Tag Archive for: childcare

Discover Minibeasts – A Fun Nature Activity for Children

Discover Minibeasts – A Fun Nature-Based Activity for Children

Today's activity comes with a free A3 poster that families can download to help identify 30 types of creature.Today’s ‘Discover Minibeasts’ post is the third in our series of nature-based activities for children. And, as with the bird spotting and the butterfly spotting activities, this one also comes with a free A3 poster for families to download. Children will be able to use the poster to identify the 30 different species of minibeast that are featured. From ants and aphids to weevils, woodlice and worms, there are some fascinating critters for children to look out for.

Did you know? There are about 25,000 different types of minibeast in the UK!

Minibeast spotting is a great activity that will help to nurture children’s interest in outdoor play and nature — and that’s important. Study after study shows that spending time in nature is hugely beneficial to children of all ages. As well as helping children physically, emotionally and spiritually, nature and outdoor play help them learn new skills and can even improve grades (follow that last bold link for more details). What’s more, it can lead to a life-long love and appreciation of nature and The Great Outdoors, as well as encouraging children to learn about ecological issues like global warming, habitat loss and the need to protect the natural world. Such is the potential power of today’s humble minibeast-spotting activity! With that in mind, why not download our free poster today? It’s completely free and no sign-up of any kind is needed.

Preview of the Free Minibeasts Poster:

Preview of the A3 poster. Click to download it (full instructions can be found below the image).

How to Download the Poster

Simply click the large poster preview image or this link to view/download the high-resolution version (whether you left-click or right-click to download will depend upon your particular browser settings — try both if you’re unsure). The file is less than 3MB in size. You will need Acrobat Reader on your device, which is available free of charge here. When printing out, we recommend using full colour and high-quality settings and paper for the best results. You/your child can alternatively view the poster on screen, e.g. on an iPad or tablet, which will allow you/your child to zoom in for the highest detail.

Given that minibeasts are mostly found outdoors, it’s important for children, especially the very young, to be supervised, for safety purposes. There are many potential dangers outside, so parents or caregivers will need to be vigilant around these when supervising little ones.

Tips for Spotting Minibeasts

Once children are armed with handheld versions of their minibeast posters, they’ll need to work out where best to spot them. The good news is that minibeasts are almost everywhere there are plants, trees and soil. Children can look for the more visible minibeasts like bees, butterflies, caterpillars, moths, ladybirds, aphids and hoverflies simply by looking for flowers and plants, which are a food source for such critters. Other minibeasts like grubs and earthworms may be found within soil and compost, so a little (gentle) digging around may prove fruitful for them — but care will need to be taken not to harm the little creatures. Meanwhile, the best places to find creatures like beetles, woodlice, millipedes and centipedes are generally going to be under things. For example, they may have their homes under piles of leaves, under flower pots, under rotting logs and — the best place of all for minibeasts — in the compost heap!

Be Gentle — Encourage Empathy

When supervising children for this minibeast-spotting activity — or any other involving animals and insects — please be sure to teach children about gentleness and empathy. Minibeasts are small and fragile creatures, so ideally should be looked at but not touched or disturbed. Teach children that each is an individual, with its own life, needs and feelings. Minibeasts will also not want to be taken from their homes, wherever those may be. So, please do encourage children to be gentle and kind, just like they’d like to be treated themselves if it were the other way around. Thank you.

Is your toddler frightened of insects like spiders? If so, try naming them, for example, “Simon the Spider”. In this way, children will begin to associate each as an individual, rather than just a scary and nameless critter. This approach can really help!

Discover Minibeasts!

All in all, minibeast spotting is a fun and fascinating activity for children to take part in and is perfect for the spring, summer and autumn seasons. As well as being fun, educational and worthwhile it also raises children’s interest in ecological matters. For example, it may lead children to realise the need to nurture the natural world, the problems associated with harmful pesticides and weedkillers, and the need to leave natural, undisturbed areas for wildlife to flourish. Children will eventually become the stewards of our beloved Planet Earth, so educating them early about looking after the planet is crucial for the existence not only of the flora and fauna, but also for mankind itself.

A Focus on Nature at Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green

Little Acorns Nursery & Preschool in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & ManchesterLittle Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green is rated as a good childcare provider by Ofsted.The childcare professionals at Little Acorns Nursery know full well how important nature is to children as part of their early years learning and development. That’s why we’re adopting the ‘Hygge’ lifestyle at the setting and plan to introduce Forest School in the future. We ensure children get ample access to outdoor spaces to play, explore and learn in whenever possible. Even indoors, children get access to natural materials and resources.

Do you have a child under five and live in the Hindley Green area, near Wigan, or in a nearby location like Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, or Bolton? If so, Little Acorns Nursery offers a first-class early years education and weekday childcare service that’ll give your little one the very best start in life. We’ll nurture them and do everything we can to help them develop into the very best version of themselves so that they’re fully prepared and ready for school by the time they leave us as they approach the age of five. What’s more, we support Government funding including free childcare schemes for eligible families. Get in touch today to register your child for a nursery/preschool place, book a guided tour of the nursery or ask a question. We’re here to help!

Discover British Birds – A Fun Nature Activity for Children

Discover British Birds – A Fun Nature Activity for Children

Today's nature-based activity comes with a free poster download for children/families to print out and use as a checklist.Today, in a follow-up to the butterfly-spotting activity that we published in May, we bring you a matching bird-spotting activity for children to take part in. The activity will help to nurture children’s interest in birds and nature, which is beneficial to children in a myriad of different ways. It’ll also encourage them to recharge in the fresh air, outdoors, and escape from electronic screens and toys for a while. Outdoor play is important for little ones and many studies have backed this up.

Free Bird Poster

Like before, today’s article comes with a free reference poster for families to download and print out. The poster features 40 different species of bird that can be found in Britain. Most are fairly common, with just a handful that are more shy or seen more rarely. Children, including those under five, can display the A3 poster on their bedroom or nursery wall, or print it out as a smaller hand-out to use as reference when they’re outdoors. The visual reference will allow children to see how many different birds they can spot over the course of a year, we suggest. Supervising adults can help them to learn the bird names too, as we appreciate the youngest may not yet be able to read the names unaided. Take a look at the poster preview below and download it for your child today.

Preview of the Free Bird Poster:

Preview of the free poster download - click to view/download (see instructions panel).

Download Instructions

Depending on your settings, you can usually left- or right-click the image above (or this link) to either open it on screen or save it to your device. Once opened in Acrobat Reader , your child will also be able to view the images large, by zooming in, to get all the fine detail. If printing out, we recommend using high-quality printing paper and the finest colour settings for best results. Print at A3 to use as a poster or A4 to use as hand-outs for your children to take outdoors.

Tips for Spotting Birds

As well as being a fun, nature-based activity, bird spotting can teach children valuable skills like patience, stealth, observation, perseverance, critical thinking and empathy to name just a few. With that in mind, here are some tips that may help children to see more types of birds when taking part in this activity.

  • Try different locations and a variety of natural environments, including at different times of the year (spring to autumn). Your child will see different types of birds by using this approach. Please note, however, that we have not included waterfowl in our poster, although may keep that option up our sleeves for a future poster/activity.
  • Teach children to keep movements and sound minimal when they’re waiting for birds to come to a particular spot, so the birds are not frightened away.
  • If moving, for example through a forest, moving quietly and stealthily will ensure that children will see more types of birds. Care even over each footstep will help if it means that children will avoid making a ‘crack’ because they stepped on a twig. Such an approach will also help them hone their balance and gross motor skills, as well as make the activity feel more exciting.
  • Attracting birds with the right kinds of bird food will help with this activity. In gardens, ‘peanut cakes’, suet seed balls, sunflower ‘hearts’ (seeds with the outer husk removed) and, sparingly, grated Cheddar cheese are always popular.
  • The use of binoculars or monoculars will help spot birds further away. For safety, children should use them only under adult supervision and avoid pointing them towards the sun and other bright objects.
  • Teach children to also listen out for the various bird calls, as those can give away the location and even type of birds.
  • Encourage children to develop a ‘keen eye’, i.e. good observational skills that are proactive as well as reactive.

Why This Activity is Important

As well as being fun, educational and beneficial to children through time spent in nature, bird-spotting helps to draw children’s attention to the plight of birds, other wild creatures and the natural environment. Sadly, the number of birds has dropped by nearly 60% in the UK since 1979. The population of house sparrows alone has declined by almost 22 million in the last 57 years. The Chief Executive of the RSPB stated the following after 2023’s Big Garden Birdwatch:

“The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the startling declines of some of our once common birds…
We are in a nature and climate emergency and we’ve lost 38 million birds from our skies in the last 50 years.”

Nature activities like butterfly-spotting, bird-spotting, country walks and outdoor play around nature will help foster children’s interest in the Great Outdoors and the simple pleasures associated with spending time in the natural environment. That alone is very good for both body and soul. In parallel, though, such activities are also likely to encourage an interest in ecology, conservation, reversing habitat loss, and eco-friendly lifestyles. All of these benefit the world itself. Moreover, such interests often last a lifetime. So, this simple type of children’s activity can have a real domino effect.

Nature-Based Activities for Under-5s at Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green

Little Acorns Nursery & Preschool in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & ManchesterLittle Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green is rated as a good childcare provider by Ofsted.Because spending time around nature is so important, the team at Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green ensure that children get good access to nature, nature-based activities and even natural materials. This approach is backed up by our adoption of Hygge’ at the setting and plans to introduce Forest School. These, together with our first-class approach to early years childcare, give babies, toddlers and preschoolers a great start in life, giving them all the tools to absolutely thrive. As well as that, we also support all Government-funded childcare places for eligible families.

Why not register your little one for a childcare place at Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green, near Wigan? Get in touch using a button below and we’ll be happy to show you and your little one around, answer questions and register them for a nursery place.

Little Acorns is a high-quality nursery & preschool in Hindley Green, near Wigan. We are also nearby to Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester, so may also suit families living or working in those locations.

Safety & Well-Being

Before we sign off from this post, we should mention the topic of safety and well-being for children. Vigilance around these is critical and seldom more crucial than when children are spending time outdoors. Children, especially the very young, should therefore be closely supervised by a responsible adult at all times, paying special attention to hazards including ponds and water sources of any kind, poisonous plants, toxic chemicals (weedkiller, pest killer etc.), trip hazards, nasty drops and uneven ground, sources of germs, barbed wire and other sharp objects, roads, railways and traffic, potential allergens, choking hazards, stranger danger, risks around becoming lost, and so on. Parents/adults will need to constantly watch out for potential risks and teach children to do so too. This list is not exhaustive, so do your research/assessments.

Ofsted Report: Little Acorns Nursery is a Good Childcare Provider

Ofsted Report: Little Acorns Nursery is a Good Childcare Provider
Little Acorns Nursery passed its first Ofsted Inspection with flying colours, following the inspection in April 2023.We’re delighted to announce that Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green, has passed its first Ofsted Inspection — and with flying colours! The Ofsted Report was published recently following the Ofsted inspection in late April this year. It is our first since we took over the nursery from Kate’s Kindergarten in 2022. So, it’s now official — Little Acorns Nursery is a ‘Good Provider’ of childcare and early-years education. Let’s take a look at the Inspector’s findings and some of her lovely comments. We’ll see why the nursery/preschool achieved such consistent, positive feedback and good ratings in every area. Doing so is incredibly important to the children under our care and, of course, to their parents and caregivers.

Great Ofsted Report Ratings for Little Acorns Nursery

Little Acorns Nursery was judged by Ofsted to be ‘Good’ in every category:

Little Acorns Nursery was judged by Ofsted to be ‘Good’ in every category.Overall effectiveness — Good
The quality of education — Good
Behaviour and attitudes — Good
Personal development — Good
Leadership and management — Good

We’ll cover some more detail and commentary from the Ofsted Inspector below.

Glowing Feedback About What it’s Like Attending the Nursery

We're way more than just a crèche, playgroup or a group of nannies or childminders.Opening comments in the Ofsted Report are particularly positive. Not only are the findings welcomed by nursery staff, who work so hard and so professionally — as evidenced in the report — but they’ll also be welcomed by parents/caregivers of children attending the setting. After all, it’s good to know children are in good hands and that their choice of childcare provider was a good one.

Our High-Quality Staff Positively Impact Children

Here are a few of the comments from the Ofsted Inspector, describing how professional staff are and what it’s like for children who attend the nursery:

“The stable and highly skilled staff team promotes children’s care and learning effectively. Many long-standing relationships help staff to know the needs of the children and their families very well.”

It’s good to note the words, “stable” and “highly skilled” in reference to the staff. Our staff are exactly that and it’s good to see those qualities recognised. More importantly, though, such qualities clearly benefit the children, their parents, and families as a whole.

The Ofsted Report then goes on to describe how, “Staff’s gentle, nurturing approaches” help children to “settle and fully engage in what the nursery has to offer.” That, too, is incredibly important.

“Children arrive confidently and they are ready to play and learn.”

The confidence and enthusiasm to learn extends to babies and toddlers too and Ofsted’s comments make the reason for this clear:

“Babies and toddlers explore with intrigue. They are inspired by items which stimulate their senses and are provided in response to things which specifically interest them. Staff build on children’s interests well to provide meaningful activities which enable them to practise their skills and extend learning further.”

Children are happy at Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green.As you can see from the comment above, staff are methodical and strategic in their approach to activities organised for the children. Activities are tailored to each child’s individual interests, making playing, development of skills and learning of new knowledge all come naturally.

Happy Children

The Ofsted inspector recognised that children are happy at the nursery. The nurturing of good social, communication and language skills clearly leads to deep friendships being formed and enjoyable play taking place.

“Children develop firm friendships. They collaborate and have fun together as they play.”

Good Progress for Children with SEND

Ofsted recognised the expertise of our Special Educational Needs Coordinator (‘SENCo’) and provisions for children with special educational needs and disabilities (‘SEND’) in their report:

“The special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) successfully uses her comprehensive knowledge of local arrangements for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). She links closely with other supporting professionals, accurately assesses need and identifies precise targets for learning. Through strong relationships with staff, children with SEND progress well”

Good Relationships with Parents

Ofsted recognised that staff have good relationships with children’s parents/caregivers and remarked, in their report, on the cooperation between them:

“Staff work closely with parents right from the start to assess and plan how to meet children’s individual needs.”

Ofsted said that this works particularly well when children have health or medical needs, commenting “Leaders use what parents know to establish specific care plans, training for staff and detailed risk assessments.”

Parents are also encouraged to come “into the nursery to experience the curriculum in action.”

“Parents speak highly of the staff at the nursery and develop high levels of trust.”

Effective Safeguarding Arrangements

Comments in the Ofsted report about safeguarding were particularly positive and confirmed that measures at the setting are effective ones.

“Leaders have ensured that staff are well trained and knowledgeable about matters relating to child protection. They have provided clear procedures for staff to report any concerns that they may have about children’s welfare.”

They went on to confirm that, “Leaders and staff use their strong relationships with parents and other professionals to help ensure that the children and families who need it, get the right support.”

Staff Plan Well for the Future

Staff are methodical and strategic in their approach and activities are tailored to each child's individual interests.Ofsted also recognised that leaders and staff plan improvements for the future. In their report, they describe how leaders “plan how they can make the quality of education even better […] working closely with staff to design building improvements that will have the most benefit for the children”.

They also ensure that they too are learning and improving all the time:

“The high priority given to continuing professional development has resulted in a team of many skilled and experienced staff. This has a positive impact on the quality of education for all children, including those who are disadvantaged.”

Full Marks for School Readiness

One of the key goals of any good nursery, preschool or childcare provider is to ensure that every child is prepared, equipped and ready to begin school by the time they leave the early years setting. Little Acorns Nursery’s approach to the curriculum, activities and tailored learning and development plans, ensure this outcome. Ofsted’s comments, in their latest report for Little Acorns Nursery, totally back this up:

“The carefully thought out curriculum helps children to gain the kinds of knowledge and skills they need in readiness for their future move to school.”

A Place for Your Child at our Hindley Green Nursery, near Wigan

Little Acorns Nursery & Pre-School in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & ManchesterLittle Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green is rated as a good childcare provider by Ofsted.If you have a young family that needs high-quality childcare in Hindley Green or close to Wigan and Greater Manchester, we’d love to hear from you. As you can see from the latest Ofsted Report, we offer a wonderful weekday childcare service for babies and children aged up to five. Come and take a look by arranging a free tour of the setting. We’ll show you around and answer any questions that you may have. Be sure to bring along your child and you’ll be able to see how well they fit in!

Little Acorns Nursery offers a great start for little ones and also supports free childcare through Government childcare funding schemes for those who are eligible. Please choose an option below to get started:

Little Acorns is now officially a good nursery & preschool in Hindley Green. We’re located near Wigan, Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester.

Discover British Butterflies: A Fun Nature Activity for Children

Discover British Butterflies: A Fun Nature Activity for Children

Nature is hugely beneficial for children, so it's good to encourage them to get outdoors and search out these incredibly beautiful creatures.Today’s exciting blog post encourages families to explore the wonders of nature and embark on a delightful butterfly-spotting adventure! Butterflies are simply beautiful creatures and their amazing colours and patterns are sure to appeal to little ones. With that in mind, we have prepared a visually appealing and informative A3 poster featuring 36 British butterflies, which you can download for free and print out. So, why not get the family ready to step outside, immerse yourselves in nature, and create cherished memories as you observe these enchanting creatures in their natural habitat? The poster gives visual reference and also ensures you have a lasting memento of this unique experience. Over time, this poster and nature-based activity will help you and your little one learn to identify these diverse and important little pollinators. As we reported before, nature is hugely beneficial for children, so it’s good to encourage them to get outdoors and search out these incredible little beings. Let’s take a look and dive into the fascinating world of butterflies together…

Butterfly Poster Preview:

Free A3 British Butterflies poster to download or print.

Download Instructions

Depending on your settings, left-clicking the image above — or this link — will usually open it directly on screen, where you can see the images and zoom in on all the lovely detail. Alternatively, try right-clicking to save the file to your hard drive and then open it manually in Acrobat Reader . Print out the file to good quality A3 paper or ‘reduce to fit’ to print at A4.

Explore the Great Outdoors With Respect

Now that you have your poster, it’s time to venture outdoors with your little ones and seek out these beautiful butterflies. Whether you have a garden, a local park, or access to nature reserves and countryside, these locations often provide excellent opportunities for butterfly sightings. Teach children to have keen eyes and perhaps take along a camera, smartphone or magnifying glass for a closer look. Encourage them to keep track of the butterflies they encounter by marking or ticking the corresponding species on their poster. Perhaps take note of the date and location of each sighting, so you can go back again if you find a busy butterfly spot.

Remember, though, that butterflies are incredibly fragile little individuals that are peacefully going about their business. So, teach your children to respect them and not to touch or attempt to catch them — encourage children to observe, appreciate and enjoy their unique beauty.

Why This Activity is Important

Butterflies and other pollinators have experienced a significant decline in the UK over recent years, highlighting the importance of encouraging children to appreciate and respect nature. According to studies, butterfly populations have declined by approximately 40% in the past four decades, with certain species facing an even more alarming decline. These statistics serve as a wake-up call that emphasises the urgent need to protect and restore habitats that support these beautiful creatures.

Children can be a part of that. Engaging children in nature not only benefits them directly, but it also nurtures their sense of wonder and curiosity. Importantly, though, it also instils in them a deep appreciation for the environment and its inhabitants. By embarking on butterfly-spotting adventures and immersing themselves in the natural world, children will develop a sense of empathy for other creatures. They will begin to understand the interconnectedness of ecosystems and recognise the importance of preserving habitats for the survival of butterflies and other wildlife. Let’s inspire a love for butterflies and the natural world and foster a generation that cherishes and safeguards the rich biodiversity that sustains us all.

Nature for Under-Fives at Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green

Little Acorns Nursery & Pre-School in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & ManchesterWe fully appreciate the importance and enormous benefits of introducing young children to nature at Little Acorns Nursery. Indeed, it’s one of the many reasons we’ve adopted the Hygge approach to early years childcare, and are introducing Forest School to the setting. So, if you would like your baby, toddler or preschooler to enjoy the very best childcare and early years education, register them for a childcare place at Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green, near Wigan. We’d be happy to show you around too, so you can see how well your child fits in. What’s more; we support free Government-funded childcare places for eligible families, so get in touch using an option below.

Little Acorns Nursery & Preschool is at Hindley Green, near Wigan, close to Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester.

The Benefits & Importance of Nature to Children in Early Childhood

The Benefits & Importance of Nature to Children in Early Childhood

Exposure to natural environments can have a profound impact on a child's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.As parents, we all want the best for our children. We strive to provide them with a nurturing and stimulating environment that supports their growth and development. However, in today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to overlook the importance of nature in our children’s lives.

Nature has long been recognised for its therapeutic and restorative effects on humans, and this is especially true for children in their early years. Exposure to natural environments can have a profound impact on a child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

In this article today, we will explore the benefits of nature to children’s development, provide practical tips on how to incorporate nature into a child’s life and discuss the importance of nature education in early childhood. We hope to inspire parents and caregivers to embrace nature as a fundamental part of a child’s upbringing, and to recognise its immense value in shaping their future.

“Nature play in early childhood has been found to enhance the development of sensory, motor, and cognitive skills, as well as creativity and imagination.” (International Journal of Play)

The Benefits of Nature to Children’s Development

Nature and exposure to natural environments can have a significant and multifaceted range of benefits for children. This is particularly true when it’s introduced early in their lives, because research shows that early childhood is a critical period for brain development and learning. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that nature can bring to little ones.

There are many benefits of nature to children’s learning and development.

Improved Physical Health & Healthier Habits

Spending time in nature can promote physical activity and healthy habits, thereby reducing unhealthy sedentary behaviour and potentially even reducing the risk of obesity. Outdoor play and exploration can also help children to develop gross motor skills, coordination, balance, and agility. Exposure to natural light and fresh air is also known to boost the immune system and thereby help overall health.

Enhanced Cognitive Development

Nature can provide a rich sensory environment that stimulates the brain and enhances cognitive function. Studies show that exposure to natural settings has been shown to improve attention span, memory, and problem-solving skills as well as boost creativity, imagination, and curiosity. In addition, by learning about the natural world, children can develop a deeper understanding of science, maths, and other subjects.

Reduced Stress & Improved Emotional Well-Being

Spending time in natural environments can often reduce stress and anxiety in both children and adults. Nature provides a calming and soothing atmosphere that promotes a more positive mood. Self-esteem, confidence, and emotional regulation are also known to be improved by exposure to green spaces and natural settings.

Increased Creativity & Imagination

Outdoor exploration and discovery can foster a real sense of wonder and awe in children. The natural beauty and diversity of nature can also spark creativity and encourage artistic expression in children. Indeed, it can represent an endless source of inspiration for imaginative play.

Better Social Skills & Relationships

Nature is a wonderful setting for social interaction and play. It can provide many opportunities for children to learn new skills, including collaboration, cooperation, teamwork and communication. By encouraging critical thinking, outdoor activities also promote problem-solving skills. Exposure to nature can also improve empathy, compassion, and respect for others and the environment. It’s also a wonderful leveller.

Nature Education Fosters Environmental Awareness & Stewardship

By learning about the natural environment, children can develop a sense of environmental awareness and stewardship. This can encourage them to take action to protect the environment and promote sustainability.

“Exposure to nature has a restorative effect on cognitive function, particularly attention and memory. Children with ADHD have shown significant improvement in concentration after spending time in nature.” (Journal of Attention Disorders)

How to Incorporate Nature into Your Child’s Life

Integrating nature into your child’s life doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. There are many simple and practical ways to expose your child to the benefits of the natural world. Here are some ideas:

  • There are many simple and practical ways to expose your child to the benefits of the natural world.Make time for outdoor play — set aside regular time for outdoor play and exploration. This can include visits to local parks, nature reserves, or your own back garden.
  • Encourage outdoor activities — encourage your child to engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, gardening, and camping (under suitable adult supervision, of course, especially when children are very young). Such activities can provide opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, and exposure to nature.
  • Take nature walks — go for walks with children in natural settings such as forests, beaches, or hills. Use this time to explore and learn about the natural environment and its wonderful inhabitants.
  • Plant a garden — planting a garden can provide a hands-on learning experience for children, as well as a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. It can also encourage healthy eating habits and an appreciation for nature’s beauty. If you have no garden, grow bags can be used on a patio, or pots can be used on balconies and windowsills.
  • Bring nature indoors — incorporate natural elements into your home, such as potted plants, natural materials like wood or stone, or even nature-themed murals and pictures. The Hygge lifestyle also embraces this approach, hence having adopted Hygge at Little Acorns Nursery.
  • Limit screen time — reduce the amount of time your child spends in front of electronic screens and encourage more outdoor activities and play, supervised as appropriate of course.
  • Get involved in nature-related organisations, clubs or groups — consider joining one of these or volunteering for environmental conservation or nature education projects. This can provide opportunities for your child to learn more about nature and develop a sense of environmental stewardship.

By incorporating nature into your child’s life in these and other ways, you can help them develop a lifelong love and appreciation for the natural world that will last a lifetime.

We hope that this article has inspired you to incorporate nature into your child’s life and consider the benefits of nature education in their early childhood.

“Nature exposure in early childhood is associated with multiple cognitive benefits including enhanced cognitive functioning, increased creativity, improved academic performance, and decreased attentional deficits.” (Frontiers in Psychology)

Our Approach to Nature Education at Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green

At Little Acorns Nursery, we believe in the importance of nature in children’s lives. So, we provide a rich and stimulating environment that includes plenty of opportunities for outdoor play and nature education. Our adoption of the Hygge lifestyle, extensive outdoor grounds with natural areas for children to explore, and plans to introduce Forest School in the future are all part of this. If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about our approach to education and how it embraces nature, please get in touch.

Weekday Nursery & Preschool Places in Hindley Green, near Wigan

Little Acorns Nursery & Pre-School in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & ManchesterLittle Acorns provides an exceptionally high standard of weekday childcare at our Hindley Green nursery and preschool, near Wigan. We support all Government childcare funding schemes, including free hours for eligible families. Do get in touch if you would like to register your child for a place, get a guided tour with your little one or if you have any questions.

Little Acorns Nursery & pre-school is located in Hindley Green, near Wigan, and may also be convenient to those in Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester.

The Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument in the Early Years

The Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument in the Early Years

Today, we look at the profound benefits of learning a musical instrument for young children.With free tutorials available on YouTube and inexpensive instruments available in charity shops, phone apps and online marketplaces, there has never been a better time for children to start learning a musical instrument. It’s something for every parent to consider because such a pastime will benefit their child in an incredible variety of ways. Not only will they learn a new skill that will stay with them for life, but their lives will be enriched in many additional ways too. So, today, we take a look at the often profound benefits of learning a musical instrument, especially for young children. We’ll start with the three most obvious benefits before coming to many others that may surprise you.

Playing Music is Great Fun

Firstly, let’s not forget the obvious: learning to play a musical instrument can be great fun. It’ll give children hours of entertainment and sensory enrichment. That’s a good enough reason to learn to play music all on its own!

More Opportunities

The ability to play music is also a skill that often stays with children for life. So, once they grow older, the skill may well lead to participation in bands, orchestras, theatrical performances or even a career in entertainment. Composers, stars of the screen, pop stars and theatrical entertainers all started somewhere. Indeed, many such careers will have roots in having learnt to play a musical instrument as a child.

Boosted Coordination & Fine Motor Skills

Playing notes, chords, rhythm and progressions will do wonders for a child's coordination and fine motor skills.Playing all these notes in a certain order, sometimes in isolation and at other times as chords and progressions, will do wonders for a child’s coordination and fine motor skills. Although perhaps tricky at first, with practice and ‘muscle memory’, children’s ability to master the playing of musical sequences, chords, melodies and rhythms will gradually become easier and easier. Before long, it’ll become second nature to them.

As well as those very obvious benefits to learning to play a musical instrument, children will benefit in other, perhaps less obvious, ways. We’ll take a look at those next.

Enhanced Maths Skills

Music, the structure of songs and rhythm are all rooted in mathematics. So, when learning to play music, children will give their brains a maths workout, ensuring that note length, tempo and rhythm all sound correct and combine correctly. It’s also a great way for children to learn real-world applications of things like fractions (for example, half notes, quarter notes, double note length and so on). At the same time, each musical bar usually remains the same length overall. There’s real-world addition in practice for you!

Enhanced Reading Skills

Learning to play music helps children improve reading and mathematics too.In a similar way, children who learn a musical instrument will usually, of course, also be learning to read printed music. While this comes in different forms, it all encourages children to concentrate on the reading process. Specifically, they’re learning to read from left to right, to analyse the printed music detail and to make sense of it. It’s another great workout for the brain, and we’ll say more about that next.

“…there is little doubt that regular exposure to music, and especially active participation in music, may stimulate development of many different areas of the brain. Takako Fujioka and her colleagues, for example, looking at children with a single year of violin training (compared to children with no training), recorded striking changes in activity in the brain’s left hemisphere. In terms of brain development, musical performance is every bit as important educationally as reading or writing.” (Oliver Sacks, Neurologist & Writer)

Boosted Cognitive Function

All this attention to detail, concentrated effort and intricate movement will also have a profound effect on the child’s developing brain. Reading and playing music is a complete, cognitive workout that’ll deeply exercise the brain, in particular boosting the development of the left side. This will spark the generation of millions of new neural connections, or ‘brain synapses’, which will permanently empower the child going forwards. With the left part of the brain also influencing skills like language and reasoning, these are also going to be boosted.

“Research shows that at least some musical education has a positive impact on [the] social and cognitive development of children. And these effects are long-lasting – better hearing, better motor skills, improved memory, better verbal and literacy skills.” (Alan Harvey, Musician and Neuroscientist)

A Boost for Social Skills

Collaboration instinctively comes from playing music, so it's a natural socialiser, bringing children of all ages together.Playing a musical instrument often goes hand-in-hand with collaboration. Whether it’s forming a band, taking part in a school orchestra, writing songs with friends or simply jamming out together, children of all ages will naturally play together given the opportunity. As such, it’s a natural socialiser and one that brings children of different ages together, with new friendships being formed through a common interest. That is a very healthy thing. It also teaches children a wide variety of social skills including communication (e.g. speaking and listening at appropriate times), collaboration, being mindful of the needs of others, waiting your turn and so on.

Creative Self-Expression

Playing a musical instrument is a wonderful outlet for children’s creativity. Give them just about any instrument and they’re sure to express themselves in some way. Their musical or rhythmic expression is also likely to vary depending upon the instrument being played, showing just how powerful a tool it is. Playing an instrument opens up all kinds of creative possibilities to children and they can experiment however they choose. It can also lift their mood or give them the means to express it. Creating music is hugely empowering.

Greater Self-Confidence

With abundant new skills and even new friendships forming because of their musical endeavours, children will naturally get a healthy boost of confidence. Praise and encouragement from adults and peers around them will naturally help boost their self-esteem too. That’s important, especially when they’re very young and unsure of themselves and their place in the world.

Improved Listening Skills

When children learn to play music on a musical instrument, they learn quickly the importance of listening intently at the right time. Through attentive listening, children will learn to compute and formulate the appropriate response to important information, instructions and requests. This is an essential skill and one that will benefit them at home, in nursery, preschool, at school and ultimately in the workplace. Indeed, knowing when to be quiet and listen is one of the key skills of any good consultant!

Enhanced Well-Being

Music is not only great fun but also a great antidote to stress and anxiety.Music itself is also a great antidote to stress and other emotions. Giving children the tools to appreciate music — and even involve themselves in it — will help with their mental well-being as it can calm them when they’re stressed, relax them when they’re tired or even give them an energy boost when they need to get active. Ask any runner! All they need is the right piece of music and half the mental battle is already complete.

Insights into Different Cultures

Music is the common language of the whole world and, as such, is a great bridge between different cultures. Hearing and playing different types of music, from different cultures, countries and even eras will give children an insight into those other people, places and beliefs. Different music genres (rock, blues, pop, etc.) will also be something they’ll find interesting as they grow older, teaching them even more about their own country. For example, the music history of Britain has been hugely influential over the fashion and culture of the nation and this influence is integral to our identity in the world — amazing when you think about it.

The Teaching of Life Lessons

Through learning to play a musical instrument, children learn so many important life lessons; the importance of persistence, for example, and the value of trial and error. Children learn about teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, collaboration and so much more. The following quotation brings the value of this into perspective:

“The things I learned from my experience in music in school are discipline, perseverance, dependability, composure, courage and pride in results… Not a bad preparation for the workforce!” (Gregory Anrig, President, Educational Testing Service)

It Supports Children’s Education

With all of the above benefits, learning to play a musical instrument is clearly going to help many areas of children’s education. For the youngest, all 7 key areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum will be supported through musical endeavours. For example, it’ll help boost creativity, communication, language, reading, maths, social development, personal development, physical coordination and so much more. This can only stand them in good stead as they progress from nursery, through preschool, into school and beyond. It’s amazing when you take a closer look like we have done today.

Starting Children Young

With so many benefits, it's worthwhile for children to start learning a musical instrument as young as possible.With all these benefits, it’s highly worthwhile for children to start learning a musical instrument as young as possible. It’s easy to start them, for example with simple instruments like drums, triangles, and tambourines initially. With these simple instruments, very young children can learn to keep time to music or a beat a rhythm demonstrated by adults. They can then progress to more advanced instruments such as recorders, keyboards, and stringed instruments. They have to start somewhere, though, but it’s never too early to start! Mozart was just 3 when he began to learn piano playing. By 5 he had composed a whole concerto! Who knows; perhaps your child could be a star in the making!

Your Nursery & Preschool in Hindley Green, near Wigan

Little Acorns Nursery & Pre-School in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & ManchesterIf you have a child under five and require weekday childcare in the Hindley Green area near Wigan, do consider Little Acorns Nursery. We give babies and under-fives the very best start in life. At Little Acorns, they’ll receive a wonderful early years education and a personalised learning and development programme that includes sensory and creative activities through music and rhythm. It’s a wonderful, safe, loving, home-from-home environment for little ones too. We also support a wide range of childcare funding options for those that are eligible. Get in touch to register your child for a place, arrange a guided tour or simply ask a question. We’ll be happy to assist.

Little Acorns is a wonderful nursery & preschool in Hindley Green near Wigan. We’re also suitably close to those in Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester.

Why Send Your Child to Nursery & Pre-School?

Little Acorns Nursery is far more than just a crèche, playgroup or a group of nannies or childminders.Some may be surprised to learn that nurseries/pre-schools like Little Acorns are not simply “childcare services”. We’re way more than just a crèche, playgroup or a group of nannies or childminders. In reality, our services extend way beyond simply looking after children while parents go to work, although of course we do that too. The truth is that we benefit little ones and their families in a whole range of additional, often profound, ways and that’s what we look at today.

So, if you’re not sure whether to send your baby, toddler or under-five to nursery/pre-school, or whether to send them to Little Acorns rather than somewhere else, do read on. Your choice for your little one’s childcare setting is incredibly important, for your child’s short-, medium- and long-term outcomes. The choice therefore needs to be right. Let’s set the record straight today and clarify some of the many benefits offered through childcare settings like Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green.

A Key Person for Your Child

The Key Person is a childcare professional that will look out for the child's wellbeing in all manner of different ways.First of all, a Key Person will be allocated to your child on Day 1 when they start at the nursery. The Key Person is a childcare professional that will look out for the child’s wellbeing in all manner of different ways. One of the most important is in the monitoring of the little one’s progress in terms of learning and development. From the day they help to settle the child into the nursery to the day they leave for school, the child’s Key Person will be there to ensure that all the child’s individual needs are being met and that they are fulfilling their fullest potential in every area. Part of that will be the oversight of the bespoke early years education programme, which we’ll come to next.

A Bespoke Early Years Education Programme for Each Child

A bespoke early years learning and development programme is tailored to suit the strengths and any challenges for each individual child.At Little Acorns Nursery, a bespoke early years learning and development programme will be designed and implemented to suit the strengths and any challenges for each individual child. This is orchestrated by the child’s Key Person and nursery staff and, where needed, through cooperation with any external professionals, e.g. for children that have any special educational or developmental needs. The learning and development programme is tailored to them and them only. Using this approach bolsters the child’s stronger areas, so they can be further strengthened, and addresses any weaker areas that may require extra focus. It is also adapted as time goes by, as progress is made by the child. In this way, every child gets to achieve personal bests and optimal outcomes in every area of their learning and development.

Our Full EYFS Curriculum, Covers, Well … Everything!

There is a whole early years education curriculum at Little Acorns Nursery. As we said before, we’re not just looking after them — we’re educating and nurturing children too. And what a comprehensive education it is! We use the ‘Early Years Foundation Stage’ (EYFS) framework as a basis for our curriculum (and much more). What that basically means is that all the important areas of learning and personal development are covered so that every child gets a good grounding in all topics and areas. It’s rather like setting up good foundations for them, both educationally and personally. The key areas covered include overall literacy, communication and language, physical development, personal, social and even emotional development, maths, self-expression through art and design, and understanding the world. As you can see, it covers everything they need to absolutely thrive as individuals.

We Prepare Children to Flourish When They Begin at School

A good early years education gives children all the tools needed to absolutely thrive once they start school.All of this nurturing, education and facilitation of their personal development does one other crucial thing too; it sets them up well for when they leave us around the age of five to start at primary school. By giving them the skills and tools they will need in every area, they are in a better position to absolutely thrive once they start school, right from day one. Indeed, many studies have shown that children who receive a good early years education go on to be higher achievers both at school and in their working lives. That’s gold dust, right there. Let’s take a closer look …

The Many Benefits That a Good Early Education Brings

Studies over the years have highlighted many profoundly important benefits that a good early years education will bring to both children and their families. In fact, even society as a whole has been shown to benefit. Just a few examples of the benefits of a good early years education include:

  • An greater number of GCSEs later attained by the child.
  • Improved exam grades, including in those all-important GCSEs.
  • Improved academic results in the crucial topics of maths and English.
  • An improvement in children’s behaviour.
  • A greater ability to appropriately self-regulate.
  • The nurturing of better, deeper friendships and relationships.
  • A reduced propensity for hyperactivity.
  • Improved likelihood of further learning via higher education courses.
  • Many benefits continuing into adulthood, including statistically higher incomes than those who didn’t receive a good early years education.
  • A more level playing field for disadvantaged children.
  • For society, studies have indicated lower levels of crime, prison rates, poverty, depression, child neglect and even substance abuse for children who received a good education in their early years. That is remarkable when you think about it.

Our sister nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Lancashire has more details about the various studies into the benefits of a good early years education, and their incredible findings.

All the Benefits of ‘Forest School’

One of the exciting things we have planned for Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green is the introduction of our own Forest School.One of the exciting things we have planned for Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green is the introduction soon of our own Forest School. Once up and running, it’ll give our nursery and pre-school children unparalleled access to nature and the natural world. They’ll be able to learn and benefit from nature in an incredible array of ways (and that’s important). So, watch this space for more details in due course.

A Homely ‘Hygge’ Environment

‘Hygge’ is another exciting initiative happening at Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green.‘Hygge’, pronounced ‘Hue-gah’, is another exciting initiative happening at Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green. If you’ve not heard of it, rest assured that it’s something that children will absolutely love and will benefit them in many ways. It’s also something that we’ll be pioneering in the area, so you may not find it in other nurseries and pre-schools around Wigan right now.

Hygge is a little bit like a lifestyle and will make the nursery and pre-school even more like a cosy home-from-home once fully implemented. It has been described as ‘a hug, except without the physical touch’ and involves warmth, cosiness and homeliness through the use of things like soft furnishings, cushions, rugs and music. It can also involve scents and often ‘mood’ lighting along with snug nooks for children to play or study in. There is also a focus on nature, natural materials, calmness and friendliness. Learn more about Hygge and its positive effects here.

A Purpose for Everything at the Nursery

Everything at Little Acorns Nursery is there for a reason and has been carefully pre-planned and implemented with utmost care.Everything at Little Acorns Nursery is there for a reason. It’s all been carefully brainstormed, pre-planned and implemented with utmost care. Whether it’s the introduction of Hygge, the opening of our Forest School, the addition of a new piece of equipment or the purchasing of a specific toy or learning device, everything at Little Acorns has a purpose and is there to benefit the children.

Outstanding Leadership

At Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green we, and the children we look after, are fortunate to have an outstanding management team and nursery owners. They’re perfectly adept at delivering outstanding levels of childcare provision and are professional in every sense. Having already achieved a National award and ‘outstanding’ Ofsted status at our sister nursery in Chorley, we look forward to welcoming Ofsted inspectors when the time comes for them to make their first visit to Little Acorns in Hindley Green.

What Other Parents Say

Parents of children at Little Acorns Nursery give us wonderful feedback about the childcare provision at the setting.Parents of children at Little Acorns Nursery also give us great feedback about the wonderful childcare provision at the setting. Browse the site for full examples of parent feedback received (it’s scattered around the site) but, to give you a taster, comments include, “My girls absolutely adore this nursery but most of all they adore the staff”, “thank-you for the bottom of my heart for what you have done for my girls”, “I couldn’t recommend this nursery enough, they care and love the children like their own and I couldn’t of ever felt more comfortable leaving my children with a nicer set of girls.”, “I would not hesitate to recommend this nursery to anyone!”, “You should all be very proud of the work you do. It really means so much to us every time we see those small steps forward and we appreciate it.”, and “If I ever had any more children, without a doubt they will be coming to this nursery even if I moved 500 miles away!”.

Still Not Sure? Come and Visit!

Little Acorns Nursery & Pre-School in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & ManchesterIf you’re still not convinced, why not come along with your baby or child and see the nursery in action for yourself. You can either book in for a specific date and time, or simply turn up during our working hours (we just ask that you please avoid the busy drop-off and pick-up times). We’ll give you a guided tour and you can see the setting running on a normal nursery day — and see how well your little one fits in. We can also arrange settling-in sessions should you decide you’d like to enrol your child and would like to help them ease in gently. Please arrange a guided visit below, ask any questions or register your child for a place using any of the buttons below. We’ll be happy to help and also offer a variety of childcare funding options for eligible families.

Little Acorns is a high quality nursery & pre-school in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester.

20 Ways to Prepare Under-5s for Nursery or Pre-School

20 Ways to Prepare Under-5s for Nursery or Pre-School

The transition to nursery school will be smoother for children if parents prepare them well.Starting nursery or pre-school is a real milestone for children and parents alike. As well as being exciting, though, transitioning to nursery or pre-school can be daunting for the little ones. The researching of childcare settings, checking Ofsted reports and appraising recommendations from friends is all very well, but that’s only the first step. The transition will be smoother for the children themselves if a few golden rules are followed. That’s precisely where today’s guide comes in, with our 20 Ways to Prepare Under-5s for Nursery. Take a look.

20 Ways to Prepare Under-5s for Nursery or Pre-School.

1. Plan Well Ahead

One of the greatest tips is to plan well ahead. By planning ahead you can iron out many, if not all, of the things that may otherwise cause your child — or yourself — anxiety. Indeed, most of the tips that follow this one involve aspects of this pre-planning approach.

2. Arrange a Visit

Arrange a visit of your chosen nursery with your child.Arrange a visit of your chosen or short-listed nurseries/pre-schools. Good settings (like Little Acorns Nursery) will be happy to give you and your child a guided tour. It’s best to go during an actual session, so that you can both see the setting in action on a standard day. Bear in mind that it can also be a chance for your child to become more familiar with the setting. If they later go on to start at the nursery, they will then already be aware of what the rooms look like, where the toilets are, who their carers are, and so on. Show them the play areas inside and out and let them see the other children having fun.

3. Stay for Lunch

When you visit, find out — and show your child — where they will eat lunch. Some nurseries allow prospective new children to stay over lunchtime and have lunch with their future classmates. It will be a good introduction to other children but also, for the parent, it is handy to know what sort of items other parents include in their children’s packed lunch or snack box. Or, if all meals and snacks are provided by the setting (they are at Little Acorns), ask for the weekly menu so you can explain to your child about the different types of meals they may receive.

4. Preparations Around Food & Eating

There are several things you can do around preparing your child for eating at nursery/pre-school.There are several things you can also do around preparing your child for eating at nursery/pre-school. For starters, get your little one used to eating in a group of other children — perhaps with friends or related children at first. Also practise cutlery skills with your child, so they’re more able to eat independently when they start.

If your child is having a packed lunch, they can give lots of valuable input into this and will then be more ‘at home’ with the foods on the actual day — because they partly chose it.

If the nursery supplies all meals, they may be able to provide you with either the menu plan or typical sample menus. Maybe practise some of the meals at home and then your child will be more familiar with the foods.

Make sure you have told the nursery setting about any food allergies or special dietary requirements that your child may have. That’s incredibly important.

Find out the setting’s policy for refrigerated food should you have to supply an item yourself, that needs refrigeration. That’s particularly important if supplying your own food/snacks/drink for children that require a special diet.

5. Settling In Sessions

Taking all of the above a stage further, some settings allow prospective new children to come for settling-in sessions, perhaps long before they officially start at the setting. They’ll get to know the staff, facilities and other children even better this way. They’ll also become accustomed to daily life at the setting and what to expect once they start.

6. Make Some Early Friends & Encourage Socialisation

Seeing a friend on the first day of nursery will really help children settle in.Pre-joining visits and settling-in sessions are a great way for children to make friends at the setting, but parents can also orchestrate this outside of the nursery or pre-school. For example, by finding out which friends and neighbours send their children to the setting, they can then suggest some play dates with those children. Little ones will then see one or more friendly little faces welcoming them, right from the outset, once they start at the setting. It’s a good opportunity for children to learn the art of socialising. It’s also good for parents to network in this way, so they can compare notes and perhaps pool information they might otherwise have missed.

7. Ask Questions

Whether on visits, on the phone or via enquiry forms on nursery websites, it’s always a good idea for parents to ask staff questions that they may have. At Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green, for example, we’re always happy to answer questions, whether it’s about daily life, the curriculum, childcare funding, special diets or just about anything else. We’re here to help!

8. Talk With Your Child

Talk to your child about nursery, well ahead of them actually starting there. Discuss a visit you’ve made to the setting and ask your child if they have any questions, or concerns, and then address those. As the time to start gets closer, keep talking about nursery in the lead-up to it. This will get the little one used to the idea of being away from Mum or Dad and their home. Perhaps you have some photographs, a prospectus or even the setting’s website, which shows children at the nursery. Show your child these. Talk about what the children in the photos are doing, playing with or learning from. Make it all sound fun and exciting — because it really is!

Oh … and remember to talk with your child once they’ve started at the nursery. Ask them about their day and be sure to address any concerns they may have. Praise all their achievements too, no matter how small.

9. Toilet Training

Being potty trained as soon as possible will stand children in better stead once they start at nursery/pre-school.Whether your child is potty/toilet trained or still in nappies, teach them to help themselves in this type of area. If they are not yet toilet trained and are ready for it, begin to teach them. It’ll stand them in better stead once they start at nursery/pre-school. If they are newly toilet trained, though, reinforce that accidents do happen and that the childcare staff are used to it and will help change them if so.

If they’re not yet ready for potty or toilet training and are still in nappies, get them to practise pulling up underwear garments, clothing etc.

10. Nurture Personal Hygiene

Ensure children know how and when to wash their hands. Explain the importance of handwashing and hygiene to them. This is important both from a social and health standpoint.

11. Nurture Independence

Leaning to be independent will help children thrive more easily.A little independence will go a long way for them once children start at nursery or pre-school. Personal hygiene and toilet training is just one of many things they can help themselves with if they’re shown how.

Get them used to doing the things they can do for themselves, like putting on and taking off coats and jumpers. Can your child take their socks and shoes off and put them back on again? This is handy for soft play or for spillages when socks or shoes are wet.

12. Prepare Clothing

Nearer the start date, plan outfits with your child, particularly for their first day and week. Perhaps your child has a favourite t-shirt or dress and wearing those on their first day may help them to be more confident in themselves. However, it’s important for your child to feel comfortable in their outfit too, so ensure outfits suit whatever is scheduled for the day at the nursery/pre-school — there may well be a variety of different activities lined up. Older children may indeed play outdoors as well as inside, so bear that in mind. They may need coats and even Wellington boots for outdoor play or external visits. They may need aprons for messy play. All such things need to be checked with the early years provider, well ahead. Also find out your childcare provider’s policy in regard to spare clothing should it be needed. Also, don’t forget to label your child’s clothing etc. with their name.

13. Introduce Educational Activities at Home

Introduce educational activities to children at home.Childcare providers are more than just babysitters or a crèche. Settings like Little Acorn Nursery and many others offer a full early years education too. It’s very high quality, covering pretty much every aspect of early years learning and development and the all-important EYFS curriculum. It would be a great idea, then, for parents to get little ones used to some of the many learning, play and discovery activities associated with the EYFS while at home — before they start at their early years setting. Even just an introduction to the many different activities that they’ll encounter will help them once they start. In effect, they’ll have a little head-start and will find tasks easier. So, encourage practising at home. Introduce nursery rhymes, puzzles, building blocks, colouring and painting. Read them stories so they practise listening, concentrating and sitting still. Explain why we use an apron during messy or wet play. Introduce letter and number concepts if they’re advanced enough — and so on.

14. Embed the Routine

An appropriate bedtime routine is important, so your child is energised and not tired once they begin nursery.In the month or weeks leading up to your child’s start date, it’s a great idea to try to mimic the timings at the nursery, so that the routine is pre-embedded. So, try to get them used to getting up and getting dressed etc. at the same time as the nursery and they can even have a restful nap at the same time as nap sessions at the setting. An appropriate bedtime routine is also important, so that your child is energised and not tired once they begin at the nursery.

15. Confirm Any Medical Issues

Have you advised the nursery about any medial issues, food allergies or disabilities that your child has? It’s important that they know.

16. Know Your Nursery Contacts

Have you the correct contact telephone numbers handy for the nursery? You need to know them (and they yours) and it’s best to add them to your mobile contacts list before your child starts. Ensure your mobile has sufficient battery each day in case you are held up or in case the nursery needs to contact you for any reason.

17. Drop-Off & Pick-Up

Ensure that you are familiar with the pick-up and drop-off times.Ensure that you are familiar with the pick-up and drop-off times as well as the nursery’s security arrangements should someone else be picking your child up instead of you.

18. Test the Route

Plan your journey before your child’s start date. It’s best to do this at the same time you’ll eventually be dropping off/picking up so that you know the correct timings. You don’t want to be late, especially on their first day, as that would simply cause stress for both you and your little one. Find out if there is there parking on site too.

19. Get Everything Packed The Night Before

You don’t want the first day to be stressful, so you and your child need to be ready to leave home in good time. Another way to ensure this is to pack their things the night before. As well as any spare clothing, perhaps include their favourite small cuddly toy or comforter in case they need it during their first day.

20. On the First Day, Be Calm

When the first day of nursery arrives, don't let on if you're anxious or sad otherwise your child may pick up on it and become upset.When the big day arrives for your child, don’t let on if you’re anxious or sad otherwise your child may pick up on it and become upset. So, keep it casual and don’t make a fuss when you drop them off for the first time. Staff and any friends they’ve previously made as part of your planning above are sure to welcome them. Chances are, they’ll run off into the nursery with a friend and have great fun right away anyway!

All in all, planning ahead with all these things will help to make this a fun, positive experience for both you and your little one. Chances are, your child will have an amazing first day at nursery!

A Warm Welcome at Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green

Little Acorns Nursery & Pre-School in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & Manchester

If you’re child is joining Little Acorns Nursery, our friendly, caring staff will be on hand to give your child a warm welcome and make them feel at home right away. If you have any doubts or concerns, we’re here at the end of a phone line, so you can always contact us with any queries or to check how they’re getting on. Little Acorns is a wonderful nursery & pre-school in Hindley Green and really will give your little one the very best start.  We’re also located near to Wigan, Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester.

If you’re considering sending your child to Little Acorns Nursery, let us show you and your child around, so that you can see the nursery in action and witness, first hand, how happy and well cared-for children and babies are here. Please arrange a guided tour or register for a place below. We are also happy to answer any questions including those relating to the many childcare funding options that we support at the setting.

A Quick Guide to the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage)

A Quick Guide to the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage)

EYFS stands for the ‘Early Years Foundation Stage’ learning and development framework..Parents* of under-fives may have heard nurseries, pre-schools, childcare professionals and other parents referring to “the EYFS”. However, what is it, and how does it affect your children? Well, the full description of the EYFS is over 50 pages long — but few of us have time for that. So today, we give you our Quick Guide to the EYFS, so you can get a good overview of it and learn how it applies to your child — all in just five minutes or so.

What is the EYFS?

Firstly, EYFS stands for Early Years Foundation Stage. In essence, it’s a carefully-specified ‘framework’ or ‘methodology’ around which the entire approach to early years learning, development and care is built. It covers babies, from birth, and children aged up to 5. We explain what the framework covers in more detail, together with its aims, later in this guide.

Is the EYFS Optional?

The EYFS ensures that high standards of early years education, childcare provision and safeguarding are maintained.For early years practitioners in England, following the EYFS framework is not optional. It is actually enshrined in law in England, via Section 39 of the Childcare Act 2006, so is an important and binding entity. (Other parts of the UK have similar equivalents).

Nurseries, pre-schools, childminders and other early years providers have to abide by the rules and approach outlined, in detail, within the EYFS guidance. This is a way to ensure that high standards of early years education, childcare provision and safeguarding are followed and maintained, for the well-being of the children.

Where Does Ofsted Come Into It?

Adherence of childcare and early years providers to the rules, methodologies, guidance, recommendations and measures specified in the EYFS framework is monitored by Ofsted, the UK Government’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Ofsted monitors all early years providers in England, each of which must be registered with them and follow the EYFS rules. Regular visits and inspections take place and, indeed, this is where ‘Ofsted reports’ for early years settings come from.

What are the Main Aims of the EYFS?

The EYFS framework recognises that every child is unique and aims to maximise their well-being, skills, knowledge and life-long potential. This is done by:

  • The EYFS framework recognises that every child is unique and aims to maximise their well-being, skills, knowledge and life-long potential.Ensuring high levels of safeguarding, welfare and happiness for every child at an early years setting;
  • Ensuring that every child feels valued and experiences equal opportunities;
  • Ensuring that the early years education and care for each child is consistent and of high quality;
  • Helping children achieve personal bests, in a wide variety of skills;
  • Helping them to build their knowledge of a wide range of topics and of the world;
  • Giving them every opportunity to prepare thoroughly for the transition to school once they leave their early years setting;
  • Encouraging a close partnership and common aims between early years practitioners and the parents of the children. Read more about the importance of parental involvement in early years education here.

By close and careful nurturing of every aspect of children’s early learning and development, those children build the foundations for the very best start in life. It is then that they are they likely to reach their fullest potential, in the short, medium and long term.

What Form Does the EYFS Framework Take?

The EYFS framework consists of 4 key components:

  1. A programme governing every aspect of every child’s unique learning and development — effectively being their own bespoke curriculum;
  2. Learning goals, tailored to every child, to bring out their best in every area;
  3. Continuous assessment of every child, to ensure they progress towards their goals, through the learning and development plan that’s tailored to each of them;
  4. A safeguarding and welfare framework i.e. statutory requirements and guidelines designed to ensure the safety and well-being of children at early years settings.

We’ll take each in turn to give a bit more detail …

1. The EYFS Learning & Development Programmes

This element is, in effect, the curriculum and covers 7 areas of their learning and development:

  1. The EYFS curriculum element covers 7 areas of their learning and development.Communication and Language;
  2. Physical Development;
  3. Personal, Social and Emotional Development;
  4. Literacy;
  5. Mathematics;
  6. Understanding the World;
  7. Expressive Arts and Design.

The 7 core areas are designed for each child in a very structured way and approached through play, exploration, active learning, creativity and critical thinking. We’ll go into much more detail about the 7 areas of the EYFS curriculum in a separate, future post in due course.

2. The EYFS Goals

A set of goals, tailored for each child, is generated for each of the 7 areas of their learning and development. Childcare professionals – and ideally parents at home too – will help children work towards those goals.

3. EYFS Child Assessments

Assessments are made for each child, against a set of goals, on a continuous basis.As they work towards their individual goals, assessments will be made, for each child, on a continuous basis. By assessing the children, the learning and development programme and the goals themselves can be tailored and fine-tuned along the way, as required. This will optimise each child’s progress and achievements.

Children also receive a ‘Progress Check at 2’ report as part of this, the age of two being an important developmental milestone when it comes to learning and development. Similarly, each child will have an ‘Early Years Foundation Stage Profile’ (EYFSP) compiled for them as they approach the age of five. This will be useful information ready for when the child leaves the early years setting to begin school.

We’ll perhaps write separate, more detailed posts about some of the above in due course.

4. EYFS Safeguarding & Welfare Specifications

Another key and crucial element of the EYFS relates to the safeguarding and welfare of each child. The EYFS specifies statutory requirements for early years settings in this regard. In essence, early years and childcare providers have to do everything they can to keep children safe, happy and well — of course. For example, specifications within the EYFS framework require settings and providers to:

  • Another key element of the EYFS governs children's safeguarding and welfare.Ensure those who have access to children are suitable, safe, pre-vetted people;
  • Ensure staff are trained and suitably qualified;
  • Appoint a ‘Key Person’ to oversee and monitor the learning and development of each child;
  • Maintain minimum staff-to-child ratios;
  • Promote good health at the setting, including the administration of medicines;
  • Foster a good approach to children’s eating and drinking;
  • Provide adequately in regard to instances of injury, accident or illness;
  • Provide a safe premises with appropriate Health & Safety levels and protocols all in place;
  • Provide sufficient levels of space and activity opportunities both indoors and outside;
  • Ensure only the ‘right’ people can enter the premises and access the children;
  • Provide appropriate levels of support for children with special educational needs or disabilities;
  • and more!

Overall, the EYFS is a framework that is designed to provide a safe, stimulating, and nurturing environment for children to learn and develop in their early years. It recognises that children learn best through play and practical, hands-on experiences. It focuses on the individual needs and interests of each child and provides a complete, holistic approach to their learning and development. Learn more about what to expect for your child from the EYFS here (Acrobat PDF document).

A High Quality Nursery & Pre-School in Hindley Green, near Wigan

Little Acorns Nursery & Pre-School in Hindley Green, near Wigan, Bolton & Manchester

We wholeheartedly support the aims and implementation of the EYFS at Little Acorns Nursery in Hindley Green. If you are considering enrolling your child at our nursery or pre-school, we would be happy to give you and your child a tour and answer any questions you may have. We can also provide information on the various childcare funding options that are available to eligible families. You can register your child, schedule a visit, or contact us using the buttons below.

Little Acorns is a wonderful nursery & pre-school in Hindley Green and may also suit those looking for the best childcare service near Wigan, Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester.

* We use the term ‘parents’ for the sake of brevity. In the context of this article and website, it is also a placeholder for the main carer(s) or guardian(s) of children.

 

A Guide to Childcare Funding Schemes

A Guide to Childcare Funding Schemes

There are lots of free or assisted funding schemes for childcare in England and the UK.There are lots of free or assisted funding schemes for childcare and these are especially useful to parents looking to keep childcare costs down. With increased inflation and the cost of living crisis in Britain, such schemes have probably never been more welcome. Today we’ll take a condensed look at the main childcare funding options available to parents, particularly those of children under five, although many schemes also help children substantially older.

The Key Childcare Funding Schemes Available to Parents

Following are the key schemes that effectively result in free or at least partly-funded childcare for children in England — some also across the entire UK. Let’s take a look …

Childcare Vouchers

Childcare vouchers are still available to those who enrolled into the scheme before 4 October 2018.Although the Childcare Vouchers Scheme closed to new applicants on 4th October 2018, childcare vouchers are still available to those who enrolled before the deadline, so long as they continue to meet eligibility requirements. For those that do, childcare vouchers help to cut the cost of childcare for children aged up to 15, or 16 if they are disabled.

The scheme is also known as ‘Employer-Supported Childcare’ because, as the name suggests, it is supported by a person’s employer. Childcare vouchers are National Insurance and tax efficient to a degree as they can be administered via a flexible salary sacrifice approach. However, if you’re using the scheme, you should use the Government’s calculator to check whether you’d be better off switching to the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, which we cover next. Note that you cannot continue to claim childcare vouchers once you have switched to the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme, so be sure to use that calculator tool before applying.

Learn more about Childcare Vouchers here.

The Tax-free Childcare Scheme

Tax-Free Childcare is a UK-wide childcare funding scheme that many working families are eligible for.Tax-Free Childcare is a great, UK-wide, scheme that many working families will be eligible for, even including relatively high earners. What’s more, it could save them as much as £2,000 in childcare fees each year, per child, rising to £4,000 if their child has a disability.

Roughly speaking, how it works is that, for those that are eligible, the family pays 80% of the childcare fees into a special Childcare Account and the Government chips in the remaining 20%. The registered childcare provider simply draws down the requisite funding from the Childcare Account as and when appropriate. The scheme is rather like a tax rebate but one that’s earmarked specifically for childcare. The resulting saving for UK families could equate to as much as £500 per child every 3 months, or up to twice that every quarter if the child is disabled.

Various rules around eligibility apply, of course. In essence, though, Tax-Free Childcare Funding is available for children up to the age of 11, or 16 if they’re disabled. The child’s parent and their partner, if they have one, can even be earning up to £100k each per annum and still be eligible. Even grandparents or other family members can chip into the Childcare Accounts in order to reduce the burden on parents. So, don’t be one of the million or more families who have not claimed, despite being eligible.

Learn more about the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme here.

15 Hours of Free Childcare for 2-Year-Olds

15 hours of free childcare are available each week for eligible 2-year-olds.Certain children aged 2 in England* are eligible for 570 hours of totally free childcare per year. This is a great opportunity for them to begin their early years education relatively young and indeed the age of 2 is a crucial age to do so, according to studies. The substantial free funding is usually taken as 15 hours of free childcare over 38 weeks of the year, although some childcare settings allow it to be spread out in a different way. Not all 2-year-olds are eligible, however, and basically it comes down to the fact that the parent(s) must be in receipt of Government benefits of some kind. Other 2-year-olds are eligible for additional reasons, for example because they are looked after by the local authority or are subject to an Education, Health and Care (ECH) Plan. Even some non-UK citizens who do not claim benefits have eligible 2-year-olds although, as with all these scenarios, various rules around eligibility apply.

Learn more about 15 hours of free childcare for 2-tear-olds here.

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

15 hours of free childcare are available each week to virtually all 3 & 4-year-olds living in England.In contrast to the above, 15 hours of free funding is available for all families in England* with a child aged 3 to 4 requiring childcare. As with the above, the children can get 570 hours of free childcare per year except this time only while they’re 3 or 4. This is again usually spread out as 15 hours per week over the course of 38 weeks, however some childcare providers will allow a different pattern. It really is a no-brainer and is a great way to get children into early years education and perhaps parents back into the workplace. Children are eligible to start from the term following their 3rd birthday until they start in Reception Year at school, or reach ‘compulsory school age’ if that’s later.

Learn more about 15 hours of free childcare for 3 to 4-year-olds here.

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

30 hours of free childcare are available to some 3 & 4-year-olds each week.The “30 Hours” childcare scheme for 3 and 4-year-olds is a little harder to obtain because families are not eligible where one partner earns £100k or more. Additionally, the parent and their partner, if they have one, must usually expect to earn at least £152 per week, on average, in order to qualify, although the figures are lower for parents younger than 23. You may still qualify for the free childcare funding if you are on maternity leave, paternity leave, shared leave, adoption leave, or are a carer. Rules apply. As with the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, you have to ensure your details are kept up-to-date every quarter in order to check that you’re still eligible. Your child must usually live with you too, in order to qualify. However, as with all these things, there are some exceptions to the core rules.

For those that are eligible, you can claim 30 hours per week of free childcare for your 3/4-year-old for as many as 38 weeks of the year. Some providers, however, allow you to spread out the free hours in a different way, for example less than 30 hours per week spread over more weeks of the year, so long as it doesn’t total more than 1140 hours for the year.

As with the “15 Hours” scheme, this scheme is only for families living in England, although a similar scheme is available in Wales and different schemes are in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Interestingly, if you qualify for the “30 Hours” funding scheme, you can usually claim it at the same time as claiming Tax-Free Childcare (or childcare vouchers) or Universal Credit — if eligible. It really is a great childcare funding scheme for those who fit the required criteria.

Learn more about 30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds here.

Childcare Support for Students

Student parents may be eligible for some childcare support through a variety of funding schemes.If you are a student as well as being a parent, you may be eligible for some childcare support through a variety of funding schemes.

  • If you are a student studying full-time in higher education, you may be eligible for a Student Childcare Grant if your child is under 15 (under 17 if they have special needs). The grant does not need to be repaid and is in addition to standard student finance. At time of writing for the academic year 2022-23, you can get up to 85% of your childcare costs covered by the grant, up to a maximum of £183.75 per week for one child or £315.03 for two or more. Learn more about Childcare Grants for students here.
  • Over-20s who are parents, studying on a further education course (Level 3 or below) and facing financial hardship may be eligible for funding called ‘Learner Support’. Whilst this support is not specifically aimed at those with children, it can be used to fund childcare provision. How much you get and how it’s paid very much depend upon your circumstances, but it’s worth checking to see if you are eligible. Learn more about Learner Support for students here.
  • Although students under 20 do not qualify for Learner Support funding, they may qualify for the ‘Care to Learn’ scheme. This can cover childcare costs while they study, although they must be under 20 when they first start the course. They should be the main carer for the child and live in England. For those who qualify, the childcare funding could be worth as much as £160 per child per week for those living outside London, or £175 per child per week for those living in London. Eligibility relies on strict attendance of both the course by the parent and the childcare setting by the child. The course must also be a publicly-funded one at set types of education establishment like schools, sixth forms and various types of college, but not a higher education course at a university. Learn more about the Care to Learn scheme here.

Childcare Funding via Universal Credit

If you claim Universal Credit, are working and have a child under 17, you may be able to claim back 85% of your childcare costs.If you and your partner, if you have one, claim Universal Credit, are working and have a child under the age of 17, you may be able to claim back as much as 85% of your childcare costs if eligible. In order to claim, various rules apply and there are even some exceptions to the above. For example, those not working through ill health or disability may still be eligible in some circumstances. You must not, however, be claiming Tax-Free Childcare nor Tax Credits in order to receive childcare funding through Universal Credit.

The good news is that you can claim back as much as £646.35 per month in childcare costs for one child, or £1108.04 if it’s for more than one (correct at time of writing, October 2022). Exactly how much you get can be affected by how much you earn and how much savings/investments you have, however. Either way, it is a case of claiming it back, though; first you pay for the childcare fees, then apply to have them reimbursed by the Government scheme. It’s important to keep on top of your claims, however, because they can only go back 3 months in time.

Learn more about claiming childcare costs through Universal Credit here.

Tax Credits for Childcare

Childcare funding through Universal Credit replaced Tax Credits, which closed to new applicants in 2019.Childcare funding through Universal Credit has replaced the Tax Credits system, which closed to new applicants in February 2019. If you are not an existing Tax Credits customer, you will therefore need to claim under the Universal Credit scheme instead. However, for existing families who can still claim Tax Credits, they are able to claim as much as 70% of eligible childcare costs for a child under 16 (17 if disabled) up to a maximum of £122.50 per week for one child or £210 per week for more than one.

Little Acorns Nursery & Pre-School: an Outstanding Childcare Service in Hindley Green

Little Acorns Nursery, Hindley Green, WiganLittle Acorns nursery & pre-school is in Hindley Green and offers babies and children under five a wonderful start in life as well as a great early years education. This includes funded places using the schemes above, subject to eligibility, of course. Our childcare setting is also very near Wigan, Bickershaw, Leigh, Atherton, Westhoughton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Platt Bridge, Tyldesley, Bolton and Greater Manchester, so may be convenient if you live or work in any of those nearby locations. Come for a guided tour with your little one, take a good look at our outstanding facilities and ask any questions that you may have. We’re here to help and would also be more than happy to talk you through the many childcare funding schemes that the nursery/pre-school supports.

* Similar schemes are available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.