“To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more.”

Children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy” – World Health Organization (WHO).

Screen time is a sensitive subject at the best of times for most families. However, now in a world of virtual birthday parties, and Zoom classes and with both parents and children spending a lot more of their time at home, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to know when and how to put limits and restrictions on your child’s screen time.      

There are many benefits to reduced screen time including “improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children which will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life,” says Dr Fiona Bull, programme manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases, at WHO.

At St. George’s, we understand that it’s often difficult to limit screen time at home, that’s why at nursery, we plan a range of activities that don’t involve screens! We encourage children to play and learn outside in our beautiful large gardens, we encourage yoga, music, singing and dancing, we read and listen to stories from our teachers and peers and we do lots of sensory play including activities with water, play dough and sand. For more activities, please see http://stgeorgesnursery.com/age-group/.

The wide range of activities we do at St. George’s Nursery helps to keep the children active, fit and healthy, as well as to boost their imagination, creativity and enhance their motor and social skills.

Here are a few things you can do at home too…

Start by recognising that with so much more happening online nowadays, some screen time is inevitable. However, there are techniques you can use to limit this:

“When we tell kids not to do something, we almost always need to tell them what to be doing instead,” says Stephanie Lee, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.

Develop a non-screen activity menu with your children that includes their various other favourite activities, such as cooking and baking, arts & crafts or even teaching pets new tricks. This will help when they are feeling fed up or bored, they have a variety at options ready to go. 

Your children may try to reject your new system and act grumpy for the first couple of days. Children often try their luck with new restrictions and try to gauge how firm they really are. If you keep with the plan, rejection and push back are likely to disappear and your children will become accustomed to their new routines.

This definitely won’t be an easy one but it’s important to lead by example. Children are likely to replicate behaviours such as putting your screens away at certain times of time every day. Not only will this help your children decrease the time they spend on their screens, but could also help you control the amount of time you spend doing the same and could give you more valuable and mindful time with your children.

Mental health problems affect roughly 1 in 10 children and young people. The most common mental health problems seen in children are anxiety, ADHD, conduct disorders or learning disabilities.

Alarmingly, 70% of children and young people who experience mental health problems have no had appropriate interventions at the right age.⁣

The emotional well-being of children and young people is just as important as their physical health. Most children can start to show signs of mental health difficulties from a young age but often times these are misdiagnosed or ignored.

Because young people process information, events and emotions differently, nurturing children’s health is influential on their mental health as adults.⁣

Teaching children and young people healthy coping mechanisms, how to regulate strong emotions, how to create a safe space which is welcome to emotional and physical expression are all ways we can try to promote good mental health in children.

The start of good mental health in children leads to the development of well-round and resilient adults. Additionally promoting good mental health helps lead children into dealing with daily struggles and adversities much better in adulthood and helps them grow into strong self-confident individuals.

Head over to the http://www.theminddoc.co.uk/ for more on mental health.

Encouraging good mental health for children starts from the reflection of good self-care implemented by the people around them. Caregivers & parents are great role models to teach children the importance of self-care and encouraging good mental health habits, here are some simple ways we can implement good self-care and mental health within children:⁣⁣
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🏡 Creating a safe, welcoming, and non-judgemental space where children are allowed the freedom of their emotional expression⁣⁣

👩🏽‍🤝‍👨🏾 Encourage them to attend social groups/activities that promote their self-confidence and give them a sense of belonging⁣⁣
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❤️ Accept who they are & recognise what they are good at.⁣⁣
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🥰 Make them feel loved, trusted, understood and more importantly that their feelings are valued⁣⁣
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😐 Help them articulate emotions they may have difficulty understanding⁣⁣
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🗣 SHARE YOUR OWN FEELINGS in order to help them normalise some of their own.⁣⁣

There are many ways in which we can encourage children and young people to be more self-aware, expressive and understanding of their emotions. Sharing our own emotions may leave us vulnerable but at the same time sharing what we are feeling gives our children permission to do the same, if you can’t implement all of these ways I encourage you to start by simply sharing your emotions with your children.⁣

Check out @theminddoc for more!!

HEALTH AND FITNESS IN THE EARLY YEARS

In a world where children are spending more time staring at screens and less time being physically active and playing outdoors, childhood obesity is an increasingly growing issue. It is therefore vital that we decrease inactivity and encourage and promote a wholesome, healthy and active lifestyle in children. At St. George’s, we recognise that our values and culture can influence the health and well-being of our children and the probability that they choose healthier options later in life.

Professor Judy Buttriss, Director General of the British Nutrition Foundation, said “it’s vitally important that children eat well in early life, not only to provide them with the nutrients they need to grow and develop but also for their lifelong health. With almost a quarter of children starting school overweight or obese, children’s health in the early years needs to be a key focus in tackling the obesity epidemic.”

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), the statutory framework that sets standards that all nurseries must follow, states that ‘where children are provided with meals, snacks and drinks, these must be healthy, balanced and nutritious’ and ‘fresh drinking water must be available and accessible at all times’.

At St. George’s Nursery, we plan menus in advance so that our children receive three balanced meals throughout the day, including a wide variety of healthy ingredients from the following food groups: starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and beans and milk and dairy. We have a strict no-nuts policy and we offer alternatives to children who are not able to have certain meals due to various dietary requirements.

We have a rotating menu in place, made up of dishes such as chicken/ quorn jambalaya, salmon/ quorn risotto and lamb/ soya curry.  A well-balanced, wholesome and nutritious menu means our children eat fantastic and nourishing meals, encouraging them to develop wholesome eating habits and a healthy relationship with food.

We are fortunate to have talented and enthusiastic people working with us to create these delicious meals for the children. Our cooks enjoy creating exciting and innovative ways the children can appreciate food and build a healthy relationship with it.

Furthermore, daily physical activity is vital for the healthy growth and development of children. Not only do we love spending time outdoors in our big beautiful outdoor gardens, we also provide Music & Movement classes, Yoga classes and Sports classes.

Babies (under 1 year)

We encourage our babies to be physically active throughout the day in a variety of different ways, such as crawling. If they are still unable to crawl, we encourage them to be active by reaching, sitting up and grasping.

Whilst babies are awake, they should get at least 30 minutes of tummy time throughout the day to help them to practise lifting their heads and to develop strong muscles.

Toddlers (aged 1 to 2)

The more physically active toddlers are, the better. However, they should be physically active for a minimum of three hours every day, including both indoor and outdoor play. This can range from light activities to more energetic activities such as jumping, skipping, dancing and ball games.

Pre-schoolers (aged 3 to 4)

Again, this age group should spend at least 3 hours a day doing a range of physical activities including at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity.

Except whilst they’re sleeping, children under 5 should not be inactive for long periods, and behaviours such as watching TV or being strapped in a pushchair for long period of time are not good for a child’s wellbeing and development.

The Minister for Children and Families Robert Goodwill said, “A good early education is vital to set every child on the path to fulfilling their full potential, and getting healthy, balanced food during the day is an important part of high-quality childcare.”

So let’s get our children following healthy, nourishing diets and hopping, skipping and jumping away!