The importance of play for babies, toddlers & children under 5

Play is incredibly important — perhaps more so than many people realise — especially during a child’s formative years. That’s why under-fives, in particular, must be given ample time and encouragement to play. Play is incredibly important, especially during a child's formative yearsIn short, allowing a young child the tools, time and guidance to play regularly will help them with many elements of their learning and development — and that’s critical. Indeed, that’s why good nurseries, pre-schools and childcare settings encourage children to learn in large part through play.

“Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children” (Paediatrics Journal)

The Benefits of Play

Regular play, starting from when children are babies, helps children in a myriad of ways as they grow to become first toddlers, then preschoolers, and beyond. The many benefits of play include:

  • Play is an essential part of a happy childhoodFirstly, it’s fun for them and is an essential part of a happy childhood;
  • Play helps babies, toddlers and children to learn about the world around them, by interacting with all the things in it (under adult supervision, of course);
  • Play helps to educate children about themselves, their abilities, strengths, weaknesses, skills and preferences;
  • It teaches them about all the things they interact with too; from size and weight to texture and a variety of other properties;
  • It improves cognitive function and aids healthy brain development;
  • Play helps children to improve their dexterity through fine motor skills like holding, rotating and moving small objects in precise ways to suit their intended outcome, all at the same time as honing their hand-eye coordination;
  • As they grow older, play also helps children to improve and develop their gross motor skills, enabling them to confidently and precisely control their limbs to lift, throw, extend, pull, push, move and eventually walk, run, jump and so on;
  • Play also helps children to learn from their mistakes just as much as from their achievements. That’s an important lesson that we’ve all gone through even into adulthood;
  • Doing so also helps children to get a more balanced view of the potential risks and rewards associated with carefully-considered actions and the comprehension of cause and effect;
  • Regular physical play helps children to remain active and more fit. After all, lying inactive or sat in front of a TV or other electronic screen has the opposite effect;
  • Playing helps children to improve social skills, make friends and form closer bonds with supervising adultsPlay also keeps children mentally fit as it stimulates their senses, brains and sense of adventure;
  • Regular and varied play also helps children to identify their own talents and interests;
  • Play stimulates children’s imaginations, leading to greater creativity and new ways of thinking;
  • Improved problem-solving and critical thinking is a natural, positive outcome of this;
  • Children also learn to interact with others through play, thereby improving social skills including communication, speech, negotiation, teamwork, leadership, cooperation, role-play and so on;
  • Children develop closer bonds through play, including with other children as well as any supervising adults. Through play, friendships naturally form;
  • With all of these benefits, children naturally become more self-confident individuals, becoming more able to tackle things independently i.e. with less need for adult direction;
  • Their emotional development also benefits;
  • Play is also a great way to relieve any stress, even diverting attention away from pain;
  • Playing with children also helps the supervising adult to immerse themselves into their child’s world, becoming more able to see the world from the child’s perspective.

Playing helps children to be more creative and to think differentlyAll in all, play fosters both physical development and mental development in children. Doing so sets them up with improved physical and cognitive abilities as well as incredibly important life skills. Combined, this also sets under-fives up beautifully for school-readiness when they leave pre-school.

We may follow this post up, at a future date, with some suggested play activities and guidance.

One of the Best Nurseries in Willesden, Harlesden & Kensal Green

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenAt Treetops Nursery in Willesden, our childcare professionals create carefully-planned opportunities for play using a huge array of stimulating equipment, facilities and programmes. That’s all part of the learning and development plan that’s customised for each individual baby or child at the nursery. It’s widely accepted that children, particularly the very young, learn best through play. This approach, together with the individual attention of our exceptional childcare professionals, is why little ones absolutely thrive at Treetops. It’s also why Treetops is so popular and in-demand as a nursery and pre-school in the NW10 area.

If you are looking for one of the very best nurseries in Willesden, Willesden Green or close to Harlesden or Kensal Green, please make contact while we still have some childcare spaces available. Please choose an option:

Tummy Time for Tots: a guide for parents of babies including benefits, suggested tummy time activities & more.

Learning and development for babies is helped through activities known collectively as Tummy TimeEven newborn babies should be encouraged to be active, in order to learn and develop their abilities through interaction and play. At this age, this is achieved largely through activities known collectively as Tummy Time. This is an incredibly important tool for their early development. Tummy Time pretty much describes the essence of the activities — i.e. time spent awake and active on their tummies during their first year.

There’s a very good reason why high quality nurseries, pre-schools and other early years professionals encourage under-fives to learn largely through play. It’s the most natural way that they will develop physically and socially, learn about the world and develop skills like communication, language and problem-solving along the way. The beauty of learning through play is that it’ll also be great fun for the child, so won’t seem like a chore at all. It’s no different when children are babies and that’s where, for them, Tummy Time also comes in.

The Benefits of Tummy Time

You are your baby’s favourite playmate! Babies, particularly newborns, totally rely on their parents for play as well as for everything else. Tummy Time should be a part of that.

  • Encouraging them to lift their head regularly will strengthen a baby's neckIt helps them to build physical strength, particularly in their upper body, and helps them achieve various developmental milestones.
  • Encouraging them to lift their head regularly will strengthen a baby’s neck. That’s important because their head is rather heavy for them when they’re first born and an otherwise weak neck will be a potential safety risk if not strengthened. They need to learn to control its position.
  • Raising themselves onto their arms whilst lifting their head will take this a step further to increase strength in arm muscles, shoulders, core, back and torso generally.
  • Doing all of this will also begin to nudge them towards becoming more mobile and coordinated as they improve their fine and gross motor skills.
  • As babies get more used to Tummy Time, it will also give them more access to new sensory experiences as they can increasingly explore the world, suitable safe objects and textures around them.

Tummy Time can also happen with the baby facing you, to encourage them to strengthen control of their head and coreAnother important benefit of Tummy Time is that it helps babies avoid conditions like positional plagiocephaly (otherwise known as ‘flat head syndrome’) and positional torticollis (i.e. a twisted neck) because it allows them to change position more often.

Safety note: babies should only be on their tummies when playing and only ever under close supervision. They should sleep on their backs, as it is safer for them and reduces the chance of SIDS. So, it’s important not to let them nod off when playing on their tummies.

Example Activities

Tummy Time can include a variety of activities, each of which will help the baby develop those new skills and physical strength. Initially start with shorter sessions, for example 1-2 minutes and later 2-5 minutes at a time. Increase this gradually as they build up strength. By the time they’re 3 months of age, they should be doing Tummy Time for a minimum of an hour, split up into smaller sessions, over the course of the day.

Up to 3 months of age:

  • Several Tummy Time positions are possible, including supporting their weight lengthwise from underneath.You can lie the baby on their tummy (while awake of course) on a soft blanket or rug on the floor. Get down low so you can interact with them and play games like peek-a-boo at their level.
  • Alternatively he/she could lie across your lap with you supporting his/her stability with a helping hand and laying against you for extra support …
  • … or even position him/her on their belly on top of yours, so you’re face-to-face.
  • In any of these positions, you can ensure that you keep the baby safe while you encourage them to prop themselves up on their hands, elbows or arms and lift their heads, even if only fleetingly initially. A rolled-up blanket can help as support and to give them reassurance.
  • Another great Tummy Time position at this age is threading your hand and lower arm horizontally underneath their length, so you support their weight lengthwise from underneath, rather like you’re carrying them. Their limbs can hang down either side of your supporting arm (so they’re a little like a lion lying along a branch in a tree). You must, however, support their head and neck with your other hand/forearm. This position will give the baby the opportunity to take turns in supporting their own head and limbs, so strengthening muscles and developing motor skills etc.

3 to 6 months:

  • From the age of 3 months, you can try to encourage greater control from the baby by tempting them with toys and rattles. You can even move these around a little to encourage greater motor control like reaching out, following the direction of movement with their head position, as well as giving them the opportunity to practise and improve their visual tracking.

From 6 to 9 months:

  • Encourage the baby to support their own weight on their hand and arms (like a ‘push-up’ position) for short periodsEncourage the baby to support their own weight on their hand and arms (almost like a ‘push-up’ kind of position) for short periods. This can initially be done by helping to support them with a hand, lifting them under their chest or tummy. They’ll soon catch on and help to push themselves up and support their own head more and more.
  • Soon enough you’ll notice that they can pass a toy from one hand to the other.
  • At this stage, they should also start to be able to roll sideways from the tummy position, in either direction, going from tummy to back and reverting to their tummy position again.
  • Toys can be used to encourage them during these activities, so they practise reaching out and swivelling bodily to grab them. It’s like a full upper-body workout!
  • Before long, your baby will be able to site unaided, using their own arms for support.
  • Soon thereafter they’ll begin to crawl (usually around 7-9 months of age). Once they’re achieving this, there’s no real need to continue with Tummy Time exercises although spending some time on their tummy will continue to benefit them and build strength and motor skills etc. while they’re playing.

Then the real fun begins! Before you know it, they’ll begin to stand on their own two feet, supporting their own weight while holding on for support. Walking will be the next major milestone thereafter, on their amazing journey of life.

Are You Looking for an Outstanding Nursery in Willesden, or near Willesden Green, Harlesden or Kensal Green?

Tummy Time is all part of the excellent childcare services available to our youngest babies at Treetops Nursery in Willesden. As well as being a nursery for babies, we offer the highest quality weekday childcare for children up to the age of 5 and aim to get every one of them ‘school-ready’ by the time they leave us. If you are looking for outstanding nurseries in Willesden, or near Willesden Green, Harlesden or Kensal Green, please get in touch while places are still available — we’d love to hear from you and show you around:

Overcoming childhood obesity — & why it matters

We previously covered the importance of healthy eating and exercise in children’s early years. Both play clear roles in a healthy lifestyle and in fighting potential weight and fitness problems. In today’s post we’ll take a closer look at obesity in young children, how to recognise it, and why it’s important to try to overcome it.

Obesity occurs when excess body fat accumulates in quantities that can be detrimental to health.

How to Recognise Obesity in Children

Apart from any obvious, physical signs, the easiest way to check whether your child has possible weight issues is to check their Body Mass Index (‘BMI’). While it’s not a perfect system, it’s an easy starting point to get a quick overview. The NHS has a great tool for measuring your child’s BMI, which you can access here. It’s quick, simple and free. Select the ‘Child’ tab at the top, enter their height, weight, date of birth, sex and the date of the measurements and then click the ‘calculate’ button at the bottom. Simple! The results are almost immediate and also include some useful Exercise & active play are key tools for fighting obesity in young childrenguidance and links. Your child will fall into one of 4 possible categories:

  • Your child is underweight;
  • Your child is a healthy weight;
  • Your child is overweight;
  • Your child is very overweight.

You may find that BMI results reference centiles. These are a way of comparing a child’s BMI to those of other children of the same age. They use data from Nationwide surveys, which offer a useful comparator. For example, a boy who is on the 60th centile weighs more than 60 out of 100 other boys of the same age in the survey. The healthy weight category for children falls between the 2nd and 91st centiles — quite a wide range.

If you are at all concerned about your child’s BMI or weight (whether overweight or underweight), consult your GP. They may be able to offer guidance or a healthy lifestyle programme referral. However, not all weight issues stem from incorrect food or exercise levels and can occasionally be the result of an underlying medical condition — another reason to check with your GP.

Why Does Childhood Obesity Matter?

The reason this is important is summed up perfectly by the NHS:

“If your child is above a healthy weight now, they’re more likely to be above a healthy weight as an adult, which can lead to health problems in later life.”

Statistics around childhood obesity, and their ramifications, are startling:

  • The age at which children are becoming obese seems to be getting worse i.e. reducing.
  • By the time they start school, 1 in 5 children in the UK are either overweight or very overweight.
  • Between year 6 and the age of 15, 1 in 3 children are overweight or very overweight — a very concerning statistic.
  • Once children are obese, there’s a much greater chance that they will remain so as they grow older.
  • By the time they reach adulthood, obese people are 7 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart disease and depression are also statistically more prevalent in obese people.
  • Premature death is twice as likely if you are obese.

Healthy, balanced eating habits also help to fight obesity at any ageSocio-economic background matters too:

  • Under-fives from deprived backgrounds are 2 times more likely to become obese.
  • 11-year-olds from low-income backgrounds are 3 times more likely to become obese.

And society is suffering due to obesity too:

  • More is spent by the NHS each year tackling the adverse effects of obesity than is spent on the fire service, police and judicial system combined.

All in all, fighting obesity early really matters!

How to Tackle Childhood Obesity

There are two clear ways that parents, guardians, carers and childcare professionals can help to ensure that children avoid weight problems and potential obesity. In essence, both come down to the child maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Through regular exercise, ideally starting from a young age so that good habits are formed early. Read our Guide to Early Years Exercise & Why it’s Essential here for full details.
  2. Through a healthy, balanced diet; one that contains the right food groups in the right amounts. Again, children should be doing this right from an early age so that eating healthily comes naturally as they grow older. Read our Guide to Healthy Eating for Preschoolers here for further information.

Both are great guides with some excellent background information, tips and more. So, perhaps bookmark the links and feel free to share any of our articles on social media or online. All we ask is that you link back to our original post(s).

A Healthy Start at Treetops Nursery in Willesden, London NW10

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenThe childcare professionals at Treetops Nursery do, of course, follow exactly this approach. We supply healthy, balanced, meals and drinks, which are freshly prepared on site each day using only the best ingredients. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers also get ample, rich opportunities for active play and exercise as part of their tailored learning and development programme. All this, together with the excellent early years curriculum at the nursery, gives them the very best start in life and clean, healthy foundations to build upon once they leave us to begin school at age five.

If you are searching for the best nurseries for your baby or child in Willesden or near Willesden Green, Kensal Green or Harlesden you’ll find Treetops Nursery very hard to beat. Facilities and resources are excellent and the setting has a wonderful Ofsted report. If you’re considering a place here for your child, please contact us. We’ll be happy tell you more and to show you around. Please choose from the following:

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: