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Wildlife-Friendly Flower Growing Fun for Under-Fives

This wildflower-growing activity gets children outdoors, closer to nature, as well as doing some good for conservation and wildlife.Today’s flower-growing children’s activity follows on nicely from last month’s butterfly-counting activity. Once again, it focuses on getting children outdoors, closer to nature, and doing some good for conservation and local wildlife — including butterflies. Also, as we know, outdoor play is important and getting closer to nature is hugely beneficial to children.

This time, it’s all about growing wildflowers that help to feed pollinators and encourage them to come to gardens, balconies, patios, plant pots, and window boxes where children live. As well as butterflies, the pollinators include bees, hoverflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and some non-flying insects like beetles. What’s more, you may well find that wildflowers attract birds and sometimes even bats too!

Pollinators are not only beautiful and adorable, but they’re essential for a healthy environment and to pollinate food crops. So, all in all, this is another hugely worthwhile activity for under-fives and older children to get involved in. It’s also great fun and educational. So, without further delay, here is our simple guide explaining how children and families can start growing wildlife-friendly flowers to support and attract these magical little creatures. Enjoy!

When Children Should Sow Wildflower Seeds

Wildflower seeds sown in March and April will generally flower in late spring/early summerIt’s possible to sow wildflower seeds from March right through to mid-October or, at a push, early November so long as snow or frost is not forecast. Those sown closer to March and April will generally flower in late spring/early summer. Those sown very late in the year will flower the following year, from spring onwards. Any sown up to and including the middle period, for example during July, should still flower in the same year — wildflowers usually bloom some 60 to 80 or so days later if they’re timed to grow in the same year as they’re sown.

While pollen from the flowers is the main source of food for pollinators, the actual leaves of some late-growing varieties of wildflower plants are also useful as a food source, for example, for caterpillars. These will appear from around September followed by a second generation that will appear in April/May of the following year.

Given all of the above, the main message about timing is for parents and caregivers to plan ahead and also read seed packets and instructions carefully before sowing. In this way, children will know when to expect to see the plants, flowers, and resulting wildlife. Once the flowers and creatures appear, it’s sure to delight children!

Where to Get Wildflower Seeds

There are several easy ways for children and families to source wildflower seeds.There are several ways for children and families to source wildflower seeds. The most obvious way is to buy them commercially, in seed packets. These are available from any number of different outlets including nurseries, supermarkets, wildlife/nature charities, and countless websites online (here’s a good example).

A potentially cheaper way is to scour the Internet for free wildflower seeds and you may have some luck. Timing is important because some of the free wildflower seed schemes are likely to be early in the year — March/April for example. Some environment-centric organisations and companies may also provide free packets of wildflower seeds if you simply cover the cost of postage.

The best and totally free way to get hold of wildflower seeds, however, is to keep your – and your little one’s – eyes open when you’re outdoors around nature and plants. If you time it right, you’ll spot the seed pods of naturally-occurring wildflowers and, so long as they’re ready to be harvested, you can save the seeds for your child to sow later. Perhaps use small paper envelopes, so you can write the name or description of the wildflower being saved. If children help with harvesting seeds, ensure you adhere to our health and safety guidelines at the end of this article.

What Flowers to Grow

There are several ways to decide which wildflowers to grow.

  • Look out for bee, butterfly, and pollinator-friendly wildflower seed packets if buying commercially.If you buy your child commercially-available wildflower seeds, the information on the packet will often say if the resulting flowers are bee-friendly, butterfly-friendly, good for pollinators, and so on. So, if you’re sourcing seeds that way, much of the decision-making criteria around which actual flowers to grow is made clear and therefore the choice is easy.
  • Additionally, of course, the visual appeal of any flower photographs on the packets will help you with your choice. You may like a mixture of colours, or perhaps you’d rather limit the colour palette to just one or two colours. Cornflowers are blue, for example, while poppies can be red, orange, or yellow, and so on. Choosing by colour also therefore makes selection easier and indeed your child will probably enjoy helping in the decision-making process. Prompting them to choose by colour and pollinator-friendliness will, however, also be educational for them, subtly teaching them the importance of helping wildlife and the environment through the power of their personal choices.
  • On the other hand, if you/your child want complete control over the exact species of wildflower you/they want to see growing, then some homework will be needed unless, of course, you are already knowledgeable. The RSPB’s article on growing wildlife-friendly flowers may be a useful place to start and lists several varieties along with details of their colours.

Where to Sow the Wildflower Seeds

By their very nature, wildflowers are not terribly picky about what type of soil they will grow in.By their very nature, wildflowers are generally not very picky in regard to the type of soil they are happy to grow in. Therefore you/your child will have a greater choice of where to sow the wildflower seeds. A fairly clear sunny area is good, whether that’s garden beds, flower pots, window boxes, grow bags on a balcony, or even the lawn itself if you want a wild ‘meadow’ type lawn. Whatever the choice, it’s best if it’s somewhere that won’t be disturbed by you/the family though, as you wouldn’t want the wildflowers trampled once they do arrive.

How Children Can Grow the Wildflowers

Before sowing the seeds, ensure that the soil is free of weeds. Your child may enjoy helping with the weeding process or, if you are using pots and starting from scratch, you can avoid the weeding stage by using peat-free compost afresh. Either way, the topmost layer of soil will need to be loosened and raked neatly so there is somewhere for the seeds to fall and eventually embed. Again, children may enjoy getting involved in this part. If using pots or containers, ensure water can drain at the bottom, so the earth or compost will not become waterlogged later on.

Children will love it when their seeds have sprouted flowers and pollinators like bees and butterflies come to visit.With regard to sowing the seeds, follow any seed-specific instructions on packets in relation to timing and spacing. If you’re using self-harvested seeds or there are no instructions, simply sprinkle the seeds so they’re spaced, fairly evenly, i.e. not too densely sown. This will avoid the wildflower plants having to compete with one another once they start growing. A tip is to sprinkle from a height as this will naturally scatter them more widely. Once scattered, your child can help* to pat the soil surface down, either by hand or using the back of a tool like a spade or a trowel, so that the seeds are secured in the soil. Children can even ‘walk’ them in if they prefer. Once complete, ensure that you/your child keep the soil damp over the coming weeks. The preparation stage really is as simple as that!

Enjoy the Magic of Nature!

Ensure children know that they have now started a natural chain reaction that will result first in tiny shoots, then plants, then later beautiful flowers along with all the visiting pollinators, insects, birds and maybe more.

Don’t forget; following the flowering stage, the wildflowers are likely to ‘seed’ themselves at the end of their flowering season. That’s unless, of course, you/your child harvest the seeds yourselves, ready to sow at a place of your choosing next time. Some varieties of wildflowers will also naturally regrow next year — those are called perennials. — in contrast to those that only live for one year, which are called annuals. That said, even annual plants may self-seed, so their offspring appear next time, and such is the circle of life.

Nature & Forest School at Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

We hope today’s nature-based activity gives children, whether under five or older, an enjoyable time while also learning and helping to nurture the natural world. Nature teaches children a huge amount and that’s one of the many reasons why Little Acorns is a Forest School setting.

Little Acorns Nursery is an outstanding nursery/preschool in Clayton-le-Woods and the winner of an important National Nursery award. These are some of the many reasons why Little Acorns Nursery represents the very best early years childcare and education for babies and children under five in Central Lancashire. We also support Government childcare funding schemes, making it easier to afford for eligible families. To register your child for a nursery/preschool place, ask a question, or arrange a free guided tour of the setting, please select an option below:

For those not actually living in Clayton-le-Woods itself, we may also be a suitable choice if you live or work in nearby towns and villages including Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

* Health & Safety of Little Ones

Parents/caregivers should supervise and accompany children, especially the very young, at all times to ensure their safety and well-being. For example, special care should be given near hazards including garden ponds, trip hazards and unhygienic areas. Children should be taught good practices around hygiene and self-care including the avoidance of poisonous plants, care around unhygienic soil, non-ingestion of seeds, avoidance of germs and so on. Keeping hands and fingers away from faces during outdoor activities, perhaps even wearing protective gloves when touching natural things like earth and plants, and washing hands with soap and water after outdoor activities, are also good examples to set for children.

 

Help for Children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND)

Help for Children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND)

Today, we look at how early years childcare providers can help children under five if they have special educational needs or disabilities.Today, we look at how early years childcare providers like Little Acorns Nursery can help children under five if they have special educational needs and disabilities. This is often referred to as ‘SEND’ or in longer forms like ‘SEN and disabilities’. Let’s explore the topic to get an overview of some of the help available.

Childcare Help for Children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities

Early years and childcare providers can support children under five in a variety of ways if they have special educational or developmental needs, and/or a disability. Indeed, helping affected children as early as possible in their lives is of paramount importance:

“Early identification of needs and the timely provision of appropriate support, together with high aspirations, can help ensure that the vast majority of children who have SEN or disabilities can achieve well and make a successful transition into adulthood.” (DfE)*

The specific strategies used will depend on the child’s individual needs and the resources available to any particular provider. That said, typical examples of ways that early years childcare providers — and others — can support children with special needs include the following:

Identifying Children with Special Needs

If an area of special need is suspected, early years providers can work with parents and sometimes other professionals to get an assessment and support if needed.Actually identifying an area of special need or disability is, of course, the first, crucial step in being able to help a child. If an area of special need is suspected, early years providers can work with parents and sometimes other professionals, for example health visitors, speech and language therapists, paediatricians and so on. Involving such professionals will help with any diagnosis.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the presence of a special need may not be crystal clear in many cases, especially when children are very young. As an example, it would not be possible to diagnose dyslexia until a point when a child’s understanding of language is sufficiently developed to actually begin the process of reading text. However, the involvement of such external expertise may make the initial identification of a child’s special need or disability more feasible.

Following such a diagnosis, the various parties surrounding the child can then, together, develop a plan of how best to support that child during their early years and potentially beyond. For our part as a nursery and childcare provider, we will also ensure that we regularly review the support that an affected child receives, making adjustments and taking further actions etc. when appropriate. 

Creating an Inclusive and Supportive Environment

It's important for early years providers to create an inclusive environment that welcomes and supports children of all abilities.This is important. Early years providers can create an inclusive environment that welcomes and supports children of all abilities. Encouraging the inclusion of children in social groups and in the making of friends, for example, is of huge benefit to children’s well-being. Childcare settings can also provide special equipment or adapt the environment to make it more accessible for children with specific physical needs.

Creating a positive and responsive culture is also crucial, so that children feel comfortable to express themselves, irrespective of any differences or abilities/disabilities that they may have.

Additional Support and Resources Through Funding

In some circumstances, childcare providers can access special funding in order to provide additional support and resources to children with special educational needs or disabilities. Examples include the hiring of additional staff to provide one-to-one support, providing extra resources to support learning, or offering additional activities to extend children’s experiences. Access to the specific funding will, though, require eligibility criteria to be met. Often, such funding applications may require a team effort between parents/carers, childcare settings and potentially other types of early years professional mentioned above.

Tailoring Learning & Development Plans & Activities to Meet Individual Needs

Learning and development plans and activities are tailored to suit each child. This is designed to meet the needs of every child individually, including those with special needs.Early years providers like Little Acorns Nursery adapt the individual learning and development plans and activities to suit each child. In this way, they’re custom-designed to meet the needs of every child individually, including those with special needs. This is done as a matter of course as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) approach to early years education and development. The tailored approach helps to level-up the playing field and, in effect, encourage equal opportunities for each child. It also helps them to reach their own personal bests in every area of their learning and development.

Progress Checks

The EYFS approach means that our early years practitioners use a continuous assessment approach in regard to every child’s progress, whether or not they have special needs or any disabilities. However, for those affected by SEN or disabilities, such an approach is even more crucial.

Special education provision for children, including those with SEN or disabilities, follows four stages of action: “Assess, Plan, Do and Review.”

In tandem with this, all children receive a Progress Check at 2 and this will highlight whether progress is on track, additional support is appropriate and indeed whether there is a SEND-related issue. Either way, tailored activities and strategies will be planned and put in place to address any issues and help optimise every child’s progress.

Special education provision for children, including those with SEN or disabilities, follows four stages of action: “Assess, Plan, Do and Review.Later, each child will similarly have an ‘EYFS profile’ completed during the final term of reception year. However, as we’re focusing this article on children under five, we’ll not go into detail about that here.

The SENCo

As well as having a ‘Key Person’ allocated to each child, early years providers like Little Acorns have a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo). The SENCo oversees the setting’s tailored support for children, under their care, who have special educational needs or disabilities. Similarly, the local authority will have an Area SENCO. They will advise and help coordinate support for children with special needs between the local authority itself, the child’s parents, early years and education settings, health and social care services and so on. The Area SENCO will also help when the time comes to transition the under-five child to school.

Communicating with Parents and Other Professionals

Communication is key. Childcare providers like Little Acorns Nursery will communicate regularly with parents/carers and, when appropriate, local authorities, health visitors, paediatricians and other healthcare professionals. This is to ensure that everyone is aware of the child’s progress and any additional support that may be needed. Ensuring that all parties are pulling in the same direction is crucial to outcomes for each child, particularly if they have special needs and/or disabilities.

“When a child is very young, or SEN is first identified, families need to know that the great majority of children and young people with SEN or disabilities, with the right support, can find work, be supported to live independently, and participate in their community.” (DfE)*

EHC Assessments and Plans

In the event that a child does not make the expected progress despite everyone’s best efforts and high quality support, there is recourse to request an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment via the local authority. If such a request is made by a childcare setting, it would only be done with the knowledge of the child’s parent(s) and after discussion with them. Basically, such an assessment may result in a brand new plan to support the child, if that’s deemed appropriate. It’s a big topic in its own right, so we may follow up separately to explain more about EHCs in due course.

The ‘Local Offer’ from the Local Authority

The 'Local Offer' from local authorities outlines the help available in the area for children with SEN or disabilities, including how to access that support.It may be useful for parents and carers to note that local authorities have a duty to publish what’s known as a ‘Local Offer’. This outlines the help available in the area for children with SEND, including how to access that support.

A good example is the Local Offer published by our own local authority (Lancashire County Council), which can be found here. (Note that the early years childcare section of that particular Local Offer can be found here). A quick search there for SEND services will indeed reveal Little Acorns Nursery as an outstanding provider of childcare services, including for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Free Funded Childcare Places for Children with SEND

While all 3- and 4-year-olds in England have access to free childcare provision each week, 2-year-olds with SEND may also be eligible for a significant number of free childcare hours if they get a Disability Living Allowance (‘DLA’), have a valid Education, Health and Care (‘EHC’) plan or have been referred through the local authority’s Portage service. Follow the bold links or speak to us at Little Acorns Nursery if you are local to Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, and would like to learn more more about the options.

Outstanding Childcare in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare providerLittle Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, ChorleyChildren get the very best start at Little Acorns Nursery. Little Acorns is an outstanding nursery and pre-school in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Central Lancashire (PR6). We are also close to Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village and Whittle-le-Woods. Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham, so may suit those living/working in any of those nearby locations. Trust your child’s early years education and childcare to an award-winning nursery/pre-school and a nursery recognised by Ofsted as an Outstanding Provider

To register your child for a place at Little Acorns Nursery, to ask a question or to see the nursery in action, please contact us:

* Quotation references: DfE, ‘Early Years: Guide to the 0 to 25 SEND Code of Practice’