An Introduction to Baby-Led Weaning

Today we look at what baby-led weaning is, how it differs from traditional weaning and what its benefits are.Today we look at the topic of baby-led weaning in a follow-up to our last post all about traditional weaning. But what is baby-led weaning? How is it different to traditional weaning and what are its potential benefits? Let’s take a look.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led weaning is the process of letting your baby feed themselves pieces of appropriate ‘finger food’ i.e. by picking them up with their fingers. This is in contrast to a parent/carer feeding a baby puréed or mashed food via a spoon. But which method is best? Well, although some parents have a preferred method, there is currently no compelling evidence proving that one or other is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ method. Indeed, some parents may wish to combine both approaches. More often than not, whether a baby gets on better with traditional spoon-feeding, baby-led finger food meals or a combination of the two comes down to what suits your baby or yourself best. There are some considerations, though.

What are the Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning?

There are several potential benefits of baby-led weaning.While traditional weaning has its own benefits, baby-led weaning has it’s own set too:

    • Baby-led weaning encourages the baby to learn to chew, even if that means they first learn to ‘gum’ food before swallowing (especially if they, like most babies, don’t yet have teeth). This chewing element is all good practice of a new skill that they don’t yet need with the traditional purée approach.
    • This means they’re strengthening their face muscles and jaws and learning to better control mouth and tongue movements.
    • Baby-led weaning encourages development of fine motor skills. Picking up the food themselves means infants are using a mix of finger and hand movements, honing hand-eye coordination and also practising hand-to-mouth actions.
    • Baby-led weaning lets the baby go at their own pace. They are in control of their feeding and not being governed by the parents pushing spoons at them. That’s potentially much more relaxed as a feeding mechanism.
    • It may also encourage them to eat a healthier diet later on. As they grow, they are sampling foods and textures in their true state, not processed into an unrecognisable purée or mash.
    • Baby-led weaning may even help to reduce child obesity as the child is totally in control of their food intake. They can stop feeding when full, which is somewhat in contrast to being led by parents feeding via a spoon.

As we said above, though, it’s up to parents to decide which of the two weaning approaches they prefer. Indeed many will use a combination of both traditional and baby-led weaning. The important thing is to ensure that your baby gets all the vitamins and nutrients that are essential to good health and development. A varied diet will help with that.

When to Begin Baby-Led Weaning

Many parents use a combination of both traditional and baby-led weaning.Except in special cases, it is normal to start any kind of weaning around the age of six months and the same is true for baby-led weaning. This is usually done by introducing a just small amount of solids per day initially. This can be done at any time of the day and does not have to follow usual feeding times. The idea of the small initial introduction is to get your infant used to taking solids in addition to their breast or formula milk. Indeed, their milk remains the most important part of their diet right up until the age of one.

It is common for babies to be reluctant at first, so don’t worry if they reject the food at first. Try again another day, again with just a small amount. Remember your little one is getting used to new tastes, textures and a completely different feeding process that’s in complete contrast to what they’ve been used to with only milk. So, some initial resistance is likely.

Which Foods to Try First

Firstly, remember that weaning is the process of gradually changing over from milk to solids. So, for at least the first year, the baby should continue to drink milk (breast milk or first infant formula) alongside any solids that you are introducing from the age of 6 months. What’s more, it’s sensible to give the solids first, then feed milk afterwards, otherwise the baby’s tiny stomach may fill up on milk and leave no room for the new solids. Cows’ milk should not be used before the age of 12 months, unless used as an ingredient in cooked (i.e. heated) meals.

Also important never give any hard foods like uncooked vegetables or hard fruit to babies/infants as they will not be able to ‘gum’ it. Moreover, hard pieces like those represent a possible choking hazard. The food pieces therefore need to be soft enough for you to be able to mash with your fingers — and therefore for your toddler to bite or ‘gum’. After all, most at this age will have no teeth. So, keep it soft and cut into small, finger-sized (narrow baton shaped) pieces for your baby to hold and, hopefully, self-feed from the top end downwards. Avoid round shapes and firm foods and always stay with your child when they’re feeding.

Be patient and accept that it'll be messy at first.Fruit and vegetables are probably the easiest finger foods to start with.

  • Vegetables like carrots, broccoli, potato, yam and/or parsnips can all be boiled until soft, suitably cooled for safety and cut up into the small, finger-sized pieces.
  • Banana can also easily be given as finger food because it’s a suitably soft fruit.
  • Very soft pears may also suit, although harder pears and apples should be part-boiled until soft enough. Again, ensure they are suitably cooled before serving.

It’s wise, though, not to give your child too many sweet-tasting foods (e.g. sweet potato, carrots, fruit) and ensure they’re also getting plenty of the less sweet food types included in the listings above. Otherwise they may miss some of the more subtle flavours and naturally gravitate towards sweeter tastes. In so doing, they run the risk of getting a ‘sweet tooth’ that’s not particularly good for them.

Later On

Soft finger foods like banana are suited to baby-led weaning.Between 6 to 7 months, additional soft foods can be given as finger foods. So, you could add small fingers of ripe avocado, ripe (i.e. soft) mango and soft melon. You can also try your infant on soft cheese fingers using mozzarella or ricotta (never before 6 months though), so long as they’re made from pasteurised milk and are not mould-ripened (like Brie), veined (like Stilton) nor made from ripened goats’ cheese. Cheeses high in salt and saturated fats should also be avoided for the young. Omelette fingers are also a good choice, so long as the eggs are fully cooked and anything added to a Spanish omelette (e.g. vegetables) is also sufficiently soft.

From 8 to 9 months, try adding thinly sliced strawberries, raspberries and/or blueberries. You can also try your little one with steamed or boiled (then suitably cooled) green beans and peas. Cooked and cooled whole wheat pasta, hummus and minced chicken, turkey or beef may also be appealing to your little one. From 9 months your infant’s fine motor skills will be more refined and their improved grip will now allow them to pick up tiny pieces of bite-sized food, hence adding some of those smaller items from this age. Soon, they may also be able to copy your use of a spoon, so encourage this by giving them a soft weaning spoon. It may take a while, but they’ll eventually get the hang of it.

By the age of 1, infants' meals can start to look more similar to standard family meals.By the age of 10 to 12 months, your little one’s food offerings start to look much more similar to standard family meals. For example they may have progressed to cooked pasta and cut-up meatballs (or the vegetarian/vegan equivalent). They may now enjoy pitta bread pieces with hummus, perhaps cut-up cheese sandwiches (see aforementioned note about cheeses and also avoid bread that’s got added salt). Steamed/boiled potatoes or vegetables with shredded chicken, turkey or beef are another option – all, of course, suitably cooled and cut into small pieces for the child.

While they are progressing from 6 months to a year, ensure you gradually introduce more of the important food types (fruit and veg, starchy foods, proteins and dairy). Ensure they try a variety of tastes and textures too.

More Information about Weaning

The NHS has lots of useful information about weaning. Watch a useful NHS video and learn more about weaning infants, including a few safety tips, here.

Safety Around Weaning

Ensure you are fully familiar with all the potential safety issues and precautions around weaning before you start the process. In particular, make sure you are up to speed about what to do if your baby chokes and never allow your infant to feed without constant vigilance and supervision. We outlined several safety suggestions in our last post (available here) to get you started. A more detailed NHS guide about Safe Weaning is also available here (don’t miss each of the pale blue ‘tabs’ as each has hidden information that’s incredibly useful and important).

Outstanding Childcare Services in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Nursery & Pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted. Leaps & Bounds is a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham, also being near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. We support free childcare schemes from the Government, including free childcare for eligible 2-year-olds, free childcare for 3 & 4-year-olds, student childcare grants and tax-free childcare for eligible families. We are also officially a good nursery according to Ofsted.

If you are looking for high quality childcare for your baby or child under five, we’d love to hear from you. Please click a button to get started:

 

An Introduction to Traditional Weaning

Weaning is also known as complementary feeding.In a follow-up to our Guide to Formula Milks last month, we now introduce the topic of weaning — also known as complementary feeding. Weaning relates to the introduction of foods other than milk to your baby once they reach an appropriate age. In today’s article, we explore the traditional approach to weaning although will follow up separately with an alternative weaning method, in the near future.

The Meaning of Weaning

A typical dictionary definition tells us that weaning is, “to gradually stop feeding a baby or young animal with its mother’s milk and start feeding it with solid food.”  Specifically, we mean the process of changing over i.e. phasing out the milk/formula and gradually transitioning the infant to ‘solids’.  The new foods will initially be given alongside the breast or formula milk that the child has consumed up until then.

“Solids” — a Clarification for the Traditional Weaning Approach

It should be noted that, using the traditional approach to weaning, food is not initially introduced as actual solid pieces. Although we call foods other than milk or formula solids, they are fed to babies and infants initially in puréed form in the traditional approach to weaning. Examples of foods that can be pulped in this way are soft fruits like ripe apples and pears, bananas, cooked (but suitably cooled) vegetables like cauliflower, potato, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, carrots and suchlike. Puréed food like this can slip down easily – almost like a liquid. It’s intuitive for a baby to swallow as it’s not too dissimilar to drinking, which is what they’ve been used to.

In traditional weaning, foods are puréed.The thinking with this traditional approach is that puréed food is safer for very young babies too. It may also be easier for them to consume (most have no teeth at weaning age). Pulped vegetables or fruit, for example, will have been blitzed in a blender to a point where there are no lumps and the food is simply in a lovely purée form. The traditional wisdom is also that its pulped form will significantly reduce the potential choking risk that would otherwise apply if the food hadn’t been puréed. However, see our note below about baby-led weaning as that approach is quite different to the traditional one.

Anyway, as your infant grows older and more used to eating puréed food, you can gradually progress to less ‘blitzed’ textures. For example, mashed foods rather than completely puréed ones. They’ll have a bit more texture about them. A slightly lumpier mixture can follow later, then eventually graduate them to finger foods, so long as they’re soft (for example cooked carrot sticks rather than raw). Do see the safety notes in the box at the end of this guide, though, including in regard to avoiding possible choking hazards.

Baby-Led Weaning

Baby-led weaning is a popular alternative to traditional weaning.In contrast to traditional weaning using puréed food, a more recent approach that’s become quite popular is baby-led weaning. However, because it’s quite a big topic in its own right, we have published a stand-alone article outlining the alternative baby-led approach separately, here.

When to Wean?

Unless you’ve been advised otherwise by a healthcare professional (e.g. Health Visitor), it’s usually best to wait until your baby is 6 months old before beginning the weaning process. Ensure your child is physically ready for the process. This will include good hand-eye coordination skills, being able to sit up and hold their own head steady and being able to swallow puréed food.

Be mindful, though, that the introduction of solids should accompany their breast or formula milk, not immediately replace it. Continuing to consume milk is essential to their growth and health at this early stage in their lives.

The 3 Stages of Traditional Weaning

  1. The initial introduction of some solid foods (mashed or puréed) usually takes place from the age of 6 months.
  2. At 7 months, more textured food and some different tastes can be mixed in.
  3. Between 9 and 12 months of age, a wider variety of food can be given.

What if Babies Don’t Like Solids?

Some children take to eating solids easily, while others take longer to adapt.Weaning is an exciting milestone. However, it can be both fun and challenging in equal measure. Each baby is individual. While some babies take to eating solids like ducks to water, others take longer to adapt. Their expressions are the real giveaway, so watch out for those. It’s a whole new experience for them and remember; they are going from knowing only warm milk to a whole new world of unfamiliar textures and tastes.

Start Weaning Slowly

It’s important not to rush the weaning process and for both parent and baby to enjoy the new journey. Starting with just small amounts is fine if the baby isn’t taking to solids initially. They’ll soon catch on and you can then introduce more as time goes by.

Spoon-Fed vs. Baby-Led Feeding

Whether spoon-feeding as a parent or allowing the baby to lead their own feeding may require some experimentation. Some babies like to be spoon-fed while others get on better with ‘baby-led’ feeding. So it’s worth trying each and even a combination of the two when you first start weaning your child onto solids. Their preference will soon become apparent and, before you know it, they’ll be transitioning to solids beautifully.

Top Tips for Worry-Free Weaning

  • Avoid feeding when the baby is tired or preoccupied.
  • Remove toys from the baby’s vicinity and turn off distractions like TVs.
  • Pick your moment to start weaning carefully.
  • Demonstrate how you eat, use a spoon, etc. and let them watch. They will learn from your example.
  • Give them a ‘weaning spoon’ (these are softer than standard ones) and try not to overload their spoon with food. A weaning bowl, with suction cup underneath for stability, is also a useful tool.
  • Don’t be surprised if they initially push solids out of their mouths — babies need to learn how to eat, use their tongues and swallow these new puréed foods.
  • A little gagging may be natural, but be vigilant about possible choking, which is dangerous. Learn some First Aid just in case.
  • Don't stress if things get messy - your child will eventually become an expert!Don’t stress if things get messy — this is totally natural and can easily be mitigated through use of a bib (e.g. a pelican bib).
  • Don’t forget that babies may not accept foods until they’ve tried them multiple times. Sometimes it can take as many as 10 tries before a baby will accept a new food. Perseverance is key but, of course, never force an infant to feed.
  • Following a session of eating ‘solids’ with a drink of milk is a good way to put your infant at ease and make the process of weaning more natural. It can also help to wash the puréed solids down and reduce the possibility of indigestion, hiccups etc.
  • Don’t worry if the amount of solids consumed by your baby in each sitting is inconsistent. Your baby may sometimes eat more, other times less.
  • Ensure that, overall, your little one is consuming a balanced and varied diet.
  • Discuss whether additional vitamin/mineral supplements are appropriate for your child with your GP or Health visitor. This is particularly important if your little one has a special diet. (Aside from special diet scenarios, the NHS website makes recommendations about vitamin supplements for little ones and that information is included in the bold NHS link directly below this section).
  • Be patient and persevere.

The NHS outlines additional guidelines about weaning here.

Safety Considerations

  • Avoid choking hazards. That means things like grapes, cherry tomatoes, nuts, raw vegetables etc. should not be given whole nor in chunks that could be a choking hazard. Chop them up small or mash them, as appropriate. Remove stones and pips etc.
  • Always supervise feeding, particularly when weaning.
  • Was your baby born prematurely? If so, consult your doctor or health visitor before starting the weaning process.
  • Maintain high levels of hygiene around food preparation.
  • Ensure that you know which foods to avoid giving your little one.
  • Do not add salt or sugar to infants’ food.
  • Always check that food is at the correct temperature for your child before serving.
  • Be mindful of possible food allergens when first introducing new foods to your child. Click the green link to learn more.

Looking for the Best Nurseries in Edgbaston or Birmingham?

Leaps & Bounds Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham is Officially a Good Nursery & Pre-school

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.Leaps & Bounds Nursery is highly rated by Ofsted. It is a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham and is also conveniently close to Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. We support the Government’s schemes for free childcare for eligible 2-year-olds, free childcare for 3 & 4-year-olds, student childcare grants and tax-free childcare for those who are eligible).

We’d welcome your enquiry for childcare for your under-five child. To get started, please click a button below:

30+ Food Safety & Hygiene Tips for Parents

Poor standards around food preparation could make children very ill, or even prove fatal.Hygiene and safety around food preparation is important to everyone’s health and wellbeing. However, it’s even more important for babies, infants and toddlers. At this age they are fragile and have low resilience against bacteria, toxins and potential food poisoning. The fall-out from poor standards around food preparation could therefore make little ones very ill or, in the worst cases, even prove fatal. With that in mind, today’s article outlines ways that parents/guardians of children can take appropriate precautions when preparing and serving food to little ones.

Hygiene in the Kitchen

It’s important that any food preparation is done in a clean and hygienic environment. This helps to prevent the spread of germs and cross-contamination of foods.

  • Always clean surfaces before preparing or serving food on them.Always clear and clean your surfaces.
  • Ensure pets to not walk on surfaces where food may be prepared or eaten.
  • Make sure, if using a cleaning product like a spray, that it does not come into contact with any of the foods or plate surfaces that food will go onto.
  • Make sure that all kitchen utensils are clean and have been washed in warm soapy water or in the dishwasher.
  • Remember to keep sinks clean and hygienic too.
  • Keep fridge and cupboard door handles, cooker knobs and hobs clean and hygienic.
  • Ensure that tea towels and hand towels are fresh and regularly washed to prevent the further spread of germs.

Personal Hygiene Around Food

There are also things that you can do on a personal level to keep hygiene and food safety levels high for your family:

  • Always wash hands before preparing food, and rinse them well.Tie long hair back to avoid it coming into contact with food.
  • Always wash hands before preparing food, and rinse them well.
  • If you feel unwell, for example with a tummy bug, try and ask a family member or friend to help with food preparation so you avoid spreading germs to your child.
  • Ensure your fridge is set to the correct temperature to keep food cold and the door kept closed whenever possible.
  • Ensure the fridge is kept clean and always clear up spillages or leaks there right away.
  • Try to avoid smoking while preparing food. Second-hand smoke and smoke residue is not at all good for children.

Precautions Around Food Preparation

Preparation of the food itself is, of course, an important consideration when it comes to hygiene and avoiding germs getting into children’s meals.

Always wash fruit and vegetables before preparing. Peeling vegetables is also a good precaution.

  • Always wash your hands before preparing or handling food.
  • Wash vegetables, salad, fruit etc. and even peel some types of vegetable, particularly root vegetables that have been grown in earth.
  • Avoid giving eggs to children younger than 6 months of age. If giving chickens’ eggs to children aged 6 months or older, ensure they are stamped with the Red Lion or ‘British Lion Quality’ mark if serving raw or only lightly cooked. All other eggs must be thoroughly cooked i.e. so that the yolk and egg whites become firm. That includes eggs from ducks, geese and quails.
  • Make sure all foods are thoroughly cooked.
  • Pay particular care to the cooking of fish, seafood and shellfish, ensuring that it’s cooked thoroughly.
  • Allow the cooked food to cool for a short time, testing that it’s become lukewarm, before feeding it to your child. You can place the hot food in an airtight container and run it under cold water, stirring periodically, to cool it faster.

Cooling & Storing Food

A safe approach to food cooling and storage is also incredibly important for the wellbeing of you, your child and family.

  • Do not let pets on work surfaces or dining tables.Always store raw meat and fish away from other foods. Store each separately in covered containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge. This prevents drips falling onto other foods.
  • When saving cooked food to store in the fridge or freezer for later use, try to cool it as quickly as possible — ideally within one or two hours (N.B. for rice, see below) and put it straight into the fridge or freezer once cold.
  • Rice is a special case due to the possible build-up of toxins. It must be cooled within one hour and eaten within 24 hours. Never reheat rice more than once. Learn more about the dangers of reheating rice here.
  • If freezing foods, label and date them, so they can be used in an appropriate time frame.

Reheating Food

Reheating food also needs to be done in the right way in order to keep families safe and well:.

  • It's best to cook eggs until whites and yolk become firm.Do not reheat rice or cooked food more than once. As we said above, particular care needs to be taken with rice.
  • Always defrost frozen food thoroughly before cooking — either in the fridge overnight or by using defrost mode in a microwave.
  • When reheating food, always ensure it is the correct temperature for your child to eat otherwise it could burn them if too hot or not be safe to eat if not cooked sufficiently.
  • If reheating meals in the microwave, be very careful as it can retain the heat more and continue cooking even once taken out of the microwave.

Things Your Child Can Do

You should also inform and teach your child about hygiene and food safety. Leading by example and explaining why you’re going what you’re doing is a good approach.

  • Remind your child to wash their hands before they eat.Remind your child to wash their hands before they eat and that it’s a matter of hygiene.
  • Try to ensure your child is seated and calm for eating. A child who is running around or playing is at greater risk of choking when eating.
  • It goes almost without saying that you should avoid allowing children to eat when they are seated on the potty or toilet.

Food Safety, Hygiene & Quality Assurance At Leaps & Bounds Nursery

We follow best practices for food preparation at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and have a 5-star food hygiene rating.We do, of course, follow all best practices at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. We are rated with the full 5 stars in terms of food hygiene and preparation and also won the Gold Quality Award, Birmingham City Council’s “Healthy Setting Award” and have completed various quality assurance schemes.

Nursery Places in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds: Ofsted-rated as a ‘Good’ Nursery & Pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

If you are looking for high quality weekday childcare for your baby or child under five, ensure you choose a nursery that’s highly rated by Ofsted — Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and pre-school for example. Leaps & Bounds is officially a good nursery and pre-school, located in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.It is also very near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick, so will be convenient for childcare services if you live or work in any of those locations. We accept children funded through the Government schemes like 15 hours per week of free childcare for 2-year-olds, 15-30 hours per week of free childcare for  3 & 4-year-olds, childcare grants for students and tax-free childcare too (all subject to eligibility, of course). Interested?

Please choose a button to get started on a guided visit, nursery application or simply to find out more:

A Final Word

While this guide is primarily about hygiene around food, it would be remiss of us not to include the following additional reminders:

  • Only feed your child age-appropriate foods. This is particularly important when they are babies;
  • Avoid any known allergens (if your child is allergic) and any foods they are intolerant to;
  • Avoid foods that are known to be potentially harmful. For example, foods that are too high in salt, sugar and saturated fats, contain arsenic in the case of rice drinks, or contain mercury in the case of some fish/seafood. Choking hazards like whole nuts and olives are other examples to avoid. See our A-Z of foods to avoid giving your infant for more details.
  • Always check ingredients and age guidelines on food packaging, including formula milks.
  • Always ensure you are giving your baby or child a healthy, balanced, age-appropriate diet and one that uses portion sizes that are appropriate to their age and developmental stage.
  • Be vigilant when cooking to ensure your child is not exposed to dangers like hot ovens, hot hobs, boiling kettles, trailing electrical leads and so on.

Guide to Formula Milks - At a Glance

There are various options available for children who are not being breastfed, have allergies, are lactose intolerant, or need a non-standard alternative for some reason.Today we give you an at-a-glance guide to the various types of formula milks available for babies and infants. Options are there for children who are not being breastfed, are allergic to cows’ milk, are lactose intolerant, or need a non-standard alternative for one reason or another. Informative notes are also included for further guidance. We also include a list of ‘milks’ that are totally unsuitable for little ones, for further clarification.

Take a look & feel free to bookmark or share.

Quick Guide to Formula Milks — Types & Purposes

Formula MilksTypical UseNotes & Warnings
First Infant Formula Milk (a.k.a. First Milk)Usually the standard formula milk for babies aged from birth up to 12 months, if not breastfeeding — unless a GP directs otherwise.Based on cows’ milk. Contains casein, whey and a good balance of vitamins & nutrients.
Lactose-Free Formula MilkIntended for lactose intolerant babies/infants.Only to be given under the direction of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife).
Anti-Reflux Formula Milk (a.k.a. Staydown Milk)Designed to prevent reflux in babies so they don’t bring the milk up during/after feeds. When appropriate, it is suitable from birth.Only to be given under the direction of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife). Preparation, temperature, storage and safety considerations are critically important, so instructions must be closely adhered to.
Hypoallergenic Formula MilkIntended for babies and infants allergic to cows’ milk and any formula/milks containing it. When appropriate, it is suitable from birth.Only to be given under the direction of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife).
Comfort Formula MilkContains partially hydrolysed (partially broken down) cows’ milk proteins and is marketed as easier, in theory, to digest and less prone to causing constipation or colic than standard formula milk.Note that the NHS reports that it has seen no compelling evidence that it achieves what it claims. Only to be given under the direction of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife). Do not feed to those who are allergic to cows’ milk.
Goats’ Milk FormulaAn alternative to formula milk made from cows’ milk and available in different varieties. When appropriate, it is suitable from birth. Note that infants will be just as likely to be allergic to goats’ milk formula if they are allergic to cows’ milk formula.
Hungrier Baby Formula Milk (a.k.a. Hungry Milk)Marketed as suitable, in theory, for hungrier babies through increased levels of casein protein.Note that the NHS reports that it has seen no compelling evidence that it has any advantage over standard formula.The advice of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife) is recommended before feeding this to infants.
Good Night MilkContains added cereal and is marketed as suitable, in theory, for feeding to babies (6 months +) just before bedtime.Note that the NHS reports that it has seen no compelling evidence that it has any advantage over standard formula.The advice of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife) is recommended before feeding this to infants. Never feed to babies below 6 months.
Soya Formula MilkMarketed as an alternative, in theory, to formula/milks that are based on cows’ milk, for babies 6 months or over.Note: The advice of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife) should always be sought before feeding this to infants. It contains oestrogen-mimicking phytoestrogens, which are a concern in relation to the developing reproductive system in the young. It also contains sugars, which are potentially harmful to teeth. Never feed to babies below 6 months.
Growing-Up Milk (a.k.a. Toddler Milk)Marketed as an alternative, in theory, to whole cows’ milk, for infants aged 12 months or over.Note that the NHS reports that it has seen no compelling evidence that it has any advantage over whole cows’ milk. The advice of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife) is recommended before giving this to little ones.
Follow-on Formula MilkMarketed as suitable, in theory, as an alternative to First Infant Formula once infants reach the age of 6 months or over.Note: the NHS suggests that First Infant Formula is actually better for infants during the first year than so called Follow-on Formula milks The advice of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife) is recommended before switching to Follow-on Formula and always read the label.

Milks to Avoid Drinking Under 12 Months

The following are so-called ‘milks’ (as opposed to formula milks) that the NHS advises () should never be given to children under 1 — or even older in some cases, as you’ll see:

Rice Milk & Rice Drinks (rice contains arsenic – avoid under the age of 5)Soya Milk (contains phytoestrogens, which mimic the female hormone)Oat Milk
Almond Milk Evaporated Milk / Condensed Milk (sometimes contains added sugar)Dried Milk (powdered cow’s milk)
Cows’, Goats’ or Sheep’s Milk (only OK as a drink from age 1 if pasteurised, or if pasteurised and used in cooking)Skimmed Milk (a.k.a. 1% Milk) – avoid under the age of 5 as too low in calories.Semi-Skimmed Milk – avoid under the age of 2 and then only give as a main drink if the child is eating a balanced diet, is growing at an appropriate rate for their age, and is not underweight.

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.We hope that our guide is useful to you. Please feel free to share it on social media, or to bookmark it in your browser if so. Do come back to our early years blog area regularly. Here, we’ll post useful guides, ‘how to’ articles and well-researched, useful information for parents, carers and guardians of little ones.

A Nursery Place for your Child in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Nursery/pre-school places for babies, toddlers and under-5s in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Mother and child with bottled formula milk.Are you looking for a nursery or pre-school place for your baby, toddler or under-five child? Leaps & Bounds is a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham and is also conveniently near for those living or working in Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. We support Government schemes for free childcare for 2-year-olds, 3 & 4-year-olds, students and more and offer exceptional early years childcare and education. Please select a button below to apply for a nursery place, to ask any questions or to arrange a visit:

Safety Notice

N.B. always ensure products are age-appropriate. Carefully read product labels and follow their instructions closely. Check expiry dates before use (ready-made ‘liquid’ formula milks usually have shorter lifespans, for example).

Seasonal Allergies in Under-Fives - A Rough Guide

Seasonal allergies: how to recognise symptoms, causes and how to treat them.In our last post all about food allergies, we also briefly touched upon seasonal allergies in young children. Today, we take a closer look at those and explain how to recognise their symptoms, what causes them and perhaps most importantly, how to treat them. Also known as “Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis” and, in the case of pollen allergies, “Hay Fever”, seasonable allergies can be miserable for children affected. It’s therefore important to alleviate any symptoms, or at the very least find workarounds, wherever possible. Doing so will make affected children more comfortable and able to breathe more easily.

What are the Causes of Seasonal Allergies?

As the name suggests, seasonal allergies are more prevalent at certain parts of the year than others, usually being worse during spring, summer and/or autumn. They are caused by an allergic reaction to such things as tree pollen, grass pollen, weed pollen, dust mites, mould and pet dander, Seasonal allergies can be caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, dust mites, mould and pet dander.which are present in the air that the child breathes. The child’s immune system treats such allergens as invaders, defensively reacting to them by releasing the protein histamine into the bloodstream as part of its wider physiological response. It is this specific protein that triggers the unwelcome symptoms experienced by the child.

Children can be more prone to seasonal allergies if they have a family history of allergies.

What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Children?

Itchy ear canals is one less common symptom of a seasonal allergy.The symptoms of seasonal allergy are similar, but not identical, to what we often refer to as having ‘a cold’. The most common symptoms of a seasonal allergy include nasal congestion, a clear, runny nose, an itchy nose, throat and/or roof of the mouth, sneezing and a ‘postnasal drip’ (dripping of mucus from the back of the nasal cavity directly into the throat). The latter can also cause persistent coughing, perhaps accompanied by wheezing and shortness of breath. Although similar to a cold in many respects, the symptoms of seasonal allergy are different in that they do not include a fever, any cough is usually a ‘dry’ one and nasal congestion is clear and watery rather than thick and cloudy as you might expect if the cause was a cold. Another difference is that a seasonal allergy may persist for weeks or even months, unlike a cold, which generally goes within a fortnight or so.

Sometimes seasonal allergy symptoms go on to trigger asthma for those who suffer from it. Children with eczema may also find symptoms worsening when they also have a seasonal allergy.

If a child develops shortness of breath or tightness in their chest, seek urgent medical advice in case the cause turns out to be something more serious than a seasonal allergy. It’s always best to be cautious with the health of little ones.

Children's eyes can also become red, puffy or watery during an episode of seasonal allergy.Children’s eyes can also become red, puffy or watery during an episode of seasonal allergy. They may also exhibit dark circles under their eyes and little ones may also seem more irritable, restless and generally fatigued. Another symptom often seen in children with a seasonal allergy is breathing with their mouth open — simply because their noses are so congested. Children with the disorder may also have trouble sleeping, develop headaches and even get itchy ear canals.

What is the Prevalence of Seasonal Allergies in Babies & Young Children?

Seasonal allergies can develop at any age.Although seasonal allergies can develop at any age, it’s important to stress that they are very rare among babies and infants aged up to 12 months. The earliest that seasonal allergies tend to start, if at all, is once children reach the age of 1 to 2. At that age, the seasonal allergen itself is most likely to be an indoor allergen like dust mites, mould or pet dander rather than outdoor allergens such as pollen or grass. If a child is going to develop a seasonal allergy, it’s much more likely to begin between 3 and 5, although most young children who do develop seasonal allergy may only start noticing symptoms as they get closer to the age of 10. Others may develop it as late as 20.

How Do You Treat the Symptoms of a Seasonal Allergy in Infants?

It’s important to try to relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies in babies, toddlers and children as it’s an unpleasant affliction to live with and can also lead to ear and/or sinus infections if left untreated.

Medical Treatments

GPs, paediatricians and allergists/immunologists can all help to professionally diagnose and treat seasonal allergies. Treatments prescribed by such medical professionals may include child-safe antihistamines, nasal, oral or ocular (eye) sprays and/or even allergy shots, however the latter are seldom prescribed for the very young. Children whose eyes suffer particularly badly around pollen may even be advised to wear goggles when venturing outdoors, to keep the pollen out.

How Parents/Carers Can Help at Home

There are also things that parents/carers can do to help little ones overcome the symptoms of seasonal allergies. The most powerful and obvious one is to keep little ones away from the sources of the allergens that affect them. Keeping track of pollen counts (often given along with the weather reports on TV) and keeping children indoors on days when the count is high is going to help. Keeping pollen out of the house is also key. Hence, vacuuming thoroughly with a vacuum that has a HEPA (high efficiency particulate arresting) filter, keeping windows closed, taking shoes off when coming indoors, regularly dusting, washing sheets, blankets, clothes and curtains etc. and showering/bathing children who’ve been outdoors will all help to reduce pollen, dust mites and other allergens within the household. Drying washing in a dryer, instead of drying it naturally outside, will also help to limit the amount of allergens around affected children. Children’s hair will also trap allergens, so this should also be washed regularly to remove such allergens. Some air conditioners have pollen filters that can help to reduce the number of allergens and dust in the air, as do some free-standing air purification machines.

If the problem is pet dander, pets may also need to receive regular baths or showers.If the problem is pet dander, pets may also need to receive regular baths or showers (where appropriate and safe for them to do so) to remove dander from their fur or feathers — perhaps once a week. If the child’s allergy to dander is severe, it may even mean that pets and children need to keep to their own areas around the home, and children taught not to cuddle or stroke them.

If dust mites are causing the allergic reaction in your child, consider switching pillows and blankets to synthetic materials or even use specialist fabrics and airtight covers that block the passage of dust mites in bedding. Regularly wash bedding, pillow cases and even soft toys on a hot setting and tumble dry rather than exposing them to pollens on an outdoor washing line. Carpeting and rugs can also be a host for dust mites so consider switching to another type of flooring that can be cleaned more thoroughly, e.g. laminate flooring. Specially-treated mop heads can even be sourced to clean them. Putting smaller items in the freezer for several hours each week will also kill dust mites, particularly if followed up by a hot wash and tumble dry afterwards.

Mould is also a common allergen.Mould is also a common allergen. Try to keep children away from it anyway (it’s not healthy) and, better still, eradicate it completely. Any leaks, plumbing or drainage issues should therefore be fixed, including outdoor defects if present, as they might otherwise allow the ingress of moisture to the indoors. Dehumidifiers will help to remove moisture from the air indoors, and adequate ventilation around the home will help to stop any mould taking hold (that’s if ventilation is practical, should the child also be allergic to pollen). Extractor fans in bathrooms, showers and kitchens will also help to vent moist air to the outside. Anti-mould paint, grout and sealants are available too, for problem areas like bathrooms, although bathroom and shower walls, tiling, shower curtains or screens etc. will be less likely to become habitats for mould if they’re squeegeed and dried after use. Drying damp towels and flannels in tumble driers will also help, rather than leaving them lying around. Also be mindful not to over-water houseplants, which should be kept away from affected children, and ensure any firewood is stored outdoors. Lastly, keep washing machine doors ajar when not in use and regularly clean the door seals as these can otherwise harbour mould.

We hope that this rough guide to seasonal allergies in under-fives has been useful to parents and carers of little ones.

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A Nursery Place at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Are you looking a nursery or pre-school place for your child in Edgbaston — or near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick?

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.Please get in touch if you are looking for a high quality childcare place for your baby, toddler or under-five child at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Our wonderful weekday childcare service is also convenient if you live/work near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick. Come and see the nursery in action and bring along your little one – we’ll be happy to show you around and to answer any questions. We’ll also be happy to clarify any free childcare options for 2-year-olds, 3 & 4-year-olds, students and more. Please choose a button below to get in touch or to get started with a place for your child:

Food Allergens for Infants - A Rough Guide

Amongst children aged up to two, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild.We previously looked at the types of food for parents to avoid giving infants and now follow up with a separate post about foods that are most likely to cause allergic reactions in the very young.

Some reactions towards food are also not true allergies, in the scientific sense. For those that are, it’s important to stress that severe allergic reactions (a.k.a. ‘Anaphylaxis’) in infants under one are rare. However such severe reactions should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even amongst children aged up to two, though, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild. Nonetheless, parents, carers and guardians of infants will naturally want to be cautious. Today’s post discusses the food types that most commonly cause allergic reactions and how they can be introduced to infants.

Severe allergic reactions (Anaphylaxis) in infants under one are rare, however such reactions should be treated as a medical emergency.

Symptoms to Look Out For

So, what are the symptoms of an allergic reaction? The NHS lists symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, coughing and a blocked or runny nose as possible signs of an allergic reaction. Itchy, red, watery eyes or a red, itchy rash are also possible signs, as are worsening symptoms of eczema or asthma.

The Most Common Food Allergens

According to the NHS, the 8 food types that are most likely to cause allergic reactions are:

Cows’ milkEggs
Gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye, oats etc.)Nuts including peanuts*
Seeds & seed derivatives*Soya
Shellfish*Fish

* We touched upon some of these ingredients in our A-Z Guide to Foods to Avoid Giving Infants but will mention the following again: seeds and nuts, including peanuts, should only be served to under-fives crushed, ground or as a ‘butter’ as they are otherwise a choking hazard; eggs should be avoided before the age of 6 months and thereafter never be served raw/lightly cooked except if they exhibit the Red Lion or “British Lion Quality” stamp; shellfish should also never be served to infants raw or lightly cooked.

Always read food labels carefully.

Eggs are one of the 8 food types that are most likely to cause allergic reactions, according to the NHS.Mustard, celery, the preservative/antioxidant sulphur dioxide, the legume lupin and molluscs are the next most common food allergens after those listed in the table above. Kiwi, the fruit, is also known to cause allergic reactions in some infants, however is apparently the only potential allergen out of those listed above that doesn’t have to be listed, by law, on the ingredients list of pre-packaged food products.

When to Start Watching Out for Allergens

The NHS recommends slowly introducing the food types above, usually from about the age of 6 months if they’re developmentally ready. This is the age when babies most commonly start the process of weaning i.e. moving – gradually – towards eating solids. Start only when the infant is well, including having a good skin condition, because eczema is a possible sign of an existing allergy. The NHS strongly recommends that you talk to a GP or health visitor before introducing new foods to infants who are already known to have an allergy diagnosis or family history of allergies, including eczema, asthma and hay fever.

Any ‘new’ food types, particularly known allergens from the list above, should be introduced to the infant only one at a time, preferably early in the day so that you have more time to monitor for any reactions. Accepted advice is to start only with a tiny initial amount and monitor for possible symptoms of an allergic reaction. When the introduction of peanuts was delayed to a later time in the child's development, the risk of developing an allergic reaction to them increased.Amounts can later be increased, bit by bit over the following days, if the infant is found to be tolerant. And, of course, a new food type can then be tried only once the previous one has ‘passed the test’. However, bear in mind that some allergic reactions are far from immediate. Known as non-IgE food allergies, their symptoms can take anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days to show. So, the message is to be very careful and methodical when it comes to introducing new foods to your infant.1

1: More detail about IgE (rapid) and non-IgE (delayed) allergy symptoms and other useful information about the introduction of potential allergens to infants can be read in a very good article by baby and child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed.

Once introduced and shown to be tolerated by the infant, the new foods should then remain a part of the child’s usual diet and be eaten regularly. This minimises the chances of the child developing an allergy to such food types later on. Interestingly, where the introduction of peanuts and hens’ eggs has been delayed to a later time in the child’s development, the risk of developing an allergic reaction to them has actually increased. So, the risks need to be carefully balanced.

Special Mention: Milk Conundrums

The NHS recommends “exclusive breastfeeding or First Infant Formula” milk for babies during their first six monthsThe NHS recommends “exclusive breastfeeding or First Infant Formula” milk for babies during their first six months (and, indeed, breastfeeding has many benefits). Breastfeeding is not always possible though, for one reason or another, which is where the mention of First Infant Formula comes in. However, with standard First Infant Formula Milk being based on cows’ milk, and cows’ milk being one of the food types that infants are most commonly allergic or intolerant to, a healthcare professional will need to be consulted in the event of a reaction. For those found to have Cows’ Milk Allergy (‘CMA’), alternatives like Hypoallergenic Formula Milk, Lactose-Free Formula Milk or even Soya Formula Milk may be suggested by the GP/healthcare professional. However, it’s important for such milk alternatives to be given only under professional medical supervision as there are important and specific considerations around each. We explain more about those in a separate where we outline the different types of milk and formula for babies and infants.

Another milk-related conundrum that nursing mothers may have is whether they should avoid potential allergens themselves in case it passes to the infant through breast milk. The NHS’s advice in this regard is succinct and straight forward:

“If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you do not need to avoid foods that can trigger allergic reactions (including peanuts), unless you’re allergic to them.” (NHS)

Please note: We hope guide is a useful starting point for parents/guardians who want to learn more about safely introducing little ones to new food types. However, it is a guide only and you should do your own research. Talk to your GP, health visitor or other healthcare professional if you need professional advice or guidance in regard to your child’s diet and any allergy- or health-related issues. Always check food labels and contact the emergency services urgently if your child exhibits signs of a severe allergic reaction.

Healthy Food at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Healthy snacks are included in the fees at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston/Birmingham.Meals at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery are freshly made, using high quality, nutritious ingredients, which are prepared for us by award-winning early years caterers. Healthy snacks, meals and drinks are all included in our nursery fees, as appropriate. We cater for all dietary needs (e.g. vegan, vegetarian etc.) and, of course, are mindful — and hugely careful — about any allergies amongst the little ones. We also participate in the ‘Startwell’ programme, which encourages our children and families in the Birmingham area to eat healthy meals and to live healthy lifestyles.

Searching for the best nurseries or pre-schools in Edgbaston, Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick?

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.Please get in touch if you would like to visit Leaps & Bounds or to enrol your baby, toddler or under-five child at this excellent childcare setting. We are a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham but are equally convenient for those who live or work in Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Why not bring your child along to see the nursery in action and to ask us any questions that you may have. You can also apply for a place if you’re ready to make a decision about your childcare. Please choose a button below to get started:

Next Time

Today’s article focuses on food that may cause allergic reactions in infants. We subsequently follow up with a great guide to Seasonal Allergies in Under-Fives. Instead of being caused by food, seasonal allergies are caused by such things as pollen, dust, mould and pet dander at certain times of the year. Click the green link above to learn about symptoms, causes and ways to help children affected by such allergies.

Sensory Activities for Preschoolers
Sensory activities are incredibly important in early years learning and development.Following last month’s sensory activities for babies and toddlers article, we now take a look at a selection of sensory activities for preschoolers. Sensory activities are incredibly important in early years learning and development. In short, they help children develop their senses so their brains and bodies can make sense of all the stimuli around them. As well as helping them to understand their physical place within the world and everything in it, good sensory perception keeps them safe and allows them to interact optimally with everything around them. Through the building of new neural pathways in the brain, sensory activities aid communication, learning, sustenance, coordination, balance, motor function, movement and much more. Such skills are indeed critical to their very survival and success. With that in mind, we look at some examples of sensory play activities that are perfect for preschoolers, below. These are suitable at home as well as at pre-school (always under adult supervision, of course) …

Sensory Play Activities for Preschoolers

Colour Shakers & Sound Shakers

Coloured beads or glitter will make sound or colour shakers even more fun!Recycled, clear plastic bottles can be made into colour or sound shakers really easily. For colour shakers, they can be filled with water and then food colouring can be added. Adding glitter or coloured beads makes it even more interesting! Children can experiment with mixing different colours, shaking or swirling them around in the bottles to see all the wonderful, visual results.

Similarly, for sound shakers, children can instead fill bottles with dried pasta shapes, uncooked rice grains or breakfast cereals that then make different sounds when shaken around.

Children can experiment, creatively, with colour and and/or sound in this way, stimulating vision, hearing, touch and coordination. They could even compose their own rhythms, adding ‘drums’ and suchlike by using, for example, wooden spoons as drumsticks and empty cartons or boxes as ‘drums’. In addition to the sensory benefits, these types of activity are a great way to teach children about recycling and repurposing something that would otherwise be discarded.

Paint & Pigment Play

Messy play Messy play with paint and pigments is wonderful for children's senses.with paint and pigments is wonderful for children’s senses, particularly those of touch and sight, but also potentially sound too. Allowing children to get really ‘hands-on’ with paint will stimulate their creative juices too. They can really let go of inhibitions if you allow them. They’ll love to get really messy with squelching paint, mixing colours with hands and even feet, mark-making with fingers or through handprints and footprints. They’ll get to grips with the way that colours mix and form new colours and tones. They’ll learn about the different feel of paints that are diluted or have a thicker consistency. They’ll even learn about the different textures that their fingertips can feel as the paint goes from wet and fluid to solid and dry. While adults take these things in their stride, we all had to learn about such things when we were little and messy play activities are a great opportunity to do so.

Creative Food

Playing with food as part of a sensory activity can offer useful learning opportunities.While it’s not usually a good idea to encourage children to play with food, doing so as part of a sensory activity can offer a useful learning opportunity and is great fun for them if supervised appropriately. The key is to ensure they understand that this is a learning activity, not a meal time, in this particular scenario. Activities can include making faces and other images out of their food (broccoli for trees and so on) as well as combining different food textures, colours and tastes together in creative ways. They’ll enjoy the hands-on nature of this activity as well as honing sensory skills like touch, taste, smell and visual senses. Fine motor skills will also benefit. At the end of the activity, and assuming hygiene has been suitably good, they can even eat the results! As well as being good from a creative and sensory standpoint, food creativity may even encourage them to try different foods, tastes and food textures — great for fussy eaters!

Sand Play

Playing with sand is always a massive hit with children, particularly in their early years.Playing with sand is always a massive hit with children, particularly in their early years. A sandpit, sand table or visit to a sandy beach will give preschoolers wonderful play opportunities with this fascinating, natural material. Through hands-on play, they’ll get to enjoy and learn from the different textures, consistencies and states that are possible when sand is dry, moist or even runny through mixing it with water. Building of sandcastles is, of course, a natural progression, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s possible when playing with sand. Sandcastles using pre-shaped buckets are all very well. However, the magical and organic-looking sand ‘mountains’ that can be made through running extremely wet sand through the hands is on another level. Sand is so adaptable and the list of multi-sensory play activities using it is only limited by a child’s imagination. With sand, they play and learn in an almost effortless way.

Playing with Dough

With dough, you can add rich colour stimulation into the sensory mix.Playing with dough offers similar opportunities for sensory and creative discovery. With dough, though, you can add rich colour stimulation into the mix. Whether shop-bought, or home-made with salt dough and food colouring, playing with dough is always a huge hit with children. It stimulates the mind and the senses in so many ways. Touch, sight, and even smell are the more obvious senses that are stimulated, but vestibular (movement) and proprioception (body position) are also potentially stimulated and enhanced through dough play. It’s highly creative too, of course, with opportunities to form sculptures, animals, characters and anything a child can imagine. Some types can even be baked (under adult supervision), so they harden. Then, children have created their very own toys!

Sensory Gardens

If you have a garden, allotment, balcony or windowsill, making a sensory garden is a wonderful activity for 3, 4 and 5-year-olds.If you have a garden, allotment, balcony or windowsill, making a sensory garden is a wonderful sensory activity for 3, 4 and 5-year-olds. Preschoolers will have real fun planting seeds, herbs, scented flowers and suchlike, then watching them grow. This can be quite a creative process too. Once they’ve grown, the children then get to enjoy all the wonderful smells, textures and colours too. If you are growing herbs with your child, even their taste senses will be in for a treat. Sensory gardens are a real feast for the senses, stimulating touch, coordination, balance and body awareness during the building phase then smell, sight, touch and potentially taste once complete. (Close supervision is essential, of course, particularly in regard to avoiding any poisonous or toxic plants).

Nature

Time spent in the countryside, immersed in nature, is the ultimate sensory experience for children.Taking this a step further, time spent in the countryside, immersed in nature, is the ultimate sensory experience for children. Spending time in the natural world with your child teaches them so much and stimulates potentially all the senses — sight, touch, smell, hearing, vestibular (the movement sense) and proprioception (the sense of body position). Even taste may be stimulated if some safe, edible vegetables or fruits are discovered. (Learn more about the benefits of nature to children here and learn more about our Birmingham Forest School here).

Sensory Play at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston

Our Edgbaston nursery provides a huge variety of sensory play equipment and multi-sensory activities, for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.We understand the profound importance of sensory play at Leaps & Bounds Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. As such, we provide a huge variety of sensory play equipment and multi-sensory activities at the setting, for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Discovery and learning through the senses helps little ones develop in so many ways. For example, aiding physical development, mobility, cognitive skills, motor skills, coordination and, not least, their understanding of the world and their safe place within it. We hope that the examples of sensory activities above help parents or guardians with a few ideas for continuation of this learning journey at home.

Childcare & Nursery Places in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.Are you looking for good nurseries and pre-schools in Birmingham or Edgbaston? Or perhaps you need a childcare nursery near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood, Smethwick or the B16 area? If so, please consider Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. We’re a high quality childcare nursery and pre-school based in Gillott Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham (B16 0ET). Please click a button below to make contact and we’ll be happy to tell you more or to show you and your little one around …

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 Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.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:

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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

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.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:

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Main photo: Gavin Warrins (Public domain)

22 Ways to Toddler-Proof Your Home

Young children naturally want to explore, but it can be dangerous!Any new parent will appreciate how important it is to ensure that the home is safe for the new arrival. It’s a little easier to keep them safe when they’re babies, but things quickly change once they start crawling and walking. Toddlers can be be into everything! They can also move surprisingly fast at times, so it’s important to ensure that they cannot access things like sharp objects, hard or rough surfaces, hot ovens and radiators, corrosive products, poisonous plants and substances, or places they could knock things over. They also need to be kept well away from places where there is a drop, from which they could fall, and places where they are in danger of something else falling onto them.

So, what steps can parents take to keep the home a safe place for their toddlers? Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the more obvious measures that can be put into place.

(The following should be a good place to start, but is not an exhaustive list, so please always do your own full risk assessment).

Smoke Detectors

Install smoke detectors on every floor and ideally in every room or space in the home.Install smoke detectors, if not already present, on every floor and ideally in every room or space in the home (halls, stairwells etc.). Ensure that batteries are tested regularly and replaced whenever necessary. Smoke detectors save countless lives every year when maintained correctly, so are incredibly important.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Detectors for this invisible and scent-free gas are essential, especially in homes with any kind of heater or where there is an attached garage or even attached property or flat. The gas can travel into your home even if you don’t have a device that potentially emits it. Follow safety instructions and guidelines about positioning the detectors. Batteries should also be regularly checked and replaced whenever required. Carbon monoxide detectors are not generally as cheap as smoke detectors, but should last years (N.B. follow instructions in regard to replacement at the prescribed intervals).  These devices are real life-savers.

Electrical Outlets & the Plastic Inserts Controversy

Electricity outlets should be made to BS1363 safety standards in order to protect children and adults.Although modern, correctly specified electrical points in the UK are designed to be childproof, it would always be wise to teach children to keep away from them and never to tamper with them. Additionally, current safety advice from the Department of Health is *NOT* to use plastic blanking inserts in power outlets. Modern electrical points and outlets manufactured to quality standard BS1363 have a built-in ‘shutter’ system that already offers strong safety protection. For that reason, many are now stating that adding plastic blanking inserts to unused electrical socket outlets may actually represent a greater hazard to children than not having them — because they could potentially override and negate the built-in safety mechanisms within the actual socket. Ofsted, meanwhile, does not seem to offer a directive one way or another on this topic, so we suggest that families do their own research to further explore this topic.

Electrical Wires & Connection Cables

Most electrical devices around the home have cables or wires of some kind. Some carry significant electrical currents, which are obviously a potential danger to young children, but even those that don’t could represent a potential strangulation or tripping risk. They could also be yanked by the youngster, resulting in something heavy falling onto them. So, always ensure they’re located securely out of reach of little ones.

Stair & Safety Gates

Installing stair gates is a no-brainer for families with young children. Ideally find a type they can't climb on.Installing stair gates is a no-brainer for families with young children. When installed and secured correctly, they will stop children falling downstairs, and stop them getting upstairs if a parent wants to confine them to the downstairs area, away from hazards elsewhere.

You can also get safety gates that will cordon off other hazardous areas like kitchens, as well as fireguard gates. Such levels of protection are highly recommended but always ensure products meet UK safety standards before buying.

Safety Locks & Latches on Doors

It's important to have safety locks on windows, doors and cupboards.Rooms, cupboards and storage areas can contain any number of dangerous hazards for young children. However, they can be easily secured by child-proof locks, latches or even lockable door knob covers. Such devices need to be easily opened by adults, however, for the sake of convenience and also in case of emergency. Children are naturally inquisitive, so it’s best for a supervising adult to decide where they can go, and ensure they’re locked out of everywhere else rather than letting them explore freely.

Door Stops

Doors can be a hazard to children, who can all-too-easily get fingers trapped in the hinged side, the opening side when a door is closed, or even underneath. Parents can purchase inexpensive door stops, wedges and holders to stop such occurrences and indeed a variety of such solutions are available on the market. These even include some simple ‘finger guards’ for doors, to stop little fingers being trapped.

Window Security

Windows represent a real hazard for children.Windows represent a real hazard for children. Not only do they contain glass that could cut them if broken, but they are also something a child could potentially climb through and fall from if not secured. That could be fatal. There are a number of measures that can be put into place for window safety, including window guards, safety netting and, of course, childproof locks or safety latches. It’s also important to ensure that there is nothing close to windows that would allow a child to climb up to it. Even if the window is closed, it’s feasible that they could break the glass and get injured.

Floor to ceiling glass is also a potential hazard, particularly when it’s perfectly clear. Young children may run around and not realise there isn’t a gap to run through, and slam into it. An example is patio doors, or tall glazed panes in conservatories. Safety stickers or strips on the glass, placed at a suitable height, are therefore essential so that children don’t slam into, and potentially through, such panes. Better still, such areas should be blocked off from access completely, using guards or similar, or particularly stringent adult supervision should always be in place in such areas.

Window Blind Cords

Pull cords on blinds and curtains are very dangerous if not secured, out of reach.Sadly, children have been known to perish after accidentally strangling themselves with pull-cords. If the pull-cord has a small toggle or knob on the end, these are also potential choking hazards. Cords can often be seen dangling down at the side of window blinds and curtains. Such things need to be secured, well away from the reach of children. Indeed, many window blinds these days are supplied with safety fitments that should always be used in houses that are homes to children.

Keep Phones Cordless

In a similar way, phones with cords are also a potential choking hazard. Wireless phones get around this issue more safely and also allow supervising adults/parents to move about freely while on a call. In this way they can watch what the child is up to at all times and not be confined to wherever the phone terminal is.

Bumper Covers on Corners

Furniture is a new hazard for toddlers who are newly mobile.Furniture around the home is fine for adults, but little ones, who are only just becoming mobile, will be unaware of how painful a fall against them can be. For example, the edge or corner of a coffee table (ouch!). A quick look on the Internet, though, will show up several results for corner and edge ‘bumpers’ of varying thicknesses, qualities and prices. There should be a solution for most budgets and these will soften the impact should a toddler fall against them.

Ovens, Hobs, Hotplates & Grills

The kitchen is a particularly dangerous area for children. It’s imperative that they are not allowed anywhere near sources of heat, particularly ovens, hobs, grills and hotplates. The door of an oven, often positioned at toddler level in modern kitchens, can remain hot enough to burn little fingers and hands, long after the oven has been switched off. It will not ‘look’ hot to a toddler, so parents need to be vigilant and, better still, keep toddlers well away.

Tablecloths & Table Runners

Avoid the use of tablecloths and table 'runners' when children are young. One tug and there could be a nasty accident.It’s also best to avoid the use of tablecloths and table ‘runners’ when children are young. Otherwise, they may grab an edge, fall backwards and any number of potentially heavy, sharp, hot or otherwise harmful things could then fall onto them.

Radiators, Heaters & Fires

Radiators, heaters and, of course, fires are sources of significant heat. So, it’s important to have fire guards in place, protective covers in front of radiators, or secure barriers in place to keep children away from direct contact with the heat sources like electrical or oil heaters. Many also have nasty, hard corners and some portable heaters can tip over easily, which could be potentially disastrous for little ones who don’t understand the dangers and could end up potentially bruised and burnt.

Sharp Objects

There are many sharp objects around the home and it’s important to keep children from accessing them. Knives, screwdrivers, scissors and even sharp pens and pencils are just a few examples. They can be potential hazards for toddlers, so it’s imperative that they’re kept well out of reach and also not placed on top of anything that could be toppled by a climbing child.

Small Objects Are Choking Hazards

Small objects are a potential choking hazard.Parents should also scour the house to ensure that small objects are kept out of reach of mobile toddlers, otherwise they represent a potential choking hazard.

Machines & Gadgets

Food blenders, vacuum cleaners, DIY power tools and even beauty products can be a danger to little children. So, it’s important to keep all these things out reach of the child. Once they’re mobile, they’re into everything and, if you’re not vigilant, they’ll be grabbing for things like hot hair straighteners without understanding the danger.

Household Products

Household products including cleaning products can be a real hazard.Household products including cleaning products can be a real hazard. So, bleach, abrasive, corrosive and poisonous products need to be locked well away. The same goes for things like dishwasher tablets, laundry pods, medicines and tablets. Many products around the house are highly poisonous and could even kill. Such hazards are best locked away rather than simply moved out of reach, because children soon learn to climb.

Gardens

Front and rear gardens are full of potential hazards for children. The hazard list is almost endless, in fact. From sharp objects, germs, thorns and garden tools to ponds, poisonous plants, weedkiller and tripping/falling hazards, it’s all there. Moreover, there are probably several escape routes where children could exit or others could enter. So, gardens need extra-special supervision whenever children are present, particularly the young. It would also be wise to ensure that boundaries and gates/doors are secure and any hazards made unavailable through the use of barriers, locked storage/sheds and suchlike.

Swimming pools and hot tubs

Hot tubs, swimming pools and ponds are a potential drowning hazard for little ones.Hot tubs and swimming pools are obviously also a potential drowning hazard for little ones, so adults need to take serious precautions to keep them away except under close supervision. Access should be possible only via the supervising adult and use of pool and tub covers carefully considered.

Baths & Bathrooms

Any source of water is a potential hazard for children. Baths and basins could hold enough water to drown little ones, scald them if water is too hot or be an electrical hazard if water is allowed to be transported or splashed anywhere near anything electrical. Adult supervision is therefore essential in such places and ideally they should be out of bounds and impossible for little ones to access at all other times.

Hot Water Safety

Even plants in the garden could be a danger if they turn out to be poisonous.Parents can take this a whole step further by ensuring that hot water in tanks and devices is never allowed to get to a dangerous level of heat in the first place. Careful selection of shower models, for example, may show up variants that are particularly child-safe, with a bypass that only adults would be able to use in order to increase the temperature. A local plumber should also be able to fit some precautionary devices, systems or settings to showers, shower heads, hot water taps and water tanks to give additional protection from possible scalding. This level of safety is, though, in a much more advanced and expensive league than the other precautions above.

A Final Word

No safety device or precaution is 100% childproof. Even if they were, it’s all too easy for a parent or sibling to forget to reinstate them, for example by closing a safety gate after passing through. The important thing, therefore, is for adults to always be close by and to supervise all activity. It only takes a second or two for a young adventurer to slip past a cordon and into danger territory. That’s all too easy if a parent gets distracted by a knock on the door or a phone call. Vigilance is needed at all times.

Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.We hope this list of precautions is a good starting place for parents, guardians and carers. Of course, at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, we always follow best practice in regard to the safety and wellbeing of babies, toddlers and preschoolers under our care. Strict protocols are in place around safeguarding, risk assessments are taken regularly, and children are always well supervised. Our high quality childcare service is perfect for parents who live or work in Edgbaston or near Birmingham, Ladywood, Smethwick, Bearwood or Harborne. We’re also one of the few Forest Schools in the Birmingham area. To learn more about our wonderful nursery and pre-school, or to apply for a nursery place, simply contact us:

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