Tag Archive for: child development

Exercise & Active Play for Under-Fives

Exercise & Active Play for Under-Fives
A healthy lifestyle is crucially important for health and wellbeing at any age, but it’s even more important in the early years. At this age, children are still at a critical time in their physical and mental development. We wrote last month about the need for healthy eating for toddlers and preschoolers and now follow this up by exploring the importance of exercise and active play for under fives.

The Importance of Exercise for Under-Fives

Active play has many benefits to under-fivesGenerally speaking, under-fives should be encouraged to be active. There are many benefits of this including remaining physically fit, getting to know and enhancing physical abilities, honing motor skills (fine and gross) and improving coordination and balance. In addition, it helps the very young to develop visual and sensory skills. Physical activity is also part and parcel of the development of new neurological pathways in the brain. All these skills and benefits will become increasingly important as children grow, develop and become ever-more active and independent.

Exercise for Babies — Tummy Time

Exercise for babies comes in the form of light, active play. At this early age, even starting as newborns, they can begin via floor activities known commonly as Tummy Time. Here, the supervising adult places them on their stomach on a suitably comfy, safe and soft area of the floor and encourages them to move their head, arms and legs.

Close supervision is essential for your baby’s safety and, of course, the baby must always be awake when they’re in this ‘prone’ position

Allowing babies to move on their tummies will help to strengthen limbs, neck, shoulder and back muscles and also help the infant to develop their motor, coordination and visual skills. It’s also believed to help babies avoid ‘positional conditions’, including the development of skull deformations and neck problems. As we mentioned before, it even helps babies’ brains to form new neural pathways.

Tummy time should last only 3 to 5 minutes when they first start as young babies, with the infants attempting it only 2 to 3 times over the course of each day initially. As they grow towards the age of 12 months, this can be slowly increased to suit the baby’s increasing strength and physical abilities. Eventually, the baby will be able to roll over sideways in both directions, be able to sit and self-direct — and may indeed be crawling by the time they’re around 7 to 9 months of age.

Exercise for Toddlers

By the time they are toddlers (1-2 years old), they will usually have mastered all of the above and be adept at self-directing, grasping, pulling, pushing and moving around unaided. Indeed, toddlers should now be active each day for around 3 hours in total (split across a few sessions). Now they’re this age, toddlers’ active play and exercise can include light activities such as standing up, playing actively, rolling and moving around. It should also include more energetic activities (safely – so supervision and a safe environment are needed) like running, hopping, skipping and jumping. Activities like ball games are also great at this age, as are use of appropriate climbing frames and even riding tricycles if they’re able to do so safely.

Exercise for Preschoolers

Dancing, swimming, scooting, climbing, chasing, cycling and energetic outdoor activities are great activities for preschoolers.Once they reach the age of 3 to 4 (preschoolers), 3 hours of physical activity is an ideal daily minimum. Now that they’re older and more confident in their physical skills, they can continue with the toddler activities but add more complex and moderately vigorous options to their play. Dancing, swimming, scooting, climbing, chasing, cycling and energetic outdoor activities are good examples.

Avoiding Too Much Inactivity (… & TV!)

What’s equally important is to avoid letting children remain inactive for long periods of time. Hours each day spent in front of screens like tablets, mobiles, games consoles and TVs is not good for them. Moreover, doing so for long periods when they’re at such formative ages sets up a dangerous pattern of behaviour that might be hard to break. It could also lead to health and wellbeing issues like becoming overweight or even obese. In fact, a staggering 20% of children are overweight or obese before they even start school, according to NHS data. What’s more, they say that 9 out of 10 children aged between two and four are not doing sufficient levels of physical activity to meet recommendations from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers. Worrying statistics!

Exercise & Active Play at Little Acorns Nursery, Chorley

Babies, toddlers and preschoolers learn through play at Little Acorns Nursery. This means that physical activity comes naturally, forming a key part in keeping children active and adequately exercised as they develop. Indeed, it’s all embedded as part of the nursery’s EYFS curriculum, particularly in the Physical Development module. As such, children use the huge variety of physical activities on offer at the nursery to improve mobility, coordination, balance, physical fitness, hand-eye coordination, agility, physical strength and so on. This is all done through a learning and development plan that’s tailored to the strengths, weaknesses and preferences of each individual child. The Key Person is a member of staff assigned to oversee the progress of each child and goals are set and milestones recorded. In this way, every child will achieve personal bests during their time with Little Acorns, becoming well-rounded, ‘school-ready’ individuals by the time they’re five.

Nursery Places Available in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, ChorleyWe sometimes have a few places available at our nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, near Clayton Green and Clayton Brook, Chorley. Do get in touch if you’d potentially like a place for your son or daughter. As well as being the outright winner of a stunning National award, it’s one of only a few Lancashire nurseries recognised by Ofsted as Outstanding and is also a Forest School. This allows your child to also enjoy and learn from everything that nature and the outdoors have to offer. Register with us if you are interested, or contact us while nursery places are available — we’d love to hear from you. See the following options:

Healthy Eating for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is incredibly important for under-fives as they're still growing & developing.Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important at any age. However, during their formative years when they’re still growing, it’s even more important for under-fives. Their young bodies and brains are still developing, so getting the right balance of food types, vitamins and nutrients is essential in order to maintain optimum health, cognitive function and even sufficient energy levels. (Regular exercise is also essential, of course – however, we’ll cover that separately in a future post).

The Benefits of a Healthy Diet

The benefits of maintaining a healthy eating regime are far-reaching and important, especially for young children. At this age, it’s important for them to get into good eating habits rather than bad ones. So, setting them on the right path at an early age is essential. As well as feeding their bodies and brains with everything they need to properly develop, some of the significant benefits of healthy eating include:

  • Improved cognitive function and attention, with all the leaning benefits that these will bring;
  • Sufficient energy levels to undertake all their daily tasks;
  • A greater chance of avoiding certain diseases in later life, potentially including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems and even cancer;
  • Maintaining more even moods;
  • Maintaining a more healthy body weight and, through so doing, avoiding potential obesity. Avoiding becoming obese also leaves them less prone to bullying;
  • A greater sense of self-image and self-esteem, leading to greater self-confidence;
  • Overall, improved mental and physical wellbeing.

Children who stay a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn, and more self-confident.That’s a huge and important list of benefits. Advice from Public Health England also suggests that exposing children to a wide variety of different foods from an early age not only gives them access to greater diversity in what they eat, but is also likely to make children more accepting of new foods as they grow older. And, of course, that greater diversity in food types means a more diverse range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals will be consumed.

“Children who stay a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn, and more self-confident.” (NHS)

What Should Under-Fives Eat & Drink?

A good rule of thumb for under-fives is to consume three meals, 2-3 healthy snacks and 6-8 drinks every day. It all needs to be part of a balanced diet, though, using high quality and ideally fresh ingredients if possible.


Aside from young babies who will, of course, be drinking milk (we’ll write separate posts about milk and weaning in due course), under-fives and preschoolers should be drinking water and sometimes milk, 6-8 times each day. Drinks rich in added sugar should be avoided and even natural fruit juice, if given, is better when significantly diluted. That’s primarily so as to avoid tooth decay that can otherwise be caused by the natural sugars and acids within the fruit juice.


Children should try to eat something from each of the four main food groups every day.As part of a healthy diet, children should try to eat something from each of the four main food groups every day. These are:

  1. Fruit & vegetables, which contain many beneficial nutrients, for example Vitamin C. Aim for 5 portions per day, each about the size of the child’s cupped hand or fist. If your child is still hungry after eating their set meals, giving them additional vegetables is a great way to satiate their hunger without loading them up with unnecessary calories or sugar.
  2. Protein, which contains not only essential protein but also iron, zinc and many other nutrients. Sources of protein include fish (N.B. include oily fish occasionally), meat, eggs, nuts, pulses, tofu and soya. Aim at 2 protein portions per day, with each portion being about the size of the palm of the child’s hand.
  3. Starch, which is available from potatoes, pasta, bread and rice cereals. Where wholegrain versions of some of these are preferred, they should be introduced only gradually. One portion of these starchy foods is about the size of the child’s cupped hand. Starch gives growing children energy along with essential nutrients like calcium and Vitamin B.
  4. At Little Acorns we are serious about playing our part and serve up healthy, balanced meals each day to our children along with suitable drinks and healthy snack options.Dairy products, which give children much-needed calcium, Vitamins A and B, potassium and more. Aim for 3 portions of dairy products per day. Examples include milk, yoghurt and cheese. Use full-fat options for toddlers and then, from the age of 2, switch to semi-skimmed varieties.

The NHS also recommends that children aged 6 months to 5 years should also take suitable vitamin supplements to boost Vitamin A, C and D in particular. Children with vegan diets would also benefit from a Vitamin B12 supplement.

Healthy Eating at Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

With almost a third of UK children aged 2 to 15 now being overweight, eating a healthy, balanced diet is becoming more and more important. Parents, carers, schools, childcare professionals and nurseries all need to play their part in keeping children on track, with healthy eating habits and lifestyles.

Little Acorns has received a Recipe 4 Health Award in recognition of the healthy food options offered at the settingAt Little Acorns we are serious about playing our part and serve up healthy, balanced meals each day to our children along with suitable drinks and healthy snack options. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon and teatime snacks are all provided and included in our standard nursery fees. Food is prepared each day by Judy, our wonderful in-house chef, using the highest quality, fresh ingredients, sourced from local suppliers. Food allergens are extremely carefully monitored and managed. Any special diets, e.g. vegan or vegetarian, are also catered for as needed — simply forewarn us about any specific requirements and we’ll be happy to accommodate them.

Our nursery has a 5 Star food hygiene ratingLittle Acorns Nursery has a 5 Star Food Hygiene rating and also recently received a Recipe 4 Health Award in recognition of the healthy food options that we offer at the setting. That’s in addition to our amazing NMT Individual Nursery Award.

A Nursery Place in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Lancashire

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, ChorleyIf you’d like a nursery place for your child in a multi award-winning nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, near Clayton Green and Clayton Brook, Chorley, do get in touch. Little Acorns is an Outstanding Nursery and is also a wonderful Forest School. So, if you’d like your little one to attend the very best nursery in Central Lancashire, register your interest while nursery places are available. Select an option below: