Time to think about time

Time to think about time

It’s that time of year again when we move the clocks back and everyone gets an extra hour in bed! Forget the fact that we are only reclaiming the hour we’ lost’ in March, when we willingly put the clocks forward, and all is well – we pull the duvet snuggly over our heads and have a well-deserved lie-in!

But have you ever thought about why we meddle with time? Who started it and when? And how can we possibly explain it all to our children?

Einstein’s theory of relativity states that time is not as constant as our everyday experiences would have us believe, but when it comes to catching the bus for work, there’s no point in theorising about travelling close to the speed of light – if you get to the bus stop late, you miss the bus!

Learning to tell the time is incredibly important, as is understanding the concepts of past, present and future. It allows us to operate within common boundaries, to agree on the duration of events, and to organise ourselves around an agreed, time framework. It is also important for children to understand the organisation of the world, the natural life cycles that surround them, and the constant ebb and flow of their own lives.

Historically, we defined time by analysing the movement of the planets: it takes a year for the earth to orbit the sun and a day for the world to revolve on its axis. Since ancient Egyptian times, we have sub-divided days into 24 hours and we can thank the ancient Babylonians for sub-dividing hours into minutes and seconds, since they preferred counting in 60s!
Keeping and telling the time
The way we keep time has changed over the centuries – from stone circles, sundials, hourglasses and candles, to analogue and digital clocks, but even these are prone to inaccuracy. Nowadays, we no longer use astronomy as our reference, but atomic time defined by the vibration of atoms.

So how can we help our children understand time? Below are some tips and suggestions:

Start with the general concept of time
Most pre-school children are still learning to count, so tackling a clock face can be daunting. However, they will understand the idea that they do things at different points in the day – such as getting up in the morning; eating lunch at midday; having a nap after lunch; and then going to bed at night.

Help children by using visuals and charts to show these different times and activities and add clocks showing an appropriate time. Reinforce this by using time-defining vocabulary such as ‘morning’, ‘midday’, ‘evening’, ‘day’ and ‘night’, telling the children that: “In the morning, we get up and have breakfast” or “at night, we clean our teeth and go to bed.”
It’s also important to introduce the concept of things happening chronologically, or in a time order, by explaining that they do things in the present – i.e. ‘now’, but they will do something else ‘afterwards’ or ‘later’. This helps them understand the concept of time being split into different sections.

You can also talk about cyclical events such as seasons, birthdays, Christmas or other religious festivals to help them understand days, months and years. Talking to them about what they did on their last birthday, or what they want to do on their next birthday, gives them the idea that these things will come around again, in time.

Practice counting to 12, to 60, and in 5s
Children need to be able to recognise numbers to tell the time, so practice counting and general number recognition. Use different strategies to help children learn their numbers. Children will often learn to count by rote before they can recognise numbers, so help them by holding up a number card, and asking them to give you back the same number of counters that you have written on the card. For example, hold up the number ‘3’ and ask them to count out 3 counters.

Other ways to help include:

Counting regularly throughout the day
Sing number songs and nursery rhymes that include numbers, such as “Ten green bottles” or “The animals went in two-by-two”. There are some suitable counting songs at: bbc.co.uk/programmes/p065s47t
Use blocks with numbers and count using an abacus
Read number books together

Use a toy clock to practice saying the hour
It is generally expected that by the age of 5 or 6, children will be able to recognise time by hours and half-hours. At nursery school, it would be helpful to explain the concept of hours on the clock as a stepping-stone towards this goal. Explain what the 2 different hands on the clock mean, but then focus on the little hand which points to the hour. Use a toy clock to set the time to different hours (keeping the big hand on 12) and ask the children to tell you what time it is. There are many songs available to help you. Here are some of our favourite online ones:


British Summer Time

Benjamin Franklin is credited with first proposing the idea of changing the clocks when he visited Paris in 1784 and later, a builder called William Willett (great-great-grandfather of Coldplay singer, Chris Martin), campaigned on the subject. He was a keen golfer and was annoyed when it got too dark for him to play. The idea was discussed by the government in 1908, but wasn’t put into practice until 1916, during the first World War when Germany did it first. In WW2, the clocks were changed by 2 hours for a short while, but this didn’t last long. Many countries still don’t do it at all and there are moves within the European Parliament to end it altogether, but this is unlikely to happen until 2021 at the earliest. So, for now, in the UK, the clocks go forward an hour on the last Sunday in March, and back on the last Sunday in October. Enjoy your lie-in!

Fred The Friendly Halloween Spider Craft

Fred The Friendly Halloween Spider Craft

You will need:
  • Styrofoam baubles
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Black paint + paintbrush
  • Googly eyes

1.  Paint the bauble using black paint and then wait for it to dry.

2.  Fold the pipe cleaners in half and shape them to resemble spider’s legs (see the photos).

3.  Push the pipe cleaners into the sides of the bauble, doing two on each side.

4.  Glue the eyes on the top of the spider.

5.  You are done! Happy Halloween!

Give us a smile: the importance of oral health and World Smile Day®

Give us a smile: the importance of oral health and World Smile Day®

What does it cost to smile? Nothing! And yet a smile can set the world alight, right?

On Friday 4th October, people across the globe will be trying to spread some good cheer, engage in an act of kindness and make each other smile to celebrate World Smile Day® (WSD). So here at Parenta, we thought we would do our bit to spread the love by giving you some advice on putting on your best smile whilst imparting some vital information on oral health at the same time. And we’ve also included some fun ideas on how to join in with WSD and spread miles of smiles on the day itself.

How to have a super smile – look after your teeth!

There’s a wonderful, humorous poem by Pam Ayres called “Oh I wish I’d looked after me teeth” which many parents and nursery workers from Generation X and before, will remember fondly. It’s a cautionary tale about an adult regretting their childhood lack of concern for their teeth, resulting in them watching their false ones “foam in the water beneath!”

Oral hygiene and oral health are intricately linked. Tooth decay in children, that had been declining for decades, has recently started to creep up again, with the blame focusing on the high sugar content of much of the food and drink that children consume. In 2016–17, hospitals in England extracted multiple teeth from children and teenagers a total of 42,911 times according to statistics obtained by the Local Government Association1. These figures are up by 17% from 2012–13, and the NHS is trying to tackle the problem amid reports that the majority of tooth decay in under-6-year-olds is untreated2.

Although records also show that just under a quarter of 5-year-olds in England had tooth decay in 2017, there are regional differences, and children from the most deprived areas have almost twice the rate of decay as those from the least deprived areas3.

Faced with these alarming statistics, it’s our duty as nursery professionals to help educate parents and children about the importance of good oral hygiene and health, and to encourage best practice along the way.

The main steps to good oral health are:

Brush teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes. For children under 3, it is recommended to use a smear of an appropriate, age-related children’s fluoride toothpaste containing no less than 1,000ppm of fluoride, or a family toothpaste containing between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm fluoride. For children aged 3–6, use a pea-sized blob of a similar toothpaste. Parents or carers should brush their child’s teeth (under 3s) or supervise toothbrushing for older children. There are many fun toothbrushes on the market so allow your children to choose their favourite.

Reduce sugar intake and use a straw when drinking sugary drinks which helps to bypass teeth. Sugary foods include:

  • cakes and biscuits
  • soft drinks such as cola as well as fruit juice
  • sweets and chocolate
  • flavoured milks and yoghurts
  • sugary breakfast cereals and cereal bars
  • jams
  • fruit canned in syrup
  • sauces and syrups, such as some pasta sauces, marinades and ketchup


Visit the dentist regularly – most children need to have a check-up twice a year, although you should follow your dentist’s advice depending on the needs of the child. Try to make the visits fun and be patient if children are nervous.

Fissure sealants and fluoride varnish treatments can help prevent tooth decay. Fissure sealants involve covering the back teeth with a thin plastic coating to prevent food and germs getting into the grooves, and can last between 5 and 10 years. The NHS recommend fluoride varnish is offered to children over 3, and should be given to all those over 3 at risk of tooth decay. It is painted onto the teeth twice a year by a dentist.

More information is available from the NHS and other online sources. We’ve listed some relevant websites at the end of this article. Remember too that dental treatment for all children under 18 is free and the time and effort dedicated to oral health will pay off in the end.

Having embraced the need for good oral health, you’re all set to show your smile to the world!

Learning and laughing together – it’s ‘Family Learning’ month!

Learning and laughing together – it’s ‘Family Learning’ month!

Whether you’re a parent or a practitioner, the importance of educating children outside, as well as inside, the classroom, can never be underestimated. Although the traditional ‘nuclear’ family has changed considerably over the years, it doesn’t seem to have had an effect on the desire of parents, grandparents, carers and blended families to learn together, regardless of how the family is made up!

What is “Family Learning”?

‘Family learning’ enables families of all shapes and sizes to learn in a relaxed and fun atmosphere, which helps reinforce the importance of learning at home, outside the environment of the childcare setting, or classroom. It allows parents and carers to reconnect to learning and gives them an insight into how their children learn – which in turn helps to understand how to support them better.

The Family Learning Festival

The UK’s Family Learning Festival celebrates the values of learning as a family. It runs from 19th October until 3rd November and is organised by the Campaign for Learning, the national charity that aims to build a culture of learning everywhere.

“Family learning refers to any learning activity that involves both children and adult family members, where learning outcomes are intended for both, and that contributes to a culture of learning in the family.”

Get involved!

Schools and nurseries, libraries, museums, galleries and attractions get involved every year and put on brilliant and creative events, showcasing ideas and learning opportunities that families can do afterwards.

You can find out what events are taking place near you by visiting the Family Learning Festival website at familylearningfestival.com – here, you can also find some great ideas to hold your own event!

Why learn as a family?

  • It really does make a difference to children’s achievement. Research suggests that the learning we do at home is the biggest influence on the achievement of 3-to 7-year-olds.
  • Learning together as a family makes for an enjoyable and friendly environment. This can help build confidence and encourage us to try new things.
  • Parents and adult family members can help children foster a love of learning that will help them throughout life e.g. we learn to read at school but also learn to love stories at home.
  • It can inspire parents too. Adults who take part in family learning often discover a new thirst for learning, which can open up new opportunities.


Did you know?

  • Children only spend up to 20% of their waking hours in school
  • A four-year-old can ask up to 400 ‘why’ questions a day!
  • Kids are brilliant learners! By age 5, they will know over 3,000 words.
  • At the age of 6, we will have learned half of our adult vocabulary!

We know that the majority of children learn best when they are doing something for a real purpose….and, “just because they want to”, of course! So, playing games that bring to life and contextualise what the children learn within the childcare setting, is a great way for parents and carers to support this learning.

Engage and educate!

Real-life events and day-to-day activities enrich children’s understanding, by putting these experiences into action. Here are a few which can easily be started in the childcare setting and then continued and extended at home:
Family history and culture sharing:
demonstrating what a ‘family tree’ is can encourage the children to talk about where they come from – they can work at home to make their own family tree and share it with the others at their childcare setting.

During story time, they can learn about different cultures and then discuss at home and bring something in which relates to their particular surroundings – e.g. a pebble from the beach where they live, or a leaf from a walk in the woods, or something that symbolises their particular culture.

Counting the pennies:
Playing ‘shop keepers’ at nursery can easily be put into practice while out shopping with family. Counting coins and pointing out groceries is an excellent example of fun family learning.

Learning as a family can help us to become confident, lifelong learners with all the benefits that brings – from better health to being happier! Family learning supports children to achieve at school and can be transformative, helping to find new passions and interests, and realise our aspirations through further learning.

Dyslexia Awareness Week

Dyslexia Awareness Week

Richard Branson is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs: his Virgin brand operates over 60 companies in 35 countries; he has written 8 books and has over 41 million followers on social networks, and his net worth in 2019 was reported at just over £4 billion. That’s a pretty successful life in anyone’s book!

Yet Branson struggled in school and dropped out at 16 saying “my teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn’t keep up or fit in – people just assumed that I was not bright when it came to academic things.”

It turns out that Richard Branson has dyslexia, which was little understood when he was at school and instead of receiving help and support, he says it was “treated as a handicap”.

Nowadays, much more is known about this complex, neurodiverse condition and many people now recognise that dyslexic people have many strengths. So, from 7–13 October, the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) is promoting Dyslexia Awareness Week to encourage everyone to empower people with dyslexia so that their gifts can be recognised, and they can fulfil their true potential. More than 10% of the UK population has dyslexia, yet often their needs are not being met, opportunities are being missed and we are not maximising the potential and abilities these people have, to the detriment of us all.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is not an illness. It is a difference in the way that people’s brains work and a difference in how people learn and process information through their senses. It primarily affects a person’s reading and writing skills although not exclusively. For example, dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, especially linking letters to phonics, which can lead to problems with literacy. However, many dyslexic people display positive strengths in terms of their reasoning, visual processing skills and creativity.

Dyslexia does not affect a person’s IQ or intelligence, although because there is usually a great emphasis on reading and writing in schools, many dyslexic people can feel inadequate due to having a lower reading age than would normally be expected. Recognising that a child has dyslexia, and putting strategies in place to help them, is therefore vital to avoid self-esteem problems and to build on the strengths that the child does have.

Speech and language difficulties and dyslexia

Speech and language difficulties in early years have been linked to later childhood literacy problems through numerous studies, but there is much that can be done to help children in the early years develop their language skills if problems are identified early enough. A diagnosis of dyslexia can only be given after a diagnostic assessment, but these are not usually given until the child is around 7 years old and already at school. There are other causes of speech and language problems too, so the emphasis needs to be on identifying problems early (whatever the underlying cause) to allow interventions as soon as possible.

Signs of dyslexia in the early years

The BDA has listed several indicators which may suggest that a child has a Specific Learning Difficulty such as dyslexia. One of the problems of identifying them in early years settings, however, is that many young children will display the same behaviours and make the same mistakes, so it can be difficult to differentiate between dyslexia and differences in developmental timing. The BDA suggest that parents and early years staff should look out for “the severity of the behaviour and the length of time it persists” as this information can give vital clues leading to a diagnosis of dyslexia.

According to the BDA, indicators for dyslexia in young children are:

  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes
  • Difficulty paying attention, sitting still, listening to stories
  • Likes listening to stories but shows no interest in letters or words
  • Difficulty learning to sing or recite the alphabet
  • Slow speech development
  • Muddles words e.g. cubumber, flutterby
  • Difficulty keeping simple rhythm
  • Finds it hard to carry out two or more instructions at one time, but is better if tasks are broken down
  • Forgets names
  • Poor auditory discrimination
  • Difficulty cutting, sticking and crayoning in comparison with their peer group
  • Difficulty in dressing, e.g. finds shoelaces and buttons difficult
  • Difficulty with catching, kicking or throwing a ball
  • Often trips, bumps into things, and falls over
  • Difficulty hopping or skipping
  • Obvious ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days for no apparent reason

What to do during Dyslexia Awareness Week

The aim of the week is to empower people with dyslexia, which can only be done if there is wider understanding and knowledge about dyslexia, and the myths surrounding it are challenged.

The BDA are asking nurseries, educational establishments and workplaces to spare some time to hold an awareness session, ideally facilitated by a SENCO or other suitable professional, including input from dyslexic people themselves. Obviously in an early years setting, the children will be largely unaware and undiagnosed but the aim is really to advance the knowledge of staff about the condition, and what can be done to help support children. There are lots of resources, videos and information on the BDA website: bdadyslexia.org.uk which are free to access to help you.

The BDA also run awards for dyslexia-friendly organisations helping to support people with neurodiverse conditions. The award, Literacy Leap, is aimed at early years settings, focusing on early identification and supporting children who may be at risk of dyslexia or other speech and language disorders with early interventions.

What you can do to help children
There are numerous interventions that can help children with speech and learning or information processing issues, including:

  • online and electronic language development apps
  • breaking words down into small syllables, prefixes and suffixes
  • reading together
  • adopting a multi-sensory approach to learning
  • taking the pressure off by understanding that everyone is different
  • awareness of visual issues such as fonts, colours and visual stresses
  • teaching to the child’s strengths

The important thing is to recognise that everyone is different and interventions should be tailored accordingly.

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