Tag Archive for: nature

Little Citizen Scientists Needed for the Big Garden Birdwatch

Little Citizen Scientists Needed for the Big Garden Birdwatch

January's Big Garden Birdwatch is a perfect home learning opportunity that's fun and benefits children in a multitude of ways.January’s Big Garden Birdwatch is a perfect home learning opportunity where children can find out about wild birds and get a better understanding of nature itself. What’s more, it’s a hugely worthwhile event that will benefit birds, conservation efforts, and children themselves. The activity also demonstrates how easy it is for little ones to become citizen scientists. With that in mind, let’s explore today the Big Garden Birdwatch, explain what it is, how to take part, and why it’s important for families to get involved.

What Is the Big Garden Birdwatch?

The Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s biggest garden wildlife survey and is organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It’s an annual survey of garden birds and is undertaken in late January each year by individuals, families and children right across the UK. Taking part is free and typically takes just one hour.

What’s the Goal?

The idea of the Big Garden Birdwatch is to understand how garden birds are faring in the UK.The idea of the Big Garden Birdwatch is to understand how garden birds are faring in the UK. Sadly, many bird populations are in decline, with some species facing huge declines over recent decades. Some 38 million fewer birds are now seen compared to 60 years ago. Song Thrush populations, for example, are down by 80% since the survey started in 1979. Even House Sparrow numbers have more than halved during that time. By studying the bird populations each year, trends can be identified including whether any bird species are in danger. Then the RSPB and other conservation organisations can work out what the problems are and how we might go about rescuing the situation as a nation. It also follows that, if there is a problem with bird populations, then there is likely to be a wider problem in nature too. This could be, for example, due to disease, over-intensive farming methods, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, use of chemicals in gardens and farmland, and so on. Gathering data across the UK each January will help guide the nation to improve things — and children can help by getting involved in the Big Garden Birdwatch each January.

How Children & Families Can Take Part

Taking part is easy and takes just 4 steps:

  1. Register here to take part Children simply count how many birds of each species land on their patch at any one time.— it’s quick, easy and free to do so. Once registered you’ll receive detailed instructions in your free guide to the event, which includes your free bird identification reference sheet. This will be useful to you and your children so each bird species can be recognised more easily.
  2. Next, choose an outdoor spot to monitor. This will be your ‘patch’ and it could be your garden, balcony or perhaps even a local park. Optionally before the event begins (late January – see below), you may wish to start putting out bird food to attract more birds to the patch in the run-up to the event.
  3. Sometime during the period 26-28 January 2024, spend an hour noting down how many birds of each species you see actually land at any one time on your patch. So, for example, if you see four blackbirds during the hour but only 3 land on the patch at the same time, you’d count that as 3. That’s simply to avoid counting the same bird more than once.
  4. Once complete, fill in and submit your survey results to the RSPB. This can be done any time from 26 January to 18 February 2024 and indeed that link may only work during that date range. You can submit more than one survey if you like, so long as each submission is for a different location/patch. The RSPB will then analyse all the submissions from across the UK and be able to see how each bird species is faring.

Can’t get outdoors?

If you can’t get outdoors for any reason, don’t feel left out. Children and families can undertake the January birdwatching event from a window or balcony too, so long as they can view an outdoor patch where birds are likely to land.

The Huge Benefits of Nature to Children

Children love feeding birds and wild creatures!This wonderful activity is a great way to encourage families outdoors, where children benefit from nature in a myriad of ways. From lower stress and increased well-being to improved academic performance, stimulated imaginations, and better sleep, the benefits of nature to children are profound. Studies show that even a view of nature will benefit children — it’s incredible! Click the bold green link for more details.

The survey is also a great opportunity for children to practise counting and enhance numeracy skills. It’s also a good excuse to get creative, for instance by building a cardboard or stick bird-spotting ‘hide’ — the perfect den from which to watch the birds when the time comes.

Involvement in the Big Garden Birdwatch also allows children to get a better understanding of conservation issues and the need to protect nature and the planet. That’s incredibly important, not least because today’s children will be tomorrow’s caretakers of our precious Earth.

Reference & Bird Identification

The RSPB's bird identification sheet for January 2024.Together with the RSPB, we also have bird identification covered for children. The first option is the RSPB’s free bird reference sheet, which families will receive when they register for the event. Their digital version is best because it’s more environmentally friendly, is quicker to access, and usually shows a larger list than is shown on their printed version.

Free bird identifier poster — download available so children can print out and see how many birds they can identify over the course of a year.However, don’t forget that Little Acorns Nursery also published our own bird identification poster for children last year. That is also free to download (follow that bold green link) and shows many more species of birds than the RSPB’s option — perfect if children are really interested in bird spotting and want to continue after the January event.

A pine cone bird feeder that is simple for children to make at home.How to Encourage Birds to Visit Your Garden

If children and families want to make a real success of the Big Garden Birdwatch event, a few preparation measures will help attract more birds to their patch. We have that covered too with our separate post all about how to make home-made bird feeders and another explaining a number of excellent tips on bird feeding for under-fives. In addition, the RSPB offers a discount on bird food, purchased via their website, to anyone that registers for the event.

Outstanding Childcare in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Looking for the Best Nursery or Preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, or Central Lancashire?

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Today’s article was brought to you by Little Acorns Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, an outstanding provider of childcare and early years education. Our outstanding nursery status is backed up by Ofsted and an important National Nursery Award too. So, if you want the very best start for your baby or child under five and live in the area, consider Little Acorns Day Nursery for your weekday childcare provision. We’ll bring out the best in your child, help them achieve personal bests, and give them the tools to absolutely thrive. We support many different Government-funded free childcare schemes too, making childcare more affordable for those who are eligible.

Get in touch today to request a nursery place, arrange a free tour of the setting, or ask us any questions — we’re here to help!

As well as being perfectly located for families in Clayton-le-Woods and Chorley, we may also suit those living nearby in Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland or Penwortham.

Encouraging Learning Through Play at Home

Encouraging Learning Through Play at Home

Parents play a crucial role in fostering an environment that supports exploration, curiosity, and growth through home-based play.As we discussed in our recent post The Power of Learning Through Play in Early Childhood, play helps babies and children to improve cognitive skills, social skills, motor skills and emotional growth. It feeds the imagination, boosts creativity and fosters a love of learning. Language skills benefit, problem-solving abilities are enhanced, and children naturally pick up maths concepts and even elements of science through play. With that in mind, today’s post follows up with the topic of Encouraging Learning Through Play at Home.

How to Encourage Learning Through Play at Home

Play-based learning doesn’t stop when children leave childcare nurseries; it continues at home, where parents and caregivers play a crucial role in fostering an environment that supports exploration, curiosity, and growth through play. Through the suggestions outlined below, parents can help children more optimally benefit from everything that learning through play provides — while at home.

Create a Playful Space

Designate an area in your home for play — even a corner with a few age-appropriate toys, books, and art supplies may be sufficient.Designate an area in your home for play. It doesn’t need to be elaborate — even a corner with a few age-appropriate toys, books, and art supplies may be sufficient. Ensure, of course, that the space is safe and free from hazards before your child embarks on their play activities.

Be a Playful Partner

Getting involved in your child’s play is hugely beneficial to the quality and impact of children’s play. Play together, ask questions, foster feedback that’s two-way, and encourage imaginative storytelling during play sessions. Your active participation not only deepens the bonding experience but also profoundly enhances their learning.

Limit Screen Time

Screens are now a pervasive part of modern life, and they can be both a blessing and a challenge. TV, educational apps, interactive websites, and streaming services can provide valuable learning experiences, but too much screen time can have adverse effects on children’s development. At the very least, excessive screen time can potentially impede the development of essential social and motor skills. Therefore try to limit the time your child spends on screens, including TV, tablets, and smartphones. Instead, encourage physical, interactive, and imaginative ‘real life’ play — and your child will reap great rewards. It’s a fine balance between accommodating the digital age and ensuring children take part in real-world activities that support educational growth and development.

Embrace Outdoor Play

Outdoor playing and learning covers many of the areas outlined in the Early Years Foundation Stage ('EYFS') learning and development framework.Outdoor play also offers a wealth of learning opportunities. It promotes physical health, stimulates the senses, and allows for unstructured exploration, which all contribute to holistic development. Take your child to the park, explore nature, or simply play with them in the back garden if you have one. Outdoor activities will also foster an appreciation for the natural world. Indeed, we wrote a whole post about the many benefits of outdoor play and another about the huge benefits of nature to children. Take a look at these important topics by following the bold links.

Encourage Pretend Play

Pretend play, such as role-playing with costumes or setting up a pretend kitchen or suchlike, fosters creativity and imagination — and is huge fun for your child. Encourage your child to take on different roles and scenarios during such playtime and watch their creativity and imagination soar!

Read and Explore Together

Reading is a wonderful way to support learning through play.Reading is a wonderful way to support learning through play. Choose age-appropriate books, of course, and be sure to engage in interactive storytelling. Ask and encourage questions about the story, encourage your child to predict what might happen next, and ask them what they might do if it were them in the story. Books and reading teach children so many things and, like pretend play above, truly encourage their imaginations and get their creative juices flowing. Learn more about how you can supercharge your child’s education through reading here.

Let Them Lead

Children learn at their own pace, so be patient and, on the whole, allow them to take the lead during play. Avoid over-structuring playtime; instead, let it flow naturally, following your child’s interests and cues. Doing so will ensure they remain engaged in the activity. Do, of course, sometimes inject new, perhaps creative ideas into their play, though. As adults, we can steer children subtly in their play when there’s an idea or concept that they may not be familiar with and may otherwise have missed out on. Simple examples could include introducing the concept of using different voices for different characters in a role-playing game and showing them a different way to build a structure in a building block or construction-based game.

Celebrate Achievements

Be sure to acknowledge and celebrate your child’s achievements during play. Whether it’s completing a challenging task, creating a masterpiece, or achieving something new, positive reinforcement will make play more fulfilling and boost children’s self-esteem. It’ll also, of course, make the activity more joyful and fun for the child — and that’s a sure-fire way to motivate them to play and learn even more.

Encourage Social Play

Arrange play dates with other children or involve siblings in play activities at home.Arrange play dates with other children or involve siblings in play activities at home. Social play helps children learn essential social skills like cooperation, sharing, and conflict resolution. It’s also a great way to make new friendships, learn from each other, and become a closer member of friendship circles.

Age-Appropriate Toys

When playing involves toys and props, ensure your child has access to those that encourage open-ended play and creativity. Blocks, arts and crafts materials, and imaginative play sets like dolls or action figures are excellent examples as they allow children to lead the direction that their play session follows. With such toys, their imaginations can run riot and they can get truly creative. Rotate the choice of toys and introduce new ones to keep playtime fresh and engaging over time.

An Outstanding Childcare Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Just like at Little Acorns Nursery, your home can be a vibrant hub for play-based learning. A nurturing environment, the right resources and materials, and actively engaging with children during play, will empower them to explore, learn, and grow. By embracing the power of play at home and in settings like Little Acorns, we are paving the way to a brighter future where young minds flourish, curiosity thrives, and discovery is both fun and educational.

Little Acorns is an outstanding nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, near Chorley. Indeed, we are officially an Outstanding Provider according to Ofsted and that’s backed up by our prestigious national nursery award. We also support Government-funded childcare schemes for eligible families, making childcare more affordable for Central Lancashire families. If you want the very best for your baby, toddler or preschooler, register them for a place or bring them on a guided tour and we’ll be delighted to show you around and answer any questions. Get in touch:

Little Acorns Nursery is ideally suited for families seeking an outstanding childcare service in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley. It may also suit those living nearby in Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland or Penwortham.

Autumn Nature Hunt — a Fun Activity for Children (with Free Reference Sheet)

The autumn season brings with it a treasure trove of fascinating natural things for children to discover.By mid-November, autumn is in full swing and leaves are turning a myriad of different colours. Scenes of green, yellow, red and golden trees can be breathtakingly beautiful and the air is often crystal clear at this time of year — that’s great for photos! The autumn season also brings with it a treasure trove of fascinating natural things that children can discover if they take the time to look. Indeed, an autumn nature hunt is the perfect excuse for little ones to spend some time outdoors, where they will also benefit from outdoor play and everything that nature has to offer children. Whether finding gorgeous sweet chestnuts, cute acorns, dangly catkins, fascinating fir cones or highly coloured leaves, children will love an autumn treasure hunt and are sure to be enthralled by what they find. It’s a magical time of year! With all that in mind, we have prepared a free activity sheet that children and families can download, print out, and take with them as a visual reference when they next venture outdoors. We suggest children make a start soon, while all the natural wonders are abundant. Download your free Autumn Nature Hunt Reference Sheet (preview below) and get started today!

Free autumn nature hunt reference sheet (preview - click to download in Acrobat PDF format).

Checklist

  • Children must be supervised and educated about potential dangers and hazards.Ensure children, particularly the very young, receive appropriate adult supervision at all times. Although fascinating and fun, the outdoors holds many hazards for the unwary. Therefore, children will need to be closely monitored by a responsible adult in order to safeguard their well-being.
  • Children should also be educated about all outdoor health and safety matters. For example, they’ll need to know they mustn’t stray far, speak with strangers, or go too close to hazards like fires, ponds, lakes, steep slopes or trip hazards. They will also need to learn not to touch berries, fungi and other potentially poisonous or dangerous flora and fauna. They must be careful not to hurt themselves on the sharp points of things like chestnut cases and even things like acorns are potential choking hazards (so keep away from mouths). And so on (the above are just a few examples).
  • Supervising adults will need to do their own risk assessments, as well as helping children learn to do so.
  • Last but not least, ensure your child takes the Autumn Nature Hunt reference sheet with them, along with something safe and suitable to put their nature treasures in (for example, a jute bag or backpack).

Nature & Forest School at Little Acorns Nursery

Forest School sessions in and around Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, in Central Lancashire

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

At Little Acorns Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, we understand the importance of nature in children’s early years. That’s why we post nature-based activity ideas like this one today. It’s also why we are a Forest School setting. Through Forest School sessions children, including our under fives, get to enjoy, experience, and learn from everything that nature has to offer — and that’s a lot! Follow the bold links for more information or learn more about Forest School and what it’s about here.

If you would like your baby, toddler or preschooler to attend a truly outstanding nursery or preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, then look no further than Little Acorns Nursery. We’re rated as outstanding by Ofsted, won an incredibly prestigious National Nursery Award and, as we mentioned before, also run Forest School sessions for our children.

Get in touch using an option below and we’ll be delighted to welcome you and your little one, answer any questions, and take the first steps in regard to your childcare application:

Little Acorns Nursery & Preschool is located in Clayton-le-Woods, so may also suit families living or working nearby in Chorley, Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

Let’s Find Minibeasts! A Simple Nature Activity for Kids (With Free Poster)

Let’s Find Minibeasts! A Simple Nature Activity for Kids (With Free Poster)

Today's activity is a perfect opportunity for young children to get closer to nature, and learn about some of it's incredible wildlife.Children and parents, let’s go minibeast spotting! Whether you have a garden, neighbourhood park, or just a few potted plants, there are bound to be minibeasts visiting or living there. What’s more, summer is the perfect time to spot them. Spending time in nature is hugely important for children and there are many benefits to children simply playing outdoors too. Today’s minibeast activity is therefore the perfect opportunity for young children to reap all those benefits, get closer to nature, and learn about some of its incredible wildlife.

Minibeasts

Minibeasts are fascinating little creatures that come in many shapes and sizes. Each is a unique little character and many are simply enchanting. Take bumble bees, for example, with their adorable furry bodies, stripes and antennae, little ladybirds with their cute spots, or stick caterpillars that look just like twigs! There are so many different types, so we’ve put together a free identification poster showing 30 of our favourite minibeasts that are likely to be lurking nearby if families take the time to look. The poster is free to download and share. Print it out in colour at full size (A3) or reduce it to A4 for children to take outdoors. There are little tick boxes too, so children can mark which minibeasts they’ve seen as time goes by.

Our minibeast poster is a nice companion to our previous article that showcased a British Birds poster and a bird-spotting activity, which was published here back in May (follow the bold green link). We’ll also be adding more nature-themed posters in this series over the coming months, so keep an eye out for those, to add to your child’s collection.

Poster Preview:

Poster preview — click to download or view online (PDF format).

Poster Download Instructions

Click the large preview image above (or this link) to view or download the poster in Acrobat PDF format. Whether you left-click or right-click will depend on your own specific browser settings, so try both if in doubt.  You will need to have Acrobat Reader to view the file. Print in colour from Acrobat Reader ideally using high-quality A3 paper, or ‘reduce to fit’ if printing to A4. Alternatively, viewing on a screen will allow you/your child to zoom in to see all the lovely detail, for example using a tablet or smartphone.

Once you/your children have the poster, see how many of the little critters you can spot. Try looking in different kinds of places to see where the little creatures are. Compost heaps are great places to look for some types of minibeast, while flowers, plants, trees, tree trunks and even rotting logs will attract many others. However, be mindful around health, safety, well-being and hygiene (more about that later). What’s more, try not to unduly disturb the minibeasts and be very gentle around them so they don’t get harmed in any way.

Teach Kindness to Kids

Parents can help with this. Be sure that children learn to treat other creatures nicely and with great care; minibeasts are only small and, as such, are very fragile. If you spot any, teach kids to look but not touch, as each little minibeast has a life and feelings — just like you and your child — and won’t want to be disturbed or taken away from its home. Children will learn lessons about empathy, ethics, personal responsibility and much more by using this caring approach.

A Focus on Nature at Little Acorns Nursery’s Forest School

Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Central Lancashire

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

We hope that families and little ones can make the most of the free minibeasts poster and this nature-based activity. At Little Acorns Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, we understand the huge positive impact that nature and outdoor play can have on children. That’s why we encourage them to play and explore outdoors (under supervision, of course). It’s also why we have our own Forest School, which you can learn about here.

Little Acorns is an outstanding nursery/preschool that’s located in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Central Lancashire. Ofsted agrees and also rates us ‘outstanding’ and we also won a major National nursery award, beating every other nursery in the country to the top spot. Parents/caregivers can therefore rest assured that we offer the very best childcare and early years education service available.

Please use an appropriate button below to register your child for a nursery place, ask us any questions, or to book a guided tour of the setting with your child. We’d love to welcome you.

Little Acorns nursery/preschool is also conveniently near to Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

Safety Note

It goes without saying that the child’s parent or supervising adult should be mindful of the health, well-being and safety of children, especially when they are playing outside or taking part in outdoor activities. There are many hazards outdoors, so please be vigilant. This includes, but is not limited to, avoiding stings, potentially poisonous flora and fauna, trip hazards, bodies of water (however small), changes in levels (for the avoidance of falls), choking hazards, sharp objects, stranger danger, traffic and so on. Do your own risk assessments and also teach children to learn about safety and hygiene considerations themselves.

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.

 

The Big Butterfly Count takes place in July and early August each year, when most butterflies have reached adulthood.Many will have heard of the Big Garden Birdwatch that takes place every year in January. However, fewer are aware of a similar activity called The Big Butterfly Count that takes place in July and early August. As well as being extremely worthwhile, it’s a wonderful activity for both children and adults to get involved in as citizen scientists. The activity helps with butterfly conservation, is educational for those taking part, and encourages families to get outdoors, closer to nature. And, as we know, getting closer to nature is very good for children and people of all ages. Today, we take a look at this wonderful butterfly-spotting activity and explain how children and families can get involved, help these beautiful little pollinators, contribute a little time to the conservation initiative and benefit themselves at the same time.

The Big Butterfly Count

On 'Big Butterfly Count' day, families with smartphones can use the free smartphone app, which is available on both Apple IOS and Android.Organised by the charity Butterfly Conservation, the long-term aim of the Big Butterfly Count is for butterflies and moths to thrive and be enjoyed by everyone. That’s important because populations of butterflies have really suffered in recent decades, with some species of butterfly even becoming extinct in the UK and elsewhere. Changes in their numbers are also very good indicators of wider problems in pollinators of all types, including bees for example.

The key requirement of the Big Butterfly Count is simply for families across the UK to spend just a little time outdoors, during a very specific time of the year, to record how many different species they see during that time. The findings of thousands of families throughout the UK will then help Butterfly Conservation to understand what species are living in the different UK regions. Data submitted will allow a comparison of reported data from year to year, so Butterfly Conservation can see trends in butterfly populations and spot any significant increases, reductions and areas of concern.

“Help take the pulse of nature.”

When is the Big Butterfly Count?

For 2023, the Big Butterfly Count is any daylight time from Friday 14th July to Sunday 6th August. The reason this period is chosen is because that’s when most butterflies have reached adulthood, so people should be able to spot more of them. This ‘peak adult’ period is essentially at the same approximate period every year.

How Can Families Get Involved?

Getting involved in the Big Butterfly Count is easy and takes very little time. All that’s needed is a 15-minute period of time during daylight hours, between 14th July and 6th August. Bright, sunny weather conditions are preferred. Families simply need to find a good spot* outdoors and watch carefully, just for a quarter of an hour, and record which types of butterflies they spot. They can then submit their sightings any time up until 31 August. The count focuses on specific species within each area of the UK. These are mainly butterflies but they also include a few daytime-flying moths that Butterfly Conservation are interested in monitoring.

*Another alternative, by the way, is for children and families to monitor butterflies during a 15-minute walk i.e. you do not necessarily have to stay in one spot.

  • The Big Butterfly Count app shows the results of butterfly counts all over the UK. This image shows the number of counts in Clayton-le-Woods for 2022's count.If you are counting butterflies from  a static spot, count up how many of the same species you see at the same time. For example, if there are three Large Whites visible at the same time, count that as three. If you see only one at a time, but see it on three separate occasions during the 15 minutes, that counts as only one. That’s so that we can be sure it’s not the same one visiting three times!
  • If you’re counting while on a walk, however, simply count the number of each species you see during the entire 15-minute time frame.
  • You may do as many counts as you like; then simply submit the separate records, through the app, for each different location and/or date.
  • As well as having a section for your own submissions, an interactive map can be found on the smartphone app to show you results from other people across the entire UK. Zoom in for more detail. Shown in the image is the butterfly counts for 2022 in Clayton-le-Woods. In the app itself, each is clickable so you can find out which species were spotted and the number of them.

Where is a Good Spot to See Butterflies?

The 'Big Butterfly Count' smartphone app has a useful section to help you identify which butterflies and daytime-flying moths you see.A good spot, by the way, would be either somewhere outdoors with lots of flowers to attract butterflies and other pollinators, or somewhere you’ve left out some very ripe fruit e.g. pieces of ripe orange, apple, nectarine, grapefruit, banana, or strawberry— butterflies love sweet fruit even when it’s a little over-ripe! Whether that’s in your own garden, near potted flowers on a patio, school grounds, in a park, or out in the countryside is entirely up to you and your family. Even if you spot no butterflies during your 15-minute count, you should still submit your results, by the way, as that might indicate a problem with the butterfly population — and potentially other types of wildlife loss — in that area.

“Numbers of butterflies and moths in the UK have decreased significantly since the 1970s. This is a warning that cannot be ignored.”

How Can You Identify the Types of Butterflies?

Help is on hand to help children/families more easily identify which butterfly species they spot on the day — and at any other time. On the day, families with smartphones can use the free Big Butterfly Count phone app, which is available on both Apple IOS and Android. Below are the links to download them, free of charge, and they seem pretty fast to download too.

Download the Big Butterfly Count app for Apple IOS   Download the Big Butterfly Count app for Android.

Detail pages include information like the difference between males and females and their distribution in the UK. Photos show wings both open and closed.For the youngest of children, an adult will need to supervise the use of the app but many older children will no doubt take to the technology like ducks to water. The app includes several sections including an excellent guide to up to about 21 species that the Big Butterfly Count is particularly interested in this year. Shown are details about each type along with photographs for reference and ID purposes. Details of each type of butterfly — or daytime-flying moth — include information like the difference between males and females, their distribution in the UK, and whether their populations have increased or decreased. Photos show each type with wings both open and closed, making identification even easier.

What if you Spot a Butterfly Species You Can’t Identify?

If you happen to spot a butterfly that’s not included in the species of interest shown in the Big Butterfly Count phone app for your area, you can instead submit them using the free iRecord Butterflies app, details of which are available here. That alternative app can be used any time of year and features many more types of butterflies and moths. It still, however, allows you to submit your sightings to help with conservation and monitoring efforts. Indeed, you could argue that it’s a more permanent way of children helping to both monitor and report butterfly sightings as little citizen scientists.

What If You Don’t Have a Smartphone?

If you don't have a smartphone or can't use the app, downloadable charts of the butterflies in your area are available from the Big Butterfly Count website. This is the one for England for the Big Butterfly Count in 2023.You/your child can still get involved in the Big Butterfly Count even if you/they don’t have a smartphone. Instead of using an app, download charts of the butterflies in your area from the Big Butterfly Count website. You’ll need to fill in a very short form to access the chart links, but they are free of charge and obligation. Choose the most appropriate download link for your region and download the chart. You/your child can then view it on screen and zoom in for the best detail, or print it out on paper. Once you’ve ticked off any that you/your child have seen in the 15-minute period, you will need to ask a friend or family member who has the app if you want them to submit your count for you, however. That’s because paper, email and phone submissions cannot be accepted. Spotting butterflies is a wonderful activity for children, though, whether or not their results are submitted.

Safety & Well-Being of Children & Butterflies

Safety is paramount, of course, so young children should be accompanied and supervised by a responsible adult. It’s also important, of course, not to disturb or interfere with the butterflies. They are extremely delicate little creatures and their wings and bodies are too fragile for handling. Please do not try to catch them — you will do more harm than good.

“Butterfly declines are also an early warning for other wildlife losses … if their numbers are falling, then nature is in trouble. That’s why taking part in this massive citizen science enterprise is of great importance.”

A Focus on Nature at our Outstanding Nursery/Preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

At Little Acorns Nursery, we know how important it is to get children involved with nature, so will always encourage worthwhile, educational activities like this one. As a Forest School setting, we encourage them to appreciate the natural world and all the flora and fauna within it, so this butterfly-spotting activity is a perfect fit. We also encourage children elsewhere and at home to get involved — it’ll do them, their families, butterflies and the natural environment great good.

Ofsted rate Little Acorns Nursery as an outstanding nursery/preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, and we’re also the winner of a National Nursery award. It simply doesn’t get any better than that and you therefore know your baby, toddler or child under five will be in good hands at Little Acorns. All Government childcare funding schemes are also supported for eligible families. To register your child for a place or to enquire about the possibility, please choose an option below:

Although Little Acorns is located in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, in Central Lancashire, we will also be a convenient option for those looking for high-quality childcare near Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

Quotations in this article are from Butterfly Conservation.

Bird Spotting Activity for Kids - with Free Poster

Bird Spotting Activity for Kids (with Free Poster)

Free A3 bird poster for children use to see how many birds they can spot and identify over the course of a year. Read on (below) for download instructions.Are you looking for a fun and educational activity for your children? Why not encourage them to do some bird spotting? Not only is it a great way to spend time outdoors, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about nature and develop observation skills. As we know, being around nature is hugely beneficial to children and outdoor play is important.

To help you get started, we’ve created a free PDF poster featuring 40 British birds that children can try to spot and identify. Whether little ones are in the garden, park, or countryside, there are plenty of opportunities to see these beautiful birds in their natural habitat. Children can even try to spot birds when they’re simply looking out the window — this is quite an accessible activity.

So why not download the poster, print it out, and head outside with your children? Instructions are given underneath the preview image shown below. Who knows, your little one(s) might just discover a new passion for birdwatching and nature!

Bird Poster Preview:

Bird Spotting Activity Poster - click to download (Acrobat PDF format, 4.8MB) then print out or view on screen.

Bird Poster Download Instructions

The poster is supplied as an A3 Acrobat PDF file and is less than 5MB in size. Click the large preview image above (or this link) to download the poster file. Depending on your device and web browser settings, you can usually left-click to view the poster on screen or right-click to save the file, then view it by opening it in Acrobat Reader . If printing, ideally print it to high quality A3 paper, or ‘reduce to fit’ if your printer only prints to A4. Viewing on screen is also recommended as the images are high resolution — you can zoom in to see the detail, even on the tiny inset images.

Teach Respect for Wildlife

Remember that the birds you’re observing are wild animals and should be treated with empathy and respect. Stick to designated trails or paths. This will help protect fragile habitats and minimize your impact on the environment. Teach children to avoid disturbing habitats, making loud noises, or getting too close to birds and other wild creatures. This is especially important when the time comes for young birds to leave their nests; they should not be disturbed and, generally speaking, their parents will know where they are even if you/your children cannot see them nearby.

With our free PDF poster featuring 40 British birds, you and your children can embark on an exciting adventure of birdwatching. Tick off each bird as you spot and identify them, and see how many of the 40 you can find over the course of the year. You might be surprised at how many different species you encounter!

An Outstanding Nursery & Preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

We hope that our poster helps you and your family to start exploring the wonderful world of British birds! We love nature at Little Acorns and always encourage little ones to make the most of natural environments. It’s one of the many reasons we are also a Forest School setting.

We are an outstanding nursery/preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, offering the very best childcare service to babies and children under five. We support the Government’s free childcare funding schemes for eligible families too. If you’d like the very best start for your little one, enrol them for a place at Little Acorns and we’ll bring out the very best in them. We’d also welcome a visit, so why not arrange a tour and we’ll show you around and answer any questions you may have. Please select an option below to get started:

A Word About Safety:

While birdwatching is a fun and educational activity, it’s important to prioritise safety. Here are some tips to keep in mind while you’re out in the field:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings and any potential hazards, such as steep drops or bodies of water. Always keep a close eye on children and make sure they stay within your line of sight.
  • Make sure to wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and footwear. Bring sunscreen and insect repellent if appropriate. Don’t forget some water, so you all stay hydrated.
  • Binoculars can be a valuable tool for birdwatching, but ensure they are used responsibly. Children and adults should avoid aiming them directly at the sun and be aware of surroundings while looking through them.

By following these safety tips, you can ensure a fun and enjoyable birdwatching experience for the whole family. So head outside to discover the wonderful world of British birds!

Little Acorns is a nursery and pre-school located in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, in Central Lancashire. We are also conveniently close for those families living or working near Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland or Penwortham.

Significant Childcare Funding Announced for Families

Significant New Childcare Funding Announced for Families.

A Guide to the Game-Changing Childcare Funding Initiatives Announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget 2023

Generous and far-reaching childcare funding reforms were announced in the Spring Budget 2023 last month. The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s new funding plans should give more parents, including those of even younger children, access to significant help with childcare costs going forwards. The new initiatives will:

  • allow Generous childcare funding was announced in the Spring Budget 2023, giving more parents, including those of even younger children, access to significant help with childcare costs.parents to return to the workplace sooner after the birth of their child if they so choose;
  • help fill vacant jobs in the workplace;
  • allow parents (particularly women) to progress their careers sooner after starting a family;
  • help to boost the UK economy, and;
  • perhaps most importantly give more children access to a good early years education, starting potentially at a younger age. Beginning no later than the age of 2 has been shown to better prepare children for the transition to school, boost children’s education overall, improve GCSE grades, improve career prospects and even increase earning potential once they reach adulthood. Learn more about the benefits of a good early years education here.

So, the new childcare funding should make a huge difference for those families that are eligible. Let’s take a look at the 3 key childcare funding initiatives announced…

Significant New Childcare Funding for Children Aged 9 to 36 Months

Many parents will already be aware of the existing, free, Government-funded childcare hours available to all 3 and 4-year-olds in England (plus some disadvantaged 2-year-olds). Well, in the biggest news from the Spring Budget, free childcare funding will soon extend to much younger children, aged from just 9 months of age if they suit eligibility requirements. Here’s how the free childcare will be rolled out:

  1. From April 2024,Significant new childcare funding has been announced for children aged from 9 to 36 months. children aged 2 from eligible working families will be able to claim 570 hours of free childcare each year. This is typically taken as 15 hours of free childcare each week over 38 weeks, although exactly how it’s taken may be agreed otherwise between the family and the childcare provider.
  2. From September 2024, just five months later, the same free childcare scheme will be extended to eligible children aged from just 9 months of age. This comes later so that childcare providers have time to adapt to the extra capacity.
  3. A year later, from September 2025, eligible children aged from 9 to 36 months will be able to claim double the amount of free childcare hours, taking their annual free childcare allowance up to 1140 hours. These will typically be taken as 30 free hours per week for 38 weeks of the year, but it may vary if childcare providers can offer flexibility.

In each case, eligibility for children aged from 9 to 36 months will use the same criteria as for those 3- and 4-year-olds receiving 30 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year in the existing scheme. That scheme will continue to run too, meaning that children from 9 months to the age of four (inclusive) are all supported, right up until they start school. It should make a huge difference to working families and particularly benefit women, who have commonly found it difficult to return to careers following maternity leave.

Significant Improvements to Childcare Funded Through Universal Credit

Significant improvements have been unveiled for childcare funding through Universal Credit.Until now, 87% of those eligible to claim childcare support through Universal Credit were not doing so. One of the main reasons for this was that it’s geared towards low-income families yet required them to pay childcare fees in advance — and later claim them back. Paying in advance is not so easy when household income is low, as is typically the case for households that would otherwise be eligible. For this reason, another of the Chancellor’s initiatives announced in the Spring Budget 2023 is to roll out the following improvements:

  1. The Government will pay for childcare costs, subsidised through Universal Credit, in advance and;
  2. They will increase the amount eligible families can claim in childcare costs, through Universal Credit, by almost 50%. This will increase the amount of free childcare funding available through the scheme from £646 to £951 per month for a single child, and from £1,108 to £1,630 per month for two children. The increase will take effect from July 2023 and the rates paid may be linked to the Consumer Price Index until 2027/28.

The two measures combined should make a tangible difference to cash-strapped parents who would like to get back into the workplace, increase existing working hours, or boost household income. It will also mean, of course, that more children have access to an all-important early years education.

Significant Improvements to Funded Childcare Hours for Children at School

The Wraparound ‘Pathfinder’ Scheme

The Wraparound Pathfinder Scheme would fund childcare hours from 8 am until the start of the school and up to 6 pm after the school day ends.The final childcare-related initiative in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget aims to fix another key problem for parents: how to juggle their own longer working hours with their child’s shorter school hours. When a child attends school, they often finish their school day several hours before their parent is finished at work, for example. There is therefore a childcare requirement to bridge the gap and this may be required both at the start and end of the child’s school day. In view of this, the Chancellor announced the piloting of a new Wraparound Pathfinder Scheme, which would fund childcare hours from 8 am until the start of the school morning and, later in the day, fund childcare for the mismatched afternoon hours up to 6 pm. The pilot will test the scheme to see how well it works. If successful, the Chancellor aims to roll it out to the whole of the UK from September 2024.

A Good Early Years Education at Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Little Acorns Nursery is an outstanding nursery and, with its incredible national award for childcare, offers babies and children possibly the best childcare provision available in Lancashire. So, if you are looking for the best nursery or preschool for your baby, toddler or child under five in Clayton, Chorley or Central Lancashire, please get in touch. We support all Government childcare funding and free childcare hours for eligible families and are a Forest School setting too. We’d love to show you and your little one around, register your child for a place or answer any questions that you may have. Please select an option below to take the next step and we’ll be happy to help.

Little Acorns Nursery is a high-quality nursery and preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, near Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

News Round-Up for Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

January began the new term with exciting Forest School sessions for our little ones.Having previously published guides and useful information here for parents, we thought it was time for a news round-up to highlight some of the wonderful activities that have been taking place with children at Little Acorns Nursery. Both children and staff have been extremely busy indeed, with exciting new initiatives, outings, special visits and extra-curricular activities. Let’s take a look at some of the most recent.

Forest School Sessions to Start the Year

The pre-school children and ‘Rising 3s’ learnt all about fire safety.January began the new term with exciting Forest School sessions for our little ones. As well as trips to local countryside, woodland and natural open spaces, the pre-school children and ‘Rising 3s’ at Little Acorns learnt all about fire safety and its importance. (Take a look at  the small photographs to see the various activities — click any for a larger view).

The children also enjoyed making some much-needed bird feeders for the local birds, many of whom struggle for food during the winter months. This coincided nicely with the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, which happens during the last week of January each year. During the annual event, both children and adults are asked to spend one hour outdoors to count up how many birds they see and which species they belong to. The children enjoyed making some pine cone bird feeders for the local birds.This is important for bird conservation, bearing in mind that the UK bird population has fallen by a staggering 38 million birds in only 50 years. Sadly, even some birds that may have been thought of as common are now in trouble — the starling, for example, is now on the RSPB’s ‘Red List’ — their list of birds whose populations have declined to worrying levels. Such birds need all the help they can get from us, so it’s good for children to be aware of the importance of conservation and caring for wild creatures.

“Not all classrooms have four walls.”

With access to the Great Outdoors, children can learn all about nature, the natural environment, and also about themselves.Forest School gives children access to the Great Outdoors so that they can learn all about nature and the natural environment — and also about themselves. As well as being educational and fun, spending time outdoors with nature has many benefits for children and some of these were previously explored here on the blog. Amongst other things, it teaches them new skills and even some they probably didn’t know they had — leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, for example. Learn more about Forest School in our comprehensive guide here.

Extra-Curricular Activities & New Skills

Toddler dance lessons are fun but also help to improve coordination, balance and motor skills.Babies and under-five children at Little Acorns Nursery are fortunate to have access to some fun, exciting and educational activities. These are optional but are very popular amongst the little ones. As well as the day-to-day activities and curriculum at the nursery, we also offer:

  • Baby Sensory Sessions, which are a perfect opportunity for babies to have various senses stimulated, potentially resulting in millions of new synapses being formed in their young brains. Sensory stimulation is incredibly important at their young age and we’ll write a separate guide all about it in due course, so watch this space.
  • Toddler Dance Lessons, which are not only immense fun for little ones but also an important activity that helps improve coordination, balance and motor skills.
  • Football sessions allow children to have fun, keep fit, improve motor skills, learn the importance of teamwork and let off steam!Preschool Drama Sessions, where children get to act, role-play and entertain each other in fun and beneficial ways.
  • Football Sessions, which allow children to have fun, keep fit, improve motor skills, learn the importance of teamwork and let off steam!
  • Spanish Lessons, which introduce little ones to a second language, importantly at an early age. They have already mastered English at an incredibly early age, so adding a second language soon afterwards often comes surprisingly naturally to them — and is a great skill to have.

Baby Farm Animals Visit the Children

In January, the children had a surprise visit from 2 beautiful calves, called Louise and Jenny.During January, the children were delighted when they had a surprise meeting with 2 wonderful twelve-week-old baby cows, called Louise and Jenny. Both calves and children were intrigued to meet each other and it was an opportunity that many children may otherwise not have had access to. Special thanks go to one of our lovely parents, who kindly facilitated this magical event with the loan of their beautiful calves.

Weekly Visits to the Library

Our children enjoy weekly visits to the local library. There, they can independently look at their favourite books and discover new ones.One of Little Acorns Nursery’s regular features is our weekly visits to the local library with the children. There, they are able to independently look through their favourite books as well as discovering new ones. Encouraging a love of reading is hugely important as it’ll lead to an understanding of a wider range of topics, it will improve language skills, enhance cognitive development and teach them so much about — well — potentially everything!

The Children Visit a Local Care Home

Children also enjoy monthly visits to the local care home, to meet and interact with the residents there.Children also enjoy their monthly visit to the local care home. It’s a great opportunity to meet and interact with the care home residents, who also really appreciate the youngsters’ company. Children and adults will bond as they talk, sing and even share in craft activities together. It’s a wonderful experience for all parties, teaching children many lessons about life and the importance of community, as well as enhancing communication and social skills. It also really brightens the day for the care home residents.

Gruffalo Crumble in Storytelling Week

As January became early February, toddlers celebrated Storytelling Week in lots of different creative ways.As January became early February, toddlers at Little Acorns Nursery had great fun celebrating Storytelling Week in creative ways. Running between 30th January to 5th February, the event saw children doing things like making their own ‘Gruffalo Crumble’ and ‘Gruffalo Woods’ as well as playing in our ‘Blue River’. The accompanying photo (right) illustrates one of the many creative story-themed activities that the children enjoyed.

Vegetable & Fruit Growing at the Nursery

In February, we bought seeds and strawberry plants for the children, so they can begin the process of growing of their own vegetables and fruit at the nursery.By mid-February, staff and children at the nursery had begun to prepare for another nature-themed activity – the growing of our own vegetables and fruit! So, various seed packets were procured and preparation for sowing the seeds and eventually growing our own produce commenced. The plan is to incorporate this activity into daily nursery life. Children will thereby start to understand the importance of nurturing living plants and the benefits of growing their own food. They’ll learn to be responsible, they’ll learn new things about nature, where food comes from and the importance of tending their own vegetable patch at the nursery. It’s a thoroughly worthwhile and fulfilling activity for them to enjoy too.

We were also delighted when one kind grandmother noticed our Facebook post about this food growing activity and offered us some spare strawberry plants. A huge thanks to her for those and we’re now looking forward to a crop of delicious strawberries too!

An Outstanding Childcare Service & Forest School in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare providerLittle Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, ChorleyIf you have a child under five and are looking for the best childcare in Lancashire, explore the opportunity of sending your baby, toddler or preschooler to our outstanding nursery and pre-school. Please get in touch to register your child for a nursery or pre-school place, request a guided tour of the setting or simply to ask any questions. Our staff are always happy to answer queries and to show families around this wonderful childcare setting. Please choose a button to get started:

Little Acorns Nursery offers award-winning childcare in Central Lancashire. We are a nursery and pre-school located in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, also being convenient for families in Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

Microgreens: A Fun Food Growing Activity for Under-Fives

Microgreens: A Fun Food Growing Activity for Under-Fives

Microgreens can be grown in trays, egg cartons, used yoghurt pots or any shallow pot or dish that has drainage.As promised in our recent Educational Food Growing post for kids, we’ve got another wonderful food-growing activity for children today. Whether you have a toddler, preschooler or older child, they’ll love this activity and it also has a huge range of benefits. It is a fun, educational, easy and inexpensive activity that gives children an enormous feeling of achievement. It also results in the miraculous growth of delicious food that children and the whole household can eat! What’s not to love, therefore, about our growing microgreens activity! Today, we explain just how easy it is.

First: What Are Microgreens?

Children can get really creative with what they sow their microgreen seeds in!Microgreens, also known as micro leaves, are the young shoots of growing plants that are edible. Examples include the seedlings of herbs like basil and coriander, red cabbage micro leaves and the shoots from root vegetables like beetroot. When growing, the seedlings form a thick and rich ‘carpet’ of shoots that, when ready, can be snipped off en masse and used in meals as salads or garnishes. What’s more, they’re delicious, highly nutritious and make meals look amazing. The entire activity can also be accomplished indoors in any home. You do not need to have a garden because a well-lit windowsill or counter top will more than suffice.

Growing Microgreens is a fun, educational, easy and inexpensive activity that gives children an enormous feeling of achievement. It also results in delicious food that children and the whole household can eat!

Additional Benefits of Children Growing Microgreens

Getting children directly involved in growing microgreens can also encourage them to try new foods, enjoy new flavours and to get much needed vitamins and minerals at the critical time when they are developing. Teaching them to grow food will also teach them a huge number of lessons, for example about nature, the circle of life, how to care for another living thing responsibly, where food comes from and even meal preparation, nutrition and balancing diets. Growing microgreens is a doorway to all of this and more, yet is so simple as an activity.

 

There is a huge variety of different microgreens

What You’ll Need to Start Growing Microgreens

You/your child will need a few things to get started in the growing activity:

  • Microgreen seeds in a seed tray being sprayed gently with water.Microgreen seeds. These are available inexpensively online or at places like garden centres and even some supermarkets. You can buy microgreen mixed seeds or choose seeds for rocket, beetroot, spinach, red cabbage, fennel, broccoli, radish or mustard. Each has a distinctive look, when growing, and flavour, when eaten. Read the packets for more detail or just have fun and experiment!
  • One or more shallow seed trays – also available inexpensively from garden centres or online. Alternatively, you can use any shallow tray left over from a ready meal, or use used yoghurt pots, egg cartons, cut down kitchen roll ‘cores’ or similar. Whatever you use will need to have drainage holes underneath, so parents will need to help any piercing, for safety purposes.
  • As the main pots or tray require drainage holes, you will need another tray, cut-down pot or saucer to catch drips underneath. This is known as a drip tray and simply protects your surface from moisture.
  • Lastly, you’ll need some light soil to sow the seeds in. This can be from the garden if you have one and are on a low budget (sieve first), or buy peat-free compost. Multi-purpose compost or a compost specifically for seeds and cuttings will be perfect. If you’re on a really low budget, another alternative is to simply sow microgreens directly onto layers of dampened tissue paper e.g. horizontal sheets torn from a kitchen towel.

That’s all you and your little one need, apart from water, natural light and some care and patience.

What to Do

Once you’ve got the above items together, your child can take the following steps:

Step 1: Fill the seed tray, pots or cartons almost to the top with compost or whatever is being used as ‘soil’ (see the tissue option above if the budget is low).
Step 2: If using soil or compost, this needs to be tamped down gently to flatten and level the surface.
Step 3: The microgreen seeds can now be sprinkled lightly and evenly (best done from a little bit of a height), or manually spaced if your child enjoys that alternative approach. Clumping should be avoided.
Step 4: A light sprinkling of additional compost (or sieved soil) can then go on top to keep seeds in place. It may be best to do this outdoors.
Step 5: An additional layer of kitchen towel or tissue can be placed on top of the seeds, but only until the seeds start to germinate later on.
Step 6: Lightly sprinkle water or spray the seeds gently with a water spray, taking care not to disturb or wash away the seeds.
Step 7: Place the trays or pots, with their drip trays underneath, onto a well-lit windowsill or counter top. A little ventilation will also not be a bad thing for the seeds.
Step 8: Your child will need to check that the seeds/soil/tissue are damp each day and watered lightly to ensure they don’t dry out. Watering can either be done from above (ideally using a mister or water spray so as to not disturb the seeds) or from below by simply pouring water into the drip trays. This will be slowly drawn up into the soil naturally, particularly if it’s not too deep.
Step 9: As soon as shoots begin to appear, your child should remove any covering (from Step 5), taking care not to disturb the seedlings, and continue to water lightly each day as the seedlings grow.

TIP: Don’t forget to get your child to wash their hands after touching soil and seeds etc.

Harvest Time!

For young children in particular, snipping them off is best done by parents, to avoid injury.Different microgreen seeds grow at different rates but usually a dense carpet of growing shoots and tiny leaves will cover the trays or pots within one or two weeks. Generally speaking, when you can see small, immature leaves at the top of shoots about 1 to 1¼ inches tall, they are about ready to be harvested. For young children in particular, snipping them off is best done by parents, to avoid injury. The carpet of microgreens can be snipped off, using scissors, low down near where the shoots begin. It’s best to snip them off rather than to pull them up by the roots because then they have the chance to regrow and give you/your child a second crop later on. The microgreens can then be washed in a fine colander, under a cold tap, to remove any remnants of soil.

And Eat!

Microgreens make wonderful garnishes, are lovely in salads and sandwiches and can also be added to soup, risotto, pasta, baked potatoes and burgers.Your child can then continue the fun by helping with meal preparation (with adult supervision for safety). Microgreens make wonderful garnishes, are lovely in salads and sandwiches and can also be added to things like soup, risotto, pasta, baked potatoes and burgers. They are incredibly attractive to look at, jazzing up any meal and also giving children extra nutrients to consume. They are also a great way to encourage children to try new tastes and food textures.

By growing microgreens themselves, children will have had great fun and will have learned so much along the way. It’s a fabulous and educational activity, any time of year!

A Place for your Child at our Outstanding Nursery & Pre-School in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare providerLittle Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Are you searching for outstanding nurseries or pre-schools in Clayton-le-Woods (PR6), Chorley, or near to Clayton Green and Clayton Brook in Central Lancashire?

Little Acorns is in Clayton-le-Woods and is rated by Ofsted as an outstanding nursery. It is also an award-winning nursery, having won an important National award. Our childcare service is simply unrivalled in the area.  So, if you’d like your child to experience the very best childcare, register for a nursery place at Little Acorns Nursery. You can also request a guided tour or ask any questions using the buttons below. We look forward to hearing from you.