Posts Tagged ‘parents’

Why it’s good to share a joke with your child

September 11th, 2015 by Sarah Steel

It’s always good to have some positive news in early years, so thanks to Morton Michel (our insurance company) who wrote a great article this week about some recently published research, which showed that parents who joke and pretend with their children are teaching them valuable life skills. As they went on to explain:

‘Play is crucial to a child’s development with children as young as 16 months old naturally learning the difference between joking and pretending by picking up on their parents’ cues. The study by Sheffield University showed understanding the difference between joking and pretending allows children the opportunity to learn, imagine, bond, and think in abstract ways.
Dr Elena Hoicka, from the Department of Psychology, said: “The study shows just how important play is to children’s development. Parents who pretend and joke with their children offer cues to distinguish the difference between the two and toddlers take advantage of these cues to perform.

“For example, if a parent said something like, ‘That’s not really a hat!’ children would realise it was a joke, and not real, and would avoid putting the toy chicken on their head. “But if parents were pretending that, for example, a block was a horse, they might repeatedly make the block gallop, which would encourage children to do the same, and understand that the block really was a horse in their imagination.” She added: “The research reveals the process in which toddlers learn to distinguish joking and pretending.”

Researchers from the University’s Department of Psychology carried out two studies; one involved parents being asked to joke and pretend with their 16 to 20 month old children using actions. Jokes involved misusing objects like putting food on their heads and pretend play included activities like washing hands without soap or water. In the second study, parents of 20 to 24 month olds were asked to joke and pretend verbally with their toddlers. Pretend play included parents telling their children a round block was a horse and jokes included mismatching items like saying that a toy chicken was a hat.
The research, which was published in Cognitive Science, found parents can offer explicit cues to help distinguish between joke and pretend intention contexts and children, even as young as 16 months old, pick up on those cues.
In both studies parents showed more disbelief and less belief through their language and actions when joking in comparison to pretending. In response their children showed less belief through their actions and the older children showed less belief through their language.

“Knowing how to joke is good for maintaining relationships, thinking outside the box, and enjoying life. Pretending helps children to practice new skills and learn new information. “So while parents may feel a bit daft putting a toy chicken on their head they can at least console themselves with the knowledge that they are helping their children develop important skills for life,” added Dr Hoicka.

So, next time  you find yourself doing something rather silly in the line of playing with your children, relax and remember you’re helping their learning skills, as well as having fun and building strong and secure attachments!
The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
– See more at:

So, how will 30 hours of EYE work?

May 15th, 2015 by Sarah Steel

Well, the general election is finally over and we have a new all-Conservative government, who made the manifesto pledge to increase the number of funded hours for ‘working parents’ of 3 and 4 year olds to 30 hours per week. Childcare has already been mentioned in David Cameron’s outline plan for the next Queen’s Speech, so it seems likely that this will be high on the agenda of ‘family friendly’ policies and their drive to ‘make work pay’. The whole Early Years sector has been very nervous about the various pledges to extend the number of funded hours, as the system is currently totally unsustainable. Although the childcare minister, Sam Gyimah (staying in post in the new administration) said back last year that he thought there was ‘no problem’ with the funding system, David Cameron and Boris Johnson did announce in the last week of the election campaign that there would be a review of the funding for early years entitlement.

Sector representative, like the NDNA, will be campaigning hard to be involved in shaping any reform of the funding system, to ensure that nurseries do not continue to subsidise government policy and that a minimum rate per hour is guaranteed to providers. Do follow the debate and join the conversation – there is more information about the NDNA’s childcare challenge on their website IMG_3967

Where do your nursery fees go?

April 1st, 2015 by Sarah Steel

Now that we have gone into pre-election Purdah, we are expecting to hear more than ever from our politicians about childcare as they launch their manifestos. To date both Labour and the Lib Dems are promising to expand the ‘free entitlement’, which is great for parents but a disaster for nursery providers as none of them have indicated an interest in sorting out the mess that is nursery funding already, never mind an increase. We’ve just heard from Oxfordshire County Council that our funding for 3 year olds will increase by a whole 6p from £3.90 to £3.96 and in Gloucestershire from £3.25 to £3.50 per hour. The fact that our fees for an hour for a 3 year old would be between £4 and £5 per hour depending on location, is totally irrelevant. So, inevitably, working parents buying additional sessions for 3 year olds, or those with under-3s, end up paying higher fees, to allow us to balance our books.

This article in The Guardian explains very clearly where childcare fees goes and is a very familiar story.

I will be waiting to see what all the parties say about childcare funding before placing my vote on 7th May. The All party select committee report last week couldn’t have been clearer; funding needs reform and the parties have no excuse any more in saying they don’t know it is a problem. Let’s hope someone out there is listening……

Thinking about communication friendly spaces

July 24th, 2014 by Sarah Steel

I went on a really excellent training course last night, with Elizabeth Jarman who specialises in promoting environments that help children to develop to the best of their ability. She shared with us several pieces of research which showed how our environments affect brain development in children. Some of it really made us think – for example, how we can reduce noise in our environments to help children to focus better. Often our homes are very noisy with radios, music and televisions on, yet we expect young children to pick up on new words and sounds, against a background of noise. In nursery we need to think about how we can find quiet spaces at times and reduce background noise during talking and reading activities.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 17.17.28

We came away full of ideas and will also be thinking about transitions from home to nursery and how we can ease these, as well as transitions between age groups. For now, do have a look at as the page is designed for parents and practitioners alike. Over the next few weeks we hope to be sharing our learning with our nursery teams, so keep an eye out for a focus on communication friendly spaces around our settings.

Children’s teeth hit the news

July 21st, 2014 by Sarah Steel

Over the last week  there was a lot of media coverage of the number of young children having to undergo anaesthesia to have milk teeth removed, Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.13.33due to severe decay. I was pretty shocked to read about the scale of the problem, even though we have been members of the ‘Stop the Rot’ campaign at all our nurseries for several years. If you missed the various articles, do have a look at this one:

As usual, juice and fizzy drinks seem to be the main culprits and this should strengthen our resolve to serve milk or water as the main choice for children under 5, offering watered down juice as a treat, followed by regular tooth brushing. What it does bring home is the need to say no to fizzy drinks entirely for pre-school children and hopefully this latest flurry of publicity will help parents to see how important this is.

At nursery, we will continue to promote good dental health with the children, keeping sugar intake to a minimum and offering milk or water at snack times. If you have a challenge with a child who still likes drinking from a bottle past the one year old point, do chat to our staff, who will support you in helping to move on to a ‘sippy’ cup and then a normal cup. The experts advise that juice is never given from a bottle, as this is particularly harmful to teeth and it is in the mouth for so long, causing real damage.

If you would like to know more about our approach, do have a look at and feel free to ask for more information in your nursery.


  • image description
  • image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description