Keep up-to-date with all the latest Fennies news, important announcements and get an insight into the each of our nursery settings
Engaging in creative activities within art, music, and movement provide your child with opportunities to explore interests and express themselves. This post shares some Fennies favourite activities that you can recreate at home, which are not only important for development but lots of fun!
Creating art allows children to explore their imagination and practice a wide range of skills that are not only useful throughout life but crucial for learning. For example, elements of problem-solving, communication, and physical development are all in full swing whilst they paint, colour, stick and splatter. These are all essential as their natural interests can flow into educational, social and cultural aspects of your child’s life.
Activity: Vegetable Painting
Use a variety of coloured paints and switch traditional paintbrushes for fruits and vegetables! Slice the vegetable in half and dip into the paint. Print the paint onto the paper and experiment with different pressure and colours to create wonderful patterns.
What you’ll need:
A variety of vegetables (the more shapes and sizes the better)
Paper for printing
Lots of colourful paints
Remember it’s the process of creative play that’s important not the final result. Your child experimenting with different patterns, materials and tools, is a fundamental component of developing little personalities and exploring identity.
It’s great for them to explore and create art with other children to help boost their self-esteem and communication so this is also a great activity to do in a group of friends.
“There is opportunity for the development of communication skills and vocabulary as they learn to describe their creations and listen to others. This provides a great boost in self-esteem as they take pride in their masterpieces.”
Shanti Flynn, Fennies Head of Education
At Fennies, children are provided with many opportunities to engage in expressive arts and design throughout their day. We offer focused art sessions and daily arts and crafts activities inspired by world-famous artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Eva Rothschild. Your child is encouraged to ignite their creative spirit and our practitioner’s effective interactions develop their confidence through every one of their creations.
Music is such an important part of life. Children’s instinctive first response when they hear songs is to move, dance, and sing-along. Music can have a soothing effect on children and is a great mood regulator and motivator!
A 2018 study at the National Institutes of Health Kennedy Centre Workshop on Music and the Brain highlighted findings that early exposure to music promotes language development, improves attention span, and other cognitive functions. These are crucial skills that can lead to your child’s educational success.
Academic achievement isn’t the only benefit of incorporating music into your child’s everyday life. Music contributes to their communication and language skills, improves memory, and develops vocabulary by introducing new words and their meaning.
Activity: Musical Painting
Whilst your child is painting or drawing, play music in the background. Encourage them to paint in time with the beat and observe how this affects their creations.
Tip: Elevate this activity by asking what emotions the colours on the page could represent.
What you’ll need:
Paper or card
Coloured paint or pens
Paintbrush (if using paint)
Movement has many benefits on children’s minds and bodies, whether it be playing their favourite sport to an everyday walk around the block. But the benefits of movement go far beyond this and plays a key role in their developmental skills.
Encouraging movement in different ways builds upon your child’s fine and gross motor skills that implement core strength, balance, and coordination as well as self-confidence, team-building skills, and learning how to follow instructions.
Activity: Movement Sensory Bottles
Sensory play is a fun way to enhance your child’s development whilst having fun! Fill an empty water bottle with your filling of choice. Once securing the lid encourage your child to shake away and explore the sounds they can hear.
What you’ll need:
An empty water bottle
Your filling of choice (we recommend dried pasta, rice or beads but get creative!)
Music brings people together and for children, this is no different. It gives them an opportunity to express their feelings with their peers therefore laying important groundwork for important social bonds.
At Fennies, each room is specially designed to facilitate movement and adventurous play. From the very first steps in baby rooms which feature soft furnishings as children begin to explore the world through their senses, to preschool rooms which give children the space to invent ways of independently taking on tasks.
“Children are natural explorers and can have vivid imaginations. Even before they develop their vocabulary to articulate feelings, they are expressing themselves through sounds, movements and creations.”
Shanti Flynn, Head of Education
Children can have an overwhelming amount of energy, constantly running, jumping, and exploring the world around them. Sasha lets us in on a few tips on how to put that energy to good use by encouraging physical activity that builds life-long healthy habits and confident problem-solvers.
Each activity has the intent to encourage and improve at least one of the areas of learning and development such as communication and language, personal, social, and emotional skills.
Tips for parents
1- Be a role model and encourage your child to take part in the activities you enjoy doing
2- Find what your child enjoys by experimenting with different sports until they find something they love
3- Make time and prioritise physical activity each day
4- Consistency is key in whatever activities you choose, doing it regularly is important for maintaining positive effects on your mental and physical well-being
5- Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t feel as though you’ve been as active as normal. Sometimes just a walk around the block can give you and your child a well-needed breath of fresh air.
Games with physical benefits
The NHS recommends that children between the age of 3 and 4 years should be active for at least 3 hours a day. This is because daily activity is crucial to children’s physical development, supporting gross motor skills, muscle health, and bone strength.
So how can we get children to get active once they get home and not reach for a screen?
Sasha has pulled together 6 activities that children at Fennies love the most and can be played at home, and best of all they all support the important elements of development.
Colour, Spot Freeze
Develop balance and coordination whilst having fun!
- Mark spots on the ground using a cone or coloured card
- Allow your child to move around the space by running, jumping, and sidestepping
- When you call ‘freeze!’ your child must run to the coloured spot and perform a balance of their choice for 5 seconds
TIP: You can develop this further by adding numbers to the coloured spots and calling out the number your child has to run to.
Too easy? Add numbers to each spot and call out the number your child must run to and strike a pose!
Egg and Spoon Race
This classic game of balance and coordination will have you laughing all the way to the finishing line!
- Create a starting point and a finish line using cones or similar
- When the race begins, your child must place one arm behind their back whilst holding the egg balanced on the spoon
- If the egg is dropped, you must restart the race
You’ll have an egg-cellent time!
Games with social benefits
Being physically active doesn’t have to look like traditional exercise, it’s important to just get moving! Not only is this good for our bodies, but sports make for great practice for developing social skills that we use every day.
Sponge Ball Relay
Teamwork is in full swing with Sasha’s Sponge Ball Relay with this activity that is great for your child and all their friends! (or you can even join in!)
Make the below make sense for singular or multiple kids
- Ask the children to line up in pairs or teams and place the same number of sponge balls a few meters away
- Each child takes turns to run and collect the balls and bring them back to the starting line
- Once a child has had their turn, they sit down
TIP: Mix it up and try different ways of travelling like skipping, hopping, or jumping to collect the ball
Mastering the art of being a team player not only sets children up for school but is a crucial social skill throughout life.
The pre-school years are an excellent stage to cultivate teambuilding skills, which in time will develop into empathy, strong communication, compromise and patience.
Simon Says can be played just about anywhere and is a great way to keep active come rain or shine
- Call out simple instructions like “Simon says hop on the spot” or “Simon says do 5-star jumps”
- If the instruction doesn’t begin with “Simon Says” it shouldn’t be followed, for example, if you say “spin around and touch the ground” the children must remain still
- If your child follows the instruction they must sit down and stand up as quick as possible
These activities also help the ability to retain and act on instructions help improve children’s language and communication skills, memory, and concentration.
“Children learn to cooperate with people through teamwork activities. This also promotes social awareness as the children learn to listen and respond to each other’s needs.”
Sasha Flynn, PE Coordinator
Games with emotional benefits
Children have to navigate their way through a fast-paced modern world. Recent studies show that children who take part in regular exercise, develop better concentration, problem-solving skills, and creativity.
Sasha incorporates elements of problem solving into activities for the children to encourage them to become more confident and independent with decision making, this in time teaches determination and perseverance.
Take Storytime to the next level with this Fennies favorite
- Using your child’s favorite book that incorporates animals (we love ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell) identify the animals on each page
- Recreate the shape of the animal by moving and stretching in different positions
- Hold the pose for as long as possible and tell your child to breathe deeply
Exercise has been shown to improve focus and mood in children. Activities such as yoga and breathing techniques can reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
The Frying Pan
Balance, problem-solving and communication, ‘The Frying Pan’ has it all
- Balance a bean bag or tennis ball on a tennis racket and encourage your child to walk in straight lines without dropping it
- Create obstacles using cones, cushions, blankets or any household objects
- Encourage the children to use different movements to navigate their way around the space and overcome the obstacles
“During the sessions children learn to self-regulate their own emotions in a fun and engaging way. They become able to identify their feelings and figure out how to overcome them. We have had great feedback from our parents and the children love practicing this at home.” Jaimie Cooper-Roberts, Fennies Horley Manager
For more information about Fennies Day Nurseries and to book a virtual tour, please contact Amy Forbes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8770 3222.
Moving away from a bottle to a cup can be a tricky time for both children and parents. Bottles can often be a comfort, particularly when baby is ready for sleep. Understanding why this transition is so important and being armed with some tips to help will be useful.
Top tips for moving from bottle to cup:
- Introduce a ‘free flow’ cup to your baby at mealtimes. Initially give your baby a small amount of water and let them play with the cup, throw it on the floor, put it on their head! Whatever helps them to become familiar with the cup
- Gradually increase the number of occasions that you offer a cup rather than a bottle and start to offer milk feeds in a cup
- Be a good role model for your child by showing them how to use the cup and praise them when they put the cup to their mouth or drink from it
- Introduce a cup over the course of a few weeks or months, use the bottle less and less until your baby has all their drinks in the cup
- If your baby is over 12 months and they are showing no signs of giving up their bottle, you may need to think about removing the bottle altogether. This can be done by ‘swapping’ the bottle for a ‘grown-up’ reward such as choosing their own cup
Why should I transition from bottle to cup?
Current guidance states that bottles are not recommended for children aged over 12 months. It is important for children to learn to ‘sip’ from a cup rather than to ‘suck’ from a bottle. This development can help to support the strengthening of different muscles in the mouth, which in turn can help in the development of speech. Prolonged use of bottles and dummies may have a detrimental effect on this important development.
Extended bottle feeding may also have a negative impact on dental health. Drinking from a bottle can mean that the sugars present in milk stay in the mouth for longer, which can then lead to an increased risk of dental decay.
Don’t worry if your baby hits 12 months and they are still using a bottle, this can be a slow process so just keep persevering and they will eventually get the hang of using a cup. Maintain a good dental hygiene regime by brushing gums and emerging teeth, avoiding sugary drinks and food, and offering plenty of water to drink.
My baby is very attached to the bottle – what can I do?
Transitioning from a bottle to a cup can be an uphill challenge so don’t worry if your baby doesn’t take to it straight away. The longer they drink from a bottle, the more attached they may become so starting the transition from around 6 months of age, when starting to introduce solid foods, can be a good place to introduce a cup.
Finally, it is important to remember not to beat yourself up if your baby is doing things differently to others. There is no right or wrong way. Try and start the transition from bottle to cup as early as possible (from 6 months), and work with your baby in a calm environment.
For more information, Janet says please visit: NHS.uk
For more information about Fennies Day Nurseries and to book a virtual tour, please contact email@example.com or call 020 8770 3222.
Physical Development in the Early Years plays a crucial role as children grow. During this time, children will learn how to develop movement, handle new objects and start to gain an understanding of their body, promoting positive self-care routines.
At Fennies, we encourage children to be active throughout the day and you can support this further at home. Epsom Nursery Manager, Danielle Lilley, has helped to implement our Educational Ethos since 2017 and in this time, she has introduced many new and exciting activities for children.
In this post, we outline 5 top activities to enhance children’s physical development, recommended by our Epsom Nursery Manager.
- Playdough Gym
- Obstacle Course
- Animal Walk
- Hide and Seek
1) Playdough Gym
What you will need: playdough, music
For this activity, you can use playdough you already have or make your own from flour and water. Creating different shapes with the playdough helps to develop their strength as its squeezed between different areas of their hands.
This is a mini workout for small hands and helps develop fine motor skills. To make the activity even more exciting, play music at the same time, and encourage your child to copy your movements in time to the rhythm.
Top Tip – Discover how to create home-made playdough
You will need:
Saucepan, cup, spoon, 1 cup of flour, ½ cup salt, 1 cup of water, ¼ cup of vegetable oil, food colouring
- Let your child measure the dry ingredients into the cold saucepan.
- Add the oil and water and cook the dough on a low heat, continue to stir until the dough starts to come together in a ball.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Once cold you can knead the dough together with a few drops of food colouring.
What you will need: colander, pipe cleaners
As a busy parent, it can be a challenge to constantly find new activities that can also help with physical development. Threading is a simple yet fun and crafty activity that can be set up quickly. It’s become very popular with the children at our Fennies Nurseries and all you need is a colander and pipe cleaners!
Encourage your child to carefully weave the pipe cleaner through the colander in different directions. These actions reinforce spatial concepts and increase concentration, strengthens hand muscles, and improves hand-eye coordination.
3) Obstacle course
What you will need: pillows, blankets, soft toys, hoops, cones
Make a simple obstacle course around your home using pillows, chairs, blankets, and soft toys. For smaller children, this will encourage them to crawl, climb, and create a sensory experience through exploration.
For older children, you can construct an exciting course in your garden using hoops and cones to practice running and jumping which strengthens muscles, develops balance, and improves posture.
For added fun why not try using tape on the ground to form different routes for children’s feet to follow. This will help improve their hand-eye coordination and effectively follow instructions.
4) Animal Walk
What you will need: yourself and your child
This activity can be done inside or outside, with your child choose an animal and encourage them to mimic how the animal moves. They could jump like a frog, slither like a snake, or swing their arms like an elephant’s trunk. Join in and explore different animals together.
This is a great activity if your child is getting fidgety or restless to keep them active. This is also an opportunity for them to develop in all types of movement, develop their gross motor skills, and practice their balance.
5) Hide and Seek
What you will need: yourself and your child
Hide and seek gives children important physical benefits. The task of finding the perfect hiding spot helps them learn how to navigate space and become more aware of their surroundings. Hide and seek is also perfect for introducing problem-solving, children must think about the perfect hiding spot and whether they can hide in a given amount of time.
“Early Years play a crucial role in physical development and therefore it is important for us to encourage children to take part in activities that teach them how to grasp, move, and build upon coordination. Physical development also lays the foundations for children to learn how to lead healthy lifestyles and to be active in their everyday lives.”
Danielle Lilley, Epsom Nursery Manager.
These activities will help your child to understand how their body moves and works. Just like at nursery, parents can create exciting environments at home where children can still find ways to continue with their development and help them flourish.
How to Enhance Your Child’s Learning & Development Through Effective Interactions
The extent to which children progress depends hugely on the level, timing and quality of adult interactions. Effective communication paves the way for developing crucial skills and positive relationships in later life by building confidence and positive social bonds. These active interactions can elevate the simplest of activities to an enhanced learning experience.
How can you develop positive interactions at home? By focusing on modeling behaviour, providing commentary, and introducing enabling environments are three fundamental elements of enhancing early development through interaction.
Communication includes verbal and non-verbal interactions, both allow us to gain a deeper understanding of children’s personality, interests and recognising potential worries.
You can enhance learning significantly by providing an insightful running commentary about what’s happening during an activity. Questioning yourself, for example,
“I wonder what colour paint I should use? I’ll try red first,”
this demonstrates problem-solving and encourages sustained interactions. As well as this, you can ask your child questions, this promotes self-esteem and confidence as it allows them to draw their own conclusions like;
“Why do you think this has happened?” and “can you do it another way?”
Giving a child your full attention is essential. Showing genuine interest in what they are saying and engaging in conversation is pivotal for the development of new vocabulary and the critical thinking processes.
Fennies Sanderstead Nursery Manager, Annalise D’Mello says,
“Children are observers, who learn best through copying actions and words they have seen or heard. Narration is a great way to support and engage children during play. By discussing what is happening during an activity, we expose children to new vocabulary which helps develop their communication skills.”
Annalise recommends not shying away from complex vocabulary as this exposes them to a variety of new words.
The interactions your child has at home with family members is also very important for their development and overall well-being. It’s been proven that non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and gestures can be just as powerful. For example, when praising a child, if our expression is angry or frustrated, this can send out confusing mixed signals. However, if our facial expression is reflective of your words, this can reinforce what you’re saying.
This can be particularly important when a child feels uneasy about communicating with adults as they observe social interactions by watching what’s happening around them. Our staff are regularly trained in effective interactions to ensure they are ultimately harbouring a love for learning in children by providing challenge, stimulation, motivation and praise.
An enabling environment that challenges and stimulates children is also a key contributing factor to learning and development. The impact of children’s surroundings promotes exploration and sparks their natural curiosity to enhance daily learning opportunities both at home and at nursery.
It is important that our recourses reflect equality, diversity and real-life objects, at Fennies all our nurseries incorporate designated areas, specifically developed to support every stage of development. Such as role play areas, in which children can use multicultural fabrics, daily objects such as telephones and cooking utensils to encourage creativity and allow for inclusive interactions. As well as a storytelling space, this quieter time can support development by allowing children to reflect on experiences and assimilate knowledge in a calming space.
You can create a stimulating environment at home by providing access to lots of everyday objects for them to investigate and play with. This allows children to make sense of the world around them by developing their own responses.
Effective interactions give parents and practitioners the opportunity to elevate daily activities into inspiring and challenging learning opportunities. This is crucial for shaping children into active communicators who are able to express themselves in a positive way during each stage of development.
How to develop effective interactions at home:
- Pay attention and be fully in the moment: Avoiding any potential distractions when communicating
- Use modelling language: Ask questions and provide running commentary to demonstrate problem-solving
- Have fun! Effective interactions are more likely to occur in a positive environment
For more information about Fennies Day Nurseries and to book a virtual tour, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8770 3222.
Fennies are proud of how our children have returned to nursery and settled in after the unprecedented period of lockdown. However, we have recognised that some of you may have some concerns surrounding social anxiety in your little one.
First of all, what is separation anxiety? Separation anxiety can occur when a child feels unsafe or deeply unsettled when away from their carer or parent. According to the NHS, separation anxiety mostly affects children aged 3 months to 5 years, therefore it is important that we recognise these signs when settling back into nursery life. Catriona says it is key for parents to create a feeling of consistency during this time to combat any anxieties, “keeping things as close to how they were before and making as few changes to their environment as possible is key. Having things around that are instantly recognisable and familiar to the child helps and engaging the children in these familiar things will make them calm and therefore give [a sense of] safety to the children.”
If you feel concerned that your child may be experiencing separation anxiety, some things to look out for include disproportionate stress when separated from a loved one, unwillingness to leave home and reluctance to be alone. However, this can be difficult to notice if your child is internalising their post-lockdown struggle. Parents know their own child, so it is important to trust your own judgement and not dismiss anything you may have picked up on. If you are concerned, a great way of overcoming this and initiating communication is through drawing. Catriona recommends “drawing shapes with our fingers on each other’s back and trying to guess the shape can be a good game to help this connection…the more interaction the parent can have, the more they’re going to pick up what’s bothering the child and the easier it will be for the child to either show this through play or talk about it.”
At Fennies, we are aware that some children can struggle with the initial separation from their parents or carers when beginning their journey into nursery life and therefore offer a settling in period during the child’s first week of registration. We are aware that separation anxiety may become an issue for both children and parents who were previously settled, and now must reintegrate back to nursery life. The first thing to note is that any anxiety or stress you may feel is normal and will pass. The practitioners at Fennies will be able to provide support and reassurance and aim to be as accommodating as possible.
Children who are not neurologically typical or with special educational needs may demonstrate social anxiety by regression or hyperactivity, for these children this can be an emotionally intense experience. Catriona explains that encouraging the development of fine motor skills can develop the brain and nervous system; “children will develop at different rates; they will reach their milestones in their own time. It’s so important not to add stress and pressure into this process, the more children can play with their parents, have routine, structure and consistency, the more likely their development will be unimpeded.” She recommends activities such as drawings in which the child follows lines and shapes, colouring in, balancing games and anything involving interaction with other children. “Accept that this might not be a quick process and give it a bit of time to happen, there’s no rush.”
Finally, Catriona says that it is important to note that “this is temporary, imposed and everybody has been in the same situation.” She emphasises the importance of navigating these times at your own pace as this will make children feel more solid and secure, “it’s important to be reassured that there is no rush for this and we’re all in it together.”
Fennies top tips for dealing with separation anxiety:
How parents communicate throughout this transition can play a great role and it is important that what is spoken matches what is going on. Explain why different routines can feel scary at first but will soon become normal. It can help to share some things that you find tricky to help children realise that how they are feeling is normal.
Consistent bedtime routines can play a huge role in supporting your little one’s development and wellbeing. Limiting screen time before bed and replacing these with alternatives such as drawing, reading a bedtime story, or playing with building blocks would be beneficial.
The curriculum at Fennies encourages developmental play but it can also be fun to incorporate this at home. Activities in which a personality is projected onto inanimate objects like dolls, cuddly toys or figures can contribute towards emotional development and encourages empathy.