Sensory Activities for Babies & Toddlers
Sensory play ideas to help babies and toddlers during early learning and development.In our last post, we examined the importance of sensory perception in under-fives. It was clear how incredibly important such sensory perception is for young children and how their very survival relies on being in touch with their senses. Through these senses, they learn about the world and everything around them. This also trains their bodies and brains to recognise the stimuli and automatically react. It helps them to know what’s good or bad for them, keep themselves safe and be able to live and communicate successfully in the world. With that background in mind, we follow up today with a look at some examples of sensory play activities that can help babies and toddlers during their early learning and development.

SAFETY FIRST: Always supervise your baby or child, so they don’t hurt themselves, touch or ingest anything that could harm them.

Sensory Activities for Babies & Toddlers

Bubbles are a feast for the sensesBubbles

Watching colourful bubbles floating in the air is sure to be a big hit with babies and toddlers alike. You can almost see the sense of wonder in their expressions as they watch them float. To them, bubbles are magical as they hang in the air with their wonderful rainbow colours gently moving around on the surfaces. Babies will be even more delighted when a bubble lands on their skin. They’re a feast for sight as well as touch at the moment the bubble lands and delicately bursts.

Sensory Foil

Sensory foil is a massive hit with babies and makes a variety of sounds that they find fascinating.There is a type of safe sensory foil blanket on the market that you can buy for babies. It’s been a massive hit with babies and makes a variety of different sounds that totally intrigue them. What’s more, it doesn’t have the sharp edges associated with some types of paper. Babies can simply lie and roll around on the foil blanket to enjoy the sounds, or scrunch them with their hands to have more control or to hear louder sounds. It’s a great way for them to hone their hand-eye control, fine motor and listening skills. They’re also great visually, particularly if there are any coloured lights or objects in the room that will reflect on the foil in magical ways. Generally speaking, babies are mesmerised by sensory foil, so give it a try if you haven’t done so.

Parents can introduce babies to a variety of pleasant natural scents by securing things like herbs or lemon peel in muslin or gauze 'pods'.Scents

Parents can introduce babies to a variety of pleasant natural scents by securing things like herbs or lemon peel in muslin or gauze ‘pods’ (see photo example). Simply waft near your baby’s nose to let them enjoy the wonderful smell of lemon, mint leaves, and so on. Be mindful of possible pollen allergies and toxins, though, so do your safety research on any contents before exposing your baby to them.

Black & White/High Contrast Cards & Books

Black & white images will allow young babies to see and recognise shapes more clearly as well as synchronise those images in both eyes together.Did you know that high contrast images are great for young babies? That’s because lower contrast images, especially pastels, may be lost on them as their eyesight isn’t yet fully developed. Also, with relatively poor eyesight and eye coordination when they’re first born, high contrast black and white images will help babies to match the images they perceive in one eye with the same image in the other.

Babies will not recognise the full spectrum of colours that we see as adults until around five months of age. That’s another reason books or cards containing images in high contrast black and white are becoming more popular in recent times for this age group. They allow infants to see and recognise shapes more clearly than lower-contrast alternatives as well as having the aforementioned eye/image coordination benefit. This visual sensory stimulation is also thought to help their brain syntaxes to develop faster in a kind of beneficial ‘feedback loop’.

Sound Activities

Babies and toddlers will enjoy — and benefit from — sound-making.Babies and toddlers will enjoy — and benefit from — sound-making. This type of activity will allow them to experiment with different ways to make sounds, stimulating auditory senses as well as helping them to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It’ll also help them to understand cause and effect more clearly, i.e. to associate sounds they’re making with their causes.

In the most simple approach, babies and toddlers can use something like a building block as a ‘drum’ and a wooden spoon as a ‘drumstick’ and gradually learn to tap away. Babies aren’t born with great coordination, so this is a good first step to give them more control over limbs. Taking it a step further, a responsible adult can make them sound shakers by half-filling clean plastic bottles with dried rice, pasta or similar and then sealing securely. Once safely sealed, babies and toddlers can have fun shaking them to hear the different sounds that can be made through their own actions. Such sensory activities will help them learn in so many ways, both in terms of physical skills and coordination as well as making new brain connections and associations.

Different Materials & Textures

Your baby can also be introduced to different materials and textures like this feather example.Your baby or infant can also be introduced to different materials and textures (suitably supervised for safety, of course, and any choking hazards avoided). Whether it’s a piece of velvet, faux fur or a feather, babies and toddlers will be very intrigued by the look and feel. So, think about introducing them to a variety of materials, both man-made and natural, that perhaps contrast each other so the child can learn how to connect the look of something to the feel of it. These are basic skills, but ones we each had to learn at a very early age.

Food

Once your baby or toddler has been weaned onto solids (e.g. as purée or liquidised foods), they can explore different tastes and food textures. They may be more likely to do so if you give them a spoon, so they can learn to control which food they taste, perhaps from a variety of options that you have prepared for them to try. When they’re suitably dextrous, a variety of finger foods can also be given to them to try. Take precautions, of course, in regard to possible allergens, so choose food types with caution and do your research.

In these ways, various senses will be stimulated in new ways and fine motor skills will improve. Also, exposing them to a variety of different foods and tastes early may give them a broader set of food preferences once they’re older i.e. potentially make them less likely to become fussy eaters.

Nature

Babies and toddlers find nature simply wondrous.Babies and toddlers find nature simply wondrous. There’s something amazing to see, hear, smell, touch and feel everywhere (under close adult supervision, of course). Flowers, with their scents and beautiful colours, will amaze them. Or, have you ever noticed the different smells after it rains, or the warm breeze brush past your face on a sunny day? These will all be new to babies and a feast for the senses. Indeed, nature is the ultimate tool for sensory awakening for babies and toddlers. That’s one of the many reasons that Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is also a Forest School (learn more about our Edgbaston/Birmingham Forest School here).

Sensory Activities at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, we fully understand the importance of sensory play, so build sensory-based activities into the learning and development plan for every child. Each child has access to multi-sensory play equipment and we even have a sensory zone. Stimulation of senses at this early age does so much to help in early years development. It helps integrate a comprehensive view of the world into children’s very beings and reinforces their safe place within it. It helps to build new pathways in the brain and vastly improves cognitive skills. It aids physical development including coordination and motor skills and so much more. We hope some of the sensory discovery ideas above are useful for parents/guardians to use as part of their child’s home learning activities. Next time we’ll look at sensory activities for preschoolers.

Nursery Places in Edgbaston/Birmingham

For more information about a nursery place at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, please get in touch. We’re a high quality nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick.

The Importance of Sensory Perception in Under-5s

Sight helps babies to recognise parents and, as they grow into children, everything else around them.Today, in the first of a series of posts about the senses, we’ll explore the importance of successful sensory exploration for babies and under-fives. As adults, we tend to take the processing of external sensations and stimuli for granted. However, we were not born with an understanding of most of these; we discovered them, learned about their significance and hard-wired our understanding of them into our brains during our earliest years.

What do we Mean by Sensory Stimuli?

It’s all about the senses, but not only sight, sound, smell, touch and taste; we have other senses that help us to understand and make sense of the world and everything it contains. For example, balance and movement senses are known as vestibular senses. The sensing of information via our body position is known as our proprioception sense. We get to understand the world through our senses during the early years.Through all of these, we have a kind of holistic view of the world. When you think about it, processing and integration of external stimuli, through our senses, is crucial for our entire wellbeing. After all, we need to be mindful of things that can harm us just as much as knowing what will be useful or good for us.

How do the Senses Help Children Develop?

Our many senses tell our minds and bodies about the environment, about objects, living things, foods, drink, appearance, smells, danger, pleasure, pain and a whole myriad of additional information about our immediate surroundings. The earlier we start to recognise, process and integrate the significance of these external stimuli, the better it will be for our understanding of the world, our general wellbeing and indeed survival.

Why Else is Sensory Perception So Important?

Understanding the significance of external stimuli, through the senses, is crucial to our understanding of the world and indeed survival.Sensory experiences are crucial, particularly during early years development. Correctly identifying and understanding the significance of external stimuli, through the senses, allows babies and infants to begin to successfully play their part in the world. It helps them to navigate the things in it, to participate in activities without harming themselves and ultimately to grow and develop as humans successfully. Without understanding and integrating knowledge via the senses, children would be held back in many, profound ways. Simple tasks would be almost impossible. It would be akin to being conscious yet totally unable to operate or even understand our body’s capabilities nor to understand the world we found ourselves in. Without mastery of our senses, our very existence would be under continuous threat.

  • Sight initially helps babies to identify and recognise parents and, as they grow into children, everything else around them.
  • Sound also helps babies to recognise the voice of their own parents (even when still in the womb) and later also helps with communication. It also helps them to be forewarned about what might be close by, whether or not it is in sight.
  • Smell and taste senses are closely linked and have a huge impact on the appeal, or otherwise, of possible food sources.Smell and taste senses are closely linked and clearly have a huge impact on the appeal, or otherwise, of possible food sources, particularly milk in the early stages. Interestingly, smell also has close links to long-term memory, for example how a particular place smells. Just a tiny whiff of a long-forgotten scent can bring back instant memories of a time long ago, way into adulthood.
  • Touch senses not only tell babies and children about the environment and objects around them, for example whether things are hot, cold, soft or sharp. It also helps them to learn about how to control their own fingers, limbs, muscles and movements in order to control those things if needed. Without a deep understanding and integration of touch skills, our bodies would be rather out of control, in danger of harm and really quite unable to function satisfactorily.
  • Balance and movement (proprioception) and vestibular (sensing through body position) senses help us understand and adapt to external forces like gravity, weight, wind and even to the consequences of our own movements. If we do not process and integrate a comprehensive understanding of such stimuli and effects, we would not be able to walk, run, cycle, swim, dress or even lift objects and tools in a satisfactory way. Balance and movement (proprioception) and vestibular (sensing through body position) senses help us understand and adapt to external forces like gravity and even to the consequences of our own movements.Anyone observing a recently born baby will indeed be able to notice the lack of intent and control over limb movement, for example. Within weeks, though, that same baby will have assimilated everything it needs to know, through the senses, in order to adapt each muscle and limb movement to meet its goals and needs.

Learning about the senses helps babies and infants tell one sense or stimulus from another. With a cacophony of such stimuli often around them, this skill is incredibly important as it helps them to ‘filter’ what needs their attention and what can, at any point in time, be ignored.

Mastery of the senses also helps children’s brains to develop. As senses are explored, perceived and integrated, millions of new pathways are formed in the brain. These will set up good foundations upon which to build additional connections as children grow and develop.

Even language skills are improved because of the senses.Even language skills are improved because of the senses, not least because children will learn a new vocabulary around how things look, smell, taste, sound, feel and so on. In this way, they’ll be able to more specifically describe objects and environments and understand their own place within the world. This language enhancement also helps them to think in more creative ways.

In our next post, we’ll continue to explore senses as we look at some of the sensory play activities that can help young children integrate a comprehensive view of the world and their place within it. So, do come back for another update soon.

A Nursery Near Birmingham (B16), Ladywood, Harborne, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery has a whole raft of sensory activities to help children absolutely flourish. Leaps & Bounds is a weekday childcare nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16. If you’re looking for outstanding nurseries near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, we are conveniently close. We’re also one of the few Forest Schools in Birmingham, where under-fives can enjoy and learn from nature in the local open spaces, woodlands and reservoirs around Edgbaston and Birmingham. Choose a button below to find out more or to arrange a visit:

Apply for a Place Book a Tour Contact Us 0121 246 4922

Free Childcare Grant for Students

A free childcare grant is available to eligible students who are also parents.Did you know that there is a free childcare grant available to students who are also parents? This could be a game-changer for you if you are thinking about enrolling in a further education course and have a child. One major consideration will be that you’ll need to arrange childcare for your child while you are learning, so you can give your course your full attention while in attendance. However, childcare costs money, so may be a real concern. Indeed, it could be a deciding factor as to whether the whole studying idea is even viable.

Well, there is good news for undergraduate students who have a child under the age of 15 (17 if they have special educational needs). Under a UK Government scheme, you may be eligible for a grant to cover a big chunk of your childcare costs and, actually, it’s quite generous.

How Much is the Childcare Grant for Students?

Eligible students can get a grant worth up to 85% of their childcare costs.Eligible students can get a grant worth up to 85% of their childcare costs during study. Even better — it does not need to be paid back and is in addition to other student finance. One of the stipulations, in fact, is that you must be eligible for student finance in order to be eligible for a student Childcare Grant.

For a parent with one dependent child, this could amount to as much as £179.62 per week or, for two or more children, up to £307.95 per week*. That’s all so long as this is no more than 85% of your childcare costs. If it is, then the lower (85%) amount applies. Either way, though, you’ll have to pay for the remainder of the childcare costs.

* Figures are correct, at time of writing, for the academic year 2021-2022.

Additional Rules Around Eligibility

In addition to the rules already confirmed above, several other factors affect eligibility for the student Childcare Grant:

  • Eligible students need not juggle looking after their little one with study.The childcare provider must be officially registered as such with Ofsted or the General Childcare Register;
  • They must not be related if the childcare is to take place at home;
  • The child or children being claimed for must be financially dependent upon you, the applicant;
  • You must be a permanent UK resident and be studying full-time;
  • You must receive, or be eligible to receive, undergraduate student finance based on household income.

You are not eligible if:

  • You or your partner receive childcare funding help from the NHS;
  • You or your partner claim the childcare part of Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit, or claim Tax-Free Childcare;
  • You are receiving a Postgraduate Loan.

How to Apply for the Childcare Grant

Apply for a Childcare Grant and have much of your childcare costs covered.You should apply for the Childcare Grant for students as part of the process of applying for your main undergraduate student finance. You’ll need to set up a Childcare Grant Payment Service (CCGPS) account too. You will receive instructions on how to do so, along with confirmation of how much you’ll get for the Childcare Grant, once you’ve started the process.

All of the above is usually done online. However, should you want to retrospectively apply for the Childcare Grant having already applied for student finance, you can use a paper form. You can also do this should you wish to make an application for an additional child later on. More details about applying for the Childcare Grant for students is available here.

How the Childcare Grant is Paid

You are not paid directly. Instead, the grant gets paid to the childcare setting you are using for your childcare. They apply to be paid out of the CCGPS account that you set up after applying for the grant. You need to approve the payments by logging into your CCGPS account on a weekly basis once your course has started.

A Great Nursery for Student Parents: Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

If you are a student parent or are considering studying somewhere local to Edgbaston or Birmingham, we have your childcare needs covered! Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is based in Edgbaston, so is within easy reach of the University of Birmingham, Moss House (University College Birmingham), Edgbaston College, South & City College Birmingham, Sparkhill Adult Education Centre, Birmingham Adult Education Service, Saltley Learning Centre, Selly Oak Learning Centre, Joseph Chamberlain Adult Learning Centre, the Midlands Arts Centre and Northfield Education Centre amongst others. We’d be delighted to look after your baby, toddler or under-five child on weekdays when you attend your further education sessions. We’re also a Forest School (great for kids who enjoy the Great Outdoors and nature). Choose a button below to find out more or to arrange a visit:

Apply for a Place Book a Tour Contact Us 0121 246 4922

Main photo: Gavin Warrins (Public domain)

The Importance of Laughter to Little Ones

Laughter is incredibly important for babies, toddlers and children in their early yearsWe recently published a series of funny jokes for toddlers and preschoolers. While this may seem like simple light-hearted entertainment to some, laughter is incredibly important for children, especially the very young. Indeed, it is a crucial part of their early years learning and development. We’ll explore the importance of laughter for little ones in today’s post.

Laughter is a crucial part of early years learning and development.

A Sense of Humour is Learned

Experts believe that babies are born ready to laugh. However, their sense of humour is something they gradually develop as they grow older. Because of that, exactly what makes them laugh will change over time. This makes total sense because language skills are also developing in the early years, so what a child finds funny will, like the child, develop. This happens naturally as they gradually comprehend more about the world around them and even begin to understand things from another person’s perspective.

Laughter has Many Benefits to Children

There are several obvious, and many less obvious, benefits of laughter to children.There are several obvious, and many less obvious, benefits of laughter to children.

The more obvious benefits of laughter:

  • Shared laughter is a great way for children to bond with one another and to adults/parents.
  • Laughter is a fun experience i.e. something we all enjoy.
  • As such, laughter lightens moods and generally increases happiness.
  • Laughter can be used as a tool to cheer children up when they’re having a bad day or have had a bad experience.
  • It is also something that encourages children to show their characters, be spontaneous and to be playful.

And some important, but less obvious, benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter can distract children from upset or pain and mask some of their discomfort if they are experiencing illness or have suffered injury.
  • Laughter helps children to think in more creative ways, even to think laterally. That can only help their learning processes and problem-solving abilities going forwards.
  • Laughter boosts social skills, self-esteem and even resilience.
  • Laughter releases endorphins that make children feel good.Laughter releases hormones (i.e. endorphins) into the bloodstream that make children feel good. In this way, mental health can be kept more healthy through regular laughter, with less likelihood of developing depression.
  • Laughter will reduce blood pressure, improve circulation and even reduce the child’s blood sugar levels.
  • Research also shows that the effects of laughter can protect children against certain illnesses.
  • Digestion can also be improved through regular laughter.
  • Sleep can also be higher in quality after a day full of laughter.

Stages in Humour Development

Very young babies are likely first to begin to smile broadly and this is a real first milestone that indicates that they find something enjoyable or funny. Their first giggles may appear around the age of 3-4 months and then, at about 5 months, they’ll realise they can make others laugh — and they will enjoy that. From around 7 months, they will start learning to become little comedians through more creative body movements, expressions and voices. They may begin to tease you from around 9-10 months by playing cheekily with things they know they’re not supposed to, grinning while doing so. Indeed, by the age of one, they will find the breaking of some social rules extremely funny. Once they reach two, they will extend this through the use of comical language, which they now understand far more. And that’s when the real fun begins!

Note that the milestones above are only a rough guide, so don’t be concerned if your child’s sense of humour develops more slowly than indicated; it’s a slower process for some.

Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

Thanks for visiting the Leaps and Bounds blog. We are a nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham (very close to Bearwood, Smethwick, Harborne and Ladywood) and are also proud to be one of the few Forest Schools in the Birmingham area. We offer high quality weekday childcare for babies and children under-five virtually all year round. So, if you are looking for a nursery, crèche, playgroup or pre-school in the Birmingham area, Leaps & Bounds would be a wonderful choice. For more details, or to apply for a nursery place, please get in touch:

Apply for a Place Book a Tour Contact Us 0121 246 4922

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

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

Laughter is important.

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

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

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

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

Rough Guide to Dyslexia in Under-Fives

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

What is Dyslexia?

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

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

How Does Dyslexia Affect Children?

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

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

Possible Symptoms of Dyslexia

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

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

Assessment

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

Is there a Cure for Dyslexia?

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

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

Dyslexia & SpLD at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery

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

Nursery Places Available in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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

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

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

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

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

 The UK’s EPPSE Study

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

Findings

Children who experienced a high quality early years education:

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

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

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

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

 Society Also Benefits from Pre-School Education

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

The American Study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reward your child for good effort.

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

‘Number Matching’ Games

‘Number Matching’ Game: Dominoes

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

‘One More or One Less’ Activities

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

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

    Counting fruit in a game of shops

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

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

Play ‘Shops’

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

Praise Them

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

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

Going Forwards

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

Count on Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ideally, parents should:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nursery places in Birmingham Available

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

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

1. A mini-beast hunt!

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

2. Feeding birds

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

3. Gardening & Growing

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

4. Building activities

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

5. Creative activities

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

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

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

6. A country walk of discovery

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

7. Cycling

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

8. Picnics

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

9. Camping

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

10. Join a Forest School

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

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

Contact our Birmingham Nursery

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