Screen Time for Kids – The Benefits & Potential Pitfalls

Every parent knows that children love playing on handheld devices like mobile phones and tablets, as well as using computers and watching TV. To the very young, all these screens open up a magical world connecting them directly to colourful images, videos, music, sound and games. These can be almost addictive in their entertainment value for young children. However, is that a good thing?

When children are very young, they are at the pinnacle of their ability to be able to hoover up and absorb information and knowledge about the world. This makes them even more susceptible to being stimulated by the almost limitless array of entertaining content that electronic screens offer. So, surely giving them access to such screens is a good thing? Well … in moderation and with access to the right content it’s potentially hugely beneficial. However, there are compelling reasons why little ones’ access to electronic screens should be strictly managed. With that in mind, we’ll take a closer look at the topic to help parents make more informed decisions about how much time they allow their children to spend using mobile phones, tablets and computers, and watching TV.

Electronic Screens Teach Kids Stuff, Don’t They?

Toddlers and young children can have fun with handheld tablets & phones, while learning at the same timeOf course, that can be the case. What’s more, such handheld screens are a great way for parents to keep children entertained when perhaps they need to get on with other things. Electronic handheld devices also teach children about technology and introduce them to IT; essential skills for them to master in this day and age. Even games can be educational, with some designed to improve children’s numeracy etc. while at the same time being enormous fun. The key, though, is for parents to ensure that children are looking at the right content and not for extended periods of time. Ideally, it should be content that’s informative — i.e. content that will teach them something new, introduce them to new topics and allow them to make discoveries that will educate them. So, the content needs to be chosen and curated by parents — not the child.

Parents will need to bear in mind, though, that the content also needs to be fun and entertaining. Children will not watch for long, nor learn anything, if the viewing material chosen by parents is stuffy and boring, so a fine balance needs to be struck so that the child gets the most benefit, particularly from an educational perspective.

Dangerous Content, Screen Hours & Parental Control

At the same time, though, bad content must be out of children’s reach at all times. There are many dangerous and disturbing things on the Internet at all times of the day. There are even some on TV that are totally unsuited to young children, particularly after the 9pm watershed. So, parents must stringently vet what their children are watching and hearing on the Internet (especially), as well as on TV. As we said before …

Parents need to be in control of content choices, not the child.

Parents need to control what children view and listen to on handheld screens and on TV - not the children.There are some tools available to help parents accomplish this. While we don’t endorse any particular online safety application over any other, applications like Norton Family is a good example of one application that offers tools to help parents teach “safe, smart, and healthy online habits” to their children. And it certainly seemed to tick all the right boxes in a limited test that we undertook. Their ‘Parental Controls’ allow parents to be informed about sites their children are visiting and to block unsuitable ones completely. Android apps can also be controlled or blocked — useful if children attempt to use inappropriate apps or begin to get hooked on mindless games — or worse. The parental controls even allow parents to lock devices remotely, so children can’t use them should the parent feel their children have already had too much screen time.

Parents can also pre-set screen time limits and schedules for each day for each device their child is likely to use. This combination will help children to focus on what they should be focusing on, for example homework and useful learning materials, whilst keeping them from straying into dangerous online territory. The scheduling feature is also very useful to ensure children don’t spend too long staring at an electronic screen on any given day, perhaps at the expense of physical exercise or active play.

Of course, parents should also directly involve themselves in what their children are watching or interacting with on handhelds and TVs. After all, even the most clever app is unlikely to ever fully match the control possible through accompanied viewing from an adult.

Inactivity vs. Exercise

It goes almost without saying that regular extended periods of inactivity are not good for health and fitness. In our previous article Early Years Exercise & Why it’s Essential, we went into great detail about how exercise and active play is critically important to all humans, but especially in the early years. At that age group, it has been proven to not only help in the avoidance of some serious health issues like strokes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, but also to help children achieve better grades, improve cognitive performance and experience a whole raft of additional benefits. Those are incredibly important reasons why screen time should be limited and not allowed to replace active play and exercise. Click the bold green link above for full details.

Additional Health Concerns for Handheld Devices

There are real medical and scientific concerns over exposure to RF wireless radiationHundreds of scientist and medical professionals around the world are convinced that handheld devices like mobile phones and tablets are potentially harmful to humans, especially unborn children, when connected to Wi-Fi. They say that this is due to the ‘RF wireless radiation’ that the devices emit when connected to the web (etc.). What’s more, they appear to have some compelling science and research to back up their claims.

Some of the professionals concerned are involved in The Baby Safe Project, which aims to warn pregnant women and parents about the potential risks to health associated with wireless radiation used in handheld devices like mobile phones and tablets. As these risks may extend to harming unborn children, it’s a serious concern for pregnant women and parents to consider. Learn more about the possible risks of RF wireless radiation and ways to mitigate them here.

Technology for Little Ones at Treetops Nursery, Willesden

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenAt Treetops Nursery in Willesden we understand both the value and potential pitfalls of technology when used by little ones, so ensure we get the balance just right. Technology is great for education when used correctly and indeed is included as an area of early years education within the ‘Understanding the World’ element of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum at the nursery. However, staff at the setting fully understand that any screen time needs to be limited and, of course, the type of material being viewed is stringently controlled.

Please do get in touch if you are interested in a potential nursery place for your child at Treetops Nursery in Willesden. The childcare setting is also near to Harlesden, Willesden Green and Kensal Green in the London NW10 area, so may also suit parents who live or work in those locations. Please select a contact method from the buttons below to get started.

 

Duckling Hatching Experience at Treetops Nursery
Duckling hatching guidelinesYou know both Spring and Easter have arrived when eggs and fluffy, new-born ducklings can be seen at Treetops Nursery. To explain, the nursery took delivery of a duckling ‘hatching kit’ in late March and children at this Willesden nursery have had an absolutely magical time ever since. Over the course of ten days, the children and staff watched as the little duck eggs were incubated, using specialist equipment, right in the heart of the nursery. After just a few hours, fluffy yellow ducklings had hatched, much to the delight of everyone who saw them. More details follow below …

Background — Incredible Eggs

Let’s start at the beginning. A group of 7 small, family-run farms runs a programme called Incredible Eggs. It provides education in the form of chick-hatching experiences for settings like childcare nurseries, schools and care homes across the UK. As part of this, it helps with wildlife conservation too, breeding several rare and pure poultry breeds to safeguard biodiversity and avoid losing some of the breeds forever.A duckling being cared for by a child at Treetops Nursery This also includes breeding and releasing the endangered ‘Grey Partridge’ back into the wild as part of the overall programme. Incredible Eggs also supports several charities and social enterprises. Animal welfare is a top priority and the programme aims to give every bird “a good life, and a life worth living.

The Hatching Experience at Treetops Nursery

The team from Incredible Eggs arrived at the nursery, bringing with them all the equipment we would need, along with the precious duck eggs, of course. They professionally set up the equipment for us and explained to nursery staff everything we needed to know for the days ahead. Printed hatching guides, information sheets, posters and instructions were all supplied, so staff were fully briefed as to what to expect and what they would need to do to ensure the welfare, safety and health of the new arrivals once they came.

One of the delightful ducklingsThe Little Miracles Arrived

The eggs had already been partly incubated while at the farm, so in no time at all, tiny ‘cheeping’ noises could be heard from the eggs as they began pecking away at the egg shells, from the inside. It was absolutely magical for the nursery children and staff to witness the little ducklings gradually break free and enter the world for the first time.

A Magical Experience for Children & Staff

Children enjoying the magical experience with the ducklings

Once hatched, the ducklings were gently moved into a ‘brooding’ unit, a lovely warm area where they could dry out, gather their strength and rest for a couple of days. They settled in comfortably and were cared for, fed and watered by knowledgeable staff — all under the watchful eye of the delighted children. Once they were strong enough and adorning their beautifully soft, fluffy yellow plumage, the nursery children were allowed to gently handle the ducklings under close, adult supervision, of course. The children were told to stay calm and quiet and to avoid sudden movements, so as not to scare the ducklings. It was a dream come true for many children and their delight was clear to see. They loved seeing the ducklings learning to eat and drink in their lovely warm brooding unit. It was also fun to see them get excited when staff or children gently scratched around at their food, making them run over to peck it.

Ducklings can swim just a couple of days after hatchingOne of the joys of having ducklings this time (the nursery had hen chicks a couple of years ago) was that ducklings absolutely love swimming! Containers of water or a paddling pool can be set up and ducklings are able to take to the water within just a couple of days of hatching. It’s great fun to watch them learn to dive and to dart around — and it’s super cute!

An Educational Experience

As well as getting to know the beautiful little creatures, the hatching experience was an educational one, touching on several areas of the EYFS curriculum. This includes, primarily, the key area of Understanding the World including learning about nature, living creatures, life and the world around the children. Learning about how animals come into the world and about how they all have their own individual needs and feelings is incredibly important.The ducklings are as cute as can be! So the hatching experience also teaches children respect for nature and may even grow a long-term love of nature and the natural world within them.

“If children grow up not knowing about nature and appreciating it, they will not understand it, and if they don’t understand it, they won’t protect it, and if they don’t protect it, who will?” (Sir David Attenborough)

Returning Ducklings to the Farm

It will be sad to say goodbye to the adorable ducklingsOn April 1st, the ducklings will leave Treetops Nursery and go to live back at the farm. It will be very sad to see them go, but it was always a part of the plan and, in any case, the farm is set up to care for them very well as they grow into adulthood. Looking after any creature is a huge responsibility, so it’s good to know that the ducklings will be in just the right environment and will be cared for by professionals. The nursery looks forward, however, to next year, when we hope to do it all over again and watch with the children as more magical lives begin.

A Place for your Baby or Child at our Nursery in Willesden

Are you interested in nursery places for babies and children in Willesden, or near Willesden Green, Kensal Green or Harlesden? If so, Treetops Nursery may be able to help. We’re a high quality childcare setting in Willesden, London NW10 and would be happy to discuss a possible place for your child here, while a few spaces remain available. If this is of potential interest, please contact us using one of the buttons below:

Early Years Exercise – & Why it's Essential

The Benefits of Exercise

The benefits of regular exercise to children and why it's so essential, particularly for children under five

In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of regular exercise to children and why it’s so essential, particularly for children under five. Exercise is shown to have a huge range of benefits to humans, and this is especially true for children, as we’ll see.

Students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance (e.g., memory), and classroom behaviours.2

Some additional benefits of exercise — including a few that may surprise you — are:

  • Exercise is shown to have a huge range of benefits to humans, and this is especially true for childrenLess likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease including hyperlipidemia1;
  • Less likelihood of strokes1;
  • Less likelihood of developing high blood pressure1;
  • Less likelihood of developing cancer (including breast, colon, endometrial and lung cancer)1;
  • Less likelihood of developing glucose intolerance and insulin resistance1;
  • Less likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes1;
  • Less likelihood of developing low bone density and subsequent osteoporosis1;
  • Less likelihood of becoming obese1;
  • An improvement to the symptoms of depression and anxiety;
  • Stronger muscles and bones;
  • Improved physical fitness;
  • Maintenance of a healthier weight;
  • The creation of nerve connections in the developing brain, which aids learning;
  • Improved social skills and peer relationships through communal exercise and sport activities;
  • Healthier levels of self-confidence;
  • Improved coordination and motor skills;
  • A better quality of sleep.

Last but not least, exercise and physical activity can be great fun! Indeed, that is the key to encouraging children to exercise. Exercise doesn’t have to be a dull, repetitive chore. In contrast, it can and should be thoroughly good fun and great entertainment if approached in the right way. For example, as part of a game, sport activity or physical ‘challenge’.

Active play is a fun way of having exerciseHigher physical activity and physical fitness levels are associated with improved cognitive performance (e.g., concentration, memory) among students.3

With the NHS reporting that one in every five UK children are overweight or — worse — obese before they even start school, exercise is a critically important issue. If we can get children into good exercise and healthy eating habits in their early years, they’re statistically more likely to maintain healthy weights and to generally be more healthy as they grow towards adulthood.

Exercise Recommendations for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Downloadable Infographic: Exercise recommendations for babies, toddlers & preschoolersUK chief medical officers and the NHS each recommend4 a minimum of 3 hours (180 minutes) of physical activity every day for toddlers (1 to 2) and preschoolers (aged 3 to 4). The three hours should be spread over the course of the day and the NHS suggest a mixture of both light activity and more energetic physical activity, both indoors and outdoors (weather conditions permitting). A useful infographic4 can be downloaded via the thumbnail image shown.

Toddler exercise can include light activities such as standing up and generally moving around, rolling around and playing. Skipping, hopping, jumping and running activities would be suitable as the more energetic types of exercise from time to time each day. Active play can include climbing, cycling, ball games and playing in water. Supervised closely, of course.

Preschoolers aged 3 to just under 5 can do any of the above but it can be a little more vigorous, at times, as they’re a little more sure-footed and coordinated by that age.

Exercise for Babies

Parents, childcare professionals and carers should encourage babies to be active at periods throughout the day. Crawling is good (supervised and safe, of course). If they haven’t yet mastered crawling, they can move about on the floor as best they can (again under close supervision), moving limbs around, pushing, pulling, reaching, grasping and so on. The UK Chief Medical Offices’ guidelines suggest at least 30 minutes spread across the day.

There is now a large body of evidence that the amount of physical activity in the Under-5 period influences a wide range of both short-term and long-term health and developmental outcomes.4

Exercise & Physical Activity at Treetops Nursery, Willesden

Treetops Nursery is in Willesden, near Harlesden and Kensal Green in London's NW10Knowing how important it is, we take exercise very seriously at Treetops Nursery in Willesden. However, we ensure that it’s always fun and exciting, so that children enjoy it, naturally. Physical movement and active play are all part of the nursery’s EYFS curriculum, in fact. As well as carefully planned physical activities, active play, games and challenges tailored to the needs and abilities of each individual child, the nursery has a huge range of toys, games, equipment and interactive facilities. Together, these naturally encourage physical movement and exercise. The programme is pre-planned by staff and a ‘Key Person’ allocated to each child. In this way, every child accomplishes an optimal early years education and well-rounded developmental opportunities,  achieving personal bests along the way in readiness for the time when they’ll move on to school.

Are you Looking for Nursery Places in Willesden, Harlesden, Kensal Green or NW10?

At time of writing we have a few places available at Treetops Nursery in Willesden, near Harlesden and Kensal Green in London’s NW10. Do get in touch while they’re still available if you are looking for the highest quality childcare for babies, toddlers and under-five children in those areas. We’ll be happy to discuss nursery places with you …


References:
1. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report. Washington, DC: US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2018.
2. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. Atlanta, GA; Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.
3. Michael SL, Merlo C, Basch C, et al. Critical connections: health and academics. Journal of School Health. 2015;85(11):740–758.
4. UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines, September 2019.

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:

  • More of the excellent outdoor facilitiesa bike park with bicycles and buggies,
  • a water activity area,
  • a ‘music wall’ where children can explore sound and percussion,
  • a book reading zone,
  • a plant growing zone,
  • outdoor blackboards where children can write and draw in chalk,
  • sand pits, which are a huge hit with the children,
  • Children have access to natural materials to explore and learn fromball pits, which are always fun for kids,
  • rocking horses/animals,
  • colour and counting activities plus an ‘alphabet fence’,
  • slides and a timber ‘tree house’,
  • natural materials and textures to explore,
  • portable activity easels,
  • messy play activities (always popular with children!),
  • … and much more!

All these outdoor improvements have been an absolute godsend during the pandemic; the outside spaces have been used far more by the staff and children because they keep everyone naturally more socially distanced and the open air is more effective in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. All this is possible due to the wonderful set-up of the nursery, with outdoor areas available to enjoy, in comfort, in virtually all weathers — at any time of year.

Treetops Nursery in Willesden

Are you looking for high quality nurseries near to Willesden Green, Harlesden or Kensal Green? We’d love you to consider Treetops Nursery, in Willesden NW10, if so. Please get in touch for further details:

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 to buy them some packet seeds, which you can get at your local garden nursery or online. If you’re unsure who to order from online, Suttons are probably the best-known supplier and seed packets there seem to start from as little as just a pound or two. You can also find mixed seed packets. (If you’re on a really tight budget, you can alternatively take a look at the excellent post about growing food virtually free of cost, by our sister nursery in Streatham).

Along with the seeds, your child will need some multi-purpose or seed and cuttings compost (peat-free is more eco-friendly) and something to sow the seeds in. If you’re going to grow the microgreens on the windowsill, you could use flower pots, slim seed trays (perhaps left over from plants or herbs you have previously bought), containers, yoghurt pots with drainage holes pierced underneath, egg cartons, or even the cardboard cores from used kitchen rolls, cut down to a suitable size. Any of these will need something to sit in, to catch any draining water, for example a saucer or seed ‘drip tray’.

Lemonbalm micro leaves sprouting in compostYour child will need to fill the chosen containers with compost, not quite to the top. Tap it to level the soil, then pat it down just a little to firm it. Some gardeners also indent the compost where the seeds will go. The seeds then need to be carefully placed or lightly sprinkled into the indented areas. It’s important that your child spaces the seeds out so there is no clumping, otherwise significant problems can occur (the crop might get diseased or even completely fail). The seeds don’t need to be covered but a light dusting of sieved compost will keep them in place while allowing light to get through. The seeds then need to be lightly watered. It’s best for your child to do this part outside, just to avoid potential mess indoors, taking care not to over-water nor to wash the seeds away. A way to water them indoors is to simply stand the vessels in some shallow water for 30 to 60 minutes, so the compost naturally draws up the moisture.

The rest is also very easy. Your child simply needs to place the potted seeds on a light windowsill and ensure that the compost is always kept damp, taking care not to over-water. Also consider a label for each pot for identification purposes, particularly if several different seed types have been planted. Some people cover the seed pots or trays with a single sheet of kitchen towel, newspaper or even cling film to keep the moisture in while the seeds initially germinate. Your child will need to check under the covering every day. The moment little shoots can be seen, the covering will need to be removed, so long as the soil is kept moist thereafter, so it never dries out. Ensure the potted plants get full light and ventilation too. Within a week or two depending on the seeds chosen, the young shoots will grow baby leaves and can then be harvested. Snip them near their bases before mature leaves start to replace the baby leaves. If you want to benefit from them for longer, snip them like this rather than pulling up their roots, so they can sprout and re-sprout time and time again.

Eat & enjoy!

A sandwich with microgreens as a garnishOnce rinsed, the tender young micro leaves can be enjoyed in meals by the whole family. They’ll add often exquisite tastes and textures to meals as well as adding much-needed vitamins and minerals to the family diet. That’s even more important for growing toddlers and preschoolers, of course. And, throughout the growing journey, the children will absolutely love seeing the new shoots grow into young plants. They will have learnt new skills, had great fun getting to know more about nature and have a real sense of achievement. Chances are, too, that they will love the taste of the micro leaves.

Treetops Nursery in Willesden

We hope you and your family enjoyed this article and will have fun growing your very own microgreens. The post was brought to you by Treetops Day Nursery in Willesden, London NW10. We are a childcare nursery and pre-school, suitable for babies from 6 months and children up to 5 years of age. We’re also convenient for parents and carers who are looking for high quality weekday childcare near Willesden Green, Harlesden, Brent, Kensal Green, Brondesbury Park, Kilburn, Mapesbury, Dollis Hill, Church End, Roundwood, College Park and Park Royal. Please do get in touch if you’d like to learn more about a possible nursery place for your child.

For further details, contact Treetops Nursery: