Tag Archive for: EYFS

Home Learning Activities to Help Under-5s: Activity Ideas for Parents
There are lots of activities that children can do and benefit from at home.When it comes to the learning and development of children, a good parent-nursery partnership is absolutely vital to maximising their short- and long-term success. In the mid-term, it also ensures they’re ‘school-ready’ by the time they leave our care. We therefore work together with parents¹, in close partnership. By doing so, children will receive a consistent, ‘joined-up’ approach to the tailored curriculum and the shared goals that we create for each of them. Sharing goals for children both at home and in the nursery will ensure the strengthening of strong areas as well as bolstering any weaker areas that children may find challenging.

With this in mind, today we outline a variety of activity ideas that all parents can undertake with children when at home. Such ‘home learning’ activities will support the progress of children’s learning and development while at home, whilst also supporting the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum that children are working to at the nursery/pre-school.

Home Learning Activities — for 2-Year-Olds

‘Creative Table’ Activities

These creative activities can span a variety of art and crafts undertaken using a surface that is easily cleanable, for example a small table.

  • Why not get the paints out. Your child can enjoy using and mixing a variety of colours and, as well as being a creative opportunity, this can be a colour learning exercise too. Perhaps draw shapes for your child to paint and then your child can learn the different shape words as well.
  • Reading is one of the most important and impactful activities that parents can help children with.Play dough will be a popular choice for little ones, especially if shape cutters and a rolling pin are brought into the activity. Play dough is entertaining to use, it’s creative and children will learn about colours, shapes and three-dimensional form as they go along.
  • Another variation of this type of activity might instead use cookie dough that can later be eaten once cooked (under supervision). Animal-shaped cutters and suchlike will also make this activity more fun.
  • Potato stamping is another good table-top creative activity although, for safety, Mum or Dad will need to do the cutting part. Children will enjoy stamping different shapes and colours onto paper or card, perhaps forming repeat patterns or little scenes.

Beneficial outcomes: These activities help children to use their imaginations, they boost creativity skills and may even expand children’s knowledge of language and vocabulary. They will also help children to hone finer motor skills and coordination.

‘Simon Says’ Activity

By the age of two, most toddlers will have heard the song Heads, shoulders, knees and toes and, like that song, the ‘Simon Says’ game will help them to remember the correct identification of parts of the body. For example, tell them Simon says “touch your toes”. Then, ensure they do so or, of course, correct them if they get it wrong. The command could also be some other alternative like “jump up and down” or “clap your hands” or even “sit on your bottom”.

Beneficial outcomes: This type of activity helps not only with memory skills, but also with motor skills, coordination and balance. They may even learn some new words and boost their vocabulary.

‘Stop and Go’ Activity

Challenge children to find specific things when outdoors in nature.This can be played inside or outside where the child has a bit of space, for example a long hallway would be perfect. Let your child pretend they are walking of perhaps even driving. Give the commands “Stop!” and “Go!” and perhaps even “Freeze!”. They’ll probably find this highly amusing, particularly if you give them feedback and encouragement. Another twist on this activity would be for them to do the activity whilst dancing. You could then abruptly stop the music and shout “Stop!” and so on.

Beneficial outcomes: This activity encourages children to use their listening skill and also their balance skills. At the same time, it’s also huge fun for toddlers! And, if they go for the dancing version of the activity, it’ll help with coordination and general fitness too.

Dressing Up Activity

Playing at dressing up can conjure up all sorts of scenarios and characters — from spacemen, fire fighters and nurses to princesses or your child’s favourite characters from television or books. Perhaps your child has just read about a fireman and it’s fresh in their memory. Dressing up and re-enacting a part of the book will boost your child’s memory while also letting them develop a few moments of creative acting.

Perhaps say to your child, “What would you like to be today?”. Help suggest ideas if they struggle at first and work with what materials you have to play with. It does not have to be a full-blown costume, just a hat will often do — your child’s imagination can do the rest. Children will love dressing up and will find this activity huge fun.

Beneficial outcomes: This activity can boost their imaginations as well as their planning and creativity skills.

Finding Hidden Objects

A fun activity for children is finding hidden things either inside the home or out in the garden.This hidden objects activity could involve hiding almost anything for the child to find. You could start off in one room only to make it easier initially. Show your child the object before hiding it. Once they start looking for it, you could use words like near, far, yes, no, warmer, colder and so on. Once they have mastered finding one object, perhaps add more for them to find. Then perhaps reverse roles and try to find objects the child has hidden for you. Ensure they also use the clue words like warm and cold etc. You could even set up some kind of reward to make it more exciting. For example, if they ‘win’ they could get a treat of some kind, like a funky sticker or trip to the swings.

Beneficial outcomes: This activity helps to improve children’s listening and (if roles are reversed) speaking skills, vocabulary, problem-solving skills and also gets them to use their imaginations.

Home Learning Activities — for 3-Year-Olds

Now your child is a bit older, you can move onto more challenging home learning activities.

Paper Plate Painting

Paper plates can be used in a variety of creative ways, e.g. to stick together to make three-dimensional shapes and also for painting. Circular plates give children a brilliant opportunity to paint a sun or face. A face can perhaps be happy or sad and why not add some cut up wool, glued on for hair, and buttons as eyes. Children can be as creative as they like.

Safety Note: Ensure your use non toxic glue and paint and that your 3 year old is supervised at all times due to the small parts they are playing with.

If your are able to have a walk with your child in the country or maybe even the park, why not suggest a list of ‘treasure’ that your child needs to find.Beneficial outcomes: Arts and crafts are said to use multiple areas of children’s brains and encourage the use of fine motor skills. They also stimulate the imagination and boost creativity.

Nature Treasure Hunts

If your are able to have a walk with your child in the country or maybe even the park, why not suggest a list of ‘treasure’ that your child needs to find. These can be as simple as a mossy stick, a pretty leaf, an interesting pebble, a fragrant flower, a pine cone, acorn, conker, and so on.

Beneficial outcomes: This activity will bring out the adventurer in children. It’s also a lovely way of getting fresh air and getting back to nature. It’s also a simple learning activity of what we can find in nature if we look.

Sandpit Treasure Hunts

You can also use a sandpit for a child's treasure hunt.Similarly, children will love looking for — and finding — ‘treasure’ hidden in a sandpit or sand box. Bury some pretend treasure in the sand and then let your child rummage through the sand to discover the hidden objects. You could make it more challenging by saying, for instance, that there are 5 treasures in the sand. Encourage your 3-year-old to count them as they come out as well saying what they are. You could also do this activity with the child blindfolded, so they have to feel the objects and guess what they are once found.

Beneficial outcomes: This is primarily a sensory activity and, as we all know, sensory activities are really good for children in their early years. These kinds of activities will stimulate children’s senses of touch and sight as well as encouraging movement and coordination. More sensory-based activities for preschoolers can be found here.

Making Bird Feeders

There are lots of different ways to easily make bird feeders at home.Not only is this a fun activity for your child, but it also helps the local wildlife. There are lots of different ways to easily make bird feeders at home. Just one easy example is to find a pine cone, coat it in smooth peanut butter then roll it in bird seed. Once coated, hang it outside using a piece of string. If possible, hang your bird feeder within easy view of a window where your child can watch, but also follow the advice given in the bold link above in regard to the safety of the visiting birds.

Beneficial outcomes: With this activity, children will practise their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as well as learning about nature and a healthy dose of empathy. If successful, children will love this activity and the positive outcome for visiting birds.

Home Learning Activities — for 4-Year-Olds

Now our little ones are bigger and more able, they can get involved in some more advanced home learning activities. Here are a few ideas to get them started.

Reading

This is such a beneficial activity for children — reading is one of the most important and impactful activities that parents can help children with. Read with your child so that they can learn from you. When your child listens to you reading, point at the words and explain some of the rules around words, spelling and how to read. If there are pictures, show the appropriate word with the picture and sound out the letters. You could also talk about the book afterwards, asking questions like, What happened? or Was that funny, sad, happy? etc. Practise acting to the characters in the book, perhaps making the sounds or faces that the characters would make.

Beneficial outcomes: This task will be both fun and highly educational for the child. Reading with under-fives has a whole host of benefits (follow the bold link in the paragraph above), including boosting language skills, boosting literacy, stimulating the imagination and creativity, preparing children better for school and more. Also, mastering reading helps in all other areas of the EYFS curriculum and is one of the best ways to help children maximise their potential in life.

Gardening

Get your child to help with pulling up weeds, or planting new seeds and plants.Get your child to help with pulling up weeds, or planting new seeds and plants. Give them set instructions or a demonstration to follow and ensure you stress the importance of caring for the plants and seedlings.

Beneficial outcomes: As well as being a healthy outdoor activity, your child learns about nature, seasons, the flora and fauna in the garden, and the process of growing living things. It also teaches them about the importance of nurturing the seedlings and plants and caring for their wellbeing. It teaches them about the growing process, responsibility and empathy and will also encourage a healthy love of nature — and brand new skills, of course.

Baking

Baking cakes, biscuits, cookies and breads under supervision will be a fun and educational activity for 4-year-olds.Baking cakes, biscuits, cookies and breads under your supervision* will be a fun and educational activity for 4-year-olds. What’s more, they’ll end up with something they can actually eat! During the process, try to explain the importance of measuring, doing things in the right order, waiting the right amount of time and so on. Ask them at the end about it, to ensure they have grasped the concepts.

* Under supervision for safety and teaching purposes.

Beneficial outcomes: With this activity, children will catch on to the concepts of measuring out, following instructions and the benefits of completing tasks in a carefully-planned and well-executed way. As well as practising their motor skills and coordination during the preparation processes, it will stimulate their brains in terms of logic, planning, attention to detail, following instructions, creativity and more.

Our Partnership With Parents

We are keen to provide guidance and support to parents in regard to their child’s education while at home, so that we’re all pulling in the same direction. So, if you are a parent of a child at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more ideas, insights, resources and ideas for activities that will help in your child’s progress.

Likewise, we also value the unique perspective that parents bring, fully appreciating that they will have special insights about their own child. For this reason, we more than welcome feedback from parents. We can then use this to inform our planning and support for each child’s individual growth even more optimally. That’s real teamwork and, together, we’ll all be striving for the same goals for children under our care.

Nursery & Pre-School Places for Children Under 5 in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Are you looking for a nursery or pre-school place for your child in Edgbaston or near Birmingham?

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

We offer not only weekday childcare but also a complete early years education for children under five. We even support free, funded places for those eligible for free childcare through Government schemes. Leaps & Bounds Nursery and Pre-school is located in Edgbaston (B16), near Birmingham, but may also suit those living or working nearby in Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick. To request a guided tour of the nursery or to register your child for a place at the setting, please get started using an appropriate button below. We’re also on hand to answer any questions that you may have.

1. Parents is used on this site as a short-hand placeholder for parents, guardians, caregivers etc.

The ‘Progress Check at Two’ Explained

The ‘Progress Check at 2’ is a requirement for all 2-year-olds attending registered childcare settings in England.The ‘Progress Check at 2’ is a requirement for all 2-year-olds attending registered childcare settings in England. This article provides an overview of what it consists of, who is involved in the process, and how the Progress Check at 2 can benefit young children.

The ‘Progress Check at 2’

The Progress Check at 2 is important because it helps to ensure that children are progressing well in key areas of development, at what is a very significant age for them. It is a collaborative effort between a child’s early years or childcare provider, their parents, guardians, or caregivers, and, if applicable, their health visitor. It is a comprehensive assessment of the progress, in all areas of learning and development, of children who have reached the age of two. It is a part of the ongoing assessment process required as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), which sets the curriculum for children attending registered childcare and early years education settings in England. After the assessment is finished, a written summary is given to the child’s parents, guardians, or caregivers.

Why Two?

The age of two is a significant milestone in any child's development.The age of two is a significant milestone in any child’s development, which is why both the Progress Check at 2 and the separate Healthy Child Programme’s 2-Year Review* take place at this age. By this key stage, the progress and attainment of a child’s learning, speech, language, cognitive, physical, social and emotional development will have started to become more apparent. Ensuring that each area is developing optimally at such an early stage will have long-term benefits for the child, so it is important to confirm that everything is on track.

Focus Areas

The Progress Check at 2 is focused on the three “prime” areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum: (1) Communication and Language, (2) Physical Development, and (3) Personal, Social and Emotional Development. However, the early years professionals conducting the progress check may also include information about a child’s progress in the remaining four “specific” areas of the EYFS curriculum if they feel it is appropriate. They are (4) Literacy, (5) Mathematics, (6) Understanding the World, and (7) Expressive Arts and Design.

Key Aims of the Progress Check at 2

The Progress Check at 2 helps determine whether a child is making progress at the expected level for their age and stage of development.The Progress Check at 2 helps primarily to determine whether a child is making progress at the expected level for their age and stage of development. By using the findings of the progress check as a benchmark, it is possible to provide support to optimise the child’s progress going forward. Sharing the results between childcare settings, parents, and any other early years professionals involved allows ongoing support to continue both at home and at the child’s nursery, pre-school, or other childcare setting. Once identified, strengths can be further developed and areas of concern can be addressed through additional help and support if needed. For example, if a specific educational need or disability has been identified, the childcare provider’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) and any necessary health professionals or specialists can work together to create a support plan for the child. This can include strategies and activities to help nurture the child’s progress at nursery and/or at home.

The assessment helps children overcome any areas of difficulty by the time they start school.Ensuring School Readiness for Under-Fives

By conducting the progress check and providing support at an early age, children are more likely to overcome any areas of difficulty by the time they start school. This helps them to avoid falling behind at such a crucial stage of their development. Without this support, they may have a difficult start in school, which could negatively impact their education and development going forward. All in all, the Progress Check at 2 is a vital and powerful tool for helping young children succeed.

*A Clarification:

The ‘Progress Check at 2’ is Not the Same as the ‘2-Year Review’

The Progress Check at 2 is distinct from the Healthy Child Programme’s 2-Year Review, which is also conducted around the same age. While the Progress Check at 2 focuses on a child’s learning and development progress, the 2-Year Review is focused on the child’s health and wellbeing and is carried out by healthcare professionals such as health visitors. They will assess the child’s overall health, immunisation status, physical and mental development, wellbeing, and support from parents, caregivers, or guardians.

While the two reviews address different aspects of a child’s development, there are areas of overlap, and it can be beneficial for them to be conducted concurrently to provide a comprehensive view of the child at this important age. This can help identify any issues that may need to be addressed via appropriate interventions. For this reason, parents, caregivers, or guardians of 2-year-olds are encouraged to allow information about their child to be shared between the professionals involved in each review.

Ofsted inspections also ensure that each child’s Progress Check at 2 is carried out properly at childcare/early years settings. They also recognise the benefits of aligning the Progress check at 2 with the separate 2-Year Review in order to gain a holistic overview of each child.

Nursery & Pre-School Places in Edgbaston, Near Birmingham

Are you in need of a nursery place for your child in or around Edgbaston, near Birmingham?

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

We offer a range of childcare options including free, funded places through various Government schemes. Leaps & Bounds Nursery and Pre-school is located in Edgbaston (B16), near Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Please contact us to discuss your childcare needs and the options available for your baby, toddler, or child under five. We’ll be happy to help:

12 Reasons to Learn a Musical Instrument – for under-5s

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was only 6, as depicted here, when he started performing music at the imperial court.Have you ever noticed that children are naturally happy when music is playing? They also seem to be instinctively aware that music is fun and interactive. Whether singing along or jigging to the beat, an affinity with music is natural to most little ones. It is simply something to be enjoyed. However, the benefits of music go much deeper than simple enjoyment. So, today we give you the top reasons why every child should take music a step further and learn to play a musical instrument. Doing so will help in their learning and development, teach them new skills and enrich their lives profoundly. The benefits are simply amazing …

1. Learning a musical Instrument Aids Cognitive Development

Learning any new skill will boost cognitive development, in the very young in particular. Learning a musical instrument takes that to a whole new level, though, as it has so many facets. The children are learning a new skill, playing notes while reading music, focusing on details, working out the time signature, notation, phrasing, rhythm, tempo and more, all at the same time! It’s a huge thing to accomplish and a really good way to get brain synapses firing — incredibly good exercise for the developing brain.

2. It Supports the EYFS Curriculum

It's never too early to introduce children to playing music.Learning to play a musical instrument helps with so many aspects of the EYFS, which governs the excellent curriculum for under-fives in England. In fact, it helps towards all seven focus areas contained within the EYFS education and development framework. From helping with reading, mathematics, communication, creativity, understanding the world, personal and social development and much more, music ticks all the EYFS boxes. As such, it’s a powerful tool to help children reach their best potential — in many different areas.

3. Learning Music Enhances Reading Skills

Although printed music can look and be complex to the uninitiated, it can also be very simple when you’re starting out — once someone has explained what the notation actually means. The more simple rules will then be easy to follow, even for the young. Learning to read a new printed music piece will give children’s developing brains a really good workout but, before long, it can be mastered with focus and attention to detail. Importantly, learning to play music and reading a book both develop the left side of the brain. So, it follows that doing one activity will, in turn, help a person with the other. What’s more, that part of the brain is also linked to reasoning and the processing of language.

Did you know that Mozart was only 5 when he composed his first concerto? Having started learning piano at just 3, he was performing at the imperial court by the age of 6.

4. It Boosts Maths Skills

Similarly, printed music contains all the instructions you need for rhythm, the length that notes are held for, the tempo of the music and so on. All of it is based on mathematics, so learning to read and play music can only help children to see and understand maths working — in a really tangible way.

5. It Improves Well-being

Expressing mood through playing music improves well-being and reduces stress.Playing an instrument is a great outlet for emotions. A carefully chosen piece can let a person lose themselves in the beauty of a melody or, at the other end of the scale, vent anger or frustration via through a louder, more energetic piece. This outlet for emotions is really healthy and one that’s hard to beat when you think about it. Expressing your mood in such a positive way can only improve well-being and reduce stress. It can also be virtually meditative when you really get into playing certain types of musical piece.

6. It Allows Self-Expression

Every child is different and allowing them to learn a new skill, like playing a musical instrument, will also allow them to express their own, unique character. Playing an instrument allows them to be creative, to show emotion through their treatment of the music. This is never more true then when they eventually progress to create their own melodies. Music creation is a truly expressive opportunity.

7. It Can Boost Self-Confidence

Mastering a piece of music on a musical instrument can help children improve self-confidence and self-esteem.Mastering a piece of music on a musical instrument will give children a great sense of achievement. In so doing, it’ll boost their confidence and self-esteem amongst both their peers and adults. This alone may give them the courage to keep going and get even better — and to try other new skills.

8. It Helps with Socialising

As soon as children have learned to accomplish a melody on an instrument, they can join forces to perform songs together. Through music clubs, groups, band practise, duetting or potentially even full orchestras, children will make new friends, often outside of their usual circle, and learn new socialising skills. Collaboration and cooperation, teamwork, leadership and support roles all have their place and it’s important for children to be flexible enough to learn how to do each of them. Chatting, debating, brain-storming, learning good manners and encouraging each other are also great social skills to master. All are possible when learning music as part of a wider group.

9. It Improves Coordination

Coordination of hands, fingers and also hand-eye-coordination are all needed when playing a musical instrument.Coordination of arms, hands, fingers and also hand-eye-coordination are all needed when playing a musical instrument. Indeed, playing an instrument requires immense cooperation between the brain and body. Practising the playing of music can only help a child to improve their coordination and the synapses that control it.

10. Music Boosts Listening Skills

Playing and listening to music require a certain level of concentration to hear and analyse the results, particularly in the case of playing. This is great practise and will soon teach children that a close listening focus allows discovery of finer details and a broader message that might otherwise have been missed. This has real-life applications, whether listening to the detail of a lesson, conversation, debate or even TV documentary. Deeper meaning and fine detail are all discoverable once children learn to listen more carefully. Indeed, it’s a great skill to take with them through life, including into business when they’re older.

11. It’s a Window to Different Cultures & History

Music takes almost infinite forms. It has been inspired and affected by so many different countries and cultures over countless years. Such influences can be glimpsed when you listen to music. Some influences are clear to hear while others are more subtle. It’s all there to be discovered when children get involved and listen to or, better still, play it. Music from different cultures is a great introduction to those cultures for children who are learning about them for the first time. Music can even take you off to far away places in your mind’s eye, when you listen to it.

12. It Teaches Important Life Lessons

Learning to play music teaches children important life lessons like practise makes perfect.Learning to play music teaches children important life lessons like practise makes perfect, the benefits of trial and error, the value of collaboration and so on. Each of these can often lead to real, tangible results. Learning that something that looks difficult can be overcome through persistence, patience, focus and effort is incredibly important for children to grasp. It can also be applied to many other areas of their learning.

Bonus Reason — It’s Fun!

Let’s not forget; playing music can be great fun — especially when played with friends, in a band or orchestra. At the minimum it could make for a great hobby and, who knows; it could even lead to a career in music or performance of some kind.

Music at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston

At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, we’re well aware of the benefits of music, learning to play an instrument and indeed any kind of sensory experience for under-fives. It all helps with their early learning and development and, in any case, they love it! Whether ‘tinging’ a triangle, shaking maracas, jangling a tambourine or tapping out a rhythm on a make-shift drum, they all have fun when we introduce them to music and rhythm. We’d love it if parents encouraged them to transition to more advanced instruments like recorders, keyboards, ocarinas, guitars etc. If so, it’ll pay huge dividends for them in the future and we’d be happy to encourage them on their musical journey.

Funded Childcare Places in our Edgbaston Nursery & Preschool Near Birmingham

Are you looking for funded childcare places in a nursery or preschool near Edgbaston, Birmingham?

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

Leaps & Bounds is a nursery and preschool located in Edgbaston (B16). We support all the Government childcare funding schemes for eligible families and offer paid-for nursery places too. So, if you’re looking for a childcare place for your child in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please get in touch using one of the options below and we’ll be happy to discuss next steps:

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.

Microgreens: Fun Food Growing for Under-Fives

Growing microgreens is an exciting activity that results in hundreds of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads and garnishes.In our last post, we featured fun food growing activities for under-fives. Today, as promised, we follow up by explaining how children can grow ‘microgreens’. These are easy, fun and educational for children to grow and indeed food-growing activities have many benefits for little ones. Growing microgreens is an exciting activity that results in hundreds of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads, garnishes, stir fries and more. Growing microgreens is also a nature-based activity for children and one that requires very little space or equipment. It can be accomplished entirely indoors — just a well-lit windowsill will suit.

What Are Microgreens?

First, though, what exactly are microgreens? Also known as micro leaves, they’re the very young shoots of edible plants like herbs and vegetables (more about those later). When young and grown from seeds, these can grow into a thick ‘blanket’ of tiny growing shoots that can be harvested and eaten as food. They’re very tasty, totally natural and extremely nutritious.

Microgreens are great in salads, in sandwiches, or used as garnishes with meat, fish, burgers and pasta.Children will get to enjoy every stage of growing them — from sowing the seeds, watering them, watching them sprout and later snipping off the blanket of shoots ready to use in meals. It’s another great way of teaching children where food comes from and, what’s more, it’s really easy, inexpensive and is faster than growing most other types of plant-based food.

Which Seeds Can be Grown into Microgreens?

Seeds that are suitable for use as microgreens include those for the following herbs, vegetables, root vegetables and leafy greens:

  • Basil for tasty, aromatic leaves — great on pizzas, in salads and perfect for making pesto sauce.
  • Rocket, a peppery and flavoursome addition to any salad or pizza.
  • Coriander with its strong and unique taste — a personal favourite and a great addition to salads, curries, chopped onions and stir fries.
  • Spinach microgreens are mild and extremely nutritious — perfect in salads, pasta and risotto.
  • Broccoli shoots taste quite different to fully-grown broccolis with a slightly spicy taste that will liven up any salad, omelette or risotto.
  • Beetroot leaves make any salad, garnish or fish dish look gorgeous with their red stems and rich micro leaves.Red cabbage micro leaves are teaming with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. With the highest level of Vitamin C of any microgreen, they’re the chef’s favourite for use in soup, garnishes, salads, vegetables or with meats and stews.
  • Radish microgreens, like their fully-grown counterpart, taste a little bit fiery — great in salads, sandwiches and in stir fries.
  • Mustard microgreens also have a certain heat to their taste and are suited to use in salads and stir fries.
  • Fennel micro leaves taste a little of aniseed, giving flavour to soups, risotto, pasta, salads and stuffing.
  • Beetroot leaves make any salad, garnish or fish dish look gorgeous with their red stems and deeply coloured micro leaves.

Depending on the seed chosen, most microgreens take from just a few days to two weeks to grow large enough to harvest. Red cabbage is amongst the fastest of them all if you’re in a hurry for results. Broccoli, rocket, radish and mustard micro leaves can also be harvested in just a week.

What’s Needed

Children will love it if they use empty egg shells for their microgreens.Essentially, children will just need seed shallow seed trays or other containers, some compost, the seeds and a well-lit windowsill.

The seeds, trays and any ‘drip trays’ (or equivalent to catch water underneath) can be purchased from garden centres or online. They’re not expensive, especially if you shop around. Other alternatives to commercially available seed trays include flower pots, recycled yoghurt pots or used food trays that you may have left over from ready meals. So long as they have drainage, they should work fine, so some holes may be needed underneath if there are none. Another option is used egg cartons or children will love it if they use empty egg shells with their tops sliced off so there’s an opening to fill. The children will typically draw faces on those and then, when the microgreens grow, it’ll look like hair!

For the compost, ‘multi-purpose compost’ or ‘seed and cuttings compost’ are suitable but try to buy a peat-free variety as it’s kinder to the planet.

How to Plant the Microgreen Seeds

  1. Seeds can be either sprinkled or hand placed into small indents, so they're evenly spaced out.Compost should be used to fill the containers almost to the top if they don’t have much depth. Otherwise an inch-and-a-half or so is ample.
  2. It should then be patted lightly so it’s flat.
  3. Then the seeds can be either sprinkled or hand placed into small indents, so they’re evenly spaced out (not too densely otherwise problems will occur later on).
  4. Optionally, a light dusting of more compost can then cover the seeds.
  5. Then they’ll need either a light watering or the pots/trays will need to sit in shallow water for up to an hour so the water can be drawn up through the soil.
  6. If more than one variety of seeds are being grown, it would also be good to label the trays/pots appropriately. Wooden lollipop sticks marked with a pencil would be perfect, although any way of marking the trays will be fine.
  7. A sheet of paper towel, newspaper or cling film can then optionally be used to cover the seed pots or trays until the seeds germinate.

Growing & Harvesting the Microgreens

As soon as the seeds begin to sprout, any covering should be removed.The rest is easy! The trays or pots should then be placed on a well-lit windowsill and children will need to check every day that the soil is moist and doesn’t dry out. Ideally there should be ventilation too. As soon as the seeds begin to sprout, any covering from step 7 above should be removed. After anywhere from a few days to two weeks, the seeds will have grown into a low ‘blanket’ of densely growing seedlings with thin, short stems and tiny leaves at the top — the tender young micro leaves that lend microgreens their name.

To harvest, the beautiful blanket of seedlings can be snipped near the base of their stems (for safety, a supervising adult may need to help with this part if children are very young). Snipping instead of pulling up by the root will allow children to harvest and re-harvest them because the seedlings will grow into microgreens more than once in many cases. They can then be rinsed to clean off any of the soil and then added to salads, garnishes or used as a food ingredient.

To harvest, the beautiful blanket of seedlings can be snipped near the base of their stems.Children will love the growing journey and will learn many lessons and new skills along the way. They’re sure to enjoy the beauty of the little plants, the wonder of nature and their part in the success of this lovely childhood activity. What’s more, they get to eat the tasty and highly nutritious crop and it could even encourage them to be more experimental and perhaps less finicky with their food choices.

Our Outstanding Nursery & Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Conveniently Near to 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, Edgbaston, Birmingham. Growing microgreens, herbs, vegetables and other plants is both fun and educational for children, especially in their early years. The activities also teach children about nature. As well as being a nursery and a pre-school, Leaps & Bounds is also a Forest School, so it’s natural for us to include activities around nature at the setting. We are an outstandingly good nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham and are also a convenient choice if you are looking for the best pre-schools and nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick. Contact us to arrange a visit, ask any questions or to enrol your child at the nursery. We’ll be happy to help!

Today we’re taking a look at some fun food growing activities that under-fives can undertake at home. As we said in that last post, teaching children to grow food has an enormous number of benefits, so our post today explains some easy and inexpensive ways that children can get started.

No Garden Required

Many of today’s vegetable and herb growing activities can be accomplished simply on a well-lit windowsill. So, if you do not have a garden, courtyard, balcony or access to an allotment, it doesn’t matter — your little ones can still get involved in these wonderful activities. The plants will simply need some water, soil, light and a little care.

Re-Growing Herbs for Free

To re-grow herbs, snip off a few clippings, remove any leaves nearest the bottom and place the stems into water — roots will grow.When you next buy herbs like basil, parsley, coriander or rosemary from the supermarket, get your child to try this simple herb-growing task using a few left-over stalks.

All they need to do is pull or, with suitable supervision, snip off a few clippings, remove any leaves nearest the bottom of the stems and place those stems into water as shown in the photograph (right). If these are left dangling in water for a week or two, roots will start to grow from the stems. The clippings are then new plants, ready to be planted into soil, for example in pots on the windowsill. Once the roots have grown, young herb plants can be potted into soil and grown on the windowsill.Flower pots, used yoghurt pots or anything similar will do, so long as there is drainage in the bottom (place on a saucer or tray to protect the windowsill). Once they’ve been potted in the soil, they’ll need to be regularly watered and, in time, they’ll sprout into fully-fledged herb plants that can be harvested for food as they grow. New clippings can also be taken from the mature plant so that the whole process can be repeated. Children will love seeing and being responsible for this little miracle! And the best thing is that the cost will have been negligible. How’s that for sustainable food production!

Re-Growing Lettuce & Vegetables for Free

Baby lettuce leaves sprouting just 4 days after placing the lettuce base in water.Next time you cut the leaves off a lettuce, the edible part off a celery, or the ‘bulb’ flesh from an onion, instead of discarding the ‘root’ section at the bottom, keep hold of it. In a similar way to what we described above, this bottom section can be dangled or placed into a water vessel for a few days. The tops will eventually grow shoots and the bottom sections will eventually grow roots. In our own experiment with lettuce, the little lettuce leaves nearest the centre started growing in just one day! Plants like celery can also be re-grown and planted into pots once roots have grown.The accompanying photo (right) shows the growth after four days and all this is happening before the roots have even begun to sprout!. In just a week or two, this approach will give children new leaves to harvest for vegetables like lettuce, Swiss chard, celery, bok choy (Chinese lettuce), lemongrass and any similar salad leaf.

Children can use a similar approach using the lower section of things like onions, spring onions or garlic. New plants will sprout, roots will grow and the new young plants can be replanted into soil. With water, soil and light, they will eventually grow new ‘bulbs’ that can later be harvested and eaten.

Carrot tops can also be regrown and used in salads.A similar approach can also be used for carrot tops, except with those it’s the green, leafy carrot tops that your child can retain, grow and later harvest. These can be used in salads and garnishes.

Seeds can be harvested from vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, then grown into new plants.

Growing Vegetables & Fruit Using Free Seeds

Did you know that you can grow new fruit and vegetables from the seeds found in shop-bought fruit and vegetables? All your child needs to do is to keep some of the seeds from inside fruit and vegetables that you already bought as part of your weekly shop. Just a few examples follow — pips or seeds from all of the following can be ‘harvested’ and grown into new plants, ready to sprout new fruit or vegetable plants:

A few fruit examples:

  • Save the pips from apples
  • Save the pips from pears
  • Save the ‘stones’ from peaches or plums

A few vegetable examples:

  • Save the pips from tomatoes
  • Save the seeds from peppers
  • Save the seeds from pumpkins & squashes

Seeds from ripe beans, sugar snaps and similar can be saved, grown into seedlings and planted into containers or grow bags to make new plants and a new crop.The seeds from ripe sugar snaps and beans can also be saved by children to ‘seed’ into new plants, to get free vegetables! Once sprouting, they can be planted out into grow bags or a patch of soil in the garden. They will give the family a whole new crop of vegetables if they’re regularly watered and looked after.

Children can also save the seeds from courgettes and marrows. However, those need to come from really mature ones that have ideally been left to fully ripen on the plant itself. So, for these two examples it may be best to ask around to see if any friends or neighbours are growing any. The seeds in shop-bought marrows and courgettes may not be mature enough to grow new plants from. Plants like marrows, courgettes and beans do need quite a bit of space too, once they become mature plants. Therefore, from a practical point of view, children may have to limit themselves to herbs and vegetables that only grow into smaller plants if their households has limited growing space.

Looking for an Outstanding Nursery, Pre-School or Forest School in Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or 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, Edgbaston, Birmingham. As a Forest School and a nursery/pre-school that educates under-fives as well as looking after them, we encourage children to engage in activities involving nature. These include plant growing as well as learning about and enjoying everything that the natural world has to offer. If you are looking for an outstanding nursery & Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham, or the best pre-schools and nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please contact us. We’re here to answer any questions,  show you around so you and your little one can experience the setting for yourselves and to welcome your child to the childcare setting if you decide to enrol. Please apply for a place or contact us below:

Next Time …

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.In our next post we outline how children can extend their food-growing activities to include growing ‘microgreens’. It’s a real fun, easy, educational and exciting activity that results in lots of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads or as garnishes. Learn more about how children can grow microgreens at home here.

 

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.

How to Prepare Children For School

Preparing will ensure that the transition from pre-school to school goes as smoothly and stress-free as possible.In today’s article, we take a look at the best ways to prepare children for starting school. Leaving pre-school and starting Reception Year at primary school is a huge step for them. It’s also a big step for parents/carers, of course. So, it’s wise for everyone to be as prepared as possible for the first day and week in particular. Preparing well will ensure that the transition goes as smoothly and as stress-free as possible. So, how do we go about preparing children for starting at school? Let’s take a look …

Nurturing School-Readiness at Pre-School

The good news is that a good nursery or pre-school like Leaps & Bounds will help children prepare for school by default. It’s one of the key goals of any good pre-school, in fact. Decent pre-schools will nurture “preschoolers” (aged from about 3 to 5 years of age) in all aspects of their learning and development. This includes academically, physically, socially, emotionally, in terms of communication and language and also, of course, in terms of introducing them to A good pre-school will teach children everything they need to know in order to be ‘school-ready’ by the time they start in Reception Year.everything they need to know in order to be ‘school-ready’ by the time they leave and start school. As well as encouraging independence and a level of self-confidence, the preparation at pre-school will also include introducing them to reading and writing and a good grounding in understanding the world. These and many other aspects of early eduction will all stand children in good stead, so they can hit the ground running from the moment they begin Reception Year at school.

So, placing your child into a good local pre-school by the time they’re 3 or 4 can pay huge dividends for your child — but don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what the Department for Education has to say about sending children to nursery/pre-school for ‘early years education’:

“Early childhood education benefits the educational, cognitive, behavioural and social outcomes of children in both the short and long term.”

The Government helps with free funded childcare hours at nursery/pre-school for 3 and 4-year-olds in England — and Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston supports the scheme. (Learn more about free childcare funding for 3 and 4-year-olds here).

Nurturing School-Readiness at Home

Parents, carers or guardians of preschoolers can also do many simple things to help them become school-ready by the time they’re five …

Working in Partnership with Pre-School

Children will benefit if parents help them work towards the same learning and development goals as the pre-school.One very obvious way to help is to ensure that, even when at home, parents/carers work in partnership with the child’s pre-school, i.e. work towards the same learning and development goals for the child. Working on any weaker areas at home will help the child in terms of school preparedness.

Encouraging children to have a built-in desire to learn will help them in both the short and long term.

Visit the School

Visiting the school with the child will also help them be more prepared as they will know better what to expect when the time comes. Familiarity and knowing their way around, ahead of time, is also a very practical benefit of taking them for a school visit. Obtaining a school brochure or prospectus for the child will also help with this.

Find a Friendly Face

Finding out which friends are also going to the school will give children moral support.Finding out which friends are also going to the school will benefit them. If there are none, then a play date can be set up if you can get to know another family whose child is starting on the same day. Knowing one or more friends, who are going at the same time, will be good moral support for all parties. It’ll also stop them feeling isolated, alone or even abandoned, particularly in the first couple of days once they start.

Nurture Independence

Encouraging independence will greatly help children. If they learn to look after their own personal needs before they start school, it’ll help them once they begin. Toilet training, personal hygiene, dressing, tying laces, packing backpacks, eating and tidiness are all good examples of things they can learn at home before beginning school.

Personal & Social Skills

Encouraging independence will greatly help children once they begin school.Similarly, social skills like having good manners, being polite, knowing the difference between right and wrong, empathy for others and, of course, good communication skills will all help children thrive more easily once they’re at school. Parents/carers can help them with this.

Answer & Reassure

Answering questions or finding answers to questions that the child may have will also help to reassure them and allay any fears that they may have.

The Power of Positivity

Being positive with your answers will also help. Encourage children to feel excited about all the wonderful things they will be able to do and learn once at school. There might be new sports, new exciting topics, new equipment, wonderful games and opportunities — so encourage positivity. This is one of life’s big adventures, so don’t forget to remind them.

Prepare

Ensure that both you and your child know the drill for dropping off and picking up at each end of the school day.Nearer the start date, run through what’s likely to happen on the first day with your child, so they’re mentally prepared. Again, be positive about it all.

In the week or two before they start, ensure they get used to an appropriate bedtime and get sufficient sleep. Ideally, their body clocks should have adjusted fully to ‘school time’ before they actually start. So, even breakfast time may need an adjustment in the weeks preceding the start of school. This will all help them get through the day with good concentration and energy levels.

Another good tip is to ensure that both you and your child know the drill for dropping off and picking up at each end of the school day. Where is it done? What time? What is the best approach from a safety perspective? What security precautions does the school have in place should you unexpectedly need to send someone else to collect your child. The answers to all these types of questions will need to be known before the first day.

On the First Day of School

Ensure that the child's backpack is pre-packed with everything they'll need.When the big day comes, ensure that you are both fully prepared so that the start of school is stress-free for both you and your child. This includes:

  • Ensuring that the child’s backpack is pre-packed with everything they’ll need including any sports or P.E. clothes/footwear (suitably labelled with their name), any stationery, a calculator if needed and so on;
  • Ensuring they have sufficient food, snacks and drink should the school not be supplying them;
  • Making sure that the uniform fits, is clean, ironed and ready for the child;
  • Knowing the journey times and parking/dropping-off arrangements, because you don’t want to make your child late — especially on their first day;
  • Making sure that you have the contact details of the school and form tutor — and that they have yours — in case of any problems.

Just before you wave goodbye to your child, ensure they know who is picking them up and when. This will reassure them and is also for safety. Make sure you have agreed security arrangements for pick-up between yourselves and, of course, don’t be late when picking them up when the time comes.

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

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.Leaps & Bounds is an excellent pre-school and nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham (B16). As such, it’s also ideally located if you are searching for pre-schools or childcare nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers absolutely thrive at the setting and we even have our own Forest School, where children get to benefit and learn from nature. One of our most important goals for every child is also to ensure they are school-ready by the time they leave us around the age of 5. If you have any questions, would like to bring your child for a visit or would simply like to apply for a place, please get in touch:

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 synapses 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:

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