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Nursery boss who banned glitter now wants parents to potty train earlier

Article By: Sue Learner

Cheryl Hadland who banned glitter from all of her Tops Day Nurseries due to the harm it does to marine life, is now calling on parents to reduce the amount of disposable nappies going to landfill by potty training earlier.

Tops Day Nurseries hit the headlines recently for banning glitter from all its 19 nurseries in the run up to Christmas, when many children make cards covered in this sparkly microplastic. Glitter ends up in the water supply and makes its way to the ocean where it never breaks down and is swallowed by fish and crustaceans.

Founder Cheryl Hadland, said: “I am pleased that by Tops Day Nurseries banning glitter, we have raised massive awareness of the damage that glitter does and not before time.

“The parents thought all the publicity was great and are happy we are making the children aware.”

However banning glitter is just one of a range of environmental initiatives Tops Day Nurseries are taking to make their nurseries as sustainable as possible.

'It is the children who will inherit the planet'

“It is so important the early years sector does its best to minimize the harmful impact we have on the environment as it is the children who will inherit the planet which we are damaging,” says Ms Hadland, who prior to running nurseries, was a scuba diving instructor.

With this in mind, she is urging parents to start potty training their children earlier.

Every day, around eight million disposable nappies in the UK are sent to landfill sites, where they will take hundreds of years to decompose. There is a huge environmental impact and as well as persuading parents to use reusable nappies, Ms Hadland believes another solution is to encourage parents to potty train their children earlier.

'In Poland they start potty training from 18 months'

“Here we just say we will potty train them when they are ready. I would like to see parents potty training their children from the age of two in a very non-stressful, positive way.

“I did a poll of my nurseries to find out which have children aged three and over who are still in nappies. Only two of the 19 nurseries had all of their children potty trained and they are both run by Polish managers,” she revealed.

Ms Hadland says she understands why parents in the UK wait until their children are older. “I get why parents don’t do it earlier. It is a convenience thing. I did the same with my children. But there is no pressure on parents to potty train earlier. This is about the parents not the child. If nappies were more expensive, we would focus on it more.

“It is about having the right facilities and a reward system in place and other children doing it alongside them. If you do it right, you can do it in a week.

“We are working to get parents engaged with us on this,” she says.

Bright, plastic toys

Children when they are playing, are often surrounded by bright, plastic toys but plastic is another thing that Ms Hadland is doing her best to eradicate from her nurseries.

“We have gradually replaced a plastic kitchen with a wooden one. We use metal things and crates and boxes in our mud kitchens. We are buying more open-ended resources instead of plastic toys which can often only be played with one way.”

She would like to see other nurseries doing the same, saying: “It is time the day nursery sector said stop buying plastic and do something for our children.”

Tops staff no longer buy straws or balloons or one-use plastic cups, cutlery or plates. Plastic toothbrushes have been ditched at the nurseries, where there is a tooth brushing programme and every child now has a bamboo toothbrush.

“Plastic is a valuable invention but it should be used for things that we really need it for like computers. There are so many things where we don’t need to use plastic.”

Electric cars

Top Day Nurseries, which are based in the south west of England, are gradually phasing out petrol cars and are using electric cars. “They are good for little trips but if you want to drive 200 miles you wouldn’t be able to do it. There are electric chargers dotted around, it is just finding out where they are.

A beach clean up by parents, staff and children from Tops Day Nurseries -  Charminster, Boscombe and Corfe Mullen

“Electric cars are really cost effective. We rent them, so it is better than spending £300 a month on petrol.

“We are also gradually putting in solar panels in our nurseries.

“Our generation is using up the resources of the planet now and we have to stop. “The children have been involved with growing vegetables and we talk to them about recycling and have four different bins for recycling. Some of our nurseries recently took part in a beach clean up day.

“As well as educating the children, staff too are being trained on the importance of protecting the environment. We get young people from school and some of them don’t give a monkey’s about the environment.

“Some of our staff are great though and we have some real eco warriors in our nurseries.”

Tops Day Nurseries surveyed its parents to find out what they think of its eco-friendly stance and 86 per cent said they wanted their children to be in a more sustainable nursery.

'Tops is a role model'

Katherine Wilcox, whose daughter attends Tops Day Nursery, Boscombe, said: “I’m so happy and proud that the nursery my daughter goes to has decided to take action on this very important and urgent matter. Tops have made themselves a role model that other nurseries and school all over the world should follow.

“It’s about the future of this planet, hence the future of our children. It has become pretty evident that our plastic consumption is far beyond sustainable, and that something drastic needs to be done to change that. I am so glad that an institution like Tops Day Nurseries can be at the forefront, take responsibility and make this change. Someone has to start and I’m proud that it is my daughter’s nursery that took this stand, so the rest can follow.”

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Jean Taylor

Jean Taylor

09 Jan 2018 1:50 PM

Generally the average age for Potty Training has increased with the use of disposables. Those who use washable nappies tend to potty train on average 6 months sooner. There are also washable potty training pants available to be used rather than disposables. Less cost and more environmentally friendly.

Claire Marie

Claire Marie

23 Dec 2017 10:41 PM

Interesting article. You can buy more eco friendly nappies, there are quite a few now and some lovely designs. Also biodegradable wipes such as Childs Farm.