A recent survey by the Daycare Trust shows that over half of nurseries in London have seen a fall in demand over the past year. This appears to be part of a wider picture of falling demand for childcare and will be of particular concern to nursery providers. As the economy continues to face uncertain times, more and more mothers are choosing not to return to work after having babies, and that is one factor fueling the fall in demand for childcare places.
Rising childcare costs (more than twice the rate of inflation over the last year) are forcing many mothers to ditch work and look after young family themselves. The average cost of childcare in England is £5,028 a year, rising to over £6,000 a year in London. This is income that has already been taxed, and the cost of putting more than one child into childcare just becomes eye-watering!
Increasingly, at the moment, mothers are leaving work to raise their children at home.
On top of this, nursery providers have found that their costs are rising fast too, which is the main contributing factor to the rising cost of nursery places. Rent rates have jumped hugely over the last few years, but so have many of their other costs including food, staff training and all the essential supplies needed by a nursery. It seems that as the economy has suffered over the last few years, the global reaction has just been to raise prices for goods and services to make up for slump in demand. This isn't going to hold much longer - something is going to break. The logical conclusion of this spiral of rising prices pushing down demand is that we will see nurseries closing and nursery chains going out of business.
This isn't all bad news for private childminders. The additional costs of nursery provision will see a move towards more flexible childminders, with lower associated costs, so we predict a boom in private childcare provision over the next few years. We are also seeing more babies being nurtured by their own families in their domestic setting, and that too has to be a good thing. Whilst nurseries and childcare offer a wonderful service, allowing families to continue working, there is a lot to be said for not having to have two incomes simply to live from day to day. Families that choose to stay home and raise children may have to cut back in some areas, but the marginal difference of a second salary after tax and childcare is making the 'stay at home' option look increasingly attractive!
If your baby or toddler attends a playgroup or nursery, they will be assigned a key worker who takes on the responsibility of liaising between your child and you, the parents. The key worker assumes the role of primary carer for your little one, ensuring that they settle into the nursery setting, integrate with the other children, and generally ensure your baby's welfare whilst they are in their care.
The key worker is also responsible for reporting on the six areas of learning and development within the Early Years Foundation Stage and to this end, they will make regular observations and report back to the parents. They will also raise any concerns about development should they notice anything.
The key worker does not shadow your child the whole time or play solely with their key wards. A key worker will take responsibility for several children simultaneously and may only make observational notes on an occasional basis rather than every day.
You should always be made aware who your child's key worker is, this information is usually displayed on a notice board within the setting, and the preschool may hold 'parent's evenings' where you can interface directly with the key worker to be told of progress and any concerns. Over time your key worker may change, and you should be informed at the time. If you ever have concerns about how your child is setting into their day setting, then do not hesitate to raise them with your key worker.
Getting children up for nursery or school always seems harder in the winter - it’s still dark outside, it’s chilly and it seems so much better to stay in bed. However, get up we must! One way to get the children into a good morning routine is to create a morning picture chart This helps them know what they are doing, it sets a president so they know it’s always going to be the same and it helps us too as parents guide the children through the morning.
Make a list of the tasks you usually do in the mornings:
- Wake up
- Get dressed
- Brush hair
- Wash teeth
- Collect bag/shoes for nursery
- Head off to nursery
Find pictures to illustrate each task. Do this together.
- Draw a clock and colour it in for the wake up picture.
- Stick on a label from the cereal packet or toothpaste tube for the breakfast or wash teeth image.
- Take a photo of your child all dressed and ready to go by the door for the leave for nursery picture.
Different charts may work for different children:
- Pre-schoolers: Choose a strip of card and stick the pictures in order along the card. Had it up on the wall
- Toddlers: Have larger cards and show them each on when you want them to get on with that activity.
One disadvantage of not knowing whether your baby will be a boy or a girl is that it makes it difficult to decorate their bedroom before they arrive. You don't want too much pink for a boy, or swathes of deep blue or green for a girl!
One way to overcome this problem is to decorate the room in colours suitable for either a boy or a girl, and leave the final decoration until after the baby arrives. If you favour cream throughout your house, then you may opt for the same colour for the baby's bedroom. If you like a splash of colour, or want to create a vibrant nursery for your little one, then why not paint in a bright yellow, baby blue or soft purples?
Once the baby has arrived, add character to your room using vinyl stickers. In the USA these are generally called 'Wallies', but in the UK we are more familiar with adhesive borders and wall decals or wall stickers. Wallies vary in size from just a couple of inches to a couple of feet for really brash ones. As these are becoming more popular in the UK, you will find stickers available in many of the children's themes that you see in soft furnishings elsewhere but you'll also find non-branded imagery based around letters or numbers, animals, fish and many other themes. Search online for a few minutes and you will quickly find that you have hundreds of themes to choose from.
Using wall stickers allows you to personalise your baby's nursery for a girl or a boy after they arrive. They take only minutes to apply and there's no odour of paint, or any other decorating smells, if you apply them after the baby has moved in! They are also usually 'reusable' meaning that they can be taken down and reapplied. This is useful as you buy additional furniture over time and may find that you need to rearrange the stickers away from new items. It also means that you can rearrange the look every so often as your child grows older.
One point to bear in mind when applying wall stickers - make sure that they are out of reach from a young toddler, and nowhere near the cot! Although they are unlikely to create a hazard, you don't really want your little munchkin pulling down all the decorations!
Walking to pre-school or nursery in the bad, autumnal weather can be a real bore for little ones, especially those who are only just out of the buggy. Here are a few ideas to perk up your walk together and do a bit of fun learning on the way!
Weathery Walk - walk the way you might in different types of weather.
- Trudge through snow
- Battle against raging rain
- Fan yourself in the heat of the hot sun
- Keep upright in the blowy wind
Colour-Spy - spot things that are certain colours. Find 3 red things (traffic light, post box, car) etc.
Letter Think - think of things that begin with certain letters. Name 4 things beginning with "d". Even little ones can do this with come help. Give a clue to help them get to a "d" word.
Wonkey Walks - Walk in different ways between the trees you pass. So, walk like a frog to the next tree. Then walk like a monkey to the next tree.
Tree Races - If you live on a quiet road you could race to the next tree. See who gets there first.
Count the Steps - estimate how may steps you need to get to the next landmark (tree/traffic lights) and simply count how many steps you actually take. How close were you?
Car Count - name a colour and count how many cars you see on the way of that colour.
Walking to school or nursery is a great, healthy way to start the day; these ideas will make it fun too! Have a good day!
Starting nursery school is an exciting and scary time for both children and their parents. But, once they are settled and know their way around, it can be a brilliant place to play, experience new things, meet new friends and have lots of fun. Here are a few tips to get your little ones, (and you!), more relaxed about starting nursery.
- Make sure you know the teachers and their names. Talk about them at home and when you are with them try to be relaxed and happy so your child sees you are comfortable with them.
- Make sure your little one knows where the important things at school are: the toilet, the cloakroom, the home corner etc. so they feel comfortable in their new setting and don't feel anxious about locating the toilet or not knowing where things are.
- Try and visit the nursery a few time s before starting if you can. Talk about things while you are there. Spot things your child might like and show them it's a fun place to be!
- Make sure they are confident at going to the toilet so they avoid any accidents at school. Practice at home and reiterate that will be going to the toilet alone at nursery so must be able to do that confidently.
- Try to leave your child at nursery once they are involved in an activity. Settle them with some blocks or a game and leave them happily doing that rather than wandering around on their own.
- Be happy and positive, even if you are a little bit anxious. Children do pick up on your feelings! If you are happy, they are more likely to be so too!
- Get into a routine of doing the same thing every time you leave. A kiss, a hug and a wave from the window once you are outside. Then they will get to understand that this is what happens and they will be familiar with this routine.
- Don't hang around if they cry. Teachers are usually great at distraction and as soon as you've gone they will stop! Try and not interfere with how the nursery functions and don't stay longer than the other parents as it can just prolong the problem.
- Meet them with a smile and chat about the day! Ask lots of leading questions that will eek out what they have done. Perhaps share 3 thing they did at nursery and tell them 3 things you did too!
- Chat to other parents and hear about their experiences. You can learn a lot about the nursery or pre-school from parents and they might have some good tips too!
- If you have any concerns, chat to the teachers. They will be able to reassure you!
- Get involved if you can. If there's a parents association, try to get involved. Its a great way to meet other parents and give support to the school or nursery.
Sending your child to a childminder or nursery may actually help them in later life, according to a recent study. Many working parents hesitate before sending their children to a carer, wondering how the separation will effect the child in later life. However, according to one academic it does them good to be away from home for a few hours! So, parents working long hours need not worry. Mothers returning to work, need not feel guilty!
The Professor in charge of the study claims that those children who were in a cared for environment aged 2 and under, do actually go on to form better relationships later on when at school. She said that nursery does the vast majority no harm at all. Previous studies had concluded that children who were not at home most of the time when under 2 turned out to be more agressive when attending school, were more difficult to disipline and more inclined to be naughty and lead others astray. But this new research disputes that, stating that this doesn't appear be the case.
The study followed 3,000 children over a 14 year period from 1996. Parents have welcomed the findings, many of whom had believed earlier studies which suggested that there was a link between attendance at a nursery and aggression in later life, plus impaired social skills.
Of course, there are various ways of ensuring your child is in the best possible setting. Speak to other parents - get their opinion and recommendations. Check thoroughly the standards of care whether it be a nursery or childminder. Drop in, unannounced, and see what is going on!
Many families don't have the luxury of a parent staying at home to raise their children, many families require two incomes to support themselves, and it's a sad truth that your childminder may see more of your young children than you do. Given the amount of time spent away from your children, how do you know that they are in good hands? ...that your nanny, childminder or nursery is really great with them?
Part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) mandates good lines of communication between carers and parents. It is important for parents to know what their children have been doing, what they are learning and how they are progressing. ToucanLearn's Daily Diary offers one way in which carers can share their experiences with parents. Nanny's don't have to follow EYFS but it is still good practice for you to develop a formal or informal way that lets them tell you what has been happening.
If you have doubts about the quality of your child care, you should raise it with the care provider in the first instance. If matters remain unresolved, you can take complaints to OFSTED. They will investigate not only people registered as OFSTED carers, but also people providing care services that aren't enrolled on their registers. You can find out more about how OFSTED respond to complaints in this document. Child services are, understandably, a hugely important and sensitive area. OFSTED will take your issues seriously, and will work with both sides to ensure a high standard of care, and the implementation of best practice.
Every baby deserves a nicely decorated bedroom - here are various options that will let you give your baby a special bedroom to grow up in.
Wallpaper: You can buy some really fun wallpapers for children's bedrooms but beware that a small pattern or dark paper will make a room appear smaller. If you choose wallpaper, make sure you select a paper that can be washed with a damp cloth. The disadvantages of wallpaper are that you can't then add your own paint designs on top, and if you want to redecorate, you can't just paint over to change the look of the room.
Paint: If the walls aren't in great condition, then fill any marks, then line with lining paper. Choose light paints to make the room feel bigger, if there's not a lot of direct light, then look at using high light-reflecting paints to create better light. The great thing about simply painting is that when you want to change the look of the room, you only have to repaint again. You can use various techniques to make the room more interesting:-
- Paint whole walls in different shades to create variations on a single colour
- Paint the lower or upper parts of the wall in complimentary or contrasting colours and cover the join with a border, dado rail or picture rail
- If you are artistic, draw and paint your own giant wall mural
Wallies: Wallies or wall decals are vinyl stickers that you can stick to your wall and create little scenes or other decoration. Wallies are becoming more popular in the UK, but for the widest selection of designs, look at buying online from a supplier in the USA where there is so much more choice! If you hunt around, you'll find wallies for many different popular characters as well as generic themes such as space, dinosaurs, sports, fairies, animals and so on.
Stencils and sponging: If you aren't able to create your own mural, you can always buy stencils or use sponges to create your own effects.
Choose a theme and decorate the room in a common theme throughout. Ideas include jungle, space, under the sea, fantasy fairy land or princess, although with just a little imagination, you'll come up with lots more!
Making a child feel comfortable and 'at home' when they are actually away from home at a childminder's or nursery can be hard because every child is different and has different associations and needs. Some children settle very quickly in a new environment. Others take a long time to get comfortable and need a little more easing into a new place
What can do to settle children and make them feel at home at a nursery or childminder's?
- Label their belongings with their name and even a picture. Label their coat peg, their drawers for art and craft, and even their chair if there is one. Give them a sense that they belong in their new setting.
- Have photographic displays: pictures of them with their family and friends, or photos of days out and about.
- Have a special beaker or plate which is only theirs.
- Give them special jobs: cups are cleared away after each meal by one child, and the table is wiped by another child.
- Homecorners are an important part of making a child feel they belong. There are lots of things there that they can associate with home(play kitchen, play sofa or bed etc) and they can do lots of home role play.
- Routine can help settle a child too: if they know that certain things happen at certain times, they can take comfort from that. They can predict that a play outside comes after a snack or a story comes before a nap and can feel happy about that familiarity.
- Special friends: bringing in a special teddy or doll is a great way to comfort those who are a little nervous.
Children become attached to all sorts of things: blankets, muslin squares, cushions, dolls or bears etc. Years ago children were not encouraged to have a 'comforter' but today its considered acceptable.
Should children have a 'comforter'?
- Comforters offer a link with home.
- Children associate them with happy times and feeling relaxed and secure so can make them feel better if they are nervous.
- They can help with getting children off to sleep as they associate the comforter with being happy, and sleepy at home.
- They can be a 'constant' if children are being moved around settings or if their routine is changing.
- They learn to self sooth and often sleep better because of this.
Starting at nursery, or moving to a new class, can be a daunting time for your little ones, follow our advice to make the transition easier. Nursery represents a whole new and unfamiliar enironment for your babies and toddlers - there are a lot of new faces both of staff and other children, and you are in new surroundings. The other children are too young to offer pastoral support as older children might offer to welcome a new child to school, so you really are reliant on your little ones gaining familiarity and confidence through you and the staff.
Before you start at the nursery, you need to make several trips there, with your children, so that you are confident with the buildings and with the staff who will look after your little ones. This will also grow familiarity in your babies, and if you are relaxed in this environment, your children will take their cue and this help help them relax into it.
As time to start properly approaches, start leaving your child, initially just for half an hour or an hour, and stay somewhere nearby but out of sight, so that staff can call on you if there are any problems. Steadily increase the amount of time that you leave your toddler for, and work up towards a whole morning away from them. Eventually they'll be able to go through the whole session, whether it is a half or whole day, without any problem.
Outside of settling at nursery you can also prepare them for the experience at home. Their clothes and, bags and other items that will go backwards and forwards to nursey will all need name tags; undertake naming with them and explain that they'll be taking these clothes and items with them to nursery. During meal times talk about the food that they'll eat at nursery, and who will be there to help them with their eating. Tell them that they'll have lots of different toys to play with, and that they will get to play outside in the nursery playground or garden.
Talking generally about nursery will help to bolster their whole experience, settle them more quickly, and grow familiarity with the environment and routine. Even if your baby is too young to talk to you, it's very likely that they will pick up signals from you and gain an understanding of what is likely to be their first independence from you.