Tag Archive for: healthy eating

An Introduction to Baby-Led Weaning

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

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

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

What are the Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning?

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

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

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

When to Begin Baby-Led Weaning

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

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

Which Foods to Try First

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

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

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

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

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

Later On

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

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

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

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

More Information about Weaning

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

Safety Around Weaning

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

Outstanding Childcare Services in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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

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

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

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

 

An Introduction to Traditional Weaning

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

The Meaning of Weaning

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

“Solids” — a Clarification for the Traditional Weaning Approach

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

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

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

Baby-Led Weaning

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

When to Wean?

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

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

The 3 Stages of Traditional Weaning

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

What if Babies Don’t Like Solids?

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

Start Weaning Slowly

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

Spoon-Fed vs. Baby-Led Feeding

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

Top Tips for Worry-Free Weaning

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

The NHS outlines additional guidelines about weaning here.

Safety Considerations

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

Looking for the Best Nurseries in Edgbaston or Birmingham?

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

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

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

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

30+ Food Safety & Hygiene Tips for Parents

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

Hygiene in the Kitchen

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

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

Personal Hygiene Around Food

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

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

Precautions Around Food Preparation

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

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

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

Cooling & Storing Food

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

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

Reheating Food

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

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

Things Your Child Can Do

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

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

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

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

Nursery Places in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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

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

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

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

A Final Word

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

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

Guide to Formula Milks - At a Glance

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

Take a look & feel free to bookmark or share.

Quick Guide to Formula Milks — Types & Purposes

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

Milks to Avoid Drinking Under 12 Months

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

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

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

A Nursery Place for your Child in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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

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

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

Safety Notice

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

Food Allergens for Infants - A Rough Guide

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

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

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

Symptoms to Look Out For

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

The Most Common Food Allergens

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

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

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

Always read food labels carefully.

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

When to Start Watching Out for Allergens

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

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

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

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

Special Mention: Milk Conundrums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Time

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

The A-Z of Foods to Avoid Giving Your Infant

The NHS recommends a significant list of foods that adults should avoid giving babies and young children.It is so important to avoid feeding a baby or toddler anything that could be detrimental to their health. So, once infants are weaning off milk and eating solids, vigilance and care is needed over every food choice. Allergens aside, the NHS recommends a significant list of foods that adults should avoid giving babies and young children. Such foods are on the ‘avoid’ list usually because they contain one or more of the following three ingredients, although there are also others to look out for, as you’ll see.

  1. Too much salt. This is bad for babies’ kidneys, which have not finished developing. It can also raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. According to the NHS, babies under 1 should have less than 1g of salt per day and this will usually be achieved through milk intake, so none should be added. Children aged between 1 and 3 should only eat a maximum of 2g of salt per day (0.8g of sodium). For 4 to 6-year-olds it can increase to 3g of salt per day (1.2g of sodium).
  2. The NHS's Food Scanner phone app is available free.Added sugar. Infants do not need this. If added, it may increase instances of tooth decay, unhealthy weight issues, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. With children typically consuming more than twice as much sugar as is recommended, it is a real issue. The NHS’s sugar calculator can help when preparing food for infants, or alternatively use their Food Scanner app to find healthier food choices (click the yellow graphic to download).
  3. Saturated fats. These can raise levels of cholesterol and increase the risk of getting heart disease.

Foods to Avoid Giving Your Infant

In alphabetical order, foods that the NHS warns parents to avoid feeding babies and infants include:

Food TypeReason To Avoid / Notes
AnchoviesContains salt.
BaconContains salt and saturated fats.
BaglesMay contain added salt.
BiscuitsThese may be high in saturated fats.
Bread productsMay contain added salt.
Breakfast cerealsLikely to contain salt and sugar.
BunsContains sugar.
CakesContains sugar and saturated fats.
Cereal barsContains sugar.
Cheeses (some)Contains salt and saturated fats. Avoid all cheeses before the age of six months. Thereafter, avoid cheeses including non-pasteurised, mould-ripened (like brie), veined cheese (like stilton) and ripened goats’ cheese — unless used in [hot] cooking to kill harmful microbes.
Chips with added saltContains salt.
Chocolate & chocolate products, spreads etc.Contains sugar, saturated fats, even salt.
CiabattaContains salt.
CrispsContains salt. They can also contain high levels of saturated fat.
CrumpetsMay contain added salt.
EggsAvoid before the age of 6 months, thereafter avoid if raw/only lightly cooked unless they exhibit the Red Lion or ‘British Lion Quality’ stamp.
Fizzy drinksAvoid if they contain added sugar.
Fruit juicesEven unsweetened juice will contain natural ‘free’ sugars.
Gravy granulesContains salt.
HamContains salt.
HoneyContains sugar and also may contain bacteria that produces toxins in babies’ intestines, potentially causing botulism. Never give honey to children under the age of 1.
Ice creamContains sugar, saturated fats
Jelly cubesChoking hazard.
Juice drinksContain sugar.
Marlin meatContains mercury.
MayonnaiseLikely to contain salt.
NectarsContains sugar.
Nuts – salted and dry-roastedContains salt. Choking hazard too, unless crushed.
OlivesContains salt. Choking hazard.
Pasta saucesLikely to contain salt.
PastriesContains sugar, saturated fats, even salt.
PicklesContains salt.
PizzaLikely to contain salt.
PrawnsContains salt.
Ready mealsContains salt.
Rice drinksAvoid before the age of 5 – contains arsenic.
SalamiContains salt.
Salt fishContains salt.
SandwichesLikely to contain salt.
SaucesLikely to contain salt.
SausagesLikely to contain salt and saturated fats.
Shark meatContains mercury.
ShelfishAvoid if raw/lightly cooked.
Smoked meat and fishContains salt.
SmoothiesContains sugar.
SoupLikely to contain salt.
Soy sauceContains salt.
Stock cubesContains salt.
SweetsContains sugar.
Swordfish meatContains mercury.
Syrups including maple, golden, agave etc.Contains sugar.
TakeawaysContains salt.
Tomato ketchupContains salt.
Vegetable juicesContains sugar.
Yeast extractContains salt.
Yoghurts (flavoured)Contains sugar.

We hope that this ready-reference is useful for parents and guardians of babies and young children. However, it is a guide only and you should do your own research, including in regard to possible allergies/allergens. Always check food labels and ensure you’re using information for infants, not adults.

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

Our standard fees include healthy meals (breakfast, lunch and tea as appropriate), healthy snacks and drinks. Meals contain fresh, nutritious ingredients that are locally sourced and prepared by award-winning early years caterers. We cater for all dietary needs including vegan and vegetarian options. We also participate in the ‘Startwell’ programme, which encourages healthy food and lifestyles amongst children and families in the Birmingham area.

Looking for outstanding nurseries/pre-schools in Edgbaston, Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick?

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & SmethwickLeaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.Leaps & Bounds is a popular nursery and pre-school located in Edgbaston, Birmingham. We offer high quality childcare to local parents/guardians, including those who live or work in Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. To learn more about how we can bring out the very best in your baby, toddler or under-five child, we invite you to bring them along for a nursery visit. Ask us any questions and have a look around. See if your child feels at home. You can also simply apply for a place or send us a message. Please choose a button below to get started:

Is Your Child a Fussy Eater?

Today's article offers a handy guide to dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are fussy about food.Is your child a fussy eater? If so, it can be rather frustrating for parents or guardians. It could also lead to a poorly balanced diet, which would be bad from a number of health and wellbeing perspectives. The good news, though, is that there are lots of things that parents can do to potentially cure the problem. Today’s article offers a handy guide to dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are fussy about food.

Don’t Stress

If they’re in their early years, food fussiness is rather common, so you’re far from alone. When they transition from milk onto solids, everything is new to infants, from tastes to textures — and even colours when you think about it. While some little ones take to the new sensory stimuli with relish, others seem put off initially by many of these new food experiences. After all, most of them will not be as sweet as the milk they’ve been used to. Being wary of new food is perfectly normal too, even instinctive for many. After all, they don’t know what’s good or bad for them at such an early age.

Some Think They Don’t Like it

Another major factor in disliking certain foods is that children often think they don’t like it. That’s common to many children and, indeed, even to some older children. It’s even common for adults to later eat and enjoy foods that they wouldn’t have given the time of day to during childhood, simply based on a misplaced early belief that they didn’t or wouldn’t like it.

Try, Try and Try Food Again

Infants may need to try a new food as many as fifteen times before they accept it.

It can sometimes take 10 to 15 attempts before children will learn to like a particular food.That, above, is one of the main secrets of encouraging children to accept a particular food i.e. getting them to try, try, … and try it again. It can sometimes take 10 to 15 times before they’ll realise that, actually, it tastes pretty good now they’re used to it! It’s the very definition of an ‘acquired taste’ when you think about it and this seemingly odd facet of human nature is worth explaining to under-fives. It could encourage them to try more things.

Showing empathy to a child around their food misgivings can also help. They may well pick up on your advice eventually, even if it takes several tries before they learn to ‘trust’ and accept a particular food. Being enthusiastic about a food they’re wary of may also help.

Disguising Food

Hiding or disguising food is another useful approach for parents/guardians of children who won’t eat a specific food. A particular vegetable, for example, can be made into a mash, mixed in with a salad, made into a sauce or soup or even chopped up and used in a garnish. This will get the child used to the taste without realising they are eating something they weren’t keen on attempting.

People eat first with their eyes.

Make Food Fun!

Food can be made into a picture on the plate, to make eating more fun for little ones.Another way to encourage children to eat foods they are not keen on trying is to make them more appealing and entertaining. A plate of food could be made into a picture, for example. Broccoli could be used to represent trees, a mound of peas could represent a hilltop and cut up carrots could be made to look like a sun, perhaps. Pictorial themes might include faces, the countryside, space and exploration, animal shapes, rainbows, the seaside, the weather and so on. Children will naturally engage with this concept and it will make food fun.

Similarly, you might allow children to use plates and bowls that have fun designs that are revealed as food is consumed from them.

Pretending the food on the spoon is a train, car or plane coming towards them makes every mouthful fun!Then, of course, there is the old favourite for the youngest of the children — pretending the food on the spoon is a train, car or plane coming towards them! This, with suitable sound effects from the parent, makes every mouthful great fun!

Build Bridges

By that, we mean ‘food bridges‘. These are a way of harnessing a child’s liking of one food to introduce another. An example would be where, if they like boiled potatoes but not cheese or apple, you would sprinkle a little grated cheese or apple purée on top of the potatoes. Work with small amounts first and then they’ll gradually get used to the tastes.

Get Children Involved with Food

Getting children involved in choosing and preparing food can help encourage them to eat it.Getting children involved in all aspects of food may also encourage them to try different things and to accept them. Examples would include letting them choose the vegetables or fruit from the supermarket shelves, allowing them to be involved (under supervision) in the meal preparation and even helping them to grow their own food. Allowing them to decide how food is presented on the plate is another example. All these things make food fun and less intimidating.

Positive Signals & Encouragement

Children often do better with encouragement and its place around food is no different. So, some enthusiasm from parents/guardians in this regard will go a long way. “Ooh, that’s yummy!” or “It’s so tasty!” type comments will send positive signals to the child as they eat. Be positive about food, the different tastes and textures and how good food is for them. “It will make you grow up to be big … strong … energised … and healthy” etc.

Negotiate!

Some children can be quite stubborn so, if they’re refusing a decent food for no good reason, try negotiating with them! For example, “If you eat all of your peas, we’ll go to the swings” and so on. Focus on encouragement i.e. rewarding them rather than punishing them if they don’t eat. It’s the ‘carrot’ not the ‘stick’, to use the metaphor, as you want positivity around food, never negativity.

Teach by Example

Children instinctively learn from their parents, guardians, adults and role models.If a child is hesitant about trying a particular food, let them see you eat – and enjoy – some of it. You are their primary role model, after all. As we said before, remind them, perhaps, that it’s ‘yummy’ or that their friend or TV hero enjoys it. Children instinctively learn from their parents, guardians, adults and role models, so this is a very natural way to encourage them to eat things they really should be eating.

Don’t forget, it can take multiple tries, so don’t give in! Gentle perseverance is key when it comes to children trying food that they’re wary of.

Healthy Eating at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

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

Our childcare professionals know all these approaches, of course. So, if a child is reticent about a particular food, we know just what to do to encourage them to try it, without undue pressure. Parents can also discuss their child’s food and eating with our childcare practitioners — we will always take on board their preferences and advice.

Healthy, fresh, balanced meals, snacks and drinks are all provided at Leaps & Bounds nursery/pre-school — they’re included in our fees. The nursery also adopted the ‘Startwell’ programme some years ago and this is a way to keep children eating healthily and keeping active. Learn more about the Birmingham Startwell programme here.

Looking for an Outstanding Childcare Service in Edgbaston, Birmingham?

Try Leaps & Bounds, a childcare nursery & pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.If you’re searching for the best nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham or near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please contact us. We’ll be happy to show you around the setting, answer your questions and welcome your child to our lovely nursery and pre-school. Please choose a button below:

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.