Tag Archive for: learning

Top 10 Childcare Funding Schemes – At a Glance

Today, we shine the spotlight on what we believe are the top 10 childcare funding schemes, available in England, for eligible children. Many also apply across the whole UK or at least have similar schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some of the options are widely available, meaning easy, free funding with no need for families to jump through difficult eligibility barriers. The first two childcare funding options, for example, seem to be by far the easiest to obtain for most families. Others may suit in certain circumstances, for example if you are on benefits, studying as a student, and so on. Take a look …

The Top 10 Childcare Funding Schemes – At a Glance

Tax-free Childcare Scheme

What’s Available:
Up to £2,000 in free childcare funding is available per year, per UK child (£4,000 if the child has a disability). For children up to 11 (16 if disabled).

Eligibility:
Widely available as a parent, and partner if they have one, can each earn up to £100k per annum and still be eligible.

How Funding is Accessed:
Accessed via an online Childcare account. The parent, relative or even friend deposits 80% to fund childcare and the Government tops up the remaining 20%, free.

Click here for more information.

“15 Hours” of Free Childcare for 3 & 4-Year-Olds

What’s Available:
15 hours per week of free childcare is available for 38 weeks of the year (570 hours total) for all 3 & 4-year-olds living in England. Can be spread out in a different way if the childcare setting is flexible.

Eligibility:
Available for all children aged 3 or 4 living in England.

How Funding is Accessed:
Contact your childcare provider or apply via your local council.

Click here for more information.

“30 Hours” of Free Childcare for 3 & 4-Year-Olds

What’s Available:
30 hours per week of free childcare is available for 38 weeks of the year (1140 hours total) for eligible 3 & 4-year-olds living in England. Can be spread out in a different way if the childcare setting is flexible.

Eligibility:
Eligibility depends upon household income; generally speaking, you cannot claim if you or your partner earn £100k or over, or less than £152 per week (that figure is lower if under 23). You can usually claim through this scheme at the same time as claiming Tax-Free Childcare (or Childcare vouchers), or free childcare via Universal Credit. Other rules and exceptions apply.

How Funding is Accessed:
Apply online here.

Click here for more information.

“15 Hours” of Free Childcare for 2-Year-Olds

What’s Available:
15 hours per week of free childcare is available for 38 weeks of the year (570 hours total) for eligible 2-year-olds in England. Can be spread out in a different way if the childcare setting is flexible.

Eligibility:
Only parents receiving certain Government benefits are usually eligible to claim. Exceptions include 2-year-olds if: looked after by local authorities; subject to an ECH plan; in receipt of Disability Living Allowance; they’ve left care under certain types of order. Some non-UK citizens are also eligible in certain circumstances.

How Funding is Accessed:
Contact your childcare provider or apply via your local council.

Click here for more information.

Childcare Vouchers (Employer-Supported Childcare)

What’s Available:
Funding for childcare is available through participating employers, for children up to 15 or 16 if disabled. You can use up to £55 per week of your earnings, which will not be subject to National Insurance or income tax. How much you are eligible for depends on earnings and the date you joined the scheme.

Eligibility:
Closed to new applicants but still available to those enrolled before 4 October 2018 if eligible. Cannot be claimed at the same time as Tax-Free Childcare.

How Funding is Accessed:
Accessed via participating employers. Can be funded through a salary sacrifice approach.

Click here for more information.

Tax Credits for Childcare

What’s Available:
If eligible, those already claiming under the Tax Credits system can claim back up to 70% of eligible childcare costs, up to £122.50 each week for 1 child, or up to £210 per week for more than one.

Eligibility:
Closed to new applicants but existing claimants of Tax Credits may still apply. New claimants must claim instead under Universal Credit (see below).

How Funding is Accessed:
For those who are still eligible to claim, the funding is paid direct to their bank or building society account. Follow the link below for more details.

Click here for more information.

Childcare Funding through Universal Credit

What’s Available:
If eligible, you can claim back up to 85% of childcare costs, up to £646.35 per month for one child or £1108.04 each month if you are claiming for more than one.

Eligibility:
You and your partner, if you have one, must have a child under 17, be working and claiming Universal Credit. There are exceptions to the above and other eligibility terms also apply. Not available if you’re already claiming Tax-Free Childcare or Tax Credits. Earnings and savings/investments also affect how much you may receive.

How Funding is Accessed:
You need to claim back your childcare costs (so pay for them first). You can only go back 3 months, so must keep on top of your claims.

Click here for more information.

Student Childcare Grant

What’s Available:
Up to 85% of your childcare costs are available as a non-repayable grant (max. is £183.75 per week for 1 child or £315.03 per week for two+. Correct for academic year 2022/23). Payable in addition to standard undergraduate student finance.

Eligibility:
Students must be permanent residents in England, studying full-time in higher education and be eligible for undergraduate student finance based on income. They must not in receipt of a postgraduate loan. The childcare grant is for dependent children under 15 (under 17 if they have special needs). Not available if also claiming certain other childcare funding.

How Funding is Accessed:
Apply at the same time as applying for student finance via your Student Finance Account.

Click here for more information.

Learner Support Scheme

What’s Available:
What’s available depends on your specific circumstances. It’s not designed specifically to fund childcare, but can be used for it.

Eligibility:
You must be a a parent over 20, studying in further education up to and including Level 3, and facing financial hardship to be eligible.

How Funding is Accessed:
Apply via your learning provider (e.g. college).

Click here for more information.

Care to Learn Scheme

What’s Available:
Up to £160 (or £175 if living in London) is available per child, per week, for those living in England. The funding can even help to fund a taster period of up to 5 days at the childcare provider and travel to/from the provider.

Eligibility:
You must be the child’s main carer and be under 20 when you begin your course. You must be studying on a publicly-funded course (N.B. not including higher education courses at university) at specific types of education provider e.g. schools, sixth forms and some colleges. Strict rules apply around attendance of both the course and the childcare sessions.

How Funding is Accessed:
For application instructions, click here.

Click here for more information.

Funded Childcare at Leaps & Bounds Nursery & Preschool, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Our Edgbaston nursery & preschool supports all valid childcare funding options

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.We support all relevant childcare funding schemes for eligible families at Leaps & Bounds nursery and preschool in Edgbaston (B16). We offer the very best weekday childcare in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Please get in touch using one of the options below, for example to get started with your childcare enquiry or application. We’ll be happy to show you around, answer questions and help with your funding and nursery/preschool application.

E&OE. Please note that information is given in good faith and, to our knowledge, is correct at time of writing (November 2022). This is only a quick guide, though, so families will need to do their own. more detailed research to check for eligibility etc.

Halloween Fun for Under-Fives!

Halloween on 31st October is a great time to prepare some fun activities for children, including under-fives.Halloween arrives on 31st October, so it’s a great time to prepare for some fun activities for little ones!

Halloween Dressing-Up

Children will absolutely love dressing up in Halloween-themed fancy dress outfits. Although available online commercially, many can instead be home-made. That will not only save money but also give children another fun, creative activity to take part in. For example, a sheet with eye holes strategically cut will make a very effective ghost outfit that children will love wearing. Before you know it they’ll be whizzing around, shouting ‘boo’ at everyone and trying to make them jump. They’ll simply love it and yet it is so simple.

Witches’ outfits are also easy to accomplish, using existing black clothing and an easy-to-make pointy hat made from cardboard and sticky tape. For extra effect, any older clothing that your child no longer needs can have edges cut (by an adult) with scissors so they look ragged and full of character.

Many Halloween costumes are easy to make at home. Some families even make them for the family's pets!Children’s imaginations can run riot with Halloween fancy dress. There are so many themes they can choose from. They could dress up as a witch, a wizard, a character from Harry Potter, a ghoul, zombie or wicked clown from one of the horror films, Harley Quinn, the Joker or even just a skeleton. That’s easy to achieve with some black clothing, white paint and some creative make-up. Many such things can be made at home for little or no cost, requiring only creativity and a little imagination on the part of children and supervising adults.

Halloween Party Time!

Even better — get children together, in their fancy dress, for a Halloween-themed party! Parents and children can even enjoy the preparation itself, making the venue look spooky and atmospheric. For example, adapted cotton wool or commercial offerings can be used to stretch spider webs and cobwebs over objects. Plastic spiders, insects, bats and critters are inexpensive to buy online or from many supermarkets during October too. These can be strategically placed at the scene of the party, along with black balloons, Halloween banners and bunting plus bat and spider window stickers. You can buy Halloween decoration kits and even Halloween photo booth props very inexpensively online.

Add some low lighting provided by some inexpensive Halloween themed string lighting or LED candles  and some spooky music — and the scene is set for a wonderful, very atmospheric Halloween party for the little ones.

Children will enjoy both the Halloween party and the preparations for it!Party bags for all the party guests are also another opportunity for some fun for the children. Some of those plastic spiders, bats and critters will be appreciated (avoid choking hazards, though), perhaps along with other Halloween accessories like stickers and pretend tattoos. Little ones could even put together a little bag of Halloween cookies for children to take home (see more about those below).

Halloween Party Food

Food can even be themed for Halloween, whether at a Halloween party or simply at tea time at home on the day. Little ones can also be involved in this. For example, pumpkin soup is right on theme and is pretty easy to make with help from Mum or Dad (recipes are available online). Children can help scoop out the flesh from pumpkins once adults have done the cutting part.

Children will love helping to make Halloween themed biscuits and other food.They can also help parents make themed cookies, which is another Halloween food example. Bat cookie anyone? Or how about an iced biscuit that looks like a ghost? These can all be made into fun and even educational activities for young children — with adult supervision for safety, of course. Helping to mix the cookie mixture, designing the spooky shapes and adding the creative icing are all good, fun activities for little ones.

Be mindful to take care of children’s safety around the kitchen, heat sources and sharp things like knives and scissors, though.

Carved Pumpkins

Going back to pumpkins, of course another great activity that kids will adore — even really little ones — is decorating carved pumpkins. Families can even pick their own locally (here are some pumpkin patches and farms around Edgbaston and Birmingham). Obviously, for safety, adults will need to do the part where the flesh and shaped holes are carved with sharp tools. Thereafter, though, children can get involved with tasks like scooping out the loosened flesh with a spoon, perhaps Carved Halloween pumpkin designs. They can also be decorated by children using markers, dye or paint.saving seeds so they can be grown into new pumpkin plants next year, putting aside flesh to make soup and — the best part — decorating the pumpkin. The outside ‘face’ or other design can be outlined, perhaps, using acrylic paint or a spirit marker. Even the inside can be coloured, using food dye, for extra effect once illuminated later when it’s dark. Children can decorate the pumpkins as much or as little as they like, whether simply outlining features with a black marker or adding self-adhesive stars or even glitter. Once ready, children can put an LED (fake) candle inside to illuminate the pumpkin when it’s dark. Or, if it’s being placed outside away from children, animals and anything flammable, real tea lights can be used inside the pumpkin, so long as adults supervise lighting and ensure that everyone is kept well clear thereafter. Either way, illuminated pumpkins will be a lovely thing to see and something that children will find fascinating, enthralling and very atmospheric. And, if they’ve been involved in their creation, they are something children can feel be proud of.

A Very Special Night for Children

A youngster helping with the pumpkin decoration and design.All in all, Halloween can be a very special and enjoyable night for children of all ages. Even the tiniest children will find joy in dressing up, getting together with friends to compare outfits, seeing the Halloween-themed decorations and helping to make pumpkins or spooky biscuits! If you’re thinking of organising something for your little one(s), ensure you start preparations in advance so you’re all set by the time the 31st of October arrives. Then, get ready for a memorable night!

A High Quality Nursery & Pre-School in Edgbaston, near Birmingham

Our exceptional Edgbaston childcare service will give your baby or under-five child the very best start in life.

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 highly-rated childcare nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham. We’re also very convenient to those living or working near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick We accept recognised childcare vouchers and support all Government childcare funding schemes. Examples include free childcare for eligible 2-year-olds, free childcare for 3 & 4-year-olds, student parents using student childcare grants and tax-free childcare for those who are eligible. To register for a nursery place for your child, request a guided tour or simply ask a question, please get in touch via one of the following:

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:

Tummy Time for Babies — & Why it's Important

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

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

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

Tummy Time Benefits

Tummy time benefits babies in many ways, including:

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

Tummy Time – What to Do

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

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

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

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

Safety Rules for Tummy Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 of Our Favourite Quotes for Parents

Today we put the spotlight on 20 of our favourite quotes for, or about, parents and parenting. Each one of them either inspired, amused or resonated with us in some way — we are parents ourselves. Indeed, if they did not affect us in one of these ways, they simply did not make the list! Some are also quite profound and, we’ll be honest, may stir an emotion or two. If you are a parent too, see if any affect you or register with you in a similar way. Click any quote for a larger view and you can then also scroll through all 20 quotes individually.

These quote images can be shared freely on social media, pinned on Pinterest, bookmarked or linked to it if you found any of them amusing, inspiring or touching.

20 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Little Ones

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

1. Outdoor Play is Great Fun!

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

2. A Completely Different Set of Activities & Challenges

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

3. A Greater Sense of Adventure

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

4. An Escape from Electronic Screens

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

5. New Knowledge

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

6. Outdoor Play Supports the EYFS Curriculum

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

7. Outdoor Play Helps Mental Health

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

8. Feeding the Senses

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

9. Deeper Friendships

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

10. New Skills

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

11. Improved Communication Skills

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

12. Improved Strength, Fitness & Physical Development

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

13. Improved Motor Skills, Balance & Coordination

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

14. Better Spacial Awareness

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

15. Expanded Risk Assessment Abilities

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

16. Creative Inspiration

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

17. Improved Self-Esteem

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

18. Improved Self-Confidence

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

19. Enhanced Preparedness for School

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

20. Enhanced Preparedness for Life

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

Outdoor Play at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

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

Outstanding Childcare in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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

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

Safety First

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

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!