Two Can Learn Better than One!


Baby Boy Names

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting , Tags: boy names, names

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To compliment our post on the top 20 most popular names for girls, today we're publishing the top 20 boys names.  In first place is 'Jack' which leads with an enormous margin compared to the next most popular boys name, or indeed the most popular girls name. There is a lot of overlap with our last survey in 2009 although Riley and Andrew have dropped out of the top 20. Without further ado, here are the most popular names, as registered children in ToucanLearn:-

  1. Jack
  2. Charlie
  3. Harry
  4. James
  5. Oliver
  6. Ben
  7. Alex
  8. George
  9. Sam
  10. Alfie
  11. Jacob
  12. Thomas
  13. Max
  14. William
  15. Joshua
  16. Ethan
  17. Dylan
  18. Daniel
  19. Joe
  20. Noah

You can find our recent list of the most popular girls names here.



Baby Girl Names

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting , Tags: girls, names

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It's been a long time since we looked at the most popular children's names in ToucanLearn, but now with over 15,000 children registered, we have a great sample to look at! The last time we published this survey was in 2009 when Madison was clear winner...now the name Madison has clearly fallen out of favour. Other names that no longer make the cut are Katie and Isabella. Ella stays in and is joined by Ellie.

Here are the top 20 most popular girls names registered in ToucanLearn:-

  1. Emily
  2. Sophie
  3. Ava
  4. Lily
  5. Grace
  6. Ella
  7. Hannah
  8. Charlotte
  9. Chloe
  10. Mia
  11. Olivia
  12. Jessica
  13. Ellie
  14. Ruby
  15. Evie
  16. Amelia
  17. Holly
  18. Lucy
  19. Megan
  20. Emma

You can view our most popular boys names here.



Childcare and Tax Credits

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting , Tags: childcare, tax credits, working tax credits

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If you qualify for Working Tax Credits then you may also be eligible for additional tax credits to help cover the cost of childcare. In order to qualify you must work a certain number of hours, be responsible for the child and the child must be cared for by a registered or approved childminder or setting such as a school, playgroup or club.

Tax credits won't cover the full cost of your childcare but may cover up to £122.50 for one child per week, or £210 for two children.The entitlement depends on your own earnings and how long you have been paying for childcare.

You can claim childcare tax credits at any time simply by phoning the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900. Make sure also to report any changes in your circumstances because failure to do so could lead to money being clawed back at a later date.



Choosing Sun Cream for Babies

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting, Days out , Tags: sun block, sun cream, suncream, titanium, zinc

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On hot, sunny days, your babies are going to be exposed to harmful sun rays even if you stay in the shade - make sure they are well protected with sun cream or sun block, but make sure that the products you apply are suitable for babies.

Sun creams work in one of two ways. Chemical creams bond with the skin to create a protective layer from the harmful ultra violet rays from the sun. Physical 'block' creams form a surface over the skin and, although mostly invisible, preventing harmful rays from reaching the skin.

Make sure you use blocking creams for babies. These are mineral based, usually listing titanium or zinc as their active ingredients, and characteristically don't rub in so well, often even leaving a faint glaze over the body. This may not look great, but is good news as you can see the sunblock in effect.

Sun creams marketed at children should be the physical sun block type so it is worth seeking out those products specifically, even if they are more expensive than adult sun creams and even if they don't appear to 'rub in' well.

There is also some concern that chemical based sun creams may be carcinogenic as tests on animals have shown that some ingredients cause cancer cells to multiply more quickly and have also led to developmental problems. Perhaps it's best that you also started using the kids' suncream just to be sure...



Data Protection Registration for Childminders

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn , Tags: cctv, data protection act, data protection registration, ico, information commissioners office, photo

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We've been asked on a number of occasions whether you must register with the Data Protection Registrar if you use an online system such as ToucanLearn in your childminding setting. The simple answer is almost certainly 'Yes'. The Data Protection Act requires that any personal data (defined as data that can be traced to an identifiable human being) stored in an automated system must be registered with the Information Commissioner's Office.

Unfortunately the ICO doesn't make the law and even their advice is ambiguous in certain instances. If you complete their 'self assessment' as to whether you need to register under the Data Protection Act, if you state that the personal information you hold is not on an electronic system then they state that you do not need to register. However, in other explanations, the state that if personal information is stored in a filing system aimed at easing information retrieval, then you do have to register. The one exception could be that the information is held in strict chronological order with no other ordering aimed at easy access.

The ICO is clear that keeping personal data on digital cameras, CCTV or mobile phones does fall into the area where registration is required.

Registration currently costs £35 per year and registration can be done online. Renewal payments are usually taken automatically each year.

Here at ToucanLearn we register our own business and declare what we may use the data for. Our registration does not cover our individual users.

It's unlikely that many childminders would fall outside of the requirement to register. Registration is not required because you use a system such as ToucanLearn specifically, it's required because it's almost inevitable that you will hold some information, somewhere, that does fall under the requirements.



Flying When Pregnant

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: air travel, dvt, flying, pregnancy, royal college of obstetricians and gynaecologists, safety

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The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has published a scientific paper on flying during pregancy and concludes that there is no significant risk associated with air travel during pregnancy. Concerns of labour being triggered by air travel appear to be unfounded, as is fear of harm caused by radiation emitted from security scanners. Radiation levels in security equipment are so low as not to pose a risk.

During high altitude flight, the body undergoes physiological change and the levels of oxygen on aircraft are lower than when on the ground. Neither of these have an impact on a baby's development during pregnancy.

There is an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) to all air passengers but that risk remains the same for pregnant women. Pregnant women may also feel more uncomfortable than usual in the cramped conditions of a flight but that poses no health risk to their baby.

Although flying won't trigger an early labour, there is always a chance that women flying close to their due date may naturally fall into labour. That, and the higher chance of other obstetric emergencies occurring in the weeks preceding birth, lead the author of the research to suggest that the general policy of airlines not to carry passengers who are pregnant from 37 weeks gestation is sensible. Furthermore, women with increased risk of preterm labour, perhaps because of multiple births or other complications, should avoid air travel from 32 weeks onwards.

The research was carried out by Professor Ian Greer of the University of Liverpool and is published as an RCOG Scientific Impact Paper. Visit RCOG's website to read more about this study.



Telling the Time

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: clock, counting, hands, numbers, o'clock, telling the time, time

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Telling the time requires a complex set of understandings; while it isn't something that preschoolers will pick up easily, you can begin to sow the foundation by learning the language of time and looking at clocks. Time is an abstract concept, that we have a precise name for every minute, every second even, that has fallen in history is a wild concept to grasp.

Start talking about time during the day, note that "It's eight o'clock, let's have some breakfast", "It's ten o'clock, let's have a snack", "It's half past twelve, let's have some lunch", and so on. Young children will begin to understand that there are names for points of the day, and that certain things happen at those points. If you have a chiming clock at home or you live within earshot of a town or church clock, then start to observe the 'bongoing' and have your little ones tell you what hour it is.

Look at a toy clock face and look at where the hands are pointing. Again, even a 'hand' 'pointing' to a number is a concept that has to be understood. Move the hands and show how they point to different numbers, this will help your little ones understand what you mean. Of course, they also need to be able to recognise their numbers up to twelve, and again, a clock face is great for counting and learning these numbers.

Familiarity at a young age will help your children to learn the rest of time telling more easily in due course.  They will probably only really grasp this when they reach six or seven, but introduce them to clocks and the language of time and they will begin to understand the whole process.



Floating and Sinking

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: bath, floating, gravity, isaac newton, pumice stone, science, sinking

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History records Isaac Newton as a genius but most toddlers can tell you what will happen if you drop a ball! OK, so gravity wasn't merely the observation that things fall, so much as the reasoning as to why, but introducing such basic concepts to young children genuinely is laying the foundation for a scientific education. Next time you are bathing your little ones, take some time out to look at floating and sinking. Add a number of waterproof toys into the bath and see which ones float, and which ones sink? Can you find objects that float when they are bobbed on the surface but that sink when filled with water?

Bathtime presents a fabulous opportunity for little ones to explore water and its properties. Make sure that as well as experimenting, you talk with your little ones; discuss what they are observing and if you can explain it simply, then do so.

Pumice stones are items that you naturally expect to find in a bathroom. Pumice is extraordinary - it is volcanic in origin, created when superheated rock is spewed from a volcano that then cools very rapidly - usually because the volcano errupted underwater. Although it is a rock, it floats in water, so it's a wonderfully confusing item to play with at bathtime, and when you've had enough fun watching it float, you can use it to scrub your little ones clean...good, practical fun!



Make a Sensory Basket

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Child Development , Tags: hairbrush, mirror, nailbrush, pine cone, sensory, sponge, texture, wool

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Babies love to feel textures and interacting with different materials exposes a developing baby to different feels, all part of exploring the world around them. Create a 'Sensory Basket' (or a plain old box!) at home or in their play setting by finding interesting objects that you can bring out whenever you wish. For safety, look out for large objects that don't shed parts and be aware that there will be a tendency to explore items by mouth, so ensure that they are clean. Here are some ideas of objects that you might include:-

  • Scrubbing sponge: find a soft sponge with a scrubbing pad surface
  • Pine cone: dry out a large pine cone
  • Mirror: look for a plastic mirrored surface rather than a glass one
  • Crinkly paper: look for crinkly wrapping paper with a foiled surface
  • Brush: look out a new hairbrush or nailbrush
  • Sanding block (available at DIY stores) or pummice stone (from a pharmacy)
  • Ball of wool: leave it wound up

Look around the house for other objects that your little ones can explore with touch. Sifting through draws you will quickly come across items that are safe for babies to handle and that offer a fw moments of fun to explore and sense!



Budgeting for your Baby

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting, Family , Tags: baby equipment, budgeting, family

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In line with everything else in life, the cost of having a baby is only going in one direction, and that's upwards. It's estimated that the cost of preparing for your baby is approaching £2,000 - that's the total for all your baby equipment such as cots and car seats, as well as your initital stock of nappies and clothes etc.  Of course there are ongoing costs too, with the lowest estimates for caring for a baby coming in at £1,000 a year. These costs may be very conservative for parents who want to treat their baby to high end equipment - the upper costs associated with raising a baby can virtually be limitless!

All of this comes at a time when your earnings are likely to fall because of maternity leave. It's so important that you plan for this lifestyle change.  Luckily we get good notice of a new baby arriving - typically nine months! Start putting aside a little bit of money as soon as you know that you are expecting, or start to spread the cost by buying pieces of equipment as you go along. Prepare your new baby's bedroom in this time and start kitting it out with the furniture that you'll need.

There are ways that you can save money - look out for secondhand equipment at boot sales, on eBay or at NCT sales. Look for good value alternatives such as supermarket branded goods. Don't feel that you have to buy one of everything that is available - make pragmatic decisions about what equipment you may be able to survive without.

There's no arguing that having a baby doesn't come cheaply, but hopefully you'll find the joy of having a new member of the family more than reward enough to see you through these early years. Costs don't necessarily decrease with time, but hopefully your budgeting will be more used to a larger family in time...



Paternity Leave

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Family , Tags: employment, maternity leave, paternity leave

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Paternity leave has changed enormously over the last few years to the point where it could be beneficial for many families to consider this in place of more traditional maternity leave following the birth or adoption of a new child. There may be many different situations where paternity leave makes sense, given your family circumstances, but the rules surrounding how and when it can be taken are fairly rigid, so make sure that you have planned in advance and are certain that this is how you wish to proceed.

Pay throughout paternity leave is capped at a little under £140 per week. Ordinary paternity leave may be taken for 1 or 2 weeks and must be taken within 56 days of the birth or adoption of a new child. Additional paternity leave is the newer and more flexible arrangement whereby you can take between 2 and 26 weeks off, depending on how much maternity leave your partner has taken.

In order to qualify you must be employed, so there is no entitlement for self-employed workers, and you are taxed and must pay National Insurance on top of the pay. You must also give your employer a minimum amount of notice and have been employed for a qualifying time period.

Find out more detail on paternity leave at the government website.



Parents and EYFS Assessments

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: assessments, development, eyfs assessments, key worker, observation, parents

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The EYFS requires that parents are involved in assessments of their children because there is a recognition that parents spend more time with their little ones than any individual carer does and therefore knows them best.

Carers should take the time to talk with parents as a key part of undertaking assessments. In particular they should solicit the parent's views on how their child is developing and what milestones they have noticed the child has hit or is progressing towards. They should talk about what each child enjoys doing because what they do in a domestic setting may be different to what they do with a childminder or at nursery.

Parents may have a better insight into how language is developing and should offer their observations to the keyworker undertaking the assessment. They should also discuss other patterns that they have observed in play or development.

Parents aren't trained child practitioners so may not willingly express the information required so the childminder or key worker should spend the time asking relevant questions to try to ascertain information from the parents that is useful for the assessments.

Ideally parents will interact with childminders and key workers regularly so that this information is gathered frequently and not only at junctures where formal written assessments are being made. This will help the key worker plan next steps for children, taking into account emerging development.

As a parent, if your work life restricts the time you have to interface with your child's key worker, perhaps you have to drop off quickly before work and pick up quickly once done before your next scheduled engagment, then look at setting up meetings with the key worker on a regular basis so that you have the opportunity to feed into assessments.



Adapting EYFS Activities to Different Topics

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: activities, days of the week, development, dinosaurs, eyfs, minibeasts, romans, topics

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The EYFS covers broad aspects of child development (such as Communication and Language, Literacy, Mathematics) rather than specific topics such as 'Dinosaurs', 'The Romans' or 'Days of the Week'.  At ToucanLearn we have a range of activities suited to the capabilities of each individual child. The selection of activities you see for a 3 month child is different for those of a 9 month child or 2 year old toddler. Our activity programme takes each child up to school age.

If you want to cover specific topics in your setting then look at adapting our activities to cover the topics you want to cover. Some of our activities will map very easily whilst some may not. For example, if you are studying 'Minibeasts' then look at adapting the range of activities being offered to change the focus to creepy crawlies instead.

Of course, there are plenty of other activity sites on the Internet and a quick search will bring up all sorts of activities relating to specific topics. Where ToucanLearn differs is that we offers activities aimed at the specific capabilities of each child, each one focusing on different aspects of the EYFS at that stage of development. By adapting our activities to a different topic, you can ensure that the activities are pitched at the right level in terms of capability.



Fresh Food vs. Frozen Food

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: food, fresh food, frozen food, fruit, minerals, nutrition, vegetables, vitamins

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Every parent wants to give their child the most nutritional food to give them a head start in life. Some parents may have views on whether fresh fruit and vegetables are better than frozen fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately the case for which contains more nutrients is not clear cut.

Freezing food does not in itself destroy mineral or vitamin levels - levels are preserved until the produce thaws.  Vitamins and minerals are destroyed by heating, however, meaning that levels start to diminish as soon as you start cooking the food. Some frozen foods are blanched or heated prior to being frozen in order to protect them and this could start destroying nutrient levels, although industrial processes are generally refined enough nowadays to keep levels at their optimum.

There's a strange twist to the tale when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. Much produce travels from all over the world to reach our supermarket shelves - bananas from South America, beans from Africa, Strawberries from the Middle East...just look at the packaging and you'll be surprised! Many of these items are picked before they ripen fully and ripen on their long journey to our shelves. This means that they aren't as nutritious as they would have been had they been allowed to ripen naturally on their plants. Frozen foods, on the other hand, are picked at their prime, once they have ripened fully in the fields or orchards, and arguably therefore start with higher vitamin and mineral levels than for some fresh produce.

Of course, there's no way to look at produce and know how it has been prepared before reaching our shelves. The best thing you can do is to minimise the 'air miles' that your produce has racked up in transit. Buy fresh produce that has been grown in local markets and it should be the best all round!



Garden Games

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Toys and Games , Tags: bugs, flower pots, flowers, games, garden outdoor play, leaves

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When the weather permits, spend time with the children outdoors, if you don't have a garden, taken them along to a park.  As well as outdoor games, try taking some of your children's favourite puzzles and board games to play outside too - being outside adds another new dimension to the games. Here are some fun games to play outdoors:-

Pin the Bug on the Daisy: This is a version of pin the tail on the donkey only using a big drawing of a flower and some stickers.  Draw a big daisy flower with a stalk and leaves on wallpaper.  Hang it up and blindfold the children getting them to try and stick their sticker nearest to the yellow centre of the daisy.

Hunt a Bug: This is a scavenger hunt game game which is easy and fun! Each child gets a list of five things (draw each one) they need to find: a branch, a red curly leaf, a pine cone, a dandelion flower, a feather etc. They then have to go off in pairs and them.

Bee Landing: Draw a small bee (or find a picture of one) and stick it to some blue tack or play dough to give it weight.  Draw a large sunflower outdoors with pavement chalk. Blindfold each child and get them to throw the bee and see who gets nearest to the centre of the flower!

Mr and Mrs Pots: Turn empty flower pots into flower pot people.  Paint on faces using poster paints, and glue or tape on hands and feet made from twigs or rope.  Loop a long string to the top of the pot and you have a garden puppet! Why not put on a show?!

Landing on Leaves: Draw a large leaf for each child and get them to colour it in.  Place one on each chair.  When the music starts each child must fly like bugs around the chairs and when the music stops they must find a leaf to land on.

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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

Sign up FREE to ToucanLearn to follow our activity based learning programme for babies, toddlers and children. We offer hundreds of fun learning craft, games and activities - every activity is aimed at the capabilities of your specific children. Download custom activity sheets, and log their progress in each child's unique Daily Diary!

You'll also find sticker and reward charts, certificates, number and letter practice. Every activity links into the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) areas of learning and development.

Fill in our Daily Diary to log progress against the EYFS and add photo entries instantly simply by sending them straight from your phone. You can share diaries back with parents or childminders so that everyone can enjoy watching your children develop.

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