Tops Day Nurseries Back ‘100 Challenge’ in Honour of Captain Sir Tom Moore

Tops Day Nurseries Back ‘100 Challenge’ in Honour of Captain Sir Tom Moore

Press release from: Tops Day Nurseries

Award winning Early Years Education provider Tops Day Nurseries, honoured Captain Sir Tom Moore by taking part in their own ‘Captain Tom 100’.

Second World War veteran Sir Tom raised more than £32 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday.

His daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore encouraged people to create their own challenge based around the number 100 to raise money for the Captain Tom Foundation or a charity of their choice. Suggestions include; walking 100 steps, running 100 metres, scoring 100 goals, baking 100 cakes or climbing 100 stairs.

The challenge took place from Friday 30th April to Monday 3rd May and many celebrities, companies and the public have been getting involved including Tops Day Nurseries who were more than happy to take part in the amazing challenge to support the Captain Tom Moore Foundation.

Some challenges that Tops Day Nurseries completed across the week included; 100 star jumps, 100 laps, 100 yoga poses, 100 handprints using paint and 100 walks across a balancing beam. They posted their activities onto their social media pages and included a link for parents to donate to a charity of their choice or to the Captain Sir Tom Moore Foundation.

Tops Day Nurseries have 30 nurseries across the South and South West. The eco-sustainable childcare provider offers Early Education and Care for children aged 3 months to school age, as well as before, after-school and holiday clubs for children up to 11.

To find out more visit;


“My child can say more words than yours…”

“My child can say more words than yours…”

Avoiding the comparison of children and responding in a developmentally-appropriate way

I found myself reflecting on child development and peer pressure recently and thought back to when I used to run a toddler group in my local community. As soon as parents found out that I was an early years consultant, they would ask me questions about their children’s development. Sometimes I was able to share ideas or give them leaflets or signpost them to useful websites to help answer their query and sometimes we researched the answer together. The questions sometimes covered language and there was one underlying and often unsaid concern, ‘Is my child developing in a typical way compared with other children?’ The concern that their child was not matching up to their peers would often be the root of the discussion and could, in my view, also exacerbate the problem!  

Parents often feel under pressure to be the best parent in the history of humankind! To never get angry or upset, to keep a clean and tidy house and to have beautifully presented children who exceed in all areas of development!  ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ for some parents means that their children need to not only meet all developmental milestones but exceed them before they have even left the house! ‘My child has been talking in full sentences for weeks’ or ‘How young can you join Mensa?’

Before any parents reading this become offended, I will add that I know all this, because I have been there! I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination and sometimes I wanted to portray an image of a parent who was not just coping but thriving during early parenthood. I wanted my children to appear good and kind, behaving well and developing ‘typically’. After all, what would it say about me if they weren’t?  That I might talk the talk but I can’t walk the walk!  Of course, this is not the right way to think about parenthood. Yes, the way we parent our children will have an impact on their development, but we need to give ourselves some slack and not worry about what anyone else thinks.  

There are some easy ways that we can make our homes and settings communication rich to promote speech and language development, for example:

  • Talking about anything and everything with our children from birth
  • Using clear speech, simple phrases and role modelling language
  • Employing strategies such as Motherese (high pitched voice & simple words/phrases), recasting (rephrase things), expanding (adding to) and repetition to enable children to identify and decode meanings
  • Set up role-play and other environments which encourage talking 
  • Have real, genuine and respectful conversations with children   
  • Reading stories every day and using expressive language that includes rhythm and patterns
  • Modelling the ‘rules’ of language – e.g. turn taking, serve and return, listening
  • Introducing new vocabulary when appropriate
  • Using signs and gestures, picture cues and objects of reference to support language learning

We should learn to live with acceptance of ourselves and our children as they are, warts and all! I do not believe that the perfect parent exists – and that’s OK. It’s OK to make mistakes, it’s OK to have days when we only just get out of bed, or pull our hair into a ponytail without brushing it or let our children stay in their PJs all day!  It’s about living with integrity. Of course, we will try to be the best parent we can be, whilst being honest when we don’t quite manage it, or knowing when to ask for help if we need it. 

What we must not do as parents is compare children with each other or turn parenting into a competition. We mustn’t compare siblings in our own households and we mustn’t compare our little darlings with those who belong to our friends. All children develop differently so no two children will develop at the same rate. It is vital that we appreciate this and if we find ourselves or hear other parents comparing children stop and challenge it, albeit in a gentle way.  In comparing children we are putting pressure on ourselves as parents, we are disrespecting other parents and worse still, we are putting pressure on our children to be something other than themselves. This is not OK.

The same is true in our settings. It is all too easy to fall into the comparison trap and compare our children with each other. Instead, we need to be focusing on developmentally appropriate practice and not comparing children with each other but observing them within developmental milestones. It is important to note that in the 2012 Development Matters document, the ages and stages of development overlapped for a reason. Children’s learning and development is not linear and we cannot say that all children will do x, y, z by a certain time. It is more helpful to think about typical development for an age-range. Of course early intervention is important if we are concerned that a child might not be developing at the expected rate, however, we would base this decision on our detailed observations and discussions with other staff and parents and not on whether or not the child could do the same things as another child in their peer group. It is worth also looking at the new Birth to Five Matters guidance document which has revised the ages and stages and thinks about typical progression in development and learning as falling into 6 ranges. The idea is that practitioners can choose the range that they feel fits with the child’s development and use this range to consider how to further support the unique child in terms of positive relationships and enabling environments. 

So when it comes to speech and language development, what is expected? Children tend to develop in both their understanding as well as in their language use and as the table below by Dr Catherine Adams shows, children will go through different stages in learning to communicate and talk. As I have already shared, all children will develop at different rates, so it is important to use this information as a guide rather than an exact prescription. One child may string two words together when they are two years old, whereas another child may still use single words and that’s OK. Both are within the realms of typical. When thinking about developmental milestones I also find it helpful to refer to the Communication Trust’s Universally Speaking booklet which outlines typical expectations in ages and stages with regard to children’s communication development. 

Speech and language development in children

By 12 months, the child:

  • Babbles strings of sounds with changes in the loudness and emotional tone of their voice (e.g. dadadadadadadada)
  • Makes noises, points and looks at you to get your attention
  • Recognises some words, like ‘bye-bye’, ‘car’, ‘daddy’
  • Enjoys action songs and rhymes
  • Takes turns in conversations, babbling back to an adult
  • Produces simple gestures (e.g. shaking their head, waving bye-bye)

By 18 months the child:

  • Understands some simple instructions (e.g. ‘don’t touch’, ‘kick ball’, ‘give me’)
  • Points to familiar people and objects (e.g. ‘book’, ‘car’) when asked
  • Uses some simple words (e.g. ‘cup’, ‘daddy’, ‘dog’)
  • Gestures or points, often with words or sounds, to show what they want

By two years the child:

  • Puts short sentences together (e.g. ‘Daddy go’, ‘shoes on’)
  • Understands between 200-500 words and uses 50 or more single words
  • Understands more simple questions and instructions (e.g. ‘where is your shoe?’, ‘show me your nose’)

By three years the child:

  • Understands longer instructions (e.g. ‘make teddy jump’, ‘where’s mummy’s coat?’)
  • Understands simple ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions, and asks lots of questions
  • Uses up to 300 words
  • Uses full sentences (e.g. ‘I don’t want that’, ‘my truck is broken’) including some simple grammar (e.g. ‘two dogs’, ‘doggie sleeping’)

By four years the child:

  • Understands and often uses colour, number and time-related words (e.g. ‘red’, ‘three’, ‘tomorrow’)
  • Asks and answers questions about ‘why’ something has happened
  • Uses longer sentences and links sentences together
  • Describes events that have already happened
  • Can tell a simple story

(adapted from ICAN’s Talking Point website and the Hanen Centre website)

(Adams, C. (2017) Speech and language development in children, Nursing in Practice, 28th August Retrieved from

Top tips to remember when thinking about speech and language development

  1. All children are different and will learn language at different rates
  2. Avoid comparing children’s language development with each other
  3. Tune in to the child’s signals and cues to engage in meaningful talk
  4. Use pictures, objects, gestures, signs, rhymes, songs and play to encourage communication
  5. Value all attempts at communication and remember to listen too!

Additional resources

About the author:

Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.

Tamsin has written three books – “Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children” , “School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning” and “Calling all Superheroes: Supporting and Developing Superhero Play in the Early Years” and is working on a fourth looking at “Developing a Loving Pedagogy in the Early Years”.

You can contact Tamsin via Twitter @tamsingrimmer, her Facebook pagewebsite or email

Movement is for ALL children – part 2

Movement is for ALL children – part 2

In part 2 of this article, I will be talking about the use of language and sensory items but am approaching this from my experience as a movement and dance teacher. 

Did you know that the language we use in movement sessions can have a profound effect on children and stay with them for life?

Use language:

We all want children to build and develop their physical skills but at the same time we need to understand that their goals and levels will vary and that’s OK! 

With this in mind, you need to think about how you phrase and frame your instructional language around their different abilities and needs.

Your language has such a huge impact on their wellbeing making them feel able to achieve and develop.  

If you want the children to “stand up!” or “walk/run/jump around the room” and you have children that have mobility issues, use the phrases “ready to move?” and “Let’s move around the room”. Follow this with feedback “we have all moved around the room”.

It is also important to individually use their name with the instruction, so they are clear what is expected of them. I also verbalise my movements which has the added bonus of helping developing speech and language skills.

Don’t forget the speed of the movements you are asking for will be different for each child and their needs. To help the children, model the idealised version of what you want them to achieve at their own stage of learning. Remember don’t let your assumptions of their abilities prevent them from achieving more.

The biggest hinderance to every class is the adults. Adults bring in our own assumptions to the class about children’s abilities and potential to progress and develop.

The voice 

Your voice and how you use it in the session plays an enormous part of making sessions fun and exciting. Don’t be monotone, but at the same don’t overstimulate the children – it’s about finding the ‘Goldilocks zone’ for your children! Be expressive and encouraging at all times whilst paying attention to their verbal and non-verbal feedback.

Making Mary Poppins proud!

I always have a bag full of props and sensory items as I never know what will be needed on the day to engage the children to allow them to experience movement in a sensory and creative way. Every year I have to replace or find new things to add to the bag, but I thought I would share with you a few of my ‘go to’ items.

No: 1

The parachute

I highly recommend investing in a parachute as this is a wonderful piece of equipment that can be used in so many different ways to help children.

Movement activities with a parachute

An example of some of the activities that I do to help develop large body muscles and the core to improve their posture and stability.

  • Pushing the parachute away with the movements of reaching, stretching and pushing
  • Rolling or crawling on the parachute as you shake it
  • Sitting in the centre, trying not to topple over, as you pull them around the room on the parachute

Calming activities with a parachute

Have all the children sitting or lying on mats in the centre of the room as you and some assistants lift the parachute up, down and walk around in a circle to music. The children really enjoy ‘The Swan’ or ‘Aquarium’ from ‘Carnival of the Animals’ by Saint-Saens.   

This activity is wonderful for children who have difficulties with movement as you are stimulating them visually with the colours, music, movement of the parachute and feeling of the air around them.

Some ideas combining a parachute and make-believe:

  • “Under the sea” looking for turtles, crabs, watching the water moving above us. Shaking from side to side as the waves get stronger and stronger!
  • “Picnic on the Moon” lying on the moon looking up at the stars and planets – add a light display 
  • “African safari” running underneath the trees and through the long grass hiding from the lion


Silk and scarves

If you purchase lengths of silk roughly 2 to 3 metres in length and then tie-dye in different colours you have a fantastic prop that can be used for so many different things.

Movement activities with silk and scarves

Just a few of the things I do with the children:

  • Hold the length of silk, to the side of your body, as they run through it 
  • Let the children move around the room with the silk seeing how it moves and ripples
  • Swaying and moving to the music holding scarves
  • Create a bridge with the length of silk (with an assistant) for them to roll under / over or move through
  • Let them roll themselves up in the silk like a cocoon and then unroll

Some ideas combining silk, scarves and make-believe:

  • “Teatime” putting clothes on the line, catching clothes as they blow in the wind
  • “Visit to the Zoo” flap your wings as you fly like a flamingo
  • “Picnic on the Moon” the children fly through the milky way as you search for the Moon
  • “Under the sea” picking up seaweed and putting it on top of your turtle shells as you look for more seaweed

No: 3

Space blankets and pom poms

Children and babies love the sound and texture of the space blanket, making it ideal for so many different adventures using make-believe.

Some ideas combining space blankets, pom poms and make-believe:

  • “Picnic on the Moon” the space blanket can be their rocket, spacesuit or even the moon they land on   
  • “Picnic on the Moon” pom poms are another favourite as you can catch and feel the stars, meteors and food that floats away 
  • “North Pole” pom poms are ideal for a snowball fight!

No: 4

Musical instruments

A combination of handbells, finger cymbals, maracas, tambourine and wood block (also known as a wooden crow) are always in my bag at sessions as while the children are tapping and shaking the instruments, they are developing their motor skills and cross body movements and tambourines with ribbons make the best dancing jellyfish.

Did you know finger cymbals help develop the ‘pincer movement’ of the thumb and index finger?

Some essential items for your sessions 

  • Long feathers or an old-fashioned feather duster (real feathers)
  • Lengths of silk (alternative floaty material if vegan)
  • Silk scarves (alternative floaty material if vegan)
  • Small bean bags
  • Ribbons
  • Space blanket 
  • Pom poms (different textures and colours)
  • Crinkly paper 
  • Tambourine (headless ones last so much longer)
  • Finger cymbals 
  • Wood block (wooden crow)
  • Castanets
  • Maracas
  • Hand bells
About the author:

Gina’s background was originally ballet, but she has spent the last 27 years teaching movement and dance in mainstream, early years and SEND settings as well as dance schools.

Whilst teaching, Gina found the time to has create the ‘Hi-5’ dance programme to run alongside the Australian Children’s TV series and the Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy for Hit Entertainment. 

Her proudest achievement to date is her baby Littlemagictrain.  She created this specifically to help children learn through make-believe, music and movement.  One of the highlights has been seeing Littlemagictrain delivered by Butlin’s famous Redcoats with the gorgeous ‘Bonnie Bear’ on the Skyline stage.

Gina has qualifications of teaching movement and dance from the Royal Ballet School, Trinity College and Royal Academy of Dance.

Use the code ‘PARENTA’ for a 20% discount on Littlemagictrain downloads from ‘Special Editions’, ‘Speech and Language Activities’, ‘Games’ and ‘Certificates’.

A playful approach to difficult emotions

A playful approach to difficult emotions

When children are met with difficult emotions such as grief, sadness, anger or worry, our natural default is to try and protect them. We might do this with distraction, changing the subject or bribing them with sugary foods. This may work as an immediate remedy, but if done regularly, it can teach children to avoid their emotions instead of expressing them. 

When children are able to freely express and communicate their emotions, they are better able to process and release them. It is our job as teachers, parents and carers to provide safe spaces where children feel comfortable enough to do this. This requires more from us than we may expect. It may distress us to see our child crying or worried, but these are part of being human. The truth is, difficult emotions are unavoidable, so how can we support children to express them in healthy and safe ways?

Learning to approach difficult emotions in playful ways can help to create a platform for perspective. When we give children a creative structure where they are able to express and identify their emotions, recognising and regulating them can become more achievable. Through play we can teach our children that all feelings are welcome, and no feeling lasts forever.


Children can find it difficult to notice what emotion they are experiencing, if they are overcome with emotion, we can list what we see and say it back to them. “I can see your eyes are crying and your breath is shallow”. This helps them to tune into the physical sensations of sadness and identify that feeling in their body.

Once identified, we can introduce playful ways of measuring the emotion. There are many ways you can do this, from a simple gesture like a thumbs up or down, to creating a visual chart or scale. Encourage your child to be as creative as they like; using numbers, pictures, colour, or movement as a way of gauging their emotion. If calm = 10 and super scared = 1003, go with that! Allow the child to take the lead with measuring and gauging their experience.  

Another route to recognising a difficult emotion is to transfer it onto a toy or doll. You could take the lead by saying ‘Teddy looks like he’s feeling worried, he’s biting his paws and keeps fidgeting.’ Then encourage the child to continue the description.


Once identified, I encourage you to facilitate a pause. Taking 3 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, encouraging your child to breathe with you. To make the breathing more playful, you can add a hissing sound on the exhalation, imitating a snake.

If your child finds it difficult to pause, you can lead the way. Entrainment teaches us that if we begin to lengthen our breath the people around us will naturally sync with our rhythm. Deeper longer breaths signals to the body that its safe and can help to create the distance needed for your child to enquire into the difficult feeling. 


It’s important to recognise that there’s not a one size fits all when it comes to responding to difficult emotions. If you can see that your child is overwhelmed by emotion, then they are most likely going to benefit from physical touch. A gentle back rub or reassuring hug can go a long way.

However, If you can see that your child is able to express and communicate their experience, you can lead an enquiry. Start by validating the emotion and then take your child’s lead to find a solution. “That must feel scary for you, what can we do right now that might help you to feel safe?”

In times when you can see that something playful may help, there are a multitude of ideas and solutions. Does this feeling need to be realised with some running around, dancing or moving? Or does it want to build a cosy den and retreat? If this feeling could make a sound what sound would it make? If this feeling had words what would it say? 

When we confront difficult emotions with playful interventions, we no longer avoid them and instead welcome them into the space to be transformed. In my interactive workshops, participants learn a variety of practical and playful strategies for supporting children to manage difficult emotions. If you’re interested to learn more check out for events, courses and team packages.     

Katie White

Katie Rose White is a Laughter Facilitator and founder of ‘The Best Medicine’. She works predominantly with carers, teachers and healthcare professionals – teaching playful strategies for boosting mood, strengthening resilience and improving wellbeing. She provides practical workshops, interactive talks and training days – fusing therapeutic laughter techniques, playful games and activities, and mindfulness-based practices. The techniques are not only designed to equip participants with tools for managing their stress, but can also be used and adapted to the needs of the people that they are supporting.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week

In our February magazine, we covered Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and looked at what nurseries and early years settings could do to help promote good mental health for the children in their care. This month we are looking at the Mental Health Foundation’s campaign for Mental Health Awareness Week but from an adult perspective rather than a children’s one. As we gradually ease our way out of another lockdown, the nation’s mental health has been thrust to the top of the agenda as people struggle to adjust to the changes faced in the last 15 months, and it’s never been more important to look after our own mental health, and have a care and concern for the mental health of our staff and apprentices too. 

A 2016 report called the Fundamental Facts About Mental Health found that nearly half of all adults in the UK believed that they have had a diagnosable mental health problem in their lifetime, but only one third have received a diagnosis. The most predominant mental health problem worldwide is depression, followed by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Depression is a primary driver of disability in many countries and depressive disorders also contribute to the burden of suicide and heart disease on mortality and disability, both of which have a direct and an indirect impact on the length and quality of a person’s life. In other words, a person’s mental state can also impact on their physical wellbeing. 

The impact of the pandemic on UK adults has been recorded in a landmark Mental Health in the Pandemic study, being conducted by the Mental Health Foundation working with leading UK universities. It found that whilst anxiety about the pandemic has fallen from 62% of those surveyed in March 2020, to 42% in February 2021, feelings of loneliness have risen from 10% to 26% in the same time, and the number of people who said they were coping well fell from 75% to 64%. More people reported having feelings about suicide although feelings of hopelessness remained consistent at 18%. 

Although mental health issues can affect anyone at any time of their life, the report identified certain groups that were significantly more likely to be feeling distressed however, compared to the general UK population, and these included:

  • Young adults (18–24-year-olds)
  • Full-time students
  • People who are unemployed
  • Single parents
  • People with long-term disabling health problems
  • People with pre-existing problems with their mental health 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 takes place from 10 – 16th May 2021 and the theme this year is ‘Nature’, partly because during the pandemic, many of us turned instinctively to nature when all other activities were shut, but mainly because research shows that going for walks outside was one of the country’s top coping strategies for keeping ourselves mentally healthy, and connecting with nature through walking and exercise has been shown to increase our mental well-being, reduce feelings of social isolation, improve resilience and reduce stress and distress. 

Reports from websites which hosted live wildlife footage from webcams saw increased hits of 2000% in the pandemic, suggesting that not only were we getting out more, but that we were also noticing nature more even if that was from the comfort of an armchair rather than a bench in a bird hide! As the Mental Health Foundation website says: “It was as if we were re-discovering at our most fragile point, our fundamental human need to connect with nature.” They even go so far as to say: “Nature is our great untapped resource for a mentally healthy future” and during the week, they will be campaigning to not only connect more people with nature in new ways to improve mental health, but also to have decision makers recognise the links between the state of our mental health and the access we have to, and the quality of our natural environments. 

Nature does not have to mean a wilderness however, if could be any environment where you can use your senses to experience the natural world: a park, garden, seaside, lake, mountains, some wildlife in your garden or the plants you look after at home. The key is to take a moment to notice the nature around you, connect with it and appreciate it. You can also share images/videos or even some sound recordings on social media using the hashtag #ConnectWithNature and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. You may want to look at our article on National Walking Month on page 38 for ideas on walking in nature too as part of National Walking Month. 

The Mental Health Foundation believe that most mental health issues are preventable, and that there are 3 types of prevention:

  • Primary prevention: preventing problems before they emerge
  • Secondary prevention: prevention for people exposed to inequality 
  • Tertiary prevention: prevention for those already experiencing problems

At all stages, help is available, so here are some ways you can look after the mental health of yourself and your staff this May. 

  • Talk about mental health – put it on the agenda and make sure it is a topic which is discussed regularly
  • Raise awareness of the week by adding posts or using the hashtags above on your social media sites
  • Encourage a culture where stress-busting initiatives, such as getting out into nature, is part of the norm – it will not only help your staff but your children too
  • Get involved in the campaigns around mental health by running an awareness event either in person or online
  • Show your support for mental health issues by wearing a green ribbon or pin
  • Reach out to people who may have found the pandemic difficult to cope with, especially if they are in the vulnerable groups listed above; this does not need to be in person if lockdown limitations are still in place, but a phone or video call can do wonders to help people feel more included
  • Ensure you have robust policies in place to support you and your staff with any mental health issues
  • Support staff if they are having difficulties by understanding their situation, offering your support, and helping them find solutions by giving information and advice about other charities and organisations that could help

Support organisations and information


For Mental Health Awareness Month, we are offering a 30% discount on our online CPD Mental Health Awareness Course – click here for details.

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