular words. They should be able to demonstrate an understanding of what they’ve read in a wide variety of reading materials.

Writing is a natural progression of this as they use the skills and understanding of reading and apply it to their own written words and sentences.

Mathematics

Mathematics is a key module within the EYFS framework

The mathematics element of the EYFS curriculum covers everything you’d expect in terms of early years mathematics, but it also relates the topic to the physical world around children. So, as well as learning to count, recognise when numbers are greater or smaller than others, do simple addition and subtraction and suchlike, children are encouraged to recognise how mathematics relates to their environment and to everyday objects. For example, they are will start to see regular patterns and become aware of simple mathematics relating to size, distance, weight, volume, time and money. They will be able to solve simple problems and understand concepts like doubling, halving, sharing and so on.

Understanding the world

Technology is one part of this topic. Here, children will be able to discover technology that will suit specific purposes that they want to undertake around the home, at nursery or later in school.

Children will get to understand the physical world around them, becoming more aware of nature, plants and the animal world. They will learn about the similarities and differences between living things, materials, objects, places and whole environments. Another aim is to enable them to discuss all these things and to understand why some things happen as they do.

People and communities is another key focus area within this module. In a similar way to the section above, children will observe and explore the similarities and differences between people, families, cultures, communities and traditions. They should become sensitive to the fact that different people have different preferences, beliefs and values. They should also soon be able to articulate their understanding of these and be able to compare them verbally.

Expressive arts & design

Early years creativity

The exploration and use of different media and materials is a key component of this EYFS curriculum module. So, children will get involved in singing, dancing and making music in a variety of different ways. They’ll use different techniques to explore design, colour, form, function and texture using a range of different materials and tools.

Children are also encouraged to be imaginative as part of this module. They should be able to implement what they’ve learned about media, materials and creative techniques to create original and imaginative works of their own. These pieces may be created through art, design, technology, music, dance, role-play or creative writing.

Continuous assessment, the ‘Progress Check’ & the ‘EYFSP’

Throughout all seven areas of the EYFS learning and development programme, the childcare professionals at nurseries, pre-schools and other early years settings will continuously monitor how the children are progressing. The learning and development plan will regularly be tailored, as appropriate, to the emerging needs and preferred learning styles of each individual child. Parents/carers will be kept informed throughout and a personal learning journal will be maintained, as part of this, for each child. This is available to view at any time. There is also a formal, written ‘Progress Check’ once children reach the age of two and this can be used to ascertain whether the child in question has any special needs and, if so, what support may be required. Similarly, an Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (“EYFSP”) is produced in the final term in which the child reaches the age of 5. This is used by the school that the child attends following nursery, in order to appraise the child’s readiness for Year 1.

Childcare services at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery fully embraces all areas of the excellent EYFS framework, for early years learning and development. Babies and children thrive in this environment and each child achieves personal bests through doing so. If you are looking for high quality childcare and early education for your baby or child under five, please consider Leaps & Bounds. We are a nursery in Edgbaston, near Birmingham (B16), so are also convenient for parents looking for nurseries or pre-schools near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Call 0121 246 4922 or request a visit or more information here. We’d love to meet you, show you around and to tell you more about this excellent nursery, its learning and development programme, and how it could benefit your child.

A Rough Guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
The EYFS is a complete framework for early years education and careIn our ‘Why Choose Us’ section, we give a brief outline of our Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum and roughly what it includes. However, the EYFS is not just a  curriculum. It is actually a fully-fledged ‘framework’ — an entire approach to early years education and care. It is used at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and other registered childcare settings throughout England. In this article, we explain how it’s used, what it consists of and what its key aims are.

Why use the Early Years Foundation Stage framework?

All UK Registered Childcare settings are mandated by the UK’s Department of Education (‘DoE’) to implement what’s known as the Early Years Foundation Stage (‘EYFS’) framework. This is a legal requirement for early years settings under the Childcare Act 2006. The framework includes a comprehensive set of rules, a series of excellent guidelines and additional legally-binding guidance for early years settings in England. These have been shaped by best practice approaches to education and care, which have been tried and tested over the course of many years.

What are the key aims of the EYFS?

The key educational aim of the EYFS framework is for children’s learning and development to progress in the most successful way — and a way that best suits each individual child. After all, every child is unique. This aim is critically important in order to nurture and help maximise their skills and abilities while also recognising that children learn and develop in different ways and at different rates. Achieving this will help give each child the best possible start in life, whatever their abilities or disabilities. This will, in turn, give them the best chance to fulfil their own personal potential later in life. Study after study has shown that children’s early years of learning and development have a huge impact on lifelong outcomes, so achieving personal bests is incredibly important.

“The Early Years Foundation Stage … ensure(s) children’s ‘school readiness’ and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.” ( DoE, March 2017)

The EYFS aims to forge a partnership between early years settings and parentsThe EYFS framework aims to ensure:

  • the safeguarding, happiness and welfare of children in early years settings;
  • high quality and consistent early years education and care;
  • equal opportunities for every child;
  • that children build a wide range of skills and knowledge as a foundation for the future;
  • that children are ready and fully prepared for school by the time they leave early years care;
  • the nurturing of a partnership between early years childcare settings and parents/carers in order to achieve the aims.

What does the EYFS framework include?

The EYFS framework has several key components:

  1. Learning and development programmes that are implemented by the early years setting. These form the basis of the curriculum.
  2. A set of learning goals for the children to work towards. Their primary aim is to ensure each child’s readiness for school.
  3. Continual assessment of each child’s progress and tailoring of their learning and development programmes as appropriate.
  4. Safeguarding and welfare requirements. These prescribe the steps needed to keep children safe and well at early years settings like nurseries and pre-schools.

We’ll go into a little more detail about each one.

What are the EYFS programmes?

Communication, language and literacy are key programmes within the EYFSThe EYFS learning and development programmes cover a total of 7 areas. In real terms, these programmes form the basis of the core curriculum in place at early years settings like Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. They are implemented, in a structured way, through playing, exploring, active learning, creating and critical thinking. Of the seven, there are three prime areas or learning and development. These are:

  • Communication and language
    (listening, understanding, speaking etc.)
  • Physical development
    (movement, co-ordination, health, self-care, exercise, diet, hygiene etc.)
  • Personal, social and emotional development
    (self-confidence, self-awareness, speaking in groups, behaviour, management of feelings, making relationships, etc.)

In tandem with those are the four remaining areas of focus for the children, being:

  • Literacy
    (reading, writing, vocabulary, comprehension etc.)
  • Mathematics
    (counting, numeracy, problem-solving, simple arithmetic, comprehension, of shapes/space/volumes etc).
  • Understanding the world
    (Awareness of different people, communities, cultures, nature and the world around them etc.)
  • Expressive arts and design
    (being creative and using imagination including in art, music, dance, technology etc.)

Learn more about the 7 key learning and development programmes in our separate post, here.

What are the EYFS goals?

For each of the seven areas of learning and development is a set of goals for the children. These are present to ensure each child’s successful progress towards the ultimate aim of being ‘school-ready’ by the time they leave early years education and begin school. Programmes are adapted, as appropriate, to accommodate the individual needs, abilities and progress of each child as they work towards each goal. The EYFS learning and development goals are very detailed and are covered in a separate post here.

What about EYFS assessments?

The EYFS has a set of goals for each childThe EYFS includes continuous assessment of each child and their progress towards each goal. It is this assessment that allows key workers and other childcare professionals to tailor programmes to suit individual rates of progress. Parents are also engaged and kept informed so that the child’s learning and development programme is supported and continued, where possible, whilst at home. Part of the assessments process is an important ‘Progress Check‘ report when children reach the age of two.

A final ‘Early Years Foundation Stage Profile‘ (EYFSP) will eventually be completed in the year in which the child reaches the age of five. The EYFSP is used to inform school teachers about each child’s progress once they start Year 1 following Reception. An EYFSP must be provided for every child, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities. These inform the school teachers about each child and are useful as a way to gauge the possible need for additional support, for example.

What are the EYFS safeguarding & welfare measures?

The EYFS also includes an important framework for the safeguarding and welfare of children. Clearly, early years education and care settings need to keep children safe and well, so the EYFS contains several provisions to ensure that this is the case. These measures include:

  • The EYFS includes detailed guidance on child welfare, health & safetySafeguards to ensure the suitability of those in contact with children;
  • Minimum training and qualifications for staff;
  • Provision of a ‘key person’ who is assigned to each child;
  • Minimum staff-to-children ratios;
  • Various measures and safeguards to promote good health, including in relation to use of medicines;
  • A healthy eating/drinking approach;
  • Adequate provisions in place in the event of accident or injury;
  • Adequate steps to ensure that premises are safe, that Healthy & Safety protocols are suitable and that risk assessments are made as and when appropriate;
  • Minimum indoor space and outdoor activity provisions;
  • Suitable protocols are in place to prevent unauthorised people from entering premises or contacting children;
  • Provision for the support of children with special educational needs or disabilities;
  • And much more.

Our Safeguarding policy is available here to read or download.

You can see from the above that the EYFS is incredibly far-reaching. It is an excellent framework and one that really works to maximise the personal potential of each and every child. Along with that, it ensures the best possible attention to the happiness, health, safety and wellbeing of the children.

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

If you would like your baby or child to benefit from everything the EYFS has to offer, Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery would love to hear from you. We’re a nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, B16, so are very convenient for those parents and carers looking for outstanding weekday childcare services near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. We even have our own Forest School! Call 0121 246 4922 for to discuss a nursery place with our team or click any of the bold links in this paragraph for further information.

The many merits of messy play

Face painting funMost kids, especially the young, absolutely love messy play. Whether face-painting, hand printing, playing creatively with food or making masterpieces with clay, preschoolers are usually in their element when they’re making a mess with media of one form or another. Look at a photo of any such activity involving a child and you’re likely to see the pure joy and sense of wonder right there on their faces. They’re likely to be grinning from ear to ear and perhaps even raising their messy hands proudly towards the camera!

Not only is messy play extraordinarily good fun for very young children, but it also has a surprisingly number of long-term benefits for them. We’ll explore some of those in this article. Hopefully, it may help some of the more sceptical parents to understand why it is such an essential element of early years education, despite the occasional splatter of paint going astray.

The benefits of messy play

Messy play is great fun for under-fivesIt’s fun!

The fun aspect of messy play should firstly be considered as important in itself. After all, if children cannot have fun with messy play when they’re youngsters, when can they? Messy play is a great opportunity to get really ‘hands-on’ and totally creative. Learning through this type of play, when having real fun, is the most natural of ways to learn. Messy play is a perfect way for children to discover and to express themselves.

Developing the senses

Messy play is a feast for the senses and it gives children the opportunity to really explore these. They can explore textures, touch, smell, liquids, solids, hardness, softness, colour and even taste when appropriate. Children up to the age of two are particularly responsive to messy and sensory play. It will teach them about the world around them, and about their own senses, in so many different ways.

Stimulating the imagination, boosting creativity & quietly educating

Messy play stimulates children's imaginationsAs they get older, they can build on these new sensory ‘building blocks’ and develop them further, in ever-more creative ways. They will have picked up new skills and knowledge around things like combining colour pigments, mark-making, use of textures, the properties of materials and building/affixing know-how through messy play. Allowing them to explore what’s possible with objects, colour, texture, size, shape and form will stimulate their imagination and make them naturally more creative.

What’s interesting is that children may start off simply enjoying being messy but they’ll very soon progress to making some sort of creative plan in their minds, perhaps building a fantasy world, game or situation of some kind with their peers.

Independent working & team-working skills

Messy play allows children to let their imagination be totally free, whether working and playing independently or with a group of friends. Indeed, teamwork and independent working will be very important skills to possess as they grow through the years into adulthood and ultimately begin their careers.

Messy play also helps children with communication, independent working and team-workingEnhancing communication skills

Taking this a step further, you can see how messy play can help to begin the process of improving communication skills, both with educators and other children. Messy play can be a sociable activity, promoting conversations, social interactions and even negotiation, all in a very natural way. Children like to share their discoveries and will get great pleasure from showing their playmates their creative achievements and discoveries. That’s a great way to bond.

Messy play also promotes questions and answers for parents, children and nursery staff to explore together. This, in turn, can improve skills like articulation, vocabulary, problem-solving and the analysis of cause and effect.

Improving motor skills & building muscle strength

Messy play also helps children, particularly the very young, to develop their fine motor skills. Activities like squeezing, scooping, swiping and sieving all require muscle control in fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders. It also develops their movement skills by combining the use of different groups of muscles used for things like balancing, picking up, applying media, fashioning things like clay and so on. Such activity can also build muscle and muscle control in children’s fingers and hands. This can prepare them for holding pencils, for example, once they start learning to write.

Similarly, gross motor skills can be improved via messy play. These skills involve large movements along with greater balance and strength. This can all be developed in the larger muscles, for example in arms, legs and feet through messy play activities like jumping in puddles, playing in sand outdoors, constructing larger-scale creations and suchlike.
Messy play helps children develop motor skills, body strength & coordination

Body control and balance skills are also needed – and gradually improved – when children undertake messy play activities like pouring paint, using a paint brush at an easel or carefully building some kind of creation.

Enhancing hand-eye coordination

It naturally follows that many of these activities will improve children’s hand-eye coordination as they get ever-better at activities like cutting out materials, being precise with glue or paint and on the levels of concentration that’s needed for some messy play activities.

Honing Spatial Awareness

Improving spatial awareness is very important for under-fives as it’s a skill that can keep them safer and literally out of harm’s way when they get it right. Messy play can help with this as the children learn about the space around them and begin to recall where items and other people are within that area. Good spatial awareness will also, of course, keep other children out of their way and begin to foster a feeling of respect for others and their personal spaces.

Messy play at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery

Messy play at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, BirminghamAt Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, we really embrace the learning opportunities available to children through messy play. Of course, that’s all done with a curriculum-led structure, under close supervision. It’s also scheduled for appropriate times and with the appropriate protections in place (for example using protective aprons or changes of clothing arranged previously with parents).

Well-equipped areas in the nursery allow children of all ages access to messy play, whether on a small or larger scale. Children can play with sand, water, coloured paints, paper and card, natural resources and areas set up for small and large scale marking, construction and other types of messy play.

Messy play is, of course, also closely related to expressive art and design, which is a core part of our EYFS curriculum. Here, children explore a wide variety of materials and creative media and learn to express their ideas, improve artistic abilities and enhance their communication and motor skills. In turn, all of this helps to improve self-confidence, self-esteem, the importance of which cannot be over-emphasised.

There is no wrong or right way for messy play and we appreciate that not all children enjoy getting their hands dirty or perhaps wet. However, at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery they can explore messy play at their own pace and do whatever makes them feel comfortable.

Looking for childcare nurseries in the Birmingham area?

If you are looking for a nursery place in or around Birmingham for your baby or child under five, we currently have places available at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, although they’re being filled up fast. We’re based in Edgbaston, so are conveniently located for those looking for childcare in the Birmingham area including Edgbaston, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Call us on 0121 246 4922, email us here or arrange a visit to the nursery here. We’ll be delighted to speak with you.