Foods that Boost children brain power

Two Easy Foods that will will boost your childs’ brain power

I’ve seen so many online Ads that say boost this and boost that; I normally just skip over them thinking “another Fad coming up”. Fruit and vegetables have been around for centuries and as a mother, father or guardian of a small child you obviously know that some foods are good such as Fruit, Fish and Veg and some are bad such as fries, burgers and sugary drinks › nutrition › 20-foods-to-avoid-like-the-plague.

Today, I’m going to focus on just two foods that are so easy to put on the table or even as picnic sandwich, that are scientifically proven to boost cognitive performance in children.

  1. Whole Grains

  2. Broccoli

Whole grains

Eating whole grains is a way to benefit from the effects of vitamin E, with these grains being a good source of the vitamin. A 2014 review found that vitamin E can also contribute to improved cognition.

Whole-grain foods include:

  • brown rice

  • barley

  • bulgur wheat

  • oatmeal

  • whole-grain bread

  • whole-grain pasta

But be aware: Just because the bread may be brown looking it may not be whole grain. So how can you tell if a food is whole grain? Check the ingredients label. It should say “100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain”. Enriched flour doesn’t mean its whole grain. Naturally occurring brown rice, wild rice or oatmeal is whole grain


As well as being a low-calorie source of dietary fiber, broccoli may be good for the brain.

Broccoli contains vitamin C and flavonoids, and these antioxidants can further boost a person's brain health.

Other cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates include:

  • brussels sprouts

  • bok choy

  • cabbage

  • cauliflower

  • turnips

  • kale

At Lake Mary Childcare we even put healthy foods in out dramatic play areas.

Our one year class dramatic play area with healthy foods

Our one year class dramatic play area with healthy foods

How to encourage your child to eat these foods

As a child I hated “brown bread”. It tasted weird. Broccoli….YUK. But at Lake Mary Childcare we serve it as part of our Florida health Department approved menu. Teachers sit with the children at the table and have the same plate that the children have. Discussions about the bread and the broccoli involve explaining the goodness of them, followed by the teacher eating her whole grain bread and broccoli, with the chicken tenders. This does in fact encourage the children to follow suit. It may take a few sittings but I can vouch that most of the children in Lake Mary Childcare do eat whole grain bread and broccoli. Don’t ever force your child to eat anything but continual serving up these foods coupled with family dining together is the key.

So sit with your child while eating as a family and discuss the goodness of the food.

Maybe This class student ate their Broccoli :)

Pumpkin Patch Letter Matching.jpg

Why we do not use The Red Yellow Green traffic light system.

The Red Yellow Green traffic light system schools use for children to understand the consequences of behavior is used by almost every daycare and in some cases elementary kindergarten classes. Some think it’s great that children can see their behavior in chart form so they can modify their behavior. It is another name for a discipline tool, or at best a carrot and stick approach. Green = Prize, Red = punishment.

Stock Image : Look at all the Reds and Yellows. How do you think Max and Brendon are feeling right now?

Stock Image : Look at all the Reds and Yellows. How do you think Max and Brendon are feeling right now?

I’m here to tell you “IT DOESN’T WORK”. In fact it is detrimental to young children. At 2 years of age it’s nonsensical as children at this age are just finding out about sharing and self discipline. At Pre Kindergarten the children should be pushing boundaries and exploring literacy, mathematics, the world and their immediate environment. Mistakes are going to happen on the behavioral front. Maybe the child wants to stay in the library corner as he was just getting interested in a book but the teacher wants him to move to another area, say the block center. Of course the child is going to protest and thus receive a Red Traffic light.

At LakeMary Childcare we see this moment as a teaching moment, not just for the child but for the teacher too. The teacher now understands that this small child enjoys books. A little communication with the child about timings and sharing the library, coupled with a little flexibility explaining the reason why we sometimes have to change centers, (for example, to allow his friend to have a go), would be a more motivating way for the child, than a punishment. The teacher could promise to read his favorite book to him and the class in the afternoon. Teachers can use this as a teaching moment.

We abandoned this archaic discipline system when, one afternoon many years ago, I saw, as the Director, a father of a child come to pick up his young 4yr old son. His first words to him was not “Hello son” but… “ OK! let’s go and see the traffic light chart, see how you’re behaving today”. He was on RED. The boy looked worried as the father pointed to the red sticker against his name and said in a stern voice, ”Right, No Burger King or TV for you tonight young man”. Then I saw the boys shoulders drop, his head went down, as he looked shamefully at the floor and has eyes moistened. He will forever hate his time at the daycare. I saw all the parents rush to inspect the traffic light board, dishing out lavish praise or punishment, which must have seemed extreme for a young child. What a huge mistake to follow the elementary school system of discipline. From that day on we abandoned any system of punishments and would use teaching expertise to nurture children’s positive behavior traits. 20 years of subsequent experience has proven us right. Lake Mary Childcare’s philosophy is one nurturing and teaching rather than punishments for choices made. In ecology and behavioral genetics, researchers think nurture has an essential influence on nature.

One of the classes at Lake Mary Childcare whose students learn without “Traffic Light” discipline but with good teaching methods.

One of the classes at Lake Mary Childcare whose students learn without “Traffic Light” discipline but with good teaching methods.

So even if the child is genetically wired to be argumentative or self centered, nurturing can teach the child how to behave socially in today’s society. Our future needs well adjusted children, willing to learn in a fun way and excited to explore and take some chances, without fear of receiving a dreaded RED.

Why are Lesson Plans important in a Preschool?

Just because our students are young children and all they want to do is play, does not mean our teachers needn’t prepare for the weeks activities. The writing of the lesson plan gives the teacher time to think about the class, the stage of development of the students and allows for challenging but achievable goals to be set for the week. Lake Mary Childcare’s curriculum allows for the teacher to be creative and match the children’s stage of development with fun activities that achieve the goals of the Florida Standards of education.

Lake Mary Childcare VPK class ( photo by kind permission of parents)

Lake Mary Childcare VPK class (photo by kind permission of parents)

The Florida Department of Eduction has published Standards for all age groups which our teachers at Lake Mary Childcare can use to design the lesson plans and feel confident that the lessons are bringing the children along at a pace which is neither to slow or too fast. Why not explore these standards yourself, and compare your current childcare’s lesson plans with the progress that the standards suggest. They really are very helpful to the teachers and parents.

So lesson plans are very important. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Prepares the teacher for the coming weeks activities

  • Allows the teacher to set challenging but achievable goals

  • Allows for observation and reflection when designing next weeks lesson plans.

  • Allows the Director to monitor class progress

  • Allows for a substitute teacher take over in a teacher emergency

  • A lesson plan posted on the notice board allows parents to see what activities the children are experiencing.

Lake Mary Childcare 3yr class  (photo by kind permission of parents)

Lake Mary Childcare 3yr class (photo by kind permission of parents)

Next time you walk into your child’s classroom, ask to see the lesson plan. Hopefully you will be very pleased with it.

How to Choose a Good Daycare

Choosing a good quality Daycare or Childcare Center for your child is vitally important not only for the safely, education and development of your child but also for your own peace of mind. It's no fun being at work worrying about your child's wellbeing especially as you may suspect your child maybe having a hard time at the center or daycare home. You will probably be spending a good portion of your earnings on the care of your child which in some families can become a big worry. It's important that you feel your money is well spent, otherwise resentment towards your child and choice of care will fester over time.

How to choose?

Home daycare

Firstly I would not recommend daycares run from home for the following reasons:

  • Different age group children will be mixed in same group. That makes it difficult to impossible to appropriately develop the child as the carer would have to have up to 5 different activity programs running concurrently.
  • Home daycares are usually run by one (or maybe an additional family member) which means if you have 6 children in one room, all of differing ages, the chance that your child will be ignored or become bored is very high.
  • What happens if the carer goes off on vacation? or worse goes off sick at no notice. This means you will be scrabbling for someone else to look after your child, which is highly detrimental for continuity and totally confusing and upsetting for the child. Chances are you will either be late for work or calling in. I've known moms or dads get fired for calling in too many times.
  • With no other carer "watching  the primary carer could take short cuts, ignore the children by taking a break, not following a curriculum based lesson plans or mess about on their phone texting or be on social media, which puts your child at a safety risk  

   Childcare Centers

This choice I would recommend

Ask your friend and colleagues if they would recommend a center. This is probably the best way to narrow your search.  Also, look up local centers on Google or other search engines. Look for reviews. What are other people saying? Does the schools website contain real examples of "Thank you Bouquets", does it explain the curriculum, does it explain the ethos and philosophy of the center or home. Do you agree with the philosophy. If the web site gives you a good feeling and philosophy gives you a good feeling call up and ask about costs. If the price is right book an appointment for a tour.

The reason I recommend booking an appointment is that by arranging time for someone to be available at the mutually agreed time means you will be given 100% attention and be able to ask as many questions as you want without being rushed.

When touring a center I've listed below 7 areas that you should focus on. 

1. Safety

  • Look for damage toys, ripped, dirty or stained carpeting.
  • Look for Cleanliness: no dust everywhere
  • Look for clean bathrooms
  • Look for non overflowing garbage bins, no food scraps lying around
  • Look in the kitchen to ensure its clean, (if food is prepared)
  • Look for a well maintained outside play area
  • Look for hazards such as sharp objects, broken furniture, choking hazards such as very small toys in an infant room 
LMCC Playground child.jpg

2. Nurturing

  • How friendly are the teachers and staff
  • Are the teachers smiling when you enter the room or scowling
  • Are voice levels of teachers low
  • Are the rooms calming, especially in the infant room
LMCC teacher with class.jpg

3. Nutrition

  • Is the menu healthy and will you receive a menu regularly
  • Is water available for your child to drink 
  • Inspect the kitchen
  • Ask what happens if your child doesn't eat lunch. ( After lunch you should be informed  and your child should be offered something else not on menu but still nutritious (No child should go hungry)  

4. Curriculum

  • Ask to see the class lesson plan. Is it appropriate for your child's age?
  • Ask to see all the differing play corner areas for appropriateness, There MUST be a block area, Library/Literacy area  and a Dramatic Play area as a minimum
  •  Ask if any regular assessments are done and if you will receive a report
  • Are books readily available in all rooms
  • Ask what curriculum is used (look it up later to make sure your happy with it)
Lake Mary Childcare Curriculum addressing Literacy

Lake Mary Childcare Curriculum addressing Literacy

5. Communication

  • Ask what communications channels are used?

Lake Mary Childcare use several forms of communication

  1. Bulletin boards
  2. Daily reports for younger children (older children are encouraged to talk to mom and dad about their day)
  3. Weekly and monthly news letters
  4. Lesson plans posted
  5. Menues posted
  6. Teacher/Parent Conferences
  7. Lake Mary Childcare Director gives 24/7 access for Parents to call with any concerns
  8. Emails usually answered within a couple of hours
Lake Mary Childcare news letter for the VPK class

Lake Mary Childcare news letter for the VPK class

One of Lake Mary Childcare Class Notice Boards

One of Lake Mary Childcare Class Notice Boards


6. The travel distance

Do you pick a center close to work, close to home, near any siblings schools or somewhere in between. Shortening your travel time will greatly enhance you experience of your childs Childcare Center. 

7. Cost

Childcare Centers usually price for attendance rather like a college. If you don't attend you still have to pay for the space as teachers and rent still has to be paid.  

  • Ask if you get any free weeks for vacation
  • Ask about attendance policy
  • What are payment options
  • will they accept YOUR preferred payment options and method

In closing:  Cheap means cheap and low quality; but bare in mind that expensive doesn't guarantee top quality. I personally know of some very expensive Centers who's quality is very questionable.  I believe that somewhere middle of the road on price can still give excellent quality.

Good luck on your search. 

All photographs have participants and parents approval and have been taken in Lake Mary Childcare center




How To Keep Your Child Safe

How safe is your Home?

7 tips to follow

There are State rules for Florida that mandate precautions that will help in keeping children safe and in an healthy environment to learn and grow. BUT... is there any reason that these legislative rules cannot just as easy apply to the home you live in? I think not.

I would like to share just some of the sensible rules that you can easily follow to add that extra protection for your child.  I'm citing from the Childcare Facilities Handbook October 2017, which has introduced some very important changes that strengthen the safety aspects for the care of your child.  Here are some tips to help you.

  1. CRIBS: Make sure they are away from strangulation risks such as window blinds and drapery and have no more than 2 3/8 inch gap between bar spacings. Please get rid of your crib if it has drop down sides as it's not Federally safe compliant . Sheets should be tight and there should be no excess bedding, bumper pads, hanging mobiles, quilts, comforters, pillows or stuffed animals, in case of a smothering incident. Check out
  2. FOOD: For those children under 4yrs do not serve these choking hazards

    • Whole round hot dogs ( slice them up length ways)
    • Popcorn
    • Chips
    • Pretzel nuggets
    • Whole grapes
    • Nuts
    • Cheese cubes 
  3. VEHICLES: DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN IN A VEHICLE UNSUPERVISED AT ANY TIME even if you think you are only popping into the store for a quick purchase. In Florida temperatures can soar to a lethal level in minutes. Talking about the Florida sun, test the seat belt buckles for heat as we have had incidents where the buckle was so hot that when you secure the child in, it leaves a very painful burn and a very unhappy child and a very guilty feeling for you. One extra titbit, as your child will grow very quickly please re-adjust the straps on the child seat to prevent friction burns on the inner thighs.
  4. TOXIC substances and dangerous items: It's very easy in the rush of preparing the dinner or cleaning up the house, to leave potentially deadly items around. Please be vigilant in putting items such as bleach, cleaning spray, knives, sharp tools away, well out of reach of your child. Don't store toxic substances such cleaning fluids or alcohol under the sink where a child can easily reach into. lock them away or at least have them well out of reach. All cupboards should have safety locks on them.
  5. PLAY equipment: regularly inspect the equipment and surrounding areas for hazards such as rotting structures or sharp objects such as protruding nails. test the temperatures of any metal or hard plastic for heat when its sunny. try and place your plastic slide chute out of direct sunlight.
  6. STRANGULATION:    Tie up or hookup any loose blind pulls out of the reach of your child.
  7. ELECTRICAL: Cover all sockets not in use with covers you can buy from Walmart or home depot. A few cents may just save a life. 

These rules are there because some child, somewhere, has either died or been seriously injured because of a failure of someone to properly care for the health and safety of their child. Don't let that person be you.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions on improving the safety of your home for your child. KEEP SAFE



Does Santa really exist

Does Santa really exist? Well he does for me and I'm as old as dirt. For children Christmas is a magical time,  for parents it can be a highly stressful time.  Finding the cash to buy all those presents to leave under the tree or fill a stocking. The time taken to fight through the hustle and bustle of shopping centers or the simple click of a button on Amazon or other online retailers can swiftly empty your bank account rapidly takes it toll and the punishment will manifest itself in January when the bills come through.

But what about Santa. The children see a magical happy and jolly large man, dressed in red with a huge white beard bearing gifts for everyone from the back his sledge. With just the slightest knowledge of physics, the idea of a large volume and mass soaring over rooftops powered by reindeer is unbelievable. So why do I believe in Santa?

To me Santa is the spirit of Christmas and represents the story of St. Nicholas, who as a man of faith, goodness and generosity who secretly gave gifts to the children need in his town. The fact that he did this secretly epitomizes the spirit of Christmas and is reinforced by the legend of Santa Claus. The story of St Nicholas enriches our understanding of Santa Claus by showing that a real historical person existed who on December 6th, gave secretly to those in need. No he didn't give iPads or Xboxes he gave small gifts , maybe even an apple or a wooden doll. I know that's not an easy thing do get away with today as children have unfortunately learned to compare and compete but maybe even just telling the story of St. Nicholas may educate our children on giving the gift of generosity without expectations of anything in return. And that the bigger price tag is not necessarily the best.

So Santa exists in all of us if we can give secretly or quietly, without expectation, and just to enjoy the the giving of a simple gift. 

Tell the children about the sugar cane that they are sucking on is actually a candy representation of St Nicholas's Staff.  In a childcare setting we celebrate with story telling, art and modeling activities but knowing the historical background of Santa Clause, Father Christmas or St Nicholas, makes making a model of a sugar cane all the more poignant and fun.

Tell the children about the sugar cane that they are sucking on is actually a candy representation of St Nicholas's Staff.  In a childcare setting we celebrate with story telling, art and modeling activities but knowing the historical background of Santa Clause, Father Christmas or St Nicholas, makes making a model of a sugar cane all the more poignant and fun.

VPK and the reasons why your child should participate

I'm sure you think you could teach your child yourself  but there is more to VPK than just sharing knowledge. Many parents are working and the evening is not the best time to allocate at least 15 hours a week to home VPK schooling. At the end of each day your child will be tired and so will you. How can you manage distractions and keep focused on your task of teaching without the usual door knocks, dog barking, cooking dinner or anything else that crops up in a normal family household.   

Ask yourself why has the State invested so much money in VPK if evidence to support its positive effect on children's education was not there. Allow me to share some very good reasons why you should consider enrolling your child into a VPK program, such as the one offered at Lake Mary Childcare. If you are not already on this web site you can check it out here.

  1. It's Free (9am to 12.00pm). Lake Mary Childcare offer longer days: 6.30am to 6.30pm to fit in with parents work schedule.
  2. 540 hrs of VPK teaching time.
  3. Teachers are vetted, experienced and qualified.
  4. Ongoing written assessments on childs' progress through a State approved curriculum.
  5. Children have concrete experiences and are encouraged to explore through play.
  6.  Significant advantages for children entering Kindergarten and beyond.

The following photographs are by kind permission of the parents of Lake Mary Childcare

Scientific Evidence

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School also indicated learners must see what they are learning as useful, and realize how the information can be applied. If the child does not recognize the new knowledge as useful he or she cannot go beyond memorization to application (Dewey, 1938/1998).

The time children spend in play can assist in creating connections for later literacy and academic advancements (Barnett, 2003; Liew, McTigue, Barrois, & Hughes, 2008; Kirp, 2009; Stipek, 2006). Buysse and Sparkman (2003) agreed with this finding, as they believed that learning must occur in natural settings in daily activities and should be linked to socialization with peers.


There is importance in early relationships and environments, and that interactions between science, policy, and practice are critical in the early childhood field (Shonkoff, 2003). 

Neurons to Neighborhoods" was a front-page topic in Time Magazine. An outcome of these studies was the highly published results that children needed quality experiences and early brain stimulation to make connections for later learning. These studies suggested children can learn when they have early experiences in play activities promoting planning, problem-solving, social opportunities, and creative role-playing (Bransford et al., 2002; Shonkoff, 2003). Brain research was not the only factor that contributed to the rising interest to investing in young children. There were many studies that supported positive outcomes to high quality preschool experiences and high student achievement.


Preschool studies linked to high student achievement. The vision of Voluntary Prekindergarten was created out of years of research indicating positive effects of prekindergarten programs and benefits to children, families, and society. 


Why Do Preschools have VPK Graduation ?

It's a waste of time, money and energy and more for the parents than the children. I quote Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post. But is it ?  I'd like to dismantle the 3  reasons Strauss gives to forget VPK Graduation.

1. It's Time well spent.

The children are being taught very valuable lessons.  Lessons in life that they will experience in due course but will have practiced it in a safe and fun environment. Apart from normal curricular activities, what life lessons are they learning?

  • The importance  of Planning and Preparation
  • Public speaking
  • Working to together as a team
  • Practicing makes perfect
  • The importance of dressing up for an occasion to show respect

2. It's investment money well spent.

Strauss goes on about it being wasted money. This is a weak defence put in on behalf of parents. For goodness sake, for the cost of a cheap meal you have invested in a memory that will never be forgotten. Oh, I hear you nay sayers say they will graduate High School and maybe even College so why do all this when the children will probably never remember. Well I say to you that when they are grown adults and the snap shots get taken out with themselves in all the graduation garb and tassels, they WILL remember. They will remember, (if only vaguely) that great teacher in VPK who helped them when they scraped their knees in the playground, who read them fantastic Dr. Seuss stories like "Green eggs and ham". Who taught them to write their own name and made them so proud as to show their handwritten name to Mom and Dad. And what about Grandma and Grandad who drove 100 miles to the 30 minute event? I bet they had a tear in their eyes when they saw their grandchild reciting songs. So for thirty bucks or so, I reckon that's a good deal.

3. No extra energy needed  

The preparation for VPK Graduation takes no more energy than other curricular activities. OK, the Center Director has to order the gowns, put out a couple of notices and maybe book a venue. but that's it really. If you count turning up and socializing for 30 minutes at the ceremony, then yes, thats additional energy. But maybe Ms. Strauss ought to lighten up a little, invite grandma and grandad, book a table at a local kid friendly burger or pasta joint,  put on her best frock and jump in the car with her child. isn't that what you do when you go out as a family on maybe a Friday night/weekend anyway. But this will be a special evening, I promise. 

3 reasons why Lake Mary Childcare put on a VPK graduation ceremony

1. There come a time in life when we mark the passing of time. A birth, a wedding, an important anniversary.  When a child has reached that stage in life when they are about to move from a small Childcare to the huge Public School system, then its a very big deal. It's probably the biggest change in their lifestyle that's about to happen. So to mark it with a ceremony is a very appropriate thing to do.

2. It's a great excuse to bring family members together for a great photo shoot and a piece of cake .

3. Its also a way of saying "THANK YOU", to the VPK teachers who have committed themselves for a whole year to preparing VPK children for public school, both academically and socially. I honestly believe these teachers are teachers in the truest sense of the word. It's the love of giving and expecting nothing in return, except a smile from the children and an end of year celebration.

Yes it's a Celebration