Posts

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)

10 Fascinating Facts About Edgbaston
Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is fortunate to be based in Edgbaston, an affluent suburb of Birmingham, just to the south-west of the city. In this post, we take a look at some of our favourite facts about the location, touching on history, significant venues, plus a few famous people with close links to the area.

Edgbaston1

The name Edgbaston is derived from the Old English naming convention whereby a place name consisted of, in this case, a person’s name (‘Ecgbald’) followed by the word for farm (‘tun’). So ‘Ecgbald tun’ (Ecgbald’s Farm), to all intents and purposes, became the name of the small village as it was then.

2

At the time the village was recorded in the Doomsday Book in the year 1086, it had just 10 homes.

3

Cattle grazing in Edgbaston. Image: Lines family sketchbook, public domain.

Edgbaston village remains quite an exclusive and affluent area. Indeed, in terms of property prices, it is one of the most expensive areas in the West Midlands. Much of this is owed to the village’s historical background. Back in the 19th Century, the Gillott and Gough-Calthorpe families, then land owners of much of Edgbaston, refused to allow the area to be industrialised with warehouses or factories and indeed it was often referred to as the area “where the trees begin”. In so doing, the unspoilt area attracted the more wealthy people who typically lived in impressive detached houses, many of which are still in use as private residences today.

4

Priceless works of art from the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec, Turner, Whistler, Van Dyck, Picasso, Botticelli & Van Gogh can be seen at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.Priceless works of art from the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec, Turner, Whistler, Van Dyck, Picasso, Botticelli, Van Gogh and many other masters can be seen — in the flesh — at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. It is a small but incredibly impressive art gallery located on the University of Birmingham campus in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

5

Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Image: Annette Randle /CC BY-SA 2.0Edgbaston also boasts its own 15-acre botanical gardens. Birmingham Botanical Gardens has its main entrance at Westbourne Road and is a superb attraction. It boasts beautiful formal gardens, planted zones of different kinds, impressive glasshouses with tropical, subtropical, Mediterranean and arid plants, a butterfly house, alpine house and pinetum. It also has a sunken rose garden, a rock garden, rhododendron and azalea walks, a waterfowl area, a bird aviary, a museum, two children’s playgrounds, a café, gift shop and much more.

Neville Chamberlain. Image: British Museum, Public domain6

During his lifetime, Neville Chamberlain, a British Prime Minister (1937-1940), was a major donor to the botanical gardens, as was his father Joseph Chamberlain. Neville was born in 1869 at ‘Southborne’, a house in Edgbaston village.

7

J. R. R. Tolkien. Image: Tucker FTW, CC BY-SA 4.0The author J. R. R. Tolkien was also an Edgbaston resident for a time. When he was a teenager, he lived at Starling Road. This was close to two towers; the Waterworks Tower and Perrott’s Folly. It is said that these were the inspiration for Tolkien’s novel The Two Towers, from his trilogy The Lord of the Rings.

8

England vs India Test match at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Birmingham (2011). Image: Jimmy Guano, CC BY-SA 3.0Edgbaston is, of course, famous for international Test Cricket matches and one day ‘internationals’ featuring the England cricket team. These take place at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, which is also home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club and the venue for various county matches.

9

DFS Classic, Edgbaston, Birmingham. Image: Matt Morelli, CC BY-SA 2.0Edgbaston is also synonymous with tennis.

Firstly, Edgbaston Priory Club is a world class tennis venue and is located in Sir Harry’s Road. Top female players from around the world compete there in tournaments like the DFS Classic, which is part of the WTA Tour (run by the Women’s Tennis Association).

Secondly, Edgbaston is also the home of Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society (est. 1860). It is the world’s oldest lawn tennis club still in use.

Thirdly, the first ever game of lawn tennis took place in Edgbaston, in the garden of a house called ‘Fairlawn’ — a strangely apt name!

10

Edgbaston Arts and Crafts house by Herbert Tudor Buckland. IMAGE: Oosoom, CC BY-SA 3.0Birmingham’s only Grade 1 listed domestic building can also be found in Edgbaston. It was designed and built in 1899 by the influential Arts and Crafts architect Herbert Tudor Buckland, who lived there. The property boasts stylish and well-preserved Arts and Crafts style interiors and a formal garden with a Gertrude Jekyll design. It is open to the public and tours are sometimes available. It’s an impressive and imposing house, located at 21 Yately Road, Edgbaston. This is a leafy road which also features other Arts and Crafts houses designed by Buckland.

The architect was also behind the design and build of nearby University House, in Birmingham University, which was built in 1908 (incidentally having been funded mainly by the aforementioned PM Neville Chamberlain). Buckland and his partner E. Haywood are indeed responsible for many designs and ideas that have helped to shape much of modern Birmingham.

An Outstanding Nursery, Pre-School & Forest School Setting in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16This post was brought to you by Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, which is also located in Edgbaston. We’re an ideal nursery/pre-school for those looking for outstanding weekday childcare for babies and children under five near Bearwood, Smethwick, Harborne or Ladywood. We are also a Forest School setting, so children at our nursery can enjoy and learn from everything that nature and the outdoors has to offer. If you’d like to explore the idea of your child attending the nursery, please call 0121 246 4922 while places are still available. Alternatively contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer any questions or arrange for you and your child to see the nursery in action.

Main image: St Augustine’s Church, Edgbaston – The Nave. Photo by ProCivitate, CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

Baby & Toddler Teeth Brushing Guide
We promised to publish a guide to brushing infant teeth in our article about fluoride for under-fives earlier this month. That time has now come, so we explain below what’s generally accepted as the best approach for brushing teeth for babies, toddlers and under-fives in the UK.

When to Start Brushing Children’s Teeth

First, though, it’s important to start brushing children’s teeth — and in the right way — as soon as your baby has any teeth showing. That’s the case even if it’s only one or two teeth initially. Getting the brushing approach right will protect your child from tooth decay and oral health problems, of course, but will also reinforce the importance of a good oral hygiene regime to the child. They learn from adults all the time so, when parents make a habit of cleaning children’s teeth at least twice a day, children are also more likely to continue to do so once they reach an age when they take over teeth brushing completely, by themselves. For the same reason, it’s a good idea to let them see you brushing your teeth too. Their totally independent brushing comes usually around the age of 7, by the way. However, they should be encouraged to actively brush teeth themselves — under close parental supervision and often with hands-on help — well before that. Let’s take it step by step:

Brushing Babies’ Teeth

Just a smear of the toothpaste is needed for babies & children up to the age of 3Babies’ teeth usually start to appear around the age of 6 months of age, although it varies. In fact, some babies are even born with one or more teeth that have already erupted, as it’s called, through their gums. Whichever age it is that they first appear, that is the age parents should start to brush their teeth.
So, how do you brush a baby’s teeth? Firstly, you need to ensure that you’re using the right toothpaste, with the right fluoride content, so ensure that you carefully read the label. For babies and children up to the age of 3, use either ‘children’s’ fluoride toothpaste that has at least 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in it, up to a maximum of 1,500ppm if using a ‘family’ toothpaste (learn more about fluoride for children here).

Just a smear of the toothpaste is needed, up to the age of 3. You can use an infant’s toothbrush, a ‘finger brush’ or even simply a small piece of clean gauze wrapped around your finger. The easiest method is to sit your baby or toddler on your knee, facing away from you with their head resting on your chest, with their head tilted backwards a little. Taller toddlers can stand, but the same approach works. Facing a mirror is an excellent way to do it, since you can then both see how you are brushing your child’s teeth — and the child will learn from this. Use small circular movements to smear the toothpaste on all areas of their teeth and also on their gums. They should spit out any foam that’s been generated but they do not need to rinse. Indeed, not rinsing means that the fluoride will continue to protect their teeth for longer.

Once they’re used to this happening at least twice a day, you can start to encourage them to use their own hands, which you can help to guide. They will soon pick up the idea, but you’ll need to continue to closely supervise.

Brushing Teeth from 3 to 6 years of age

The same approach works fine for children once they reach the age of 3 upwards, except now they should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Clearly this will generate more foam, so it’s important for them to spit out the excess foam but, again, they do not need to rinse as not doing so will continue to protect their teeth from plaque and possible decay.

Brushing Teeth from the Age of 7

By the time they reach the age of 7, children should have picked up exactly how to brush their own teeth unaidedBy the time they reach the age of 7, children should have picked up exactly how to brush their own teeth — unaided — and should be doing so at least twice a day. They should use children’s or family toothpaste containing between 1,350 and 1,500ppm of fluoride when doing so and, again, a pea-sized amount.

Tips for Terrific Toddler Teeth!

  • One of the daily times for teeth brushing should be at the end of the day, before they go to bed. In this way, children’s teeth and gums will be protected overnight — quite a few hours of protection when you think about it.
  • Dental treatment for children is free under the NHS, so make the most of this; for example, if your child needs a check-up for possible treatment. Going to the dentist regularly for check-ups also sets a good example that they can follow. Going from an early age is more likely to put them at ease at such visits.
  • Give teeth individual attention when brushing. Ensure front, sides/edges and back are all thoroughly brushed along with the adjoining gums. If this approach is used, every tooth will get a great clean. There’s even an app for teeth cleaning, which makes it thorough, educational and fun (available on IOS and on Android).
  • A typical teeth brushing session should last no less than 2 full minutes. That way, each tooth and all gums should get ample attention.
  • Teeth brushing should always be supervised for young children. Don’t let them play, walk around or run with their brush in their mouth — it would be very dangerous for their safety.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and anything with added sugar contentAvoid added sugar in drinks and unnecessary added sugar in food as this leads to plaque build-up and eventually to decay. Moreover, the longer sugar is in the mouth, the worse it is likely to be. So, check labels, avoid added sugar, sweets, and sugary biscuits etc. except, perhaps, as occasional treats. Even with fruit juice there will be lots of natural sugar, so this can be diluted with water to reduce its concentration. 1 part fruit juice to ten parts water is a good guide. Generally speaking milk and water are, of course, the best drinks for young children. Even though natural milk contains sugars, it’s far less likely to cause tooth decay.
  • Brush teeth immediately after meals or any sweet drinks if at all possible, especially if anything sugary has been included or if fruit juice was drunk. This will stop the build-up of plaque in its tracks at an early stage and, in the case of fruit juice, also wash away the natural fruit acids (which can otherwise also harm teeth).

The Benefits of Good Oral Hygiene

Achieving a good approach to teeth brushing and oral hygiene, right from an early age, is great for children. It sets up a good habit for them to continue independently and protects their teeth and gums from decay as well as from unsightly discolouration — or worse. Regular teeth brushing also gives children fresher breath along with great-looking teeth — and that’s also great for their self-confidence. What’s more, studies show that there is a link between good oral health and general health.  People who have poor oral hygiene are statistically at greater risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, so looking after teeth and gums is incredibly important.

People who have poor oral hygiene are statistically at greater risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

About Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16We, at Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery, hope you find this guide useful. We offer the highest quality childcare for babies and children aged up to five in our outstanding nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Our nursery and pre-school is near Bearwood, Smethwick, Harborne and Ladywood, making it convenient for anyone living or working in those areas. We even have our own Forest School, which gives children wonderful learning experiences in nature. Do get in contact as soon as possible if you are looking for weekday childcare for your little one in the Birmingham area, as spaces are limited. We’d love to tell you more, so please call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer any questions or to show you and your little one around the lovely setting.

Fluoride for Under-5s: Facts & Myths
Fluoride helps protect against tooth decayIn this article, we look at fluoride use and its importance during children’s early years in the fight against tooth decay. This includes useful facts and guidelines for parents, the recommended fluoride content in toothpaste for babies and under-fives, as well as dispelling a common myth around unproven fluoride health concerns.

Fluoride

As well as being found in commercial toothpastes, fluoride is naturally found in several foods, including fish and tea, as well as in the drinking water supply. It’s a natural mineral that hugely benefits the population by significantly reducing tooth decay. This is achieved through a reduction in the effects of acid produced by bacteria in the mouth, as well as by strengthening tooth enamel.

It’s interesting to note that children whose teeth are regularly exposed to fluoride when their young teeth are developing tend to have a reduced amount of grooving in the surface of their teeth. This allows harmful plaque to be removed much more easily, again helping to fight tooth decay.

“Research over 60 years shows that 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million of fluoride in the water supply reduces tooth decay by between 40 and 60%”

For that reason, where the natural water supply falls below this fluoride strength, additional fluoride is often added by the water companies, in order to make up the shortfall. The amount varies from place to place, though, and can be checked by contacting your local water supplier.

Fluoride in Toothpaste – How Much is Right for Your Child?

How much fluoride is right for babies and under-fives?The correct fluoride content in toothpaste usually* depends upon the age of your child.

For babies and toddlers aged under 3, use a children’s or family toothpaste containing at least 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride, but no more than 1,500ppm. Just a smear is enough for children of this young age and the little one does not need to rinse their mouth afterwards. Indeed, leaving a tiny bit of toothpaste residue in the mouth will protect their teeth for longer. Their teeth should be brushed at least twice every day from the moment the first tooth appears.

Children aged between 3 and 6 should also use toothpaste containing between 1,000ppm and 1,500ppm of fluoride, but this time they should use a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush. As with babies, the children do not need to rinse (so that the effects of the fluoride last longer) but they can, of course, spit out after brushing. Again, they should brush twice a day as a minimum.

* If a child has a higher risk of tooth decay for any reason, a dentist may recommend a higher strength toothpaste.

Brushing Should Be Supervised

Children’s teeth brushing should be closely supervised by a parent or responsible adult until they are at least 7 years old. This is to ensure that teeth are being brushed properly and thoroughly, as well as for safety reasons. Children must never associate toothbrushes with playing, and certainly must never run around with them in their mouths.

Fluoride Varnish

The NHS suggests that children aged 3 or more would benefit from a coating of fluoride varnish two or more times per year. This is something that’s available from dentists and involves a coating of varnish being applied to the teeth. The varnish contains high levels of fluoride and helps the teeth to resist decay and it also strengthens enamel. Even baby teeth can be protected by fluoride varnish. The varnish is particularly useful to anyone who is particularly at risk of developing, or is naturally prone to, tooth decay, or who suffers from a condition called dry mouth.

Does Fluoride Do Any Harm?

Learn the facts about fluorideFluoride has been of enormous benefit to millions of people around the world, significantly reducing tooth decay in rich and poor communities alike, even when present only in the water supply. According to both the Oral Health Foundation and the NHS, fluoride is absolutely safe for both children and adults. While there are some that say it can be linked to a variety of health conditions, there has been no compelling evidence to scientifically back up the claims.

One exception to that rule is the possibility of developing dental fluorosis, which is a condition caused by exposure to too much fluoride when young teeth are developing (typically below the age of 7). In mild cases, it may cause flecking or white lines on the surface of the teeth. In more severe cases, pitting and discolouration may occur. However, in the UK, the condition only rarely occurs in a way that adversely affects the appearance of teeth, not least because fluoride levels in water supplies are carefully monitored by an official body set up to do so — the Drinking Water Inspectorate (‘DWI’).

A Note About Sugar

This article is geared towards increasing parent knowledge around fluoride use and its importance during children’s early years. Before we sign off, though, it would be remiss of us not to mention that one of the best ways to avoid tooth decay is, of course, to avoid added sugar in both food and drinks. When sugar coats teeth, plaque is likely to build up and then your children are more at risk of tooth decay. It’s even worse when the sugar coating and subsequent plaque are left for longer periods. Hence, it’s important to both avoid unnecessary sugar in the first place and to brush children’s teeth regularly to remove it. We cover this and related brushing guidelines in our separate teeth brushing guide for babies, toddlers and young children, here.

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16This article was brought to you by Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery, a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, near Birmingham. We’re one of just a few nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick, so would suit parents living or working in any of those locations. We’re also one of the rare Birmingham nurseries with a Forest School, which will allow your child to benefit from everything that nature and the outdoors has to offer. We offer daytime childcare and early years education to babies and children aged up to five, Monday to Friday, for 51 weeks of the year. Healthy food, drinks and snacks are all a part of this.

For more information about about a possible nursery place for your child here at Leaps & Bounds, please call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here and we’ll be very happy to help.

10 Reasons to Read With Your Child
The benefits from parents reading with children are profound and life-changingThere are a many reasons why every parent should regularly read with their children. The benefits to children are profound and some are effectively life-changing, so this is something really important that every parent should do for their child. Let’s take a look at the facts, proven by study after study across the world …

1. A Fun Way to be Quietly Educated

Reading with your child is a really fun and immersive way for a child to be educated yet it happens in a very natural way that doesn’t feel in any way like studying, nor like a formal lesson. It can also be a fun ‘escape’ for the parent!

2. A Massive Boost to Language Skills

Regularly reading with your child has been proven to increase their language skills by an impressive 20%. In a study by the Nuffield Foundation using data stretching back over 40 years, children aged on average 3¼ years old were found to have boosted language skills by the equivalent of 8 months of early years education. That’s a huge leap given their very young age.

3. Reading Helps Learning in Every Other Area

Reading with an adult boosts language skills and improves overall literacyBoosting language skills in this way, during their critically-important pre-school years, will help them in every other discipline and topic. After all, if they have a better understanding of language, they will pick up instructions, information and knowledge much more easily. Reading directly teaches children about the world, giving them greater knowledge of a wider range of topics — and this can only stand them in good stead going forwards.

4. Better Literacy Overall

Reading with an adult helps children to grasp phonetics, letter patterns and syllables, greatly improving word recognition and reading methodology. With an adult present and reading a shared book together, the child can ask questions and the adult can point out important details about word structure, grammar, sentence structure and punctuation. The parent will soon learn where the child needs additional help and focus too. In this way, the child will learn to read more thoroughly and progress more quickly in multiple areas of learning. Their overall communication, reading, writing and literacy will improve far more quickly because of the adult facilitation.

5. Increased Creativity Through Stimulated Imaginations

Creativity is also boosted when children are encouraged to read. After all, if they read more, they will be exposed to a wider range of storytelling and this, in itself, will give them a window into creativity, hugely stimulating their imaginations.

6. More Empathy & Better Social Skills

Regularly reading boosts empathy and social skillsChildren can develop a greater feeling of empathy if they have explored more books with parents or carers. As they discover different characters and scenarios, they’ll learn to feel for some of those characters and perhaps the predicaments that some get themselves into. Improving feelings of empathy can only be a good thing, leading to better social skills, closer bonds with others and a good grasp in regard to what’s right and what’s wrong.

7. It Levels the Socio-Economic Playing Field

Reading with children in their early years is also a great social leveller. By that, we mean that the performance boost they receive through reading with adults evens things up between children from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those from higher ones. Reading evens up the playing field and by a significant amount.

8. Greater Preparedness for School

In turn, all the above benefits are sure to set children in good stead when they start school at the age of around five. With the greater language skills and knowledge gleaned through reading at a higher level, they will hit the ground running more easily when they begin school.

9. A Long-Term Boost to Education, Careers & Life Choices

In turn again, this boost when they start school will have an impact on their success during school and likely past school into higher education. Where they have been streamed at school, the educational boost they will have had earlier in their lives will positively impact their level of education at every subsequent stage. Ultimately, that could well lead to better outcomes, careers and quality of life when they reach adulthood. That’s an enormous benefit, simply because parents were actively involved in their reading.

10. Closer Bonds Between Parent & Child

Reading with a baby or toddler is a great way to form a closer bondReading regularly together will also lead to a closer bond between parent and child. This has been proven in studies. It’s good quality time, spent together in a common venture. The subject matter of the reading can also be a great discussion point between the two individuals going forwards.

Read with children, not just to them — the biggest benefits come when parent and child are both proactively involved.

Reading at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston (Birmingham)

We take all of this on board at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston. Indeed, reading with children is all part of the EYFS curriculum at the nursery. We work on reading with the children ourselves, involving them in interactive ways including inviting input, asking questions and encouraging feedback from them throughout. Of course, we also encourage parents of babies and children under our care to actively involve themselves in their child’s education, including in their reading when at home. As we have seen, there are so many benefits for the child if they do this. Outcomes are so positively affected that parental input at home is crucial for their children’s life-long outcomes.

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, Ladywood, Bearwood & Harborne B16Please get in touch if you are interested in a possible place for your baby, toddler or under-five child at one of Birmingham’s best nurseries and pre-schools. The nursery is close to Ladywood, Bearwood, Harborne and Birmingham. You can email/message or book a visit to the nursery here, or call 0121 246 4922 to speak to us (please leave a message if you reach voicemail and we’ll call you back). We look forward to hearing from you.

Home-made Bird Feeders – Ideas for Kids
Earlier this month, we published a detailed article about making gardens wildlife-friendly for kids. We promised to follow up with a post showing a variety of ways for children to make home-made bird feeders — and that is the subject of this article today. We hope toddlers, young children and their parents enjoy making the feeders and seeing all the new feathered visitors that will subsequently come.

A robin with fresh bread in a treeThere are hundreds of types of bird in the UK, so if you leave tasty food out for them, a variety are bound to visit. Be patient though, because birds are rightly suspicious of ‘new’ objects, so may take a few days to build up the courage to take a closer look.

Editor’s note: In our garden, we regularly see Robins, Sparrows, Starlings, Blue Tits, Cole Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Great Tits at our bird feeders. Blackbirds, Pigeons and Thrushes also peck at what falls beneath them. However, now that our bird feeders are more established and ‘trusted’ by the birds, we’re seeing Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Black Caps regularly too (they’re really cute!) and, occasionally, brightly coloured Bullfinches.

A Greater Spotted WoodpeckerOnce they’re convinced that the new feeders are safe, birds will visit regularly if you continue to leave out tasty treats for them and keep your distance, out of sight. You will soon learn which foods are the most popular, so can fine-tune your bird offerings as time goes by. It’s extremely rewarding seeing who will come and which of the birds will become ‘regulars’. We have a pair of Robins (both called Robin!), a blackbird called Norris and a Woodpecker that we call Woody (what else!). Naming regular bird visitors is all part of the fun for kids. Feeding birds is also educational for young children, who will not only get to know the different species, but also grow their appreciation of the outdoors, nature, and our impact on it. Often, an early exposure to nature and some of its wonderful creatures can lead to a life-long appreciation. This can help the creatures living nearby and the mental wellbeing of the children themselves as they develop a deeper appreciation of the natural world.

Home-made Bird Feeder Ideas

Bird seed comes in several varietiesIn our last post, we mentioned some commercially-available bird food, but here we’ll take a look at some home-made bird treats that children, parents and guardians can make for the birds at home. They’re pretty quick and easy to make and can often be made from materials and ingredients that are available in the home kitchen. Children may need to ask an adult to buy some seeds, as these are very popular with wild birds. Garden centres and supermarkets usually offer a variety of seeds that are suitable for birds, including different bird seed mixes.

First, a safety note: Children should be supervised by a responsible adult at all times, including around any tools that are required (e.g. scissors and knives) and also around any ingredients that might cause an allergic reaction (e.g. some children may be allergic to nuts).

With a little imagination, lots of things can be made into bird feeders; from empty cartons, used Easter egg boxes (but remove all trace of chocolate as it’s poisonous to birds), empty plastic bottles, the cardboard core from kitchen towel/toilet rolls and so on. Here are just a few ideas, though, that we’ve tried ourselves:

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

Pine cone covered in peanut butter or lard plus seedsThese are quick and easy! Here are the steps to making your own pine cone bird feeder:

  1. When you’re next out walking near pine trees, pick up one or two nicely-shaped pine cones whose ‘seed scales’ are opening. It’s important that they’re open, as that’s where much of the bird food will go (described in steps 3 & 4 below). If they’re only open a little bit, bring them indoors into the warm house for a few days and they’re more likely to open more fully.
  2. Tie some string to the one end (whichever is easiest) and that will later be used to hang the pine cone feeder outside for the birds.
  3. Cover the pine cone with peanut butter or lard using a suitable implement from the kitchen A pine cone bird feeder stripped of food by birds(e.g. a spatula or blunt knife — under close adult supervision, of course). This should be pressed into the open scales.
  4. Roll the sticky pine cone into a tray or flat plate of bird seeds, which should easily stick to the peanut butter or lard. Try to ensure that some of the seeds get pressed into the seed scale openings of the pine cone. Birds will enjoy the process of digging those out.
  5. Tie the seeded pine cone somewhere suitable* for the birds outside.
  6. Once they’re used to the new addition (and it can take a few days), birds will start to come for the delicious seeds, so long as they feel they are safe*.

Hanging Bread Feeder

A slice of fresh bread, ideally brown or granary bread, can be used in a similar way to the pine cone above. An end crust may work best as it’ll be stronger when held Hanging bread bird feeder (N.B always remove it if it starts to go mouldy)by the piece of string (alternatively garden wire can be used so long as no sharp ends are left protruding otherwise they birds can be caught up in it or become injured). So, the bread needs coating with lard or peanut butter (both sides) and then the seeds need to be pressed into that sticky coating. Once coated, it can be hung outside* using a similar approach to the pine cone feeder above. Simple! If children want to get even more creative, by the way, they can use bagels, with the string being threaded through the hole in the middle. N.B. Never allow bread or other bird foods to become mouldy as the mould is very harmful to birds.

Carton Bird Feeder

Home-made carton bird feederWho would have thought it; a milk or juice carton can be made into an excellent bird feeder! It requires the use of scissors or a knife, so it’s best for this one to be made partly by an adult:

  1. Take an empty juice or milk carton (a ‘Tetra Pak’ type with the waxy folded card – see image), or indeed an empty plastic water bottle would do;
  2. Unscrew the cap and wash it thoroughly and allow to dry.
  3. An adult should pierce a hole near the top. This will later be used to attach string, from which it will hang.
  4. Using pointed scissors or a sharp knife, a responsible adult should then carefully cut the shapes shown in the accompanying image. The idea is for there to be an area at the bottom of the carton/bottle, about 2 to 3 inches from the base, which will eventually be filled with bird food.
  5. Children can also thread ground nuts, cereals, grapes or apple on string for birds to eatThe feeder can be just a feeder or it can be made to look like an owl or other creature using a little imagination. For example, some flaps cut on the sides could look like wings.
  6. Some carton types can be painted by the child, so it looks attractive. Acrylic paint is best as it’ll stay put, once dry, even if it rains. It can be bright but more natural colours are much less likely to frighten off the birds.
  7. A stick or stiff straw can be pierced into the feeder near the bottom (not shown), for the birds to land on, or some flaps can be left open (shown right) for the same purpose. Ensure there are no sharp ends or edges anywhere otherwise birds (or humans) may be injured.
  8. Fill the bottom section with bird seed, small pieces of fresh bread or other bird food and hang up somewhere suitable* for the birds. Once they’re used to it, they should soon be landing and poking their heads inside to peck at the tasty treats.

Apple Bird Feeder

Children can ask a responsible adult for help with this one. There are a few ways apples can be used to feed birds; they can be placed on the ends of twigs, branches or sticks (see image, right), cut into slices and threaded onto hanging string, or made into a fully-fledged ‘feeder’ as outlined below …

  1. Apple feeders are very popular with blackbirdsFirst, the adult will need to carefully remove the apple core from a whole apple, so there is a neat hole right from the top of the apple to the bottom. It’s important, though, to ensure that the remainder of the apple remains in one piece.
  2. Then, get some string and make a knotted loop in one end and pass that loop from the top of the apple almost to the bottom, through the hole.
  3. The adult should then pierce the apple with a thin (e.g. 5 or 6mm thick) stick near the bottom of the apple, at right angles to the central hole.
  4. As it pierces the apple through the centre hole, the loop of the string can be threaded over the stick before it’s pushed through the second half of the apple. In this way, it’s trapped. A second stick can be pierced through the apple, ideally also passing through the loop in the string, at right angles to the first. In this way, there will be a ‘cross’ perch, with four protruding perches for birds to land on and sit at when eating.
  5. Pointed seeds can even be pierced into the skin of the apple to coat it lightly (if too fiddly, an adult can make little holes in the skin for the seeds to be pushed into).
  6. The whole thing can then be suspended by the string outside, somewhere suitable*.

If you want to be more creative, you can thread more fruits, grapes or ground nuts (peanuts in their shells) onto the same string and perhaps give them seed coatings too.

* Siting Your Bird Feeders

Sparrowhawk - a bird of preyBirds are under pretty much constant fear of attack from predators, so it’s important to locate your bird feeders where birds are safest and most likely to feel secure enough to eat. Therefore bird feeders should be:

  • high enough off the ground to be safe from predators like cats. 1½ metres off the ground would be a good minimum height, for example.
  • low enough for children or their parents/guardians to be able to refill or change them once all the food has gone (so it’s a balance);
  • suspended or sited ideally under cover from the canopy of a larger tree, bush, roof or building overhang of some kind. This is so that the birds are less likely to be attacked from above by birds of prey like Sparrowhawks (shown right). People are often unaware that such birds are even around, but they’re silent and cunning and often lurk inconspicuously without anyone realising. However, once they attack, they come rapidly out of nowhere, usually from above, and are then gone in a flash along with their bird or rodent dinner. Bird feeders situated under some kind of canopy or overhang will therefore generally be more popular with feeding birds than those exposed directly to sky above.

Birds will also appreciate some fresh, clean water, by the way. They also love a bird bath. Take a look at our previous post for more information.

Learn More About Our Forest School at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is located in Edgbaston, near Birmingham. It’s is a childcare nursery as well as being a Forest School setting. This gives under-fives access to the natural world and to nature in the local Birmingham area and it teaches them so much. We’re keen for children to also enjoy nature – including birds – at home too, so these home-made bird feeder ideas should allow families to enjoy birds, even if they don’t have a garden. Learn more about Forest School in our comprehensive guideIf you are interested in a place for your baby, toddler or under-5 child at a nursery, pre-school or Forest School in Edgbaston, or near to Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, call 0121 246 4922, contact us, or book a visit here. We’ll be very happy to hear from you.

Wildlife-Friendly Gardens - for Kids
Robin enjoying a makeshift watering holeWe previously wrote about the amazing benefits of nature for children and we’ll now continue the nature theme with a guide to making gardens wildlife-friendly for kids. From bumble bees, blue tits and butterflies to hedgehogs, lizards and mini-beasts, there are a myriad of fascinating little creatures that will come to visit if the conditions are right. And kids can help!

You Don’t Even Need a Garden

It’s important to note that you don’t really even need a garden. Many of the suggestions below work for those without gardens too, so long as there is access to an area outdoors that’s unlikely to be disturbed by other humans. Even just a windowsill, window box, balcony or area of common ground will potentially do. You never know who will visit when you put food out for the birdsAllotments are also perfect, so long as there are no pest-controlling chemicals or measures being used there as these might harm unintended visiting creatures. Any of these areas can be used to attract wildlife so that children and parents can enjoy the sight, sounds and fascinating behaviour of a variety of delightful little creatures visiting through much of the year.

The Benefits of a Wildlife-Friendly Area

Simply put, getting regular visits from little creatures will bring joy and wonder into children’s lives. As well as learning about the different creatures living nearby, children will get to learn about nature itself and the world around them. With encouragement perhaps from adults, they’ll also learn to respect the visiting wildlife, recognising that each is an individual being, with its own character, feelings, preferences and needs. Insect houses can go just about anywhere, even without a gardenExposure to such little beings may even help children to understand the importance of ecological matters and greener lifestyles. That in itself is becoming ever-more important as the Earth warms more with each passing year.

Children will benefit from nature in so many other ways too. They’ll get exercise, build up muscles and improve coordination skills when they work the soil etc. They’ll reduce stress being out in the fresh air too. Making the outdoors wildlife-friendly will also get them away from screens like the TV, tablets, phones or computer games and that’s virtually always a good thing.

Of course, it’ll also benefit the little visitors themselves, in the form of much-needed food and, indeed, that is the real key to attracting the most wildlife.

How to Attract Wildlife

Bees, dragonflies and many other flying insects simply love BuddleiaAfter a long, often cold lock-down, Spring is pretty much here at time of writing. What better time, then, to start attracting wildlife to gardens and nearby spaces, however small some of them might be. Birds are returning from foreign lands, other animals are coming out of hibernation and more bees and butterflies will soon be travelling from flower to flower in search of nectar.

Food and sustenance is the real key to attracting most wildlife …

Bees, Dragonflies & Damselflies

Bees love poppies & wild flowers. Don't forget that they need water to drink, particularly on hot daysBees will love it if children leave out a little dish of water among any flowers that they regularly visit. It’s important to put something like pebbles and stones in the water so the bees have somewhere safe to land, where they can then sip at the water slightly beneath them. Without the landing stones, the water will be a real danger to them, so that’s an important detail. If they’re lucky, children may even find that dragonflies and damselflies also visit the watering holes that they’ve left out.

Butterflies & Moths

Butterflies will enjoy ripe fruit drizzled with sugar solutionSimilarly, butterflies and moths and maybe bees too, will be delighted if children do something similar to the above except, this time, mix water 50:50 with sugar and the resulting sweet-tasting solution can be drizzled over pieces of ripe fruit or spread over a clean piece of sponge. Either of these can then be placed into a small dish which can be left in amongst flowers outside. If you don’t have access to a garden, a windowsill or balcony will be just as good so long as there are flowers in bloom there.

One of the most popular shrubs for butterflies is ‘Buddleia’, which is available with white, deep purple, pink, blue and even yellow flowers. Butterflies absolutely love Buddleia and most Buddleia bushes will attract some amazing-looking butterfly varieties. Buddleia is extremely popular with butterfliesThese can be fantastic photo opportunities for kids as well as a chance to learn the names of the different species and perhaps build up their own wildlife photo album. Buddleias are relatively inexpensive shrubs and are available at most nurseries. They can be planted and will thrive virtually anywhere, although sunny spots will attract the most butterflies. Parents should usually hard prune them (well, most varieties) in early Spring, in mild weather.

For those with smaller spaces for plants, poppy seeds or mixed wildflower seeds are easy and fun for children to grow too, and will also attract butterflies, bees and many other insects to their pollen once they flowerBirds will love it if children/parents put up bird boxes around the garden or on outside walls of buildings. Wildflower and poppy areas can also look absolutely beautiful too.

Birds

Birds will love it if children/parents put up bird boxes around the garden or on outside walls of buildings and so on. Watching birds pair up, move into bird boxes and raise families of babies is one of life’s joys and can be quite magical for children to witness. It’s even wonderful when the babies finally leave the nest and children can watch them learning to fly and subsequently being taught how and where to feed out in the natural world.
You can even get window feeders if you don't have a garden or want a close-up look

Care needs to be taken, though, as to exactly where to put the bird boxes. They should be out of reach of predators like cats and foxes and also never be in a south-facing position. The reason for that is that, if they face South, they will become too hot in the Summer and babies will not survive under such heat.

Nursery centres usually have a great variety of bird boxes, some for specific species such as blue tits or robins, and they come in a variety of different forms, many of which are inexpensive. Alternatively, they can be made out of scraps of wood — under close supervision of an adult, of course, or purchased online.

Birds will also love bird baths. Here, they’ll be able to bathe (which is enormous fun to watch) as well as to drink. Bird baths need to be shallow and ideally have somewhere safe for the birds to stand, e.g. rocks or stonesThe water should be shallow and children should be encouraged to change the water regularly, for the health of the visiting birds. It’s also a great idea to put a rock of upturned pot or pot base in the water so the birds have somewhere to land safely and to sit if they don’t want to be in deeper water.

Bird feeding stations are also a huge hit with visiting birds. They can be purchased or fabricated from scraps of wood and suchlike (again under supervision of an adult). Birds will prefer it if bird tables or stations are placed under the canopy of an overhanging tree branch as they’ll feel safer from possible attack from above, from birds of prey. There are also some bird feeding stations that will stick to the outside of your window using little suckers; those are a great way for kids to see birds really close up. Fat balls and seed cakes are popular with a whole host of different birds (these are long-tailed tits)Whichever style is used, parents or carers can encourage children to refresh the bird food regularly and to keep the feeding station clean, to protect the health of the birds.

Hanging ‘fat balls’ or ‘seed cakes’ are another convenient option. In our own garden, National Trust branded ‘Robin Peanut Cake‘ continues to be an enormous hit with not only Robins but also with Blue Tits, Cole Tits, Long-Tailed Tits, Starlings and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. We buy ours through our local supermarket delivery service and, considering how much the birds adore it, it’s reasonably inexpensive. For those on a tighter budget or who are more creative, fat balls and seed cakes are easy for children and parents to make from scratch. Indeed, we may follow up with a separate guide to making those in the future.

Insects, Reptiles & Mini-Beasts

Compost heaps and piles of rotting logs are great places to attract insects and mini-beastsCompost heaps and piles of rotting logs are great places to attract insects and mini-beasts like woodlice, bugs, centipedes, millipedes and even the more unusual types of slender wasp, which like to burrow holes into rotting logs and, by the way, are absolutely harmless if left in peace.
Wilderness areas with long, uncut grass or sewn wildflowers will be a great haven for shy slow worms and lizards — or frogs and toads if it’s a damp area.

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs need somewhere warm and dry to hibernate over winterHedgehogs will hibernate in undisturbed piles of autumn leaves, under sheds, compost heaps or undergrowth and even beneath unlit bonfire stacks. You can also make or buy hedgehog houses to nestle in quiet, secluded areas outdoors. You stand the most chance of having hedgehogs visit if your fences and boundaries have occasional gaps underneath, where hedgehogs can enter and exit your garden. Seeing hedgehogs, particularly baby hedgehogs, is an absolute delight for children and adults alike. They really are the cutest of garden visitors. Parents or carers need to ensure that children know not to feed hedgehogs milk or bread — it’s very bad for them.

Don’t be put off if wildlife doesn’t come straight away. Animals are rightly timid, particularly around humans, and sometimes it can take a week or two before they begin to trust any new addition to the neighbourhood.

These wildlife opportunities for your garden, windowsill or balcony are just the tip of the iceberg — there are many other ways to attract wildlife for the benefit of both children and the creatures themselves, but we hope this article gives parents and children some ideas for making a start.

We are Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

This guide was brought to you by Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. As well as offering weekday childcare, we are a Forest School setting, which gives children lots of experiences surrounded by nature. That’s especially important for those children who do not have gardens or nearby outdoor spaces to play in. Learn more about Forest School in our complete guide, here. If you are interested in a place for your child at a nursery, pre-school or Forest School in Edgbaston or near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, call 0121 246 4922, contact us, or book a visit here. We’ll be delighted to tell you more and to meet you and your little one(s).

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.