Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Parenting



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...



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.



Screen Time

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting , Tags: computer, phone, screen time, tablet, television

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When you and I were little, being sat in front of a screen meant watching TV, but today there are a whole variety of different screen based activities competing for attention. Common wisdom was to manage the amount of television that young children were exposed to. Whatever the agreed limit, impose it regularly and don't oversexpose your little ones to too much.

Today there are likely to be screens all over the house, in your bags and pockets, possibly in the car too, whether it be televisions, computers, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, games consoles or even hi-fi's and other entertainment systems. Our children are undoubtedly growing up in a very different environment to the one that we grew up in, and it's important that they gain the right exposure to the right devices in the right ways. Children will use computers at school from an early age, so early exposure to them is not necessarily a bad thing. They may soon be using tablets at school, so again, controlled access is probably a better policy than prohibition.

As much as you may dislike technology, or feel uncomfortable with the level of exposure in everyday life, you could place your children at a disadvantage in life if you prohibit them from accessing televisions, computers and even games consoles. As with television in days gone by, adopt a screen policy where you allow 'screen time' at certain times during the week. Make this time optional, that your little ones may sit in front of a screen if they wish, but they may choose to play or do something else instead, don't mandate that they must sit in front of the telly, or play educational games on your phone.

Whether you grant an hour or two each day, half an hour a week, or somewhere in between, the overall time isn't so important. More important is that you manage expectation, enforce the limits and try to make this time constructive.  Perhaps you might choose to watch a couple of regular programmes, or to play certain games on a television or computer. Try to steer your little ones' attention towards educational content and remember that even games can be construed as assisting development if they help develop coordination or understanding.

If you think our children have a shockingly different life to the way that we grew up, being exposed to electrical gizmos and gadgets at every turn, just spare a thought for the world that your grandchildren will inhabit!



Let them Speak for Themselves

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Child Development , Tags: behaviour, childminder, conversation, interaction, questions

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Child practitioners know how to interact with young children, they ask them direct questions and wait for a response. It's very easy for parents, standing with their child, to hear a question, whether it be asked by a childminder or teacher, or a friend or relative, and to answer the question on behalf of the child. It's so easy to do this that it can be pretty difficult not to. Try to avoid doing this though, it really is important that children learn to engage in conversation and that they learn to listen, interpret and respond to questions in their own right.

As a parent, you don't want to show up your child, or have them stuck in an awkward situation where they don't understand a question. This is such an important part of language development though that you really aren't doing them any favours when you respond on their behalf.

When granny asks 'What have you been doing today?', or the childminder asks 'Is it sunny outside?', there's a really high probability that they already know the answer. Adults are sympathetic to the knowledge of young children and don't ask searching questions requiring a comprehensive, in-depth, analytical response. They are asking in order to engage with the child, to help build a bond and in order to allow the child to practice language. The enquirer isn't usually looking for a definitive answer, they probably aren't even interested in the correct answer; instead they simply want to hear the answer in the child's own words. If parents wade in with the answer then they are denying the child the opportunity to speak for themselves.

If you recognise this behaviour in yourself then try to spot it in your interactions with those around your children. If you are aware that you are doing it, then you will be able to pause, think about it, and then stop before giving an answer. If it's a deep rooted habit that you have developed then it may take a little time to coax yourself away from it, but you will get there eventually.



Rewarding Children

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting , Tags: chores, jobs, rewards, sticker charts

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Preschool children love to be rewarded, if they do something good then heap on praise and offer a reward - in turn, you will be rewarded as you begin to condition their behaviour. Even the most trivial or trifling rewards can fill a toddler's pride. Sometimes you may reward with food, but try to coax with healthy foods rather than sweets and chocolate. Offer raisins or other dried fruit or perhaps rice cakes as an incentive for good behaviour or simply for being helpful.

Children will be just as stimulated by earning points or stickers. A sticker chart offers a simple visual reward mechanism. Even the youngest children will understand that when they do good or clever things, they will be rewarded with another sticker on the chart. If you don't have stickers, just draw stars onto a piece of paper. Even before they can count, young children will be able to sense quantity from the number of stars staring back at them.

Schools reward with responsibility; young children may take it in turns to deliver the register to the school reception, or to tidy away craft at the end of a session. Wiping the table after dinner may be seen as a privilege rather than a chore. See if you can instigate that same sense of importance and value by offering chores as a privilege. Invite your little ones to pair shoes or wellies by the door, to place their dirty clothes in the washing basket, or to collect waste bins from around the house before bin collection. There are a number of small jobs that young children will be able to take on around the house and by offering these as a reward for good behaviour, you will start to instil a sense of value and worth.



EYFS 2 Year Progress Check

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Preschool Children, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: eyfs 2012, eyfs progress check, parents, prime areas of learning, progress check

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One of the new requirements introduced in EYFS 2012 was the need to conduct a progress check at some point during each child's second year. The exact timing of the check is left open - the government recommends that it is undertaken at a suitable point that the child moves setting, or at another point by agreement with the parents. The check may even be undertaken after their third birthday but ideally it will be done between 24 and 36 months.

There is no prescribed format for progress checks, indeed they should very much be unique for each child. The purpose is to clock the developmental progress of the child and ensure that any issues are identified and flagged. This will help child carers concentrate on areas that may be lacking, or even to build further on strong areas. The assessment helps to inform parents of porgress and allows both parents and carers to plan for future activities with the child.

The child carer should assess each of the prime areas of learning: Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development; and Communication and Language. Only one assessment is required so if a child attends more than obe setting, the check should be done by the setting that the child spends most time in. The check should be undertaken by the key person who has most exposure to the child and who knows them best.

The report should be drafted in a manner that is easy for parents to understand and that informs them clearly of any action the carer would like the parents to undertake. It would be a good idea to encourage parents to write their own brief response to file with the report to demonstrate that they have read and understood the report. The better you document future actions, the easier it will be to refer back to them and ensure that progress is maintained as planned.

While the check forms a mandatory part of the EYFS, it is only relevant for children who spend time with a child minder or carer. Children who are raised by 'stay at home mums' will not be affected.



The Naughty Step

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Parenting , Tags: discipline, naughty step, punishment

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When children do something wrong, even very young ones, it's important to have a way to instil discipline, and the 'Naughty Step' offers a good way to do this. The 'Naughty Step Technique' can be used for children who are old enough to understand when they do something wrong, and you explain why it is wrong. When this happens, take the child aside, explain what they have done wrong, and place them on the bottom stair where they must wait for a set duration.

You might use a fixed duration such as two or three minutes, or perhaps have them stay for one minute for each year of their age so that the punishment increases as they grow older. During this time, make sure that they receive no attention as this will encourage them to play up to the crowd.

Explaining what they have done wrong is essential, and try always to be consistent in meting out the punishment. Lack of consistency can lead to confusion and mixed signals. Make sure that once relieved of their post ofn the naughty step that you ensure you child apologises for their behaviour to the relevant party, and end with hugs to show that although you have disciplined them, that you still love them.

If you want to use this technique when you are away from home, then you could take a small mat with you as a portable 'Naughty Mat'. When needed, put it down in a quiet corner and have them stand for the same duration that you would use at home.



Avoiding the Winter Bug

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health , Tags: health, hygiene, illness, norovirus, winter bug

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December saw an outbreak of Norovirus, or winter vomiting bug almost approaching epidemic proportions, and unfortunately it continues on its rounds.

Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach bug, it spreads easily because exposure to as few as 10 virus particles can inubate infection, and also because the virus can survive on open surfaces for a long time.

As with any contagious virus, the key to avoiding it is to practice good hygiene:-

  • Wash hands before handling food, before eating, after touching animals and after going to the toilet
  • Take care if you are treating sick people around you, wash hands after being with them
  • Use an antibacterial handwash
  • Use a tissue to contain coughs and sneezes, then dispose of the tissue and wash your hands again
  • Isolate sufferers until 48 hours after recovery
  • If you catch the virus, remember that you remain contagious for a further 48 hours after you recover, don't prepare food on that time, and be cautious interacting with others

Hospitals and surgeries are keen to prevent contagion amongst the most vulnerable so try to avoid visiting them, telephone for advice if required.

Sadly there's no treatment for Norovirus and you have to let the bug run its course.  Symptoms vary but can include severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The biggest danger comes from dehydration so try to keep hydrated even in the event of vomiting.  Young children (and the elderly) are particularly vulnerable to dehydration and may require hospital treatment, but check with your hospital first as many have shut their doors to Norovirus admissions on health grounds.

Hopefully we all practice the hygiene measures outlined here routinely, this won't prevent catching Norovirus but it will help to contain its spread.



Managing Tangled Hair

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health , Tags: brushing hair, hair, hairdressers, lice

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No matter how cute toddlers are, there can be days when they need to look just a bit smarter than normal and it's a real struggle to brush their hair. It's not just boys who like the messy look, many girls refuse to go near a hairbrush too.

Some question why bother, if they won't stand still and it ends in tears. But besides cosmetic reasons to brush hair, there are practical reasons too.  It loosens any dirt that may be lurking, it's good to get their natural oils working to the ends of the hair and its good practise for that special day coming up (a wedding or family photo event!) when you need them tidy.

Here are a few tips:-

Styles: keep long hair up in plaits or pony tails to avoid knots and hair twiddling (which makes it unbearably tangled).

Tools: use a natural bristle hair brush and be gentle!  Deal with a little at a time and take it slowly.  You don't have to untangle the whole head in one go, so take it bit by bit and work through the whole head gradually.

Lice: don't share brushes to reduce the chance of getting lice, which are a pain to deal with!  Make it easy on yourself by getting each child their own brush and wash it in warm soapy water frequently.

Play hairdressers: making it fun does take the pain out of brushing their hair.  Set up a stool and a few hair clips etc and role play going to a hairdressers.  Add a mirror too as kids love staring at themselves.

Decorations: go shopping together for some new clips and ribbons.  Keep them somewhere special and make a big fuss of how beautiful she looks when her hair is done.



Bamboozled by Choice

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting , Tags: amazon, baby listeners, baby products, buying, car seats, high street, prams, reviews

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If you're a new, first time mum then you're probably bamboozled by the sheer choice of baby products available on the market. You need a car seat, but, oh my! There are thousands to choose from. You need a pram, but again, which of the hundreds of products on the market is right for you?! Which nappies should you use - hundreds of different packages stare out at you from the shop shelves, each one promising something slightly different!  Baby listeners, car seats, educational toys...so much choice!

The broad choice available is quite simply bamboozling and life is too short to evaluate every product against dozens of criteria in order to ensure you make the right choice.

Well, here's some news...it needn't be that difficult.  Here are two simple tips to help you wade through the aisles:-

(1) Remember that all baby products have to pass rigorous safety standards.  This means that all products available on the shelves in our shops are fit for purpose.  The £800 super-duper-buggy-stroller-expandable-supermarket-trolley is no more worthy than the £100 version that just doesn't have padded handlebars and dayglow wheels.  They are both suitable for babies, they both do the job.  The decision is just whether you want all the features promised by the high end version.

Decide on the feature set for whatever product you want to buy and then narrow your field of choice by those products that support the features you require.  Be guided by price, cheaper products will still be up to the task.

(2) You're not the only new mum in the world...there are literally thousands of you.  ...and you're all going through the same buying cycle, getting hold of all the new equipment required for your baby.  A lot of these mum's are writing about their experience in blogs, but it's almost impossible to find all of these for any products that you want.

Instead, head to Amazon - they are shifting more products that anyone else in the country and act as a great barometer for which products to buy and which to avoid.  They also receive and post reviews on their website, reviews written by real people and based on real experience.  Go to Amazon, search for the product type that you are looking for.

Filter your search for products with average reviews of 4* and higher - these are the products that others are rating.  Look at these products, sort by price if you wish.  Be wary of any products with just one or two reviews, there isn't enough feedbcak to be meaningful.  Instead, select from the products that are highly rated and that preferably have tens of reviews, if not hundreds.  These products are the ones that everyone seems to rate well, make your selection from these.

Look at the individual reviews for the product that takes your fancy and check out the worst reviews - there are bound to be a few 1* and 2* ratings.  Look at why they are bad - if the negative points they raise don't put you off, then you can probably bet that this product will serve you well.  Of course, you don't have to buy it here from Amazon, you can now buy it from wherever you wish, either online or in the high street, but you may well find that Amazon offers the best price, and you can probably have it delivered in just a few days for free.

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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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