Entries by Mark

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Top Marks for Treetops

Top Marks for Treetops Nursery, Willesden

Treetops Nursery - ChecklistBack in December, we published what turned out to be a very popular checklist for choosing a nursery. Our interactive file was a downloaded multiple times and continues to be shared amongst those looking for a good nursery for their children, right across the UK.

How Does Treetops Nursery Measure Up?

Here we’ll explore how Treetops Nursery measures up when using the Nursery Checklist. As you’ll see, Treetops performs extremely well. Take a look …

Convenient

Convenient location in Willesden near Willesden Green, Harlesden & Kensal GreenThe nursery would be extremely hard to beat if you’re looking for high quality childcare from a nursery or pre-school in the Willesden, Willesden Green, Harlesden or Kensal Green areas in north west London and the NW10 postal zone.

The setting is open 51 weeks of the year from Monday to Friday, only closing for a week over Christmas/New Year and during public or bank holidays. It’s open early from 8am right through to 6pm.

The nursery caters for babies from 6 months of age to children up to five years old, so is a perfect setting where children can prepare for the move to school at age five, while allowing parents and carers to …

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A Good Ofsted Report for Treetops Nursery

A Good Ofsted Report for Treetops Nursery

One of the first things people should look at before settling on a nursery for their children is the latest Ofsted Report for the setting. After all, it’s wise to check the professional and independent feedback that such reports contain. On this note, parents and carers considering Treetops Nursery for their baby or child will be pleased to know that we passed with flying colours in its most recent Ofsted Report. Although it’s been a while since that report, we thought we’d share the outcome so that parents can see for themselves just how good a nursery Treetops is. In fact, we were rated as a good nursery in every single category and we’ll cover that in more detail below.

Treetops Nursery passed with flying colours

First, though, we’ll explain a little about Ofsted and what they checked for during the most recent inspection.

Ofsted

Ofsted is the UK’s official “Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills”. As such, they inspect services providing education and skills and regulate services that care for children and young people. This includes childcare settings, nurseries and pre-schools throughout the UK. Ofsted inspections and the resulting reports are part of this governance.

Ofsted Report for Treetops Nursery, WillesdenWhat they checked

  • The Ofsted Inspector observed the quality of the teaching during various activities, both inside and outdoors. They then appraised the impact of this on the children’s learning.
  • During the inspection, the Inspector talked with both staff and children, at appropriate moments throughout her visit, to further her insight.
  • Joint observations were also undertaken by the Ofsted Inspector, in tandem with the nursery manager and room leaders.
  • Meetings were also held with the nursery manager and area manager.
  • Documentation was checked by the Inspector. This included ensuring that nursery staff were checked in terms of suitability, training and qualifications for the jobs they were undertaking. These checks would also, of course, ensure that all staff had been checked and deemed suitable for working with children.
  • The Inspector also spoke with parents during her visit as well as reading through written feedback supplied by them. All such comments and feedback were taken into consideration when putting together the final Ofsted Report.

The Ofsted Inspector’s Conclusion

In her final Ofsted Report, the Inspector said …

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A Guide to Healthy Eating for Preschoolers

A Guide to Healthy Eating for Preschoolers

In today’s busy world, fast food and ready meals are a quick, easy and convenient choice. It’s common knowledge, however, that home-cooked food using fresh, high quality ingredients is always a better choice for adults and children alike. Freshly prepared food avoids many of the nastier things like additives, colourings, too much sugar, salt and processed ingredients. However it’s tricky, as we don’t always have time to start meals from scratch when we’re juggling the many demands of today’s frenetic world. Eating healthily is important, though, and even more so for very young children. We’ll explore this in today’s article …

Fresh vegetables & herbsHealthy, Balanced Meals for Children

Eating more healthily requires a balance of factors. These include:

  • ideally using fresh, healthy, quality ingredients whenever possible;
  • meals that, over the course of each day, represent a balanced diet for children;
  • care to ensure children are eating the right portion sizes.

Getting the balance of these right benefits growing children enormously. These include obvious benefits, like maintaining a healthy weight, along with some surprising benefits like the avoidance of certain diseases later in life. We’ll take a closer look …

Healthy eating has many benefits for toddlers and preschoolersThe Benefits of Healthy Eating for Children

Eating a healthy, balanced diet from an early age:

  • helps children to get into the habit of healthy eating as they grow older;
  • gives children the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that, critically, their growing bodies need for full and optimum development;
  • helps children maintain energy levels needed for their activities each day;
  • helps to maintain cognitive function, mood and good mental health;
  • helps children avoid obesity and the health risks associated with it;
  • helps children to have a better self-image and thereby to be more confident with better self-esteem and mental wellbeing;
  • means that children are less likely to be bullied for being overweight;
  • helps children to avoid diseases later on including heart and blood pressure issues, diabetes and even …
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Choosing a Nursery? Download our Handy Checklist!

Choosing a Nursery? Download our Handy Checklist!

Nursery Chooser - checklistIf you’re choosing a nursery and haven’t yet made up your mind, our handy Nursery Checklist will really help. It’s designed to help you come to the best possible decision, in a really simple way.

  • Step 1: Download our Nursery Checklist here (Excel format, or PDF also available*).
  • Step 2: Fill in the answers to the questions.
  • Step 3: Then use the completed checklist to compare the nurseries in an easy, at-a-glance format.

The nursery checklist is a 1-page, A4 document. It prompts you to find the answers to all the right questions. You fill in the relevant section for each nursery that you’re comparing and, optionally, you can score each answer for its quality. At the bottom of the checklist, the total will be automatically computed assuming you are using the Excel version*. The overall winner should be pretty clear to see, top/right of any of the ‘sheets’ (switch using the tabs at the bottom). There you’ll see all the totals compared, one directly above the other. Simple!

Most, if not all, of the information should be readily available from the nursery websites. Failing that, call the nurseries to find answers you don’t know. We’ve included Treetops Nursery as an example, using real information, so you can easily

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Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

A good night’s sleep is essential for all of us. Without it, we struggle in the following days and are sure to perform less than optimally.

There are many adverse effects of too little sleepThe Adverse Effects of Too Little Sleep

The adverse effects of a poor night’s sleep are even more pronounced for under-fives and babies. As well as simply being tired, they can become emotional, grumpy, uncooperative and stressed. They might even be inclined to throw tantrums and to become a real danger to themselves. The distress they are feeling through lack of sleep is clear to see, even if they themselves don’t understand why they are feeling the way they do.

What’s also obvious is that they won’t be able to learn as effectively as they might otherwise have done. Attention spans, cognitive function, memory skills and levels of alertness are all known to suffer after a poor night’s sleep.

If poor sleep becomes a regular occurrence, there are also longer-term health risks that could become real concerns. Blood pressure, diabetes, weight, mental health and the release of natural growth and repair hormones can all suffer if children have regular sleep deficiency. So, sleep is incredibly important.

How Much Sleep do Children Need?

Babies and young children need far more sleep than adults. According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, they require the following:

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Treetops Nursery’s Wonderful Outside Spaces & Play Areas

Treetops Nursery's Wonderful Outside Spaces & Play Areas

In recent years, Treetops Nursery in Willesden has had literally hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on it to vastly improve both the setting and its facilities. Starting as far back as 2007-2008, architects were commissioned to design, build and improve upon the existing childcare facilities that existed prior to that date. The work then included internal remodelling, the addition of extra spaOur sandpit is always very popular with the childrence for babies and young children and generally an improvement all around. A new block was added to house a community area and crèche together with several break-out spaces. An enormous canopy, that has been of huge benefit to the nursery, was also added. With that addition, children can now play outside and keep dry even when it’s raining. Similarly, the bicycle and buggy area and the route from the adjacent King Edward’s Park to the nursery were also each given coverings, so that children and staff could be given some shelter in all weather conditions outside. At the same time, the front entrance was totally redesigned and the reception area enhanced and remodelled. This now represents a wonderful checkpoint where staff can monitor and manage the comings and goings of everyone entering or exiting the building, to keep children safe.

Some of the activities, facilities, toys & equipment

Even in recent months, significant investment has been made to outdoor areas including equipment, toys, finishes, boundaries, resources for the children and lots of interactive activities. Some of the outdoor equipment includes

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Microgreens: Fun, Nutritious, Food Growing for Little Ones

Microgreens: fun, nutritious, food growing for little ones

There are now microgreen farmsThere is one class of edible plant that can be grown all year round and is perfect for kids to grow indoors, for example on a windowsill. Some types of this food will sprout in as little as a week. What’s more, it’s tasty and highly nutritious. Growing it is super-easy and a perfect way to keep kids entertained, educated about nature and eating healthily. It’ll also be a welcome addition to mealtimes for the whole household.

Growing Microgreens

We’re talking about Microgreens (also referred to as micro leaves). These are the early, edible, sprouting leaves of very young herbs, leafy greens and some root vegetables that might usually be thought of in a larger, more mature form. The tender new leaves are cut just days after they first sprout and can be made into wonderful salads, garnishes or meal accompaniments. They also bring some very tasty flavours to mealtimes. The young micro leaves are full of vitamins and minerals, look fantastic on the plate and will grow back time and time again after snipping. The secret is simply to harvest the immature micro leaves and to stop them from growing to full size. Just harvest … re-harvest … and re-harvest.

“Micro leaves are usually eaten fresh and raw, and the fresher the leaves are, the more vitamins and minerals they contain. Each little leaf is a gold mine of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals such as iron, folic acid and potassium.” (Gardeners World)

Various microgreen leaves sproutingHere are just a few examples of plants that make suitable microgreens and can easily be grown by children indoors:

  • Basil — their tasty baby leaves are full of flavour and can be harvested just ten days after seed planting. They’re wonderful on salads, pizzas and can even be made into pesto sauce.
  • Coriander — their tiny, delicate leaves pack a unique and punchy flavour that’s perfect with salads, stir-fries, chopped onions and curries. They can be harvested a couple of weeks after sowing the seeds.
  • Rocket — ready to harvest just a week after first sowing, rocket microgreens are another flavoursome and slightly peppery leaf to add to salads and put onto pizzas. Very tasty!
  • Mustard leaves — these may not be to every child’s taste, but many adults will enjoy the slight heat they’ll bring to salads, stir fries and Eastern dishes. Ready to first harvest in 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Salad with microgreensFennel — just 10 days after first sprouting, leaves from young fennel seedlings will give a pleasant aniseed tang to dishes like pasta salads, risottos, soups and even stuffing.
  • Beetroot leaves — the sprouting microgreen leaves from the beetroot take just ten days to appear after sowing. With their rich green leaves and red stems, they look wonderful in salads and lend their mild, earthy flavour to garnishes for some fish dishes.
  • Radish leaves — in just a week, the young, fiery leaves from the radish seedlings will be ready to snip and add to salads, stir fries and sandwiches. For some, their microgreen leaves are even tastier than the traditional root.
  • Spinach — tender leaves from young spinach plants can be harvested in ten days or so. They’re really good for you too. With their mild flavour, they’re a perfect addition to leafy salads, risottos, pastas and noodles.
  • Broccoli leaves — these will be ready to first harvest in just a week and have quite a different flavour than their fully-grown counterpart. With their slightly spicy taste, they’re also great in salads, risottos and omelettes.
  • Red cabbage microgreens are packed with nutrientsRed Cabbage micro leaves have one of the highest Vitamin C concentrations of any microgreen. They also contain Vitamin K, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants. As with many of the microgreens, many top chefs use them as an attractive and tasty garnish. They can be sprinkled over soups, salads, grilled vegetables, stews and cooked meats. After sowing, they take only days to appear.

How children can grow microgreens at home

Your children will need very little to get started. You’ll need …

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FREE Childcare for 3 & 4-Year-Olds – A Complete Guide

FREE childcare funding for 3 & 4-year-olds: A complete guide

In our last post, we published a complete guide to free childcare for 2-year-olds in England. Now it’s time to look at the free childcare funding available for 3 and 4-year-old children. With up to 30 hours of free childcare available in this age group, this represents a great opportunity for parents or guardians to continue with their careers and boost household income, particularly following maternity or paternity leave. It’s also wonderful for the children, who will naturally benefit from early years education and be better prepared for school when the time comes at age 5.

So, how does the 30 hours of free childcare funding work, and who is eligible?

How 15-30 hours of free childcare funding works

Guide to how the free funding available for three and four year olds works

This is funding that comes from the Government, via local councils, to pay for childcare at nurseries, pre-schools and similar approved childcare providers. The funding goes direct to the childcare settings or providers, not to the parents or guardians of the children. There are two possible halves — 15 hours of free childcare and an additional 15 hours on top of that, potentially taking the total available up to 30 hours of free childcare for each child.

The first 15 hours of free childcare

The first 15 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds in England is very straight forward. In essence, all 3- and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to the 15 hours of funding for childcare each week. Well, to be more precise, the scheme allows for 15 hours per week spread out over 38 weeks in any one year. That’s a total maximum of 570 hours a year. However, so long as the total hours in any given year does not exceed 570, some childcare settings will allow parents or carers to spread the free childcare out over a different number of weeks, simply by adjusting the number of hours used during each of those weeks appropriately.

Eligibility for 15 hours of childcare funding:

  • All 3- and 4-year-olds living in England are eligible (and there are also similar schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
  • The free childcare funding can only be used in conjunction with approved childcare settings and providers. Treetops Nursery in Willesden is one such approved nursery.
  • The children are eligible from the term* following their 3rd birthday, until they reach compulsory school age or start Reception Year at school.
    * (Terms usually start in early January, April or September).
  • The 15 hours of funding is not means-tested, nor is it related to whether or not the parent or guardian is working or unemployed etc.
  • The Government funding does not include food and consumables (nappies, sun cream etc.), so you will need to check this with your individual childcare provider.

30 hours of free childcare

Up to 1140 hours of free childcare per year are potentially available

30 hours of free childcare funding is also available for eligible families. However, it includes the first 15 hours explained above, plus a possible additional 15 hours per week, when eligible. This takes the total amount of free childcare available to a possible maximum of 1140 hours per year, or 30 hours per week spread out over 38 weeks. As with the first ‘15 hours’ scenario, some childcare providers allow it to be spread out over more of the year, so long as the number of hours per week is reduced accordingly. And, as before, the free childcare funding can only be used with approved childcare providers like Treetops Nursery, Willesden.

Eligibility for 30 hours of childcare funding:

You and your partner, if you have one …

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FREE Childcare for 2-Year-Olds – A Complete Guide

FREE Childcare for 2-Year-Olds – A Complete Guide

2 year old playing with bubblesHave you heard about the free childcare funding that’s available for eligible 2-year-olds? Do you want to learn more? If you are a parent who is looking to work, or perhaps to get back into work after starting a family, then this could be a perfect solution for you and your toddler. Under a Government scheme, approved nurseries, pre-schools and childcare providers in England can supply up to 15 hours per week of childcare for eligible 2-year-olds. It’s an absolute no-brainer, so we thought we’d put together this comprehensive guide to tell you everything you need to know.

The benefits of free childcare for 2-year-olds

Free childcare hours will be a great help to families:

  • It will help those on maternity or paternity leave to re-enter the workplace more easily, knowing that their young child is being cared for in a safe and secure environment.
  • For up to 15 hours a week, the childcare will be funded by the Government, free of charge, enabling families to boost household income and quality of life.
  • The 2-year-olds benefit greatly as it allows them to make an early start on their education and development. They can prepare for school for around three years and hit the ground running there when they reach the age of five.

A Department of Education study showed that children who start early education no later than the age of two will have long-term benefits including enhanced abilities, better confidence and improved social skills, to name just a few. Studies also show that even their lifetime outcomes and future employment potential are improved if they started early years education and care by the age of 2. The greatest benefits were seen by those children receiving at least 10 hours per week. So, with 15 free hours a week on offer for free, it’s something that every parent in England should at least consider.

How it works

2 year old girl at nursery

It’s quite straight forward. First, it’s wise to do a rough check to see whether you/your child is likely to be eligible (see the next section below for that). If it looks like you are eligible, you can apply for the funding via a Government website – more about that later. If you are approved, your child can begin free childcare from an approved childcare provider (… such as Treetops Nursery in Willesden). The Government will pay the cost of the childcare, up to 15 hours per week for 2-year-olds, direct to the childcare provider. Your child can begin receiving the childcare in the year in which they reach the age of 2. Which term they start in depends upon the month of their birthday so, in real terms, they usually begin on, or soon after, the 1st of January, 1st of April or 1st of September.

Eligible 2-year-olds can receive up to 570 hours of free childcare over the course of a year. Usually that is taken as 15 hours per week over 38 weeks. However, some childcare providers allow it to be a little more flexible with, perhaps, less hours per week but over more weeks of the year, so long as the total is no more than 570 hours overall.

Eligibility requirements for free childcare funding for 2-year-olds

In order to be eligible for the free childcare funding, either

  1. the parent(s) need to be receiving one or more of the requisite ‘qualifying benefits’ or
  2. the 2-year-old must fall into a qualifying ‘additional needs’ category.

We’ll explain more about each one …

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Boost Your Child’s Language Skills by 20% Through Reading

Boost Your Child's Language Skills by 20% Through Reading

Parent reading with toddlerBack in July, we wrote a detailed article about the importance of parental involvement in the education of children. One critically important element of that is parents or carers actively reading with their children. Indeed, parent-child reading has been proposed as a possible solution to the performance deficit often experienced by children from lower socio-economic backgrounds (through no fault of their own). That makes parent-child reading incredibly important as a way of evening up the playing field and ensuring that pre-school children are completely prepared when the time comes to move to school and beyond. If not, research shows that they are likely to do worse at school and go on to have poorer life outcomes generally.

The research is compelling

A study funded by the Nuffield Foundation, whose mission is to advance educational opportunity and social wellbeing, looked at the impact of adult-child reading from data gathered over 40 years. The results are frankly astounding.

“Reading with pre-school children boosts language skills by eight months.”

TFamily reading a book togetherhat’s incredible when you bear in mind that the children studied were, on average, just 3¼ years old. An 8 month skills boost is therefore equivalent to an extra fifth of their entire lives! Such an impact, at a time when they’re right in the middle of their pre-school years, is incredibly important for them. After all, this is a critical time in their learning and development — and one that will have a profound impact on the rest of their lives.

Reading with children is the key

You may have noticed that we said reading with children, rather than to them. It makes sense to involve the children in the reading process, so they learn from parents/carers and pick up little nuggets of information and know-how as they progress, together, through each book. For example, parents can