Tag Archive for: coordination

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:

 

Tummy Time for Babies — & Why it's Important

The idea of tummy time is to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles and to improve coordination and motor skills.‘Tummy Time’ is very important for babies and today we take a look at why that is, and what exactly tummy time entails. The NHS defines tummy time as follows:

“Tummy time is time your baby spends on their tummy when they are awake.” (NHS)

The idea behind the activity is a simple but crucial one: to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles as well as improving coordination and motor skills. These are important for newborn babies because they have comparatively heavy heads for their size, not much physical strength and poor coordination and motor skills when they’re first born. Tummy time allows them to improve in all these areas. After regular tummy time, they should become more able physically, they’ll gradually become more mobile and, crucially, will be better able to keep themselves safe. You could even argue that tummy time is a survival thing at its core.

Tummy Time Benefits

Tummy time benefits babies in many ways, including:

Tummy time strengthens neck, core, trunk, back, shoulder and arm muscles, helping babies to be more able physically.
It improves physical coordination as well as hand-eye coordination as they learn to reach for toys etc.
It improves a wide variety of motor skills, both fine and gross, helping babies better function as individuals.
It helps babies to alter their head position and movements at will, so they’re better able to control what/who they can see, what they can gain access to and what/who they interact with.
It helps babies to make sense of stimuli around them, for example to be able to turn their head or position in order to see what made a particular sound nearby.
Tummy time also helps babies avoid skull deformations such as Positional Plagiocephaly (a.k.a. Flat Head Syndrome) that might otherwise occur if they’re permanently on their backs.
Tummy time helps babies avoid Positional Torticollis, a neck issue that also might otherwise occur if the baby is always on its back.

Tummy Time – What to Do

Start off by lying your baby on your chest, facing you.So, we’ve seen the benefits and importance of tummy time, but what exactly does it entail? Well, the wide-awake baby is turned onto its stomach (this is also known as the ‘prone’ position) and is encouraged to raise its head, arms, etc. This must be under constant, unbroken supervision, for the child’s safety. Tummy time should commence right from birth, according to the NHS (). Newborns are initially very weak and therefore may not initially warm to tummy time, so a few things may help to make the introduction more bearable for them:

  • Start off by lying them on your chest, facing you.
  • Placing a rolled-up towel or blanket under their upper chest and arms will help to support and raise their trunks a little.
  • Encouragement will also help. For example, by turning the activity into a game like peek-a-boo, perhaps lying down, facing the baby.
  • You can also try it with the baby lying across your lap rather than on the floor, so you can better help them.
  • Another option is to cradle them with your hand/upper arm supporting them underneath.Another option is to cradle them with your hand/upper arm supporting them underneath.
  • When they’re a little older, lying the baby on a rug or blanket on the floor will be more comfortable for them than a hard floor directly. Not too soft/deep, though, due to the dangers of suffocation when they’re face down.
  • Ensure their head is supported when needed as their necks are very fragile at such a young age.
  • And, of course, ensure that they can always breathe freely at all times.

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines () recommend “at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day while awake … more is better … [it] can be increased gradually, starting from a minute or two at a time, as the baby becomes used to it.”

It’s important for parents to encourage the infant and to persevere. Start off for very short periods of time when they’re first born, but repeat it several times throughout the day. Remember, it will be very hard for them initially. As they get stronger and more used to it — and a little older — gradually increase the time spent doing tummy time. Nearby toys may help to encourage babies to make an extra effort during tummy time.Nearby toys may also help to encourage them to make an extra effort by the time they’re around 3 months old. Then, once they’re around 6 months of age, they should be much stronger in the arms and trunk and able to achieve the press-up position naturally. Before you know it, regular tummy time practise will result in them becoming more able to independently move around, grab toys, roll sideways and back, lift themselves up on their arms, lift and turn their head and so on. Coordination, strength, motor skills and hand-eye coordination will all improve. By the age of 7 to 9 months, you may find they can crawl and, around 9 months, they may well also be able to achieve a sitting position unaided. Around this point, your tummy time job is complete and there’s no huge need to continue — although it’ll do no harm if you do.

Safety Rules for Tummy Time

  • Only allow your baby to do tummy time when he/she is wide awake and alert;
  • Only allow your baby to do tummy time when you are wide awake, unlikely to fall asleep and are able to supervise the baby throughout the whole activity.

Those precautions are critically important for the baby’s wellbeing. Babies should never be allowed to sleep face down or even on their sides, otherwise there is a real risk of suffocation and even death. That’s why both baby and adult need to be fully awake, fully alert and the supervising adult watching at all times during the tummy time activity.

Tummy Time at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Tummy time is part and parcel of nurturing children to reach personal bests in every area and to thrive as individuals.We do, of course, follow guidelines and best practise for safe tummy time at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham. It’s all a natural, integral part of what we do as part of our weekday childcare services for babies. It’s also part and parcel of nurturing children under our care to reach personal bests in every area and to thrive as individuals.

High Quality Childcare in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

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

Leaps & Bounds offers the highest quality childcare at it’s Edgbaston nursery and pre-school near Birmingham. Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.We’re also conveniently located for those looking for the best nursery or pre-school service near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, each of which is just a stone’s throw away. To enquire about a nursery/pre-school place for your child, or to ask any questions, please get in touch. We also invite you to book a tour with your child to see the childcare setting in action for yourself. Please choose an option to get started:

20 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Little Ones

It's important that young children are given ample opportunity to play, learn and explore the many activities that only the outdoors allowsOutdoor play offers an enormous range of benefits to children, particularly during their early years. It’s therefore important that little ones, in particular, are given ample opportunity to play, learn and explore the many activities that only the outdoors allows — under adult supervision, of course. Outside, they’ll learn new skills and knowledge and will benefit both physically and mentally in ways that perhaps the indoors could never fully allow. So, if you are the parent or guardian of a child in their earliest years, take a look at 20 of the key benefits of outdoor play for little ones.

1. Outdoor Play is Great Fun!

Playing outdoors is generally great fun!We should not overlook the complete obvious — playing outdoors is generally great fun! That’s not a trivial thing and indeed it’s important for children’s wellbeing. After all, fun and games are all an essential part of any happy childhood. There is also no better way for little ones to learn than through play, so giving them the opportunity to play outdoors represents a much wider opportunity than anything they can do inside.

2. A Completely Different Set of Activities & Challenges

Outdoor play offers a largely different set of games, activities, challenges and exploration opportunities compared to those available indoors.Outdoor play offers a largely different set of games, activities, challenges and exploration opportunities compared to those available indoors. After all, it literally opens up a bigger world for children to experience. With the myriad of different environments available outdoors, whether man-made or natural, there’s simply more to do. So, the potential for a near infinite range of different activities and games is possible outdoors — each of which can teach children something new.

3. A Greater Sense of Adventure

As well as being a fun place to be, the outdoors will give children a sense of adventure.As well as being a fun place to be, the outdoors will give children a sense of adventure that is harder to replicate indoors. And adventure is all a healthy part of childhood, when you think about it.

4. An Escape from Electronic Screens

Outdoor play is also a very healthy release from spending time in front of electronic screens like TVs, tablets, games and maybe even mobiles if children have them. Studies and a good dose of common sense show that too much screen time is not good for children and getting them outdoors is a great way to go back to basics and enjoy more natural, active play.

5. New Knowledge

Children get to learn so many new things when taking part in the myriad of possible activities outdoors.Along with this bigger world comes greater knowledge, pure and simple. Children will get to learn so many new things, about both themselves and the world, when taking part in the myriad of possible activities outdoors. Whether it’s new knowledge about nature, the elements, materials, places or something else, there is so much knowledge out there to feed their young minds.

6. Outdoor Play Supports the EYFS Curriculum

The varied nature of outdoor play supports the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum in many different ways. This includes support for ‘prime’ and key’ areas including Physical Development, Communication & Language Development, Understanding the World, Personal, Social & Emotional Development and even Mathematics.

7. Outdoor Play Helps Mental Health

Spending time outdoors and fresh air, particularly when surrounded by nature, is known to help the mental health and wellbeing of both children and adults.Spending time outdoors and fresh air, particularly when surrounded by nature, is known to help the mental health and wellbeing of both children and adults. Study after study show this to be the case.

8. Feeding the Senses

The outside world is a rich stimulant of all the senses.All the senses are stimulated enormously when children take part in outdoor activities, play and exploration. The outside world is a rich stimulant of all the senses including sight, hearing, smell, touch and, with supervision and care, even taste. Proprioception (balance/movement) and vestibular sensing via body position are also particularly stimulated by outdoor play. Learn more about the importance of sensory perception here.

9. Deeper Friendships

Play-based outdoor activities are so different from those undertaken indoors and they also allow for different dynamics amongst children. Many are group-based or at the very least pair-based activities that are quite immersive. The combination of factors around outdoor play can lead to a wider circle of friends and deeper friendships. That can only be a good thing.

10. New Skills

Outdoor play and activities introduce children to completely new skills like teamwork, cooperation, leadership and more.The wider range of immersive activities available outdoors also introduces children to completely new skills. Just a few examples include teamwork, role-play, strategy and leadership.

11. Improved Communication Skills

Communication skills are also nurtured during outdoor play. Children playing outdoors, together, will need to learn to communicate clearly with each other as they go about joint activities and games. They’ll soon learn what communication strategies work, and which don’t.

12. Improved Strength, Fitness & Physical Development

Children playing outdoors are far more likely to be active and physical, expending energy, moving, running, jumping, climbing and more. All of that physical activity will help build strength, stamina and improve general fitness levels. In turn, this active play can lead to a more healthy BMI and help to reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity.

13. Improved Motor Skills, Balance & Coordination

Motor skills (both gross and fine), balance and coordination are also naturally going to improve with outdoor play.Motor skills (both gross and fine), balance and coordination skills are also naturally going to improve with all this more physical, outdoor activity. That’s incredibly important in their early years as they learn to control their bodies and movement so they’re able to stay safe from harm as they become more physically able.

14. Better Spacial Awareness

Spacial awareness is another sense that benefits through regular outdoor activity. With the greater freedom that the outdoors affords, young children will soon hone this essential skill that will help to keep both themselves and their peers out of harm’s way.

15. Expanded Risk Assessment Abilities

Risk assessment is something that children will have to do more outdoors than inside. The good news, though, is that it’ll be quite natural and largely instinctive for them to assess risk, perhaps without even being conscious that they are doing so. This is yet another skill that’ll help to keep children more safe.

16. Creative Inspiration

Whether it's building, inventing, making or simply observing, the outdoor world really stimulates children's minds to create.With all the opportunities that the outdoor environment offers children, it’s no wonder that it greatly stimulates their creativity. Whether it’s building, inventing, making or simply observing, the outdoor world really stimulates children’s minds to create.

17. Improved Self-Esteem

With new skills and abilities, children and their peers may begin to each other in a new, improved light. New abilities and deeper friendships will, in turn, boost children’s self-esteem, in a healthy, natural way.

18. Improved Self-Confidence

Better self-esteem will also make children more confident in themselves, as people, as well as in their abilities. This is a good thing and a way to help them thrive in the world and within their peer group and community.

19. Enhanced Preparedness for School

We run our own Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham.All these benefits help children to develop mentally, physically and socially and, in so doing, they will be better prepared when the time comes for them to move from pre-school to school.

20. Enhanced Preparedness for Life

By setting children up with the mental and physical tools that will help them to thrive, they will also be more prepared and equipped for life in general as they progress from infant to child and ultimately into adulthood.

Outdoor Play at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.Leaps & Bounds nursery/pre-school has wonderful outdoor facilities Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwickwhere the children can play, explore and learn in a safe environment. It’s a stimulating and immensely enjoyable area where children can let their imaginations free to gain all the benefits that the outdoors has to offer. We also have our own Forest School in Edgbaston/Birmingham to take this a step further, out into nature. Children simply love it and learn so much!

Outstanding Childcare in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds is a childcare nursery & pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham, close to Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

If you’d like to explore our wonderful nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham or are looking for exceptionally good childcare near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please get in contact with us. We can show you and your child around, answer any queries you might have and give you any information you need. Please choose a button below:

Safety First

While outdoor play is fun and offers so many benefits for children, by its very nature it can be potentially more hazardous. Suitable adult supervision and safety measures should therefore always be in place for the safety and wellbeing of children playing outdoors.

15 Benefits of Teaching Kids to Grow Food

Children, particularly the very young, absolutely love growing and tending to plants and seedlings.Children, particularly the very young, absolutely love growing and tending to plants and seedlings. It’s an absolutely fascinating activity for them and gives them a real sense of both wonder and achievement. Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs is even better, though! They get all the fun and benefits of the growing activity and they then get to eat the results! Growing food is fun and it also has many benefits for children — today we’ll take a look at some of them.

“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow.” (LeAura Alderson)

Children don’t need a garden or allotment to grow food. A patio, courtyard, balcony or windowsill will do, so long as plants have water, soil and light.

1. Growing Food is Educational

Growing food teaches children about life, the biology of plants and about where food comes.Growing herbs, vegetables and fruit is educational for children on many different levels, as we’ll see. It teaches children about life and the biology of plants. It also teaches children about where food comes from and what skills and care are needed in the process. They’ll learn so much while growing edible herbs, fruit and vegetables — and also learn about themselves in the process. Growing plants, herbs and produce also supports several areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.

2. Children Learn New Skills Growing Food

“Growing food was the first activity that gave us enough prosperity to stay in one place, form complex social groups, tell our stories, and build our cities”

The quotation above, from Barbara Kingsolver, pretty much sums up the enormous positive impact that learning to grow food has had on the human race. And there’s no reason why the skills necessary to successfully grow food shouldn’t start in the very young. From preparing the soil, germinating and sprouting seeds, tending to seedlings and caring for plants as they grow, these are all great skills for children to learn along the way.

3. Growing Food Helps Children Appreciate Nature

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” (Robert Brault)

Growing food allows children to witness, first hand, the miracle of life as living things flourish and bloom.Growing food allows children to witness, first hand, the miracle of life and to see how tending and caring for a living thing allows it to flourish and bloom. It’ll give children a real sense of wonder about nature and life itself.

4. Growing Food Teaches ‘Green’ Values

“It’s more than just high quality food for the family table; it’s growing the food in a way that does not harm the environment.” (Robert Patterson)

Growing food is also more likely to give children a long-term sense of the importance of nature, the natural world and about caring for the environment. Studies have shown that children who are introduced to activities involving nature at a young age are more likely to lead ‘greener’ lifestyles — even into adulthood.

5. Home-Grown Food is Healthy

Teaching children to learn how to grow plants, fruit, herbs and vegetables is also likely to lead to long-term healthier lifestyles. As the website FoodRevolution.org puts it:

“Growing your own food may be one of the most powerful steps you can take for the health of yourself, your family, and your planet.”

6. Children Learn to Appreciate Trial & Error

Learning from mistakes is an important skill to learn. Indeed, many of the world’s most successful business owners say they would never be where they are today had they not made mistakes — and learnt from them — along the way. It’s therefore important that children come to realise that small failures are all part of longer-term success, so long as they learn from the mistakes.

Growing food can save the household money!7. Growing Food Can Save Money

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” (Ron Finley)

A lovely by-product of children growing herbs, vegetables or fruit is that it can save the household money. That’s totally feasible, particularly when children’s food-growing skills have been well and truly honed.

8. Children Can Eat What They Have Grown

“Children who grow what they eat will often eat what they grow.”

As well as enjoying the whole food-growing activity and learning from it, children and their families can enjoy eating the result!That quote is so true. As well as enjoying the whole food-growing activity and learning from it, of course the result is something that children – and perhaps the whole family – can eat! It’s a win-win from every perspective.

9. Eating Home-Grown Food Can Make Children Try Different Things

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes. But when none of this is presented to them, if they’re not shown how food affects the mind and the body, they blindly eat whatever you put in front of them.

Ron Finley’s quotation above explains it very well. If a child grows something edible, it’s almost a given that they will eat the produce — or at the very least try it. Encouraging them to grow their own edible produce is a great way to make them more interested in eating healthier things like fruit and vegetables etc. It may even have the knock-on effect of making them more likely to try cooking and food preparation — yet more new skills!

10. Growing Food at Home Helps to Make Bonds

Growing herbs, vegetables, fruit and any plant will give children a real sense of wonder about nature and life itself.Children will inevitably ask questions and ask for guidance and help when they first start their food-growing activities. Parents or guardians will probably enjoy the task too and it’s one of those activities that’s bound to be a great joint effort. As such, this partnership can be a great way to bond.

11. Growing Food Gets Children Away from Electronic Screens

Such a natural activity is also a wonderful antidote to backlit screens, TVs, mobile devices and electronic games. It’s like going back to basics in some ways, but in others it will teach children so much more by getting ‘hands on’ with real-life, useful activities.

12. Children Learn to Become More Responsible

After all, caring for another living entity requires their attention, a responsibility and even empathy to ensure the wellbeing of the little plants and seedlings. These are great lessons and good skills to encourage.

13. Children Learn the Importance of Patience

Growing plants from seed or cuttings requires effort and patience and that's a great virtue to teach young children.In this day and age, everything seems to be more rushed than ever and there could even be a tendency towards instant gratification with little effort (from TV programmes, videos and electronic games, for example). Growing plants from seed or cuttings requires effort and patience and that’s a great virtue to teach young children. They need to understand that ‘good things come to those who wait’.

14. Home-Grown Food Tastes Better!

Food really does taste better, more often than not, when it’s home-grown. Tastier food, particularly the natural, healthy kind, is never a bad thing!

15. Growing Food is a Fun, Entertaining Activity for Kids

That’s important in itself. Children love growing food and plants! It brings them all these benefits and more but is also a very entertaining activity. It’s also a much more worthwhile one than many others. Teaching children to grow food is a win-win for everyone — children, families and the planet.

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.“By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world — we change ourselves.” (Jules Dervaes)

A Wonderful Nursery & Pre-School in Birmingham, Near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

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

Children grow plants and herbs at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery.Children are encouraged to take part in growing plants, including herbs, at Leaps & Bounds. We are also an outstanding Forest School, so children get ample exposure to nature and all the benefits of the natural world. If you are looking for a good childcare nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, or high quality pre-schools or nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please get in touch — we’d be happy to show you and your child around the setting and to answer any questions that you might have. You can also simply apply for a childcare place below …

Next Time …

In our next post, we develop this topic further by taking a look at some exciting food growing activities that children can undertake at home. Also don’t miss our subsequent article about growing microgreens — a fun, nutritious activity for under-fives.

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 …

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

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

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

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

You Don’t Even Need a Garden

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

The Benefits of a Wildlife-Friendly Area

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

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

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

How to Attract Wildlife

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

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

Bees, Dragonflies & Damselflies

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

Butterflies & Moths

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

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

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

Birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insects, Reptiles & Mini-Beasts

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

Hedgehogs

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

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

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

We are Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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

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

1. A mini-beast hunt!

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

2. Feeding birds

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

3. Gardening & Growing

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

4. Building activities

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

5. Creative activities

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

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

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

6. A country walk of discovery

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

7. Cycling

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

8. Picnics

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

9. Camping

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

10. Join a Forest School

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

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

Contact our Birmingham Nursery

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

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

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

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

Nature Benefits the Mind

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

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

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

Nature Benefits the Body

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

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

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

Nature Benefits the Spirit

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

Enjoying Nature in our Birmingham Forest School

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

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

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