Posts

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:

Child’s AgeSleep Required (Per 24 Hours Including Naps)
4 months to 1 year of age12-16 hours
1 to 2 years of age11-14 hours
3 to 5 years of age10-13 hours

How to help your child get to sleepYou can see that they require a little less sleep as they grow progressively older.

How to Help Your Child Sleep Well

There are many reasons why babies and children may have trouble sleeping, but there’s quite a bit parents or carers can do to help. Here are some ideas that may help them to fall asleep and then to stay sleeping soundly. This is part of a wider approach to what’s known as Sleep Hygiene, which is the entire approach to bedtime, including the lead up to it.

Sleep Hygiene

One of the most effective ways any parent can help a child receive the right quality and quantity of sleep is to maintain a set routine around bedtime. If set times and rules are in place and always adhered to, then going to sleep at the right time will become virtually automatic. Children will physiologically and mentally adapt and then expect it, becoming tired and ready to sleep around the ‘right’ time. They will also be less inclined to ‘fight’ the rules when they have learned that they’re not negotiable. With some children it may take a while to get to this point, of course — but the bigger ‘sleep hygiene’ approach will ultimately help.

Winding Down Before Bedtime

A winding-down regime can be very useful to get very young children in the right mindset for bedtime. A warm bath or shower can be part of this, as can dimmed lights and perhaps a short bedtime story.

A quiet, comfortable bedroom set-up is neededA Peaceful, Quiet, Bedroom Set-up

The baby or child’s bedroom also needs to have the right set-up. They need to be comfortable and located in a quiet part of the house. Having them just a touch cool will also encourage the child to nestle down in the warmth of their bed. Often a favourite cuddly toy will also give them some comfort and the feeling of security.

A low level of lighting before bedtime is also a great idea. Once it’s time to sleep, total darkness is healthy for sleep although some children may sleep better when they can see the faint glimmer of a nightlight.

Distractions like nearby toys should be avoided, otherwise there’s a risk that the infant might begin to associate bedtime with playtime.

Avoid Stimulants

Handheld screens & TVs are not good for sleepStimulants should be avoided before bedtime. Drinks containing caffeine will keep children awake, so none should be given any time after lunch time, ideally. Caffeine can be found in some fizzy drinks and energy drinks, as well as in tea and coffee. Warm milk, in contrast, will be non-stimulating and actually quite soothing. Be careful not to give drinks too close to bedtime, though, and remember to get the child to visit the loo before going to bed, otherwise they may need to wake up in the night to pay a visit.

Screens also stimulate the brain. So, handheld devices like mobile phones and tablets, as well as TVs, should not be available to the child several hours before bedtime. Their blue light, in particular, will not be conducive to sleeping, due to its stimulating affect on the brain. (You can learn more about the possible health risks associated with giving children access to handheld screens in our enlightening post for our sister nursery over in Birmingham).

It’s useful to avoid vigorous exercise or play too close to bedtime. While exercise during the daytime, particularly in the fresh air, can help young children sleep later on, doing it too close to bedtime may simply awaken their brains and have the opposite effect.

Large meals close to bedtime can also have a detrimental affect on children’s sleep, so ensure that mealtimes are sufficiently early.

Avoid allowing children to get into bad habitsChildren Visiting in the Night

Many parents have experienced their child waking up in the night and coming into their bedroom for comfort. This must not be allowed to turn into a habit. Parents of children attempting to make this a regular occurrence should quietly — and without fuss — lead the child back to their bed and settle them in. Caving in to repeated attempts to end up in the parents’ bedroom (or even bed) will only lead to a bad habit forming. Such a habit would be detrimental to the sleep pattern of all concerned.

Sleeping at Treetops Nursery, Willesden

At Treetops Nursery, we’re well aware of the need for babies and children to get sufficient, high quality, sleep. For this reason, the children have a couple of sleeping sessions each day. From about 9:30am babies usually sleep for between half an hour and an hour. Then, between 12 noon and 3pm, there’s another sleeping session. The older pre-school children are given the choice whether to sleep or not during this time. Parents are encouraged to let us know if there are particular sleep patterns that they’d like us to follow for their baby or child. Every child is different, so we’re totally flexible.

A Nursery Place for Your Child in Willesden, London NW16

If you are looking for an outstanding nursery near Willesden Green, Harlesden and Kensal Green, we can help. Treetops Nursery is located in Doyle Gardens in Willesden, NW10. For further information …

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:

Fighting food fussiness in under-5s. How to encourage toddlers to eat

Many parents will be all-too-familiar with how fussy toddlers can be when it comes to food. Some children will even avoid certain foods, absolutely refusing to try them, based solely on how they look. This can be infuriating! In the extreme, it can also potentially pose a risk to the healthy balance of a child’s diet.

Give peas a chance!

Many adults, myself included, will recall that we were just the same at some point during childhood. Later on, we may realise how delicious something really is, even if we thought we didn’t like it when we were young. I recall believing that peas were incredibly dull and should be avoided at all costs, for example. I now believe them to be amongst the tastiest vegetables on the planet! Nothing material has really changed about peas, so it’s my perception of them that has changed; I simply needed to give them a chance.

Acquired tastes

Other foods can become an ‘acquired taste’. For example, many youngsters initially perceive olives as being quite disgusting. Later on as adults, however, many of the same people end up adoring them. Sometimes, it’s just a case of mentioning this weird facet of human nature to your toddler. Trying to reason – and empathise – with them in this way may well register with them eventually. Despite appearances, children often take such messages in, even though they might refuse some foods, point blank, at first. This eventual acceptance often gradually occurs as they become more mature in mind as well as in body.

Food refusal is normal, so don’t stress

Is your toddler a fussy eater?If your child’s refusal to eat certain foods is making you stressed, take a moment to realise that this is perfectly normal. Indeed, many toddlers go through such a phase in their earliest years. If they’ve recently been breastfeeding, they will have become accustomed to a sweet-tasting diet. When they are weaned onto solids and suddenly become mobile, it’s natural for them to be wary of eating just anything — it’s so new to them. In fact, refusing some foods is an instinctive survival mechanism. It’ll take time for them to become accustomed to new tastes and textures.

If your child gives you a resounding no, try, try and try again.

What’s more, it’s known that it can take about 10 to 15 instances of exposure to a particular food before many young children will accept it. So, if your child gives you a resounding no, it’s really best for both of you to try, try and try again. After all, it would be such a shame for them to miss out on something delicious and nutritional for the rest of their lives.

What else can parents do?

As well as the straight forward perseverance approach outlined above, there are a number of things that parents and carers can do to encourage preschoolers to eat a more varied diet and to give new food types a try.

Food bridges

Food ‘bridges‘ are a subtle trick where you add different foods to those that your child already enjoys. So, if your child loves mashed potato, for example, perhaps try adding a little grated cheese on top or mixed in with it. If they like roasted potatoes or ham, try adding a little cooked apple. A little bit at first may fly under their radar and get them used to the taste before increasing the amount over time.

“We eat with our eyes first.”

Changing appearance

Similarly, changing the appearance of food is a highly useful tool to fight fussy eating. It is said that we eat with our eyes first, so try and make meals look as appealing as possible. For example, you can harness the rainbow colours of fruit and vegetables and the different shapes and sizes of foods. You can even make pictures with food on the child’s plate or cut food into shapes to make it more appealing. These are great ways to get children to become engaged with their food, to make food fun and to get children to become positive about it.

Get sneaky

Maybe if a certain food type isn’t liked, try hiding it. For example, you could puree a particular vegetable that they don’t like. Once you’ve done that, you could add it as part of a pasta sauce, for example, or as a dip, topper or garnish. This is a great way of children building up a taste for it without even realising.

Get children involved

Get children involved in food choice and preparationInvolving children in planning meals, shopping for food and even preparing the food can encourage them to eat more food types. For example, they could help when picking vegetables or have a say in how food is displayed on the plate. You’ll also be teaching them new things along the way.

Make it fun

There are a great many ways in which parents and childcare providers can make eating fun.

  • Choosing plates, bowls and cutlery that have fun designs is a great way to start, particularly if you allow the child to have a say in the choice. Perhaps there is a picture on the bottom of the plate that is only visible once the food has been eaten. Or perhaps their spoon or fork has a design on it that is shaped like an animal that the child particularly loves.
  • You can also theme meals. The child could perhaps pretend to be a character from their favourite book or film. Then, the food can be themed to suit. For example, a space rocket shaped from food could be given to budding astronauts. Or maybe use a Treasure Island theme for all those pirates out there. It’s amazing what fun you and your child can have turning vegetables like sweet corn and peas into pieces of “treasure”. Rainbows are another popular theme and here you can use the different coloured fruit and vegetables to create your masterpiece.
  • The youngest children will, of course, always enjoy the tried and tested ‘here comes the train’ approach (“Choo Choo!”). Some may enjoy a similar approach with an aeroplane coming in to land. This type of thing can easily be turned into an enjoyable, playful game.

Positivity & a gentle nudge

Make food a positive experienceUsing positive phases like yummy, tasty and so good when eating will help to build positivity around food. Talking about how food was prepared or how an item of fruit or vegetable grew in the garden may spark an extra level of interest in the child. Making food sound generally positive is a good approach. Remind the child how good the food will make them feel, how it will recharge them and make them energised and ready for the day’s tasks. For example, you could explain how they will have lots of energy for the swings, or park or when playing ball etc.

Reward them

Rewarding children for trying new foods and eating healthy options is a great way to encourage them. This is the ‘carrot’ rather than the ‘stick’ approach (remember; you want to build positivity around food, not negativity, so reward them when they get it right, rather than punishing them when they refuse food). Reward charts with set food goals can be a great way of approaching this if the child is being particularly fussy in their eating. For example, your child could be rewarded for trying new foods or for clearing their plate. Rewards will make food fun and positive. The choice of reward can be anything that you think may sway your child, for example a trip to the park, their favourite dessert or a small gift perhaps.

Be a good role model

Infant creatures across the world learn about food from their parents — and humans are no different. So, let your little one see you eating different foods yourself, including any they’re refusing. Being a good role model will help your child to see that new foods are safe — and even enjoyable. Sometimes, you just have to show them! Also look out for their favourite TV stars, or even best friends, eating foods that they are currently refusing — good role models can make a huge difference. However, never forget that it can take multiple attempts, so you need to remember to be patient and not to force it.

Healthy eating at Treetops Nursery

Healthy eating and quality ingredientsWe confess that we’ve been known to employ a few of the tips above at the nursery! Healthy eating is very much in our DNA at Treetops Nursery in Willesden, NW10, so we do all we can to ensure that our under-fives are getting the right sized portions, healthy food and a good dietary balance. Our in-house chef prepares tasty meals using only the best, most fresh ingredients. All special dietary needs are catered for, including vegetarian and vegan options when required. Children attending all day will receive three high quality meals plus a snack in the morning and another in the afternoon. Drinking water is available on tap all day. All food and drink is covered within our standard fees. Learn more about our approach to nutrition, healthy eating and see some menu examples here.

Looking for a nursery place in Willesden, London NW10?

If you are looking for a nursery place for your baby or toddler in Willesden, Willesden Green, Harlesden or Kensal Green, call us on 020 8963 1259. Alternatively, book a nursery visit here or email us here. We have places for under-fives available at time or writing and will be happy to welcome you to the setting and to answer any questions.