Welcome to the tenth A Better Start Southend Research Bulletin produced by Rachel Wood.

Your regular update giving you the latest on early years policy, practice and evidence, and how we are using these findings to influence our work in Southend.

If you would like to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please email abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk.

Contents (area of ABSS work):

Parental Views on Identifying Childhood Obesity (Diet and Nutrition)

Title: Bentley, P. Swift, JA. Cook, R. and Redsell, SA. (2017), “I would rather be told than not know” A qualitative study exploring parental views on identifying the future risk of childhood overweight and obesity during infancy, BMC Public Health, vol 17 (684)

Research source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5576317/

Publication date: August 2017

Our summary

The authors argue that early identification and intervention is important in influencing infant feeding practices in relation to obesity prevention. Engaging parents however is fundamental to success, in order that services do not become stigmatising, labelling and adding to parental guilt. This study therefore looked at parental views on how future issues could be identified. As the result three main issues emerged from the interviews undertaken:

  • Identification – parents believed that risks could be identified by themselves, rather than professionals. If it was done by the latter, it should be in a way which is non-judgemental;
  • Consequences – parents were anxious about the impact of obesity on their children starting walking. They did not however see it as a significant problem until then;
  • Causality, responsibility and control – parents felt a high level of responsibility for obesity in infancy. This was often translated into self-blame (e.g. overfeeding). However, they were reluctant to make modifications to infant feeding before weaning takes place.

Responses were overall positive to the use of obesity risk tools by professionals. However, parents felt that acceptance of behaviour change was time specific. It also highlighted the importance of personalised communication so that self-blame and stigmatisation is reduced.

How we’re applying the research in Southend

  • One of our priorities is co-production, this means that we are working equally with parents and professionals to help children in Southend thrive. Parental contribution is an important part of Service Design; and understanding parental views helps contribute to meaningful and sustainable change in areas such as diet and food choice.

Help us help Southend

  • Apart from the main themes identified in the study, what other things do you think are important to parents in terms of infant and breastfeeding?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Sleep and Obesity Prevention (Diet and Nutrition)

Title: Taylor, BJ. Gray, AR. Galland, BC. Heath, A_L M. Lawrence, J. Sayers, RM. Cameron, S. Hanna, M. Dale, K. Coppel, KJ. Taylor, RW. (2017), Targeting sleep, food, and activity for obesity prevention: an RCT, Pediatrics, vol. 139 (3), e20162037

Research source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/02/23/peds.2016-2037

Publication date: February 2017

Our summary

The Random Control Trial (RCT) aims to look at the link between sleep, food and activity in terms of obesity prevention. The authors argue that prevention and early intervention has concentrated on food and activity but not on sleep. This exclusion is seen as important as sleep has been strongly associated with weight in qualitative/observational research. It has also been seen to have limited inclusion in such services and interventions. Through the control trial 802 pregnant women were allocated into the following groups:

  • Control – standard care
  • Food, activity and breastfeeding (FAB) (ante-natal to 18 months)
  • Sleep participants (2 – 24 months)
  • Combination (received FAB and sleep intervention)

The FAB intervention consisted of breastfeeding support (e.g. delaying the introduction of solid foods, “you provide, you decide”, healthy food choices, physical activity and active play). On the other hand, the sleep intervention looked at normal sleep, prevention of sleep problems and assessment, safe sleep practices, and bedtime routines.

The children’s BMIs were measured at 24 months by researchers where the group was unknown to them.

The outcome for the study was seen to be that those who received the sleep intervention (sleep and combination groups) had lower levels of obesity. There were no other significant differences between the weight of the standard and FAB groups.

Help us help Southend

  • How do you think that good sleep patterns can reduce childhood obesity? How can we use this possibility in terms of a future service design for a project?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Breastfeeding and Children’s Learning (Diet and Nutrition)

Title: Kim, JI. Kim, BN, Kim, JW, Hong, SM, Shin, MS. Hoo, SJ. And Cho, SC. (2017), Breastfeeding is associated with enhanced learning abilities in school-aged children, Child Adolescent Mental Health, vol. 11 (36)

Research source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28729882

Publication date: July 2017

Our Summary

The authors argue that studies have looked at the association between breastfeeding and cognitive functioning have focussed only on IQ. Very few have looked at children’s learning skills, and none have looked at maternal IQ. This study followed 868 children in the age group 8-11 years. The findings seemed to indicate that overall that breastfeeding had a positive advantage on learning skills e.g.:

  • Speaking;
  • Reading;
  • Writing;
  • Spelling; and
  • Maths.

Social economic status made no difference in these findings. It was also found that maternal IQ and birth weight were higher in those who had where breastfeeding had taken place. The authors were unable to examine how effects such as the home environment (e.g. attachment interacted with such findings or what the nature of the effect of breastfeeding duration).

Help us help Southend

  • What other ways can we support future children’s learning and development?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

The Use of Digital Technology in the Early Years (Communications and Language)

Title: Gray, C. Moffett, P. and Mitchell, D. (2017), Mobile devices in early learning: Evaluating the use of portable devices to support young children’s learning, EA Education Authority

Research source: http://www.stran.ac.uk/media/media,756133,en.pdf

Publication date: May 2017

Our summary

This study undertaken in Northern Ireland aimed to assess the use of iPads on young children’s learning in the early years and foundation stage. Its particular focus is on literacy and language, mathematics and numeracy, the arts, the world around us, and personal development and mutual understanding.

The secondary outcomes were also teaching, leadership and management, and parental involvement.

Among the findings were that:

  • Most professionals believed that introducing digital technology has had a positive impact on literacy, numeracy and reading and writing. It also increased their own motivation and enthusiasm;
  • They also found that the technology supported communication skills;
  • The digital technology reinforced fine motor skills;
  • It supported children’s confidence and ownership of learning;
  • The children studied showed that they viewed learning as play and had higher levels of motivation as the result;
  • Professionals found that using a tablet for monitoring children’s progress decreased their workloads;
  • Sharing the iPads increased children’s collaboration and sharing; and
  • The devices supported relationships between home and the setting.

Among the recommendations were as follows:

  • Professionals need to monitor the child’s choice of app, as well as level of difficulty; and
  • Parental training was needed in child protection and on-line safety was needed so that young children could have free access to a tablet.

Help us help Southend

  • Do you agree that young children’s use of digital technology is positive? If so how could we use this in our services and interventions?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Early Education and So-Emotional Behaviour (Social and Emotional)

Title: Melhuish, E. Gardiner, J. and Morris, S. (2017), Impact study on early education use and child outcomes up to age three, Department for Education

Research source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-education-use-and-child-outcomes-up-to-age-3

Publication date: July 2017

Our summary

The Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) is a major study supported by the Department for Education to provide evidence on the effectiveness of early education as well as the short and long term benefits of short and long term investments.

The study follows children from age 2 to 7.

This report addresses two main objectives:

1. To explore the impact of introducing a policy of free early education for disadvantaged two-year-olds on take-up of early education for two- to three-year-old children, in the year following the introduction of the policy.

2. To study the associations between the amount of differing types of early childhood education and care (ECEC) and child development, as well as associations between child development and aspects of the home environment.

The study attempted to provide evidence that the amount of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) that children received between 2 and 3 years were associated with positive differences for cognitive and social-emotional outcomes at aged 3. This was regardless of the child’s family disadvantage level.

Among of the findings were as follows:

  • Hyperactivity and co-operation under aged 3 was not found to be associated with ECEC;
  • There were positive outcomes in terms of pro-social behaviour (if the child received between 26 and 35 hours per week);
  • However, children who received over 35 hours of ECEC were found to have a higher rate of conduct problems, and lower self-regulation.

Help us help Southend

  • How can we use the findings of this study? Are there other ways that we could support improvements in socio-emotional behaviour?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

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