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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.

Introducing Counting for Toddlers
Counting is more fun when it's part of a gameIn this article, we’ll look at how toddlers can learn to master the art of counting and why it’s important for them to do so early in their lives. To put the importance of counting in perspective …

“Children with good numeracy skills are more likely to earn more, stay in education longer and have more chance of actually being in work when they grow up.” (BBC)

This makes total sense, of course, but how can parents and carers of young children help?

Teaching toddlers to learn how to count to ten by the age of two, or thereabouts, is a good start. Learning to count early in life will lay a good foundation for the further comprehension and advancement of maths when they’re a little older.

Learning to Count Naturally — or By Rote

Numbers are all around us

The good news is that, generally speaking, children seem to have a built-in capacity for counting and a natural mathematical ability. This should be no surprise because, after all, numbers are all around them. For example, counting and numbers are in songs, nursery rhymes, toys, games, patterns found in nature, dates, events, on TV and really just about everywhere when you think about it. Most activities involve numbers. For example, preparing food requires the underlying use of numbers and/or counting. This can be verbalised to help a child grasp the concept. Even doing a puzzle can involve some counting. Shopping clearly involves numbers, counting and simple maths. The start of any game can also be ‘counted in’ with a “1 … 2 … 3 … GO!” or even commenced after a count-down from 10 to zero, and so on. Because of the fun, natural ways that counting can be introduced, children will naturally pick up the concept when they’re little and actually enjoy the learning journey.

Many children will also learn and master their counting skills by ‘rote’ or, in other words, by the child repeating the count from 1 to 10 (or more) many times until it “sticks” in their memory. Parents can help with this by joining in initially and later prompting children only if they get the order wrong or miss a number out when counting on their own.

On average, most children will learn how to count to 10 by the age of two. They may not fully understand the significance of the numbers, though, until they are between two and four years old.

Parental Influence

Parents can make a huge positive impact on children's learning

Parents can have a massive and profound positive effect on children’s learning and development generally — so much so that the benefits of their proactive input can have life-long positive impacts on children’s lives. Our last post went into some detail about that and it’s true, too, when it comes to helping children learn to count.

Once counting is successfully engrained in children’s memories, the comprehension of the significance of numbers usually comes quite naturally, particularly with that help from adults. Counting skills will gradually lead to maths skills like simple addition, subtraction, division and so on.

Adults need to be proactive in engaging children around these subjects, jumping on any opportunity to bring such topics into everyday activities, particularly when they can be made into a game or fun activity.

Give Praise & Be Positive

Learning to count for children

Giving praise can have an enormous positive effect on the child’s success and understanding around numeracy. Knowing when they’re getting it right or wrong — and why — will build up their early numeracy skills and make them more confident around numbers. In contrast, letting on if you don’t like maths yourself, as a parent, will not usually encourage them. Indeed, it may even give them an excuse to give up before they’ve really tried properly.

Once children master numeracy skills in their pre-school years, they will also be more likely to hit the ground running when they start school. So the message to parents, carers and childcare settings is to make it fun, be proactive and look for as many learning opportunities around numbers as possible. In our later post, we suggest some fun counting and maths-based games to help children improve their numeracy skills when at home (click the bold link for details).

Counting, Maths & Numeracy at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery

Counting, Maths & Numeracy at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery

Maths and numeracy are key topics at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Our curriculum is based on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework and, as such, includes special attention towards mathematics. Children at the nursery are encouraged to count and to understand numbers, simple addition, subtraction and the relationship between different numbers. Which is smaller? Which is larger? What happens if you add two numbers together? What happens if you take 2 away? Who came fourth in the race? … And so on. They are also taught to write numbers, of course.

Countdown to Numeracy

Our childcare professionals also encourage children to recognise numbers and maths within their surroundings and in the world around them. Numbers might be hidden in everyday objects or they might be useful when, for example, ensuring that friends at the nursery are given the same number of toys, peas in a meal or counters in a game. The children will gradually start to notice these things naturally, because they’ve been encouraged to do so. More complex numeracy skills will start to follow naturally. The EYFS curriculum at the childcare setting also ensures that children recognise the numbers and maths involved in the size, weight and volume of things around them. Measurements of distance, time and money are covered along with concepts like halving, sharing equally (or not), doubling and so on. A wide array of interactive equipment and activities are also used at the nursery to help children improve upon their numeracy skills. By the time they leave at age 5, they are thoroughly prepared to begin their formal education at school.

Numbers can be part of games & activities

A nursery place for your baby or child in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Are you looking for nursery places in Birmingham or Edgbaston or near to Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick? Leaps & Bounds is an outstanding nursery and pre-school offering daytime childcare and early years education in Edgbaston near Birmingham. We currently have a small amount of spaces available for babies, toddlers and children aged up to five, so do get in touch before the spaces are filled. We’ll be happy to tell you more. Call 0121 246 4922 for more details or contact us / book a visit here.

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.