Posts

How to Prepare Children For Nursery & Pre-school

Starting at nursery or pre-school is a big step for little ones.Starting at nursery or pre-school is a big step for little ones. Having been surrounded mainly by close family in a familiar and comforting home environment, they’re suddenly expected to settle in somewhere completely alien, surrounded by strangers. It would be a tall order for anyone, let alone a toddler or preschooler. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Here are some easy steps that parents or carers can take to make the move to nursery/pre-school plain sailing for little ones.

Bring Them for a Visit and/or Settling-in Session

Once you’ve identified the most likely nursery or pre-school contender(s) for your child, take them for a visit. At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, for example, we’ll be happy to show both adults and their little ones around the setting — more than once if it helps. By doing so, children can meet the childcare professionals that will look after them before they actually start. They can even sit in on some of the activities, perhaps. Such visits, and any additional ‘settling-in’ sessions, allow children to get to know the staff, familiarise themselves with the layout of the setting and locate exactly where toys and equipment of interest can be found. They also allow new children to get to know other little ones who are likely to be in their peer group. Therefore later, once they start nursery/pre-school properly, they will see familiar faces and equipment and will be able to hit the ground running.

Talk About It

Some easy steps will help make the move to nursery/pre-school plain sailing for little ones.Talking about soon starting nursery/pre-school is a great way to get toddlers and preschoolers used to the idea. Even better is discussing all the exciting things that they’ll be able to do once there. For example, making new friends, being creative, playing with new toys, resources and equipment, learning new skills, taking part in extra-curricular activities, learning about nature, outdoor visits and so on. Getting them excited about the opportunities that nurseries and pre-schools represent is key. It also, of course, helps little ones understand what to expect so that they’re mentally prepared when the time comes.

Listen

It’s equally important, if not more so, to listen to any questions or misgivings that your child may have about starting a nursery/pre-school. Answer questions, of course, but also reassure them when doing so. After all, questions may be a little signal that they’re anxious. Carefully crafted answers and reassurance are great ways to allay any concerns that they may have, before they become more deeply set.

We should also add that it’s important not to ‘reflect’ any concerns that you have onto your child. So, be careful what is said within hearing range of your child. The staff at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery will always be happy to discuss any concerns you or your child have, of course — we’re here for you all, after all.

Having a familiar friend on day one of nursery or pre-school will help children settle in and not feel alone.Find a Friend

You could also ask around to see if your child already knows, or plays with, another child that will start at the childcare setting at the same time as them. As we mentioned above, having a familiar friend there from day one will really help them to settle in and not feel alone.

Nurture Their Independence

Nurturing independence before under-fives start nursery/pre-school is also a great way to help them be better prepared. If they can go to the loo independently, wash their hands, fasten their own shoes, learn to tidy up for themselves, pack their own bag and so on, it’ll greatly help them once they’re without you at nursery or pre-school. Even speaking, communicating and following instructions as well as possible — before starting — will help them to be more confident and more relaxed on arrival. All of this needs to be encouraged well before they start if it’s to be fully effective.

Teach Them a Routine!

Another thing that needs to be done in advance of the start date is getting them used to appropriate bed, waking up and breakfast times. Specifically, the goal is to ensure their body clocks have fully adjusted to be in tune with their day once they start at the childcare setting. If this is achieved, they’re far more likely to feel energised rather than over-tired during their nursery day.

On Day 1

Perhaps sneak a favourite cuddly toy or comforter into your child's pack, so they have 'company' on the day.Before long, the first day of nursery will arrive. There are a few things that you can do to help your child on the day:

  • Ensure their clothes and backpack are ready beforehand, so that’s one less thing to worry about on the day. Perhaps even sneak your child’s favourite soft toy or comforter into the pack, so they have ‘company’ on the day.
  • Don’t be late. That’s important. So, ensure you are all up early enough so that getting ready for the first day of nursery is not ‘panic stations’. It needs to be relaxed, stress-free and fuss-free for your child.
  • Focus on how exciting it’s going to be for your child. Your enthusiasm will help to allay any trepidation they may be feeling.
  • Hide any anxiety you may be feeling yourself and stay positive otherwise your child may pick up on your feelings themselves. That’s also important in the moment that you drop them off and say goodbye.
  • Remind your child what time you’ll be picking them up, so they feel reassured.

Remind your child what time you'll be picking them up, so they feel reassured.Chances are, though, they may well fly through that entrance gate, without so much as a glance or a wave, and can’t wait to disappear for a day of fun!

On arrival, our childcare professionals will will put children’s minds at rest immediately as they welcome them into the nursery. We’ll make sure they feel safe, relaxed and cared for and will ensure they have a wonderful first day at nursery/pre-school.

Our Edgbaston Nursery & Pre-School is near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

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

We are a nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham (B16), so are also conveniently located if you require childcare services near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick. If you’re looking for high quality childcare for under-fives in these areas, please get in touch — we can help. We’re also a Birmingham Forest School, giving children access to outdoor experiences and adventure that teach them about the natural world — and also about themselves. We have an incredible mix of learning and development opportunities at Leaps & Bounds, so why not come along for a visit with your little one. We’ll show you both around and will be happy to answer any questions …

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

Sensory Play Activities for Preschoolers

Colour Shakers & Sound Shakers

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

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

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

Paint & Pigment Play

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

Creative Food

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

Sand Play

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

Playing with Dough

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

Sensory Gardens

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

Nature

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

Sensory Play at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston

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

Childcare & Nursery Places in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

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

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

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

Sensory Activities for Babies & Toddlers

Bubbles are a feast for the sensesBubbles

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

Sensory Foil

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

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

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

Black & White/High Contrast Cards & Books

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

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

Sound Activities

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

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

Different Materials & Textures

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

Food

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

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

Nature

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

Sensory Activities at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

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

Nursery Places in Edgbaston/Birmingham

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

The Importance of Sensory Perception in Under-5s

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

What do we Mean by Sensory Stimuli?

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

How do the Senses Help Children Develop?

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

Why Else is Sensory Perception So Important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

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

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

Free Childcare Grant for Students

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

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

How Much is the Childcare Grant for Students?

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

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

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

Additional Rules Around Eligibility

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

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

You are not eligible if:

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

How to Apply for the Childcare Grant

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

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

How the Childcare Grant is Paid

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

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

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

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

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

Main photo: Gavin Warrins (Public domain)

The Importance of Laughter to Little Ones

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

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

A Sense of Humour is Learned

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

Laughter has Many Benefits to Children

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

The more obvious benefits of laughter:

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

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

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

Stages in Humour Development

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

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

Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

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

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

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

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

Laughter is important.

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

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

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

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

Rough Guide to Dyslexia in Under-Fives

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

What is Dyslexia?

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

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

How Does Dyslexia Affect Children?

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

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

Possible Symptoms of Dyslexia

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

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

Assessment

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

Is there a Cure for Dyslexia?

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

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

Dyslexia & SpLD at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery

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

Nursery Places Available in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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

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

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

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

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

 The UK’s EPPSE Study

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

Findings

Children who experienced a high quality early years education:

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

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

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

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

 Society Also Benefits from Pre-School Education

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

The American Study

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

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

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

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

Baby & Toddler Teeth Brushing Guide
We promised to publish a guide to brushing infant teeth in our article about fluoride for under-fives earlier this month. That time has now come, so we explain below what’s generally accepted as the best approach for brushing teeth for babies, toddlers and under-fives in the UK.

When to Start Brushing Children’s Teeth

First, though, it’s important to start brushing children’s teeth — and in the right way — as soon as your baby has any teeth showing. That’s the case even if it’s only one or two teeth initially. Getting the brushing approach right will protect your child from tooth decay and oral health problems, of course, but will also reinforce the importance of a good oral hygiene regime to the child. They learn from adults all the time so, when parents make a habit of cleaning children’s teeth at least twice a day, children are also more likely to continue to do so once they reach an age when they take over teeth brushing completely, by themselves. For the same reason, it’s a good idea to let them see you brushing your teeth too. Their totally independent brushing comes usually around the age of 7, by the way. However, they should be encouraged to actively brush teeth themselves — under close parental supervision and often with hands-on help — well before that. Let’s take it step by step:

Brushing Babies’ Teeth

Just a smear of the toothpaste is needed for babies & children up to the age of 3Babies’ teeth usually start to appear around the age of 6 months of age, although it varies. In fact, some babies are even born with one or more teeth that have already erupted, as it’s called, through their gums. Whichever age it is that they first appear, that is the age parents should start to brush their teeth.
So, how do you brush a baby’s teeth? Firstly, you need to ensure that you’re using the right toothpaste, with the right fluoride content, so ensure that you carefully read the label. For babies and children up to the age of 3, use either ‘children’s’ fluoride toothpaste that has at least 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in it, up to a maximum of 1,500ppm if using a ‘family’ toothpaste (learn more about fluoride for children here).

Just a smear of the toothpaste is needed, up to the age of 3. You can use an infant’s toothbrush, a ‘finger brush’ or even simply a small piece of clean gauze wrapped around your finger. The easiest method is to sit your baby or toddler on your knee, facing away from you with their head resting on your chest, with their head tilted backwards a little. Taller toddlers can stand, but the same approach works. Facing a mirror is an excellent way to do it, since you can then both see how you are brushing your child’s teeth — and the child will learn from this. Use small circular movements to smear the toothpaste on all areas of their teeth and also on their gums. They should spit out any foam that’s been generated but they do not need to rinse. Indeed, not rinsing means that the fluoride will continue to protect their teeth for longer.

Once they’re used to this happening at least twice a day, you can start to encourage them to use their own hands, which you can help to guide. They will soon pick up the idea, but you’ll need to continue to closely supervise.

Brushing Teeth from 3 to 6 years of age

The same approach works fine for children once they reach the age of 3 upwards, except now they should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Clearly this will generate more foam, so it’s important for them to spit out the excess foam but, again, they do not need to rinse as not doing so will continue to protect their teeth from plaque and possible decay.

Brushing Teeth from the Age of 7

By the time they reach the age of 7, children should have picked up exactly how to brush their own teeth unaidedBy the time they reach the age of 7, children should have picked up exactly how to brush their own teeth — unaided — and should be doing so at least twice a day. They should use children’s or family toothpaste containing between 1,350 and 1,500ppm of fluoride when doing so and, again, a pea-sized amount.

Tips for Terrific Toddler Teeth!

  • One of the daily times for teeth brushing should be at the end of the day, before they go to bed. In this way, children’s teeth and gums will be protected overnight — quite a few hours of protection when you think about it.
  • Dental treatment for children is free under the NHS, so make the most of this; for example, if your child needs a check-up for possible treatment. Going to the dentist regularly for check-ups also sets a good example that they can follow. Going from an early age is more likely to put them at ease at such visits.
  • Give teeth individual attention when brushing. Ensure front, sides/edges and back are all thoroughly brushed along with the adjoining gums. If this approach is used, every tooth will get a great clean. There’s even an app for teeth cleaning, which makes it thorough, educational and fun (available on IOS and on Android).
  • A typical teeth brushing session should last no less than 2 full minutes. That way, each tooth and all gums should get ample attention.
  • Teeth brushing should always be supervised for young children. Don’t let them play, walk around or run with their brush in their mouth — it would be very dangerous for their safety.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and anything with added sugar contentAvoid added sugar in drinks and unnecessary added sugar in food as this leads to plaque build-up and eventually to decay. Moreover, the longer sugar is in the mouth, the worse it is likely to be. So, check labels, avoid added sugar, sweets, and sugary biscuits etc. except, perhaps, as occasional treats. Even with fruit juice there will be lots of natural sugar, so this can be diluted with water to reduce its concentration. 1 part fruit juice to ten parts water is a good guide. Generally speaking milk and water are, of course, the best drinks for young children. Even though natural milk contains sugars, it’s far less likely to cause tooth decay.
  • Brush teeth immediately after meals or any sweet drinks if at all possible, especially if anything sugary has been included or if fruit juice was drunk. This will stop the build-up of plaque in its tracks at an early stage and, in the case of fruit juice, also wash away the natural fruit acids (which can otherwise also harm teeth).

The Benefits of Good Oral Hygiene

Achieving a good approach to teeth brushing and oral hygiene, right from an early age, is great for children. It sets up a good habit for them to continue independently and protects their teeth and gums from decay as well as from unsightly discolouration — or worse. Regular teeth brushing also gives children fresher breath along with great-looking teeth — and that’s also great for their self-confidence. What’s more, studies show that there is a link between good oral health and general health.  People who have poor oral hygiene are statistically at greater risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, so looking after teeth and gums is incredibly important.

People who have poor oral hygiene are statistically at greater risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

About Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16We, at Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery, hope you find this guide useful. We offer the highest quality childcare for babies and children aged up to five in our outstanding nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Our nursery and pre-school is near Bearwood, Smethwick, Harborne and Ladywood, making it convenient for anyone living or working in those areas. We even have our own Forest School, which gives children wonderful learning experiences in nature. Do get in contact as soon as possible if you are looking for weekday childcare for your little one in the Birmingham area, as spaces are limited. We’d love to tell you more, so please call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer any questions or to show you and your little one around the lovely setting.