New Research Shows Kids Who Sleep Less Eat More

We all have a rough idea on how much our young ones sleep, in the early days especially when you try to grab as sleep time yourself before the interruptions!

New research has highlighted another reason for us to keep any eye on their sleep patterns. It has proven that children who sleep less tend to eat more increasing the risk of obesity and the problems that can cause in later life.

The actual findings show that a 16 month old who slept for ten hours or less per day consumes ten per cent more calories on average than those that slept for more than 13 hours.

Whether this is true simply because they are awake for longer periods and have more time to eat is not known but Abi fisher of the Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College, London confirmed, “The key message here is that shorter sleeping children may prone to consume too many calories,”

While the research agrees that the exact causes remain unclear, the regulation of appetite hormones are likely to be disrupted by a shorter sleeping pattern, the study suggests.

Abi Fisher goes on to say, “Although more research is needed to understand why this might be, it is something parents should be made aware of.”

The obesity problem in the UK continues to grow and any breakthrough in alleviating the problem must be welcomed and understood.

The study was the first to directly link sleep to energy intake in children under the age of three. It involved monitoring over 1,300 families with researchers monitoring sleep when children were 16 months old and their diet when they reach 21 months old.

Take a look at our previous blog post on useful tips for children who won’t sleep.

The report was published in the International Journal of Obesity

Parents Guide To Preschool Nutrition

A recent BBC news story on obesity, suggested that future projections on obesity were wholly underestimated and that the actual figure could reach 50% of the population by 2050. With this potential epidemic on the horizon it is important to tackle the issue and where better to begin than toddlers at preschool.

The importance of preschool nutrition has been embraced by the majority of day nursery operators, with many offering healthy, lower fat and tasty meals, which enables toddlers to enjoy a healthy diet.

Experts suggest that children should eat a diet similar to the rest of the family and that they should consume three meals a day with a further 2 snacks in between

A growing child needs the right amount of vitamins and nutrients to ensure they develop fully and reach their potential. Getting this right at an early age will have a positive effect on how they develop socially, physically and emotionally and will give them a far better chance of avoiding obesity at a later age.

We all know the food “culprits” that can have an adverse affect, but you do not have to cut them out totally, just remember to treat them as treats and not staples.

At Monkey Puzzle we devote a lot of time to planning our daily meals and menus, with the intention to provide wholesome, flavoursome varied meals. we also take the opportunity to carefully conceive recipes that encourage a diverse palette of tastes, while also teaching about the different food groups and origins of ingredients.

Preschool Nutrition – What To Look For

The only way to get peace of mind that your nursery of choice is providing healthy, nutritious meals is this simple two step approach.

ASK – When you visit a prospective nursery go prepared with a series of questions. Ask to see the menu and let the nursery manager explain how nutritionally balanced they consider it. Also ask them how the meals are prepared and where the ingredients are sourced from to ensure that it is not only nutritious but as fresh as possible.

VISIT – If you have any concerns about your child’s dietary habits arrange a time to visit the nursery at meal times. Ideally take your child with you so that they can see the other children eating the meals and you will also see how the nursery staff organise meal times and their approach to cleanliness.

As I have already said  most nurseries provide excellent nutritious meals, but the purpose of this post is not to take it for granted and do your own due diligence to ensure your child gets the necessary nutrition to develop as they grow.

If you have any questions regarding the meals we provide at Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries then get in touch!

Is Active Play Crucial To Childhood Development?

I think we all know it is, but how crucial exactly? Well an independent group of leading experts in development and nutrition has gone as far as to issue a set of tips which will help nursery staff and parents encourage young kids to take part in physical activity.

The Infant and Toddler Forum (ITF) have formulated an activity worksheet outlining ways that physical activity and play can easily be integrated into everyday life.

The Government is concerned with the increase in childhood inactivity calling it a time bomb waiting to go off. Latest figures following a study by Oxford University, show that only 32% of boys and 24% of girls between the ages of 2 and 15 are getting the recommended minimum of exercise.

This sedentary lifestyle staring at some sort of screen, being driven or pushed everything is having a detrimental effect on the nations children. Without a change of course the likelihood of later health problems as a result of being overweight or obese will continue to rise and will also impact on a child’s cognitive development.

Government guidelines recommend that under 5’s that can walk, need at least 3 hours a day activity. The problem is, however, that parents are not aware and the message is not being communicated well enough.

This may come as a challenge to busy parents, so it is important for them to plan their daily schedules to include as much activity as possible for their toddlers. Activities such as walking, riding a bike or scooter, dancing, playing catch anything that this increase their exercise.

For preschool toddlers attending day nurseries, they currently achieve two to two and a half hours per day in some form of physical activity, so the parents would only have to add an extra half an hour to reach the recommended daily target.

The factsheet can be downloaded for free from the Infant And Toddler Forum home page.

Measles Precautions for Day Nurseries

With emergency vaccinations being administered after the measles outbreak in South Wales, what precautions should day nurseries take were an outbreak to occur in your area?

Well first parents, carers and communities are being advised to ensure that children are having the MMR jab to prevent further spread.

If nursery staff suspect a case of the measles infection, they should isolate the child before asking the parents or carer to collect the child immediately and seek advice from their doctor. If the case is confirmed the nursery must let all parents know and follow the preventative measures they have in place in the event of an outbreak. this will include disinfecting all handles, surfaces and toys that may have come in contact with the infected child.

Good day nursery practice should mean that the manager will have an up-to-date record of immunisations of all children in their care. Some children may not have been immunised with the MMR jab, purely because of their age or other medical conditions. This should obviously taken into consideration.

Officials in the worst affected area have been urging parents to check for the symptoms of measles and keep children away from nurseries if they suspect or have been diagnosed with the virus, keeping the child at home for at least four days after the rash starts.

Dr Marion Lyons, Director of Health for Public Health wales said, “It’s great to see that more parents are trusting the vaccine and I would encourage others to follow their lead. Measles cannot be taken lightly because you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). A simple and safe jab from your GP will protect your child’s health, could save their life, and will help protect other children too. It is the only precaution you can take at this worrying time, and we have plenty of stocks of the jab, so I would urge parents to make arrangements with their GP now.”

Vigilance can have a major effect on containing the spread of viruses, so keep an eye on your children and act fast if you suspect anything.

What’s In The Perfect Packed Lunch

Guess what percentage of primary school packed lunches meet the nutritional standards set for school nurseries…

What did you think 20, 40, 60 percent?

Well you’re wrong. According to a research carried out on behalf of the British Medical Journal it was actually 1%, I’ll spell that out ONE PERCENT!!

It get’s worse, only 1 in 10 children had one  portion of any vegetable, while 27% contained sweets, crisps and sugar filled drinks.

With these astonishing figures I thought I’d hunt down the perfect packed lunch and share it with you not the actual food, but what should be going in your child’s lunchbox!

Ingredients For A Perfect Packed Lunch


To begin with kids need carbs. Carbohydrates provide a great source of slow releasing energy that will help your child get through the afternoon. Wholegrain or granary bread are ideal for sandwiches, if this doesn’t appeal, try pitta, bagels or wraps with wholemeal content.

Mix it Up…

It doesn’t have to be sandwiches. Pasta, potatoes and rice are a great source of carbs. Make a pasta or rice salad the night before add in their favourite veggies and in the morning just add a little dressing, perfect!


Protein is as important in a balanced diet as carbs as they help the bodies cells to regenerate. There is so much to choose from here, so your little one will never get bored. Lean meat, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and cheese are all great healthy additions to the lunchbox whether in a sandwich or on their own.


With the choice available don’t just stick to an apple or a banana, go tropical with pineapple, melon, mango swell as grapes and berries. Fruit is the perfect way to get your kids to get their 5 a day while also getting their sugar fix!

What to Drink

It is a proven fact that anyone suffering dehydration struggles to concentrate, so it is important that your child has plenty of fluids available. Water and Juice are they obvious choice, but vary that with unsweetened fruit juices, checking to see that the drink actually contains “juice”!

Check Those Labels

The food industry target the lunchbox market, but before you buy check the label for sugar and fat content. Some cereal bars can contain as much sugar as a chocolate bar, as can yoghurts and fruit strips. If it contains no more than 5g of sugar per 100g it is considered low in sugar. Avoid any product that contains 15g of sugar or more.

The Occasional Treat?

Yes! There’s nothing wrong with a treat now and again, but not just a chocolate bar every time, be a little imaginative, flapjacks, muffins or fruit loaf are tasty options.

Try not to get into a kerfuffle over your child’s lunchbox, plan ahead deciding what to put in it at the weekend, then you will have a list and all the ingredients to work with.

Their really is no excuse not to produce a healthy lunch for your children and hopefully this post will help you on your way. Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries are fully committed to preparing and serving high quality, nutritious meals and our staff are always on hand to offer any advice you might need.

Eat Healthy – Be Healthy!

Favourite Childhood Playground Games

We all have our favourite playground games from the past, many have stood the test of time, others forgotten and now just fond memories, but the truth is many favourite playground games from our childhood would still amuse the children of today if they only knew about them.

I know from my past that when in the playground there were hardly any toys or gadgets to amuse us, so it was up to us to be creative and amuse ourselves. I, myself made a point of passing down the games I used to play with my children so that they aren’t lost forever, and there were never any complaints from either of them!

For some time now there has been concern that children no longer play outside, sure the weather doesn’t help and this coupled with the lure of the TV and computer games makes it difficult to get your kids outdoors. But resurrecting “retro” playground games will bring joy to many children, believe me?

So here are three little gems that I remember fondly that you should play with the little ones…

Please Mr Crocodile (a gentler version of British Bulldog!)

To play this you need a few kids so maybe try it at a party.

One player assumes the part of the crocodile and the other players stand on the opposite side and say together, “Please Mr Crocodile may we cross the water to see the Queen’s daughter, who fell in the water 100 year’s ago? Mr Crocodile what colour should we wear?”

At this point the “crocodile” chooses a colour and any of the other children wearing that colour have to try and get to the other side without being caught by him.

Should they be caught then they become the crocodile. Simple but lots of fun, and guaranteed giggling!

Bad Egg

Before I start on this, there are no bad smells involved, promise!

One player is chosen who becomes the “bad egg”. They turn their back to the others and then asks the others each to name something from a particular group (colour, football team etc…). Once each player has answered, the “bad egg” throws a tennis ball over their shoulder (oops forgot to tell you needed that!) and shouts out one of the answers. All of the players bar “bad egg” run in different directions, the one whose answer was called has to run after the ball and shout “stop” once they have it.

On hearing stop, all players remain stationary and stand with their legs apart except for the ball holder. They have to attempt to roll it under the legs of one of the other players. If successful that player becomes “bad egg”, fail and the player who retrieved the ball becomes “bad egg”.

French Cricket

I suppose this ones for the boys, but girls can play too.

All players stand in a circle and one is chosen to bat first. That kid stands with their feet together and defends the stumps (their legs) with a cricket bat. The players in the circle bowl at the stumps and he must bat the ball away. If he does he can move his feet and face in a different position. If not he has to stay in the same position and twist to defend his stumps without moving his feet.

He is out when the stumps are either hit or he is caught and replaced with the person who got him out.

The last one is my favourite and I played it just this weekend, I’m still a big kid at heart…

Enjoy these games but be safe and with balls involved watch the windows!! Finally if you didn’t already know Monkey Puzzle also designs and installs playgrounds all over the country, if you want a free site visit with a 3D CAD drawing of your design with no obligation then get in touch with us.

For a comprehensive list of playground games take a look at these.

How To Deal With A Picky Eater.

Any parent would have experienced it at sometime and become frustrated, the dreaded picky eater!

We all want our children to enjoy a nutritious diet, but getting them to actually consume it can be a challenge at times.

So how do you, the parent, introduce new foods to your child, with an empty plate as the end result?

To begin with your child has a built-in innate sense of how much food their body needs to grow and be healthy, just as a mother knows during pregnancy you could say. It is important then to let your child decide what they eat, let it be their decision…

…although there are clever little “tricks” that can subtly get them to open their mouths and pop in a new taste sensation…

  • Structure your child’s eating so that they have three regular meals a day, with a couple of healthy snacks in between. Doctors believe that most picky eaters are grazers so ensuring that your child has set meal and snack times will mean they will be eating when they are hungry.
  • Introduce new foods one at a time and in small amounts, and don’t make a fuss! Simply place it on your child’s high chair tray without making a big deal, ideally accompanied by other food favourites.
  • When you know your child is hungry try to introduce a new food, different fruits or healthy snacks are ideal at this point.
  • SAY NOTHING! As hard as this may be try not to comment on what or how much food your child is eating, if you become the “enforcer” it’s guaranteed they will resist!
  • Get them involved! Letting your children help prepare a meal will only interest them and want to eat what they’ve created.
  • And finally, dip it! If they won’t eat their vegetables have some of their favourite dips on hand, they will be more likely to try something different if they can disguise it with a little ketchup or mayonnaise.

Remember some children are more experimental than others, if yours is picky don’t panic, their palate will develop over time, just keep to the above guidelines, be patient and they’ll be eating weird and wonderful things before you know it!

Coalition Government Axes 13% Of Previously Funded Playgrounds

In a time when child obesity continues to grow and we continually hear how government is determined to tackle the problem head on, you would assume that there would be an emphasis on promoting outdoor play for young children, while also providing safe areas for them to participate…wouldn’t you?

Think again…

Since coming to office the Coalition government have axed 13% of the playgrounds funded by the previous Labour Government, 279 of 2,026.

Fair Play for Children, a charity which promotes the child’s right to play, applied for information into the number of children’s playgrounds provided by the 326 “principal councils” in England. Apart from the axed play areas the statistics also showed that each council provides only one playground for every 692 children!

Jan Cosgrove, National Secretary of Fair Play For Children said, “The Government cannot have it both ways, to say they know the importance of play in children’s development and health, and yet not know the effects of their policies nationwide.  Words about childhood obesity and concern for lifestyles cut little ice when it is clear there is a national crisis affecting our children’s basic ability to be able to get out and play.”

Outdoor play is key to reversing the childhood obesity trend we now face. Compare the cost to the NHS for obesity related complications to that saved by cutting playground provision and the coalition’s approach just does not add up. It is a very short sighted approach that will surely cost more in the long run.

50 Things To Do Before You’re 11¾…

They were once the simple pleasures and pastimes of childhood, but with the burgeoning trend towards sitting motionless playing computer games, these wonderful escapades are slowly dying…

What am I referring to?

Outdoor Play!

When I was growing up in the 70’s (yes I am that old!) this was the norm. Unfortunately these days, with ever stricter health & safety laws and the hold computer games have on our children, simple, life enhancing exploits are slowly passing into history. Fewer than 10% of kids play in wild places, what a sad statistic…


Let’s go retro! We should all encourage our children to put the joystick down get outside and live life, like I did in the 70’s!

The National Trust have begun a campaign to change this torpor listing 50 things to do before you’re 11¾, a list so wonderful, that if your child completes it, it will change them for the better…forever!