Tag Archive for: preschool

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.

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.

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.