It has been a bit quiet on the weeknote front from me as I have had a few week’s annual leave. It’s been so lovely spending a large part of the summer hols with our children (I have posted some of my photography here). And this summer has been a momentous one. Not only has our little girl finished at the nursery which she has attended full-time from the age of 9 months to continue her education at primary school, it has also marked the ending of the formal relationship we’ve had with the nursery over the last 7 years.
I remember very clearly the mix of emotions I had when searching for somewhere for our son to attend when I returned to work the first time. We did all the things that you’re advised to do – read in detail the inspection reports, speak to parents, visit unannounced. There’s also nothing quite like trusting your instincts as a parent. When I walked into our nursery, I felt comfortable that our little boy, and more recently, our little girl, would be cared for, supported and thrive. And indeed, they did.
They have had the opportunity to build and develop relationships with other children and other adults (both staff and parents). Indeed, some of my best friendships have come about from meeting other parents at nursery! Our children have taken part in extra-curricular activities – sports and French. We know that between birth and 3 years old, the childhood brain is capable of generating 1,000 neural connections every second. This is why these early experiences are crucial. Learning more than one language, for example, – in our children’s case, English, Welsh and French – has many benefits. It has a positive effect on the brain, leads to flexibility of thinking, creativity, enhanced cognitive skills, and opens up a multi-lingual world. If you are bilingual, it’s much easier to learn other languages. We were very lucky that our nursery offered this opportunity and it has certainly helped our son. He was fluent in Welsh within the first half-term of his primary school.
Come rain or shine, all the children were outside playing, exploring, learning, and when the weather was more favourable, eating snacks and having picnics outside. Emily Marchant’s recent published research showed how just an hour or two of outdoor learning every week engages children and improves their wellbeing. Certainly, the wonderful outside space at our nursery was a key factor in our decision for our children to go there.
I know that I may be biased here, our children have developed into very sociable beings – loving, caring, funny, well-mannered, respectful, fair. Nursery has very much helped to prepare them for school and life more generally. Recent findings from the Study of Childcare and Development suggest that more frequent use of formal childcare leads to better outcomes for children. The home environment was found to play a role in child development too. Factors such as the closeness between parents and children had a positive impact on both cognitive and socio-emotional development, suggesting that improving the home environment is important for improving child development.
While both the amount of childcare received by children and differences in factors in the home environment were associated with differences in child development, they were found to be independent of each other. This suggests that even children who have a very rich home environment still stand to benefit from spending time in childcare.
Having paid 7 years’ worth of nursery fees, we know only too well that it can be a costly business. I can understand why some parents choose for their children not to attend nursery when monthly bills for just one child is around £1,000. That’s an awful lot of money.
For the last 6 months of our daughter’s nursery education, we benefited from the Welsh Government’s new Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill. This has enabled us to receive 30 hours of funded early years education and childcare per week. The primary purpose of the Bill is to support the Welsh economy, by helping parents, particularly mothers, to return to work or increase the hours they work. I think it does much more than that and will have a much longer-lasting impact; one that includes helping to provide children with the best start in life, creating a vibrant culture, cohesive communities, and a healthier Wales.
So, as our daughter starts school and we look forward to this next phase for our family, we’re extremely grateful for the important part that our nursery has played in all of our lives.
Podcasts that I have listened to:
Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd. Smells Like Community Spirit: bridging the intergenerational divide
Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd. Written in the Stars: the argument for a codified constitution
Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd. Live at Abbey Road: fixing music education
Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd. (Net) Zero to Hero: tackling the climate emergency
Akimbo. A podcast with Seth Godin. Artificial intelligence is neither
Seriously… Hannah Walker is a Highly Sensitive Person
Seriously… A Job for the Boys
Seriously… Can Facebook Survive?
Four Thought. Preserving the Home Visit
People Fixing the World. Putting a price on carbon
Seismic. Cardiff Salad Garden
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day. Meera Syal
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day. Jess Phillips
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day. Bonus Episode. Philippa Perry and Sadie Jones
About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge. Shout Out Miss Beep Part 1
About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge. Shout Out Miss Beep Part 2
More or Less: Behind Statistics. Mice and Mind-blowing Maths
More or Less: Behind Statistics. The Spread of Fact-checking in Africa
Mothers of Invention. You Probably Have Everything You Need
Eat Sleep Work Repeat. Mental Health & Emotions – practical ways of fixing work
Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee. #68 Tennis: a game for life with Jamie Murray
TED Talks I have watched:
Glenn Cantave. TED Residency. How Augmented Reality is Changing Activism
George Monbiot. TED Summit 2019. The New Political Story that Could Change Everything
Will Storr. TEDxManchester. The Science of Storytelling
Nicola Sturgen. TED Summit 2019. Why Governments Should Prioritize Well-being
Amanda Palmer. TED 2013. The Art of Asking