Busy working parents do feel slight guilt about not spending X amount of time with their kids. But working and parenting is a juggle, it’s the way life is. You can though, on days off and weekends, or for a few spare hours, spend some more time with the little ones and make some memories.
It’s commonplace to see parents walking or running along with the pram in the mornings or sometime during the day. Mums and dads also work out at home with one eye on the toddler while they’re doing squats. And when kids see their parents exercising, they want to do it as well. It’s never too early to have a healthy lifestyle! Babble has some simple exercises the kids can do with you.
Kids have a hard time winding down after an exciting day and will protest “I’m not tired!”. There’s a simple formula to get them snoozing, bath time and bedtime stories.
The latter has several benefits that are too good to pass up. You get some quiet quality time with the little one, and reading with them boosts their literacy skills. Get your shelves stocked with some classics like Enid Blyton and Mem Fox. If you’re stuck on other books, here’s a list from Goodreads.
Short trips are when memories are made. Remember when your own parents took you to the beach or the museum?
Plan short weekend or afternoon getaways you can take as a family; to the beach, the bay. or even to market. Kids thrive when they are in places that engage all five senses. Bookmark Brisbane Kids in your favourites bar when you’re in need of ideas.
Bath time is an adventure, especially when toys are involved. For something a little out-of-the-box, buy a cheap bottle of shaving cream and smear it on the tiles next to the bathtub. The kids can make little illustrations out of it!
While we read and do fun activities with your children at our child care centres, it’s important that you remember to take care of yourself. Whether you work full time or have the kids at home a few days a week, self-care should never fall to the side. Here are a few things that won’t take long to do, but the endorphins will linger.
Early morning workout
Yoga, boxing, weight training, or whatever else floats your boat. It’s possible to set the alarm and hit the 5 am session and blitz that routine and make it home in time for breakfast. Plus, it’s scientifically proven that early morning workouts leave you on an endorphin high for the rest of the day. You’ll feel amazing and be more productive through the day.
Learn a new skill
Websites like Skillshare let you take short classes from the comfort of your laptop, from computer code to floristry. All around you, there’s an opportunity to learn something new. Cooking schools, art workshops, and fitness groups are all over the place. Check out Facebook, Meet Up, or try the good old Google search.
Go out…by yourself
This might sound absurd. You’re a parent with children relying on you. But we’re not talking about leaving the kids at home with Dad, the babysitter, or the neighbour. Although that’s also an option if you need some ‘me time’.
When you’re at work, take walks around the block during the day. Change the scenery and get some sun. Leave your phone on your desk and go to lunch at that cafe on the corner. People can wait for 30 minutes while you eat.
Sit in the sunshine
This boosts your Vitamin D intake as well as your mood. Getting those rays will warm you up inside and out!
Chat with other parents from daycare
Arrange a time to meet at your house or theirs. Bring a plate of something, put the kettle on and have a laugh. Some parents say they miss having other adults or genuine friends to talk to because their schedules revolve around work and kids.
Bake for the heck of it
Baking is fun! The cupcakes at the end of a baking spree aren’t too bad either. If you’re trying to be ‘good’, make zucchini bread, chocolate oat biscuits, or a lemon pound cake made with greek yogurt.
Parents who are scoping a child care centre have checklists of their own. But we did some of the hard work and put together some crucial points.
The Australian Children’s Education & Quality Care Authority is the governing body in child care standards. Reviews of centres are completed regularly and those who register as a child care must fill in a Quality Improvement Plan. Part of the assessor’s job is to examine whether the centre is living up to their goals or, preferably, exceeding them. The below quality areas are checked on every visit.
Educational program and practice
Health and safety
Relationships with the children
Collaboration with community and family
Ideally, you feel right at home when you walk through the door. It’s a great sign if your son or daughter rushes off to say hello to their friends, though realistically this will take a few weeks.
A great child care centre has a variety of activities to help keep the kids engaged. There’s loose parts play, a sandpit, building blocks, books, and more for a full day of fun. One of the EYLF outcomes is children should become confident, involved learners. Seeing your little one chatting away with friends and carers is a great sign.
People have the qualifications and a few pieces of paper, but that’s half of the whole. Good carers are effective communicators not only with the children but also with the parents.
A great child care centre abides by the carer to child ratio (1:4, 1:5, and 1:11 for older kids). The staff aren’t afraid to answer parents questions either, no matter how hard. Nobody can work in childcare without a minimum Certificate III in Children’s Services. Eskay centres, for example, have a mix of carers with tertiary and university-level qualifications.
It’s also commonplace for child care centres to have students come in for a certain period of time to do their practical assessment. The more experienced staff take on the role of ‘supervisor’ during this time.
Children learn effectively through play. Critical thinking, vocabulary, math, and scientific skills are sharpened in activities adults would see as ‘plain old fun’. Other centres have a curriculum-style way of learning so there’s something for every parent to consider.
A good child care centre doesn’t stay within the bounds of their building. Excursions to local sights like the farm, a museum, or even Bunnings is both exciting and works the children’s brains. They learn about the world around them thanks to a trip to the local hardware store.
Parents who love their day care will have no trouble telling their friends about it. In a world where the number of two working parents is increasing, they want to know their child is in safe hands. Word-of-mouth is one of the most trusted review systems out there among parents with young kids.
Check the child care centre’s site as well. Besides the reviews, you’ll also find the ACECQA rating and other qualifications (Blue Card, CPR etc).
“When life gives you rainy days, wear cute boots and jump in the puddles” – Anonymous
What drew me to this quote was the fact that this is something our babies do each day, something that comes from within and something they do not need to learn. As children they know how to take every moment as it comes and seize the day and make it their own.
For a while now, I have been observing my babies and how they react to and engage in messy play. Two things stand out from their play:
They make do with what they can find- as educators, we constantly have conversations about invitations to play, using toys in an innovative manner and the emphasis on creating play spaces that children find exciting and interesting. A close observation of the invitation to play, courtesy mother nature which can be a mud pit filled with water, a big pile of slushy mud, wet sand, a little pool in the bark has shown that children don’t really need a lot to keep them happy. Children are just happy as long as they can play.
They seem to enter a world of their own and enjoy the space for what it is- children’s play can often be complicated by adults and how we view the intricacies of play. With children, there is a sense of wild abandon in their play, one that comes with truly enjoying what they are doing even if it means doing it repeatedly, there was a sense of peace and calm about their play, which was very fascinating for me to watch. It almost felt like they were enveloped in a bubble and what happened outside of that bubble did not seem to affect them too much.
Here is an account of what happened on the really rainy day and a very wet, water logged mud pit:
The mud pit was filled with water and overflowing on the sides, creating a little pool of water and soft mud all around its edges. The older children were shouting, jumping in glee and were very vocal about their excitement with the mud pit. The little people on the other hand, stood at a distance, watching and taking it all in, their eyes curious, wide and somewhat awe struck. Once the excitement had died down a notch, slowly the little people made their way to the mud pit, tentatively placing one foot in and then the other, letting the water run up their legs, and slowly soak up their pants. The sensations led to two reactions: a little shiver followed by a smile as the cold water hit the skin or a little shriek and laughter that meant something exciting was to follow.
As time went by, the number of children in the mud pit kept varying with the little people wanting a little break from the wetness but what did not change was their approach to play. Each time, they would wander in casually, carefully step in, look around to check what toys they wished to use, sometimes use no toys and resort to using their hands and fingers to explore and try and catch water, plonk themselves in the mud pit and do their own thing.
There was something very calming and therapeutic about this sight, something that stopped me from joining in, I did not say a word, did not ask any questions, did not provide any directions to aid play, all I did was sit, watch and take it all in. It felt like time had come to a stand still and everything around me had dimmed down, I couldn’t hear the noise anymore or feel the mounting pressure of routines or feel bad about sitting and watching and doing pretty much nothing. I felt a twinge of envy and the urge to want to be able to do that and feel that zen like moment in my adult life.
Sometimes moments like these can be your best teacher, that moment taught me to learn from my little people and learn by merely watching them. The essence of being a child came to the fore and hit me in the face with a force that was quite amazing. As an educator, I feel like my biggest moments of satisfaction involve watching the children play as they show you what they truly are and what they are made of. We always talk about how learning is a two way street, that day I truly learnt, learnt to play, learnt to watch, learnt to be a part of my children’s day without influencing their choices and play, learnt to keep my eyes and mind wide open, learnt to let go, let them be and let them do what brings them inner joy. That day I learnt to set the child in me free, because we can never truly teach and never truly learn till we have the mind and heart of a child!
As a passionate early childhood teacher, walking into Reverse Garbage at Woolloongabba was exhilarating, as I know the endless amount of play opportunities the loose part items were going to provide our kindergarten children. Within our indoor and outdoor environments at Eskay Kids Capalaba we have a substantial amount of loose part items, both big and small, that allow our children to design, create and explore with.
Loose parts are open-ended materials with no specific purpose, and can be used in many different ways. They are natural or synthetic items, that children can easily carry, move, tinker with and redesign. They provide children with infinite opportunities to creatively express themselves and enhance their play opportunities.
Within our Kindergarten environment, these are some of the loose part items our children have access to each day:
Small recycled pieces of plastic
Different coloured small and large tiles
Natural items such as leaves, sticks, pine cones etc.
Mixture of small plastic lids
Material cut offs
And the list goes on…..
By providing children with loose part items, I believe it provides them with endless opportunities to be creative, engage and collaborate with other children, develop their problem solving skills, as well as early literacy and mathematical understandings. I believe children have richer play experiences when they have access to a wide variety of materials that have open-ended possibilities. Play is such a vital aspect of early education, and providing children with loose part items enhances their play opportunities.
Loose Parts in Action!
As you can see, our Kindergarten children thoroughly enjoy creating with loose parts, and each day they are able to utilise these resources in different ways. Whilst observing the process of Ethan, Hamish and Parker’s play, it was evident there was a great deal of learning and enjoyment occurring. They spent an extended period of time carefully and purposely placing each item in the position they wanted it, whilst discussing and negotiating with each other about their project design. They were able to work cooperatively and collaboratively to create what they had envisaged, whilst using their imaginations and creativity.
During this process, where they were so deeply engaged and excited about their project, they didn’t need support or guidance from their educators, they just needed uninterrupted time and space. Once they were ready, they excitedly announced to their educators and peers that they had created a baby elephant house! They had even created an elephant costume with some material cut offs and sticky tape!
You tell me where you could buy resources that would allow your children to make a baby elephant house and costume?
Loose Parts + Long Uninterrupted Periods of Play = Learning
After the childcare days are over, school begins. The lead-up to the first day of school is a mixed bag for both parents and kids alike. The actual day won’t be that bad if you’re prepared. We’ve helped dozens of parents and kids get ready for the big event and decided to spread our knowledge with these handy tips.
Get the uniform ready
In childcare, the kids don’t have to worry about uniforms. But prep is a different story. You can make it an exciting event, saying ‘let’s go and get your big school clothes!’.
If your child has trouble with shoelaces, it’s fine to get slip-ons or buckled shoes. You don’t want them to trip. Teach them laces a few times and have them wear the ‘big kid shoes’ when they’re ready.
Go school shopping
And make it a fun day out! Let your child choose a new backpack, pencil-case, and lunchbox. They’re something the kids will look after because they’re proud of them, especially if it has their favourite TV character or movie hero on it.
You must stock up on other essentials like pencils, books, glue, and other materials found on the school supply list. There’s lots to buy, and that leads us to our next point.
This way your son/daughter’s stuff doesn’t get ‘misplaced, and can easily be returned if left behind’. Get them involved, too. Something as simple as placing a label on a book is exciting to a child getting ready for ‘big school’. You might’ve even done this during their childcare days.
Teach them new skills
Teachers are there to help, but they can’t help every child all the time. Even during their time in childcare, teach your son or daughter how to do simple things. Little actions like how to wipe their face, wash their hands, or even taking off a jumper makes them anxious if they don’t know how to do it.
Get a routine going
Little ones need lots of rest. They’ll trot out the old line ‘but I’m not tired!’, then crash ten minutes later, guaranteed. Have a set dinner and bedtime and help your son or daughter with brushing their teeth. If you read in bed to get them to sleep, keep it up for as long as you can. It’ll improve their literacy immensely.
Go to orientation day
Going to orientation will ease the nervous jitters, plus it’s an opportunity to make friends. It’s something both you and your children can benefit from. You’ll meet the teachers and have a private word if you need to voice any concerns. Plus, your child can see their future classmates and make fast friends. Some parents may have difficulty with drop-off duties, and this can be your chance to make friends of your own.
Sitting with some children and really observing what they are doing, listening to their conversations with themselves and other children is like opening a portal to another place. How they see the world, their understandings of the way things work is intriguing.
The collection of loose parts nearby provided an amazing endless exploration of possibilities and invited creativity. The children used the materials and equipment in manner I had not thought of myself. There are boundless possibilities of how the children engage with the materials and learn, exploring their own thoughts and ideas. The children were driven to discover the answers to their own questions, not mine, they were not interested in what shape the bucket was, but more driven to discover how they can stack 4 colanders without them falling and then run sand through the lot, upon reflection a much better question.
Dale and Beloglovsky (2015) note that children’s play with loose parts provides opportunities for divergent and creative problem-solving skills. The use of loose parts in the play environment provides a plethora of opportunities for children to develop problems solving skills, explore imagination and creativity, engineering, and sound.
Providing opportunities for children to use materials in any manner they choose can be a little challenging at times for example, watching a small child drag a branch that is twice as big as them across the yard, but it is also exciting to watch their thinking, it’s a rare to chance to actually see what’s going on in their little brains, a very special gift.
Needless to say I am a loose parts fan and when I am providing provocations they certainly include an array of loose parts that can be combined, redesigned, taken apart and rearranged in multiple ways.
This is my first blog. I was very nervous writing this up as I’m not much of a writer, and I know how many people could potentially read this. However, I just had to share my wonderful experience in nature at our wonderful Mayfield that we are so very lucky to have.
The amazing owners of Eskay Kids paid for me to do Claire Warden’s Nature Pedagogy course, with Carly Garner.
So far I have only done the first 3 days, there are another 3 to come, and I am so excited for the next round. Before I had started, I was so nervous. Yes I love getting dirty and playing in mud and exploring, however I’m rather scared (to say the least) of spiders, snakes and fire etc., so I usually tend to avoid nature in its truest and beautiful form.
But in nature time, I almost forgot about my fears and it hardly felt like learning at all. After all, I got to play in the wild and I took the time to notice the wonderful things in the bushland that in my busy everyday life, I would never see, or I’d be afraid to explore.
I foraged so many wonderful plants and flowers of all different shapes and colours, I learnt about what different plants meant regarding the condition of the land. I looked at rocks and feathers for all their beauty, the different patterns in each feather and shapes, tones and lines in the rocks… I really felt like a child. I was excited to reach the river, and I just had to touch the water. It was so cold, but I felt like a child, without a care in the world.
After our nature walk we came back and made light cubbies out of natural resources we had foraged from our walk. Flowers, sticks, feathers, grass for weaving etc., it was so much fun. It held a candle, which lit our path on our night walk. The light cubby looked even more amazing at night! We followed the walk with a huge bonfire. It was very relaxing sitting by the fire on a cold dark night, just watching the embers drift off into the sky and then disappear, they looked like silent fireworks.
The next day we got to explore fire ourselves, but first we discussed the benefits and risks of children exploring fire… and of course the benefits outweighed the risks. Then for the fun part! We used vaseline and cotton balls, along with flint and steel, dry leaves, sticks and bark etc., in a colander to have a go at making a fire. This was my first ever fire as I usually stay away. I was so proud of myself – I actually did it! I made a spark with my flint without getting scared and then bam, my fire had begun. I looked after it by slowly feeding it different dry leaves and sticks until it was big enough to stay alight on its own. It was such an accomplishment for me! Then we tried using the flints without the vaseline and using hay and other natural fire starters. I again got mine to start using some shredded rope, and slowly feeding it oxygen by blowing it, however admittedly my fear did get the better of me and I wasn’t able to do it in my cupped hands, I still had loads of fun! We then made charcoal pencils, which were surprisingly easy. We made and ate damper, melted chocolate for our strawberries and marshmallows!!
Throughout the time of the course we also learnt to whittle sticks, making pencil shaped sticks, which could potentially be a weapon in the bush if needed, however we made homemade ink using flowers, water and a mortar and pestle. We also made crochet needles, from a stick with a whittling knife.
We explored with the very delicate felt, making felt art and balls from scratch. We also had a go at using the same process with wool from sheep and horse hair. The horsehair didn’t go as well, it was too fine.
It was sad to say goodbye to Carly, but knowing we will be back in November is truly amazing, and of course, we have the access to Mayfield … I’ll definitely be begging to come out with the children next time!
The very next day after the nature pedagogy course, I was so in love with nature, and so inspired, that I took my own children out to some local bush land along with my husband. It was quite funny as I was so excited to explore and so were the children. I had to keep reminding my husband to stand back and trust them to explore without boundaries. We crossed a fallen tree that made a bridge over a creek. Facing another fear of mine – heights, but this time with the kids watching I couldn’t show my fear as I might pass my fear on. They did so well crossing the tree, I was so proud of all of us.
I totally understand nature time now, though as we were there a couple hours, it only felt like such a short time. The kids and myself are so very excited to get back out there and see what else we can explore, and I can’t wait to show them all the things I learnt, as well as bringing it into Eskay Kids Springfield for my children there to explore, as I know they will love it. I also want to extend it into our walks in the beyond.
Nature is such a wonderful thing that we are so lucky to be surrounded by. We just need to remember to slow down and enjoy what is right in front of us.
The Eskay Kids child care centre in Capalaba follows the Early Years Learning Framework and the Government Approved QLD Kindergarten Learning Guidelines. We take a unique approach in how we run our centres, but we follow the same rules and regulations as everyone else. So what does this mean for you and your child?
Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines
Our child care centre in Capalaba, as well as those in Karana Downs and Springfield, follow the Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines or QKLG (same as every child care centre in the state). At the core is exploring decision-making practices, processes, and elements.
These elements are key for teachers working in early childhood education. Teachers carefully plan each day and provide enriching environments, so children can play, develop, and learn. Children have large periods of uninterrupted time to play, explore, learn, discover, question, enquire and engage in social learning experiences with children and adults alike. Teachers regularly observe the interests, strengths and learning over time and provide a transition statement for families to share with the school which includes information about the child’s interests, their communication skills, active learning, identity, wellbeing, connectedness and other information that may be pertinent.
Our Kindergarten teacher spends a lot of time reflecting on the children within the Kindy program. The QKLG states that reflection is key for developing strategies, looking back on elements that worked well or were overlooked, and identifying what worked best.
At Eskay Kids child care centre in Capalaba, our educators have intimate knowledge about what children respond to best. They enjoy their time in the outdoors enormously, they enjoy time spent with their friends engaging in play that is interesting to them, and they also enjoy quieter times in quieter spaces either by themselves or with a small group of friends.
Though we know what works best, the educators at Eskay Kids are always engaging in further learning and professional development to improve and refine their knowledge and understanding of contemporary early childhood development, and are always pushing themselves past “what has always been done”. A teacher never stops learning; they network, attend seminars on early education, and meet with parents to discuss concerns.
Often when parents are looking for information about child care they are interested in fees, opening hours, food, vacancies, waiting lists and qualifications.
There are many checklists that parents can find to help them as they explore the options available to them, however sometimes there is so much information, it can be quite overwhelming. I recently came across a checklist that had over 90 items to check either a yes, no or n/a answer.
There are definitely some things families need to ask, but what are the most important things? Is it about fees? Is it about food? Is it about cleanliness? Is it about ratings? Is it about quality?
For us, we believe strongly that it’s about having a shared vision of childhood, and what you value for your child’s childhood. There are many services to choose from, and many different ideas, philosophies and “marketing gimiks” around. Some advertise “structured programs”, others say they have “specialised school readiness programs” and others say they are “Reggio or Montessori inspired”. Here at Eskay Kids, our mission is to ensure children have the best possible childhood experience, in a very natural environment, where their choices and voices are respected – we value childhood, and authentic childhood experiences.
When you visit , you will find some centres are completely artificial, while others are completely natural. You will have a good idea in your mind of what sort of childhood and childhood experiences you want for your child. Some prefer a very plastic, clean, sterile and sanitised environment with lots of bright primary colours, so those families should seek out a centre that meets that particular need. Other families want a very natural environment for their child with trees, mud, timber, boulders, sand etc, so families who want their child to have a childhood in a natural setting should seek out a service that has a strong affinity with the natural world and a nature pedagogy approach.
Some families want their child to have formalised, structured early academic programs where there is a strong focus on the ABC’s and 123’s, so they should see out a service that delivers early academic instruction. Some families want their children to develop their independence, problem solving, decision making, confidence and agency skills, so families should search for a service that designs it’s programs with the ability for children to be able to make many of the decisions about their day including whether they play inside or outside, which environment they would like to choose to play in, deciding when they eat, and if/when/where they might rest. In our experience, children learn to make good decisions by being allowed to make decisions, and children learn to become good problem solvers by being allowed to solve some of their own problems.
Choosing an early childhood service for your child, is more than ticking boxes, it’s about finding a really close alignment with your beliefs and visions for your child’s childhood. At Eskay Kids, our vision for children is one of beautiful and authentic childhoods, of nature, of natural environments, and of children having a strong voice and agency over their day. It’s not a complete “free for all”. There are still rules, boundaries and routines, however our routines are based around the natural interests, rhythms, and flow of each child, and instead of having one room routine for a whole group of children, we have individualised routines for each individual child.
There is lots of research available to help families decide what is truly important to them. We’ve posted some articles below that support our visions and values for children.
Written by Sharon Kneen
Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less
Makes you think of a river right? You can think of it as one too, because it’s the learning journey your child will move through during their time with us. Every milestone and new discovery they make will flow into the next adventure. It continuously carries forward, creating new connections and allows children to further their development and knowledge. The STREAM doesn’t discriminate; it happens from the Lilly Pillies room through to the Willy Wag Tails room.
So, let’s break down the word STREAM;
S stands for Science
T stands for Technology
R stands for Reading and Research
E stands for Engineering
A stands for Arts
M stands for Mathematics
Over the last couple of months the Lilly Pillies children have explored science through water, mostly looking at the way water can change. When you add food dye or powder paint to water, it changes colour! It can be bright or dark. If you add cornflour, it makes slime. Adding dish washing liquid and stirring it makes bubbles! If you sit in the water tub and then hop out, it takes a while (with the help of the sun) for you to get dry. Science makes us think!
Technology will make you think instantly of computers, TVs and iPads. But what we actually mean is technology your children interact with and use as a medium in their learning. For example, the children have a deep interest for reading lately. This makes books a technology, because they are something getting used to connect with their world/learning/interest. A few other areas of technology we explore are using utensils to feed ourselves, using glue to stick pictures and using the hose to water our plants.
Reading and researching for the babies is all about exploring their world and environment, this involves sights, sounds, texture, exploring how things work, risk taking, taste etc. They will learn to read behaviours, needs, feelings and cues as they get older and develop an understanding of what it all means. Children’s language will then progress forwards as they find stronger ways of communicating their needs and idea’s.
Your children use engineering daily and in all aspects of their play. Engineering is wanting to know how and why things work. Engineering is learning to problem solve using a wide array of technologies! That word again! Your children are very engaged by this aspect when they are block building, constructing roads to drive their cars on, and possibly building bridges or ramps as their learning grows. Perhaps we could roll a ball down that ramp instead, or push our cars down it?
Next is Mathematics. To incorporate mathematics into children’s learning we engage them with lots of “thinking questions”. We make comments on everything they are doing. As we are stacking blocks we can count each one or perhaps name the shape we see and colour. As the children have explored water , they used mathematics to fill, pour, and empty and make things heavier or lighter. Another way we’ve done this is by fitting smaller objects into bigger ones and asking the children; which box or object can we fit in next?
It’s a lot to take in, but it will be an important tool to your child’s learning. It’s something we encourage you to keep as a reference to look back on when looking through day stories or your child’s portfolio.
Child care centres are a place of laughter, learning, and play. Children learn from their surrounds and their carers at the centre through play-based programs. You can bring these elements into your own home to help your child’s development.
Reading to children isn’t a complicated exercise. It’s ideal to regularly set aside a time when you can read together. Some parents like to read with their children before bed and the traditional ‘bedtime story’ is still going strong. Picture books are better for younger children so they can associate the words on the page with the illustrations. Older children can better handle books with longer blocks of text.
“Play has many valuable purposes. It is a means by which children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral capacities. It is a means of creating and preserving friendships. It also provides a state of mind that is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving and all sorts of creative endeavours.”
– Peter Gray.
Child care centres implement play-centred learning programs under the guidance of the Early Years Learning Framework, and parents can just as easily implement a play centred ‘program’ of their own at home.
Inviting your child’s friends to your home for a playdate is one way to facilitate this. Hosting a playdate doesn’t mean children are avoiding doing something productive or ‘wasting time’. Rather, they have the opportunity to work in a team, recognise the importance working together, and understand that other opinions matter besides their own. Early Childhood Australia has ashort list defining the different types of ‘play’.
Following from the last point, play-based learning isn’t always done indoors. If you live in a home with a backyard area, spend time with your child outside or encourage them to play in the yard. Child care centres have outdoor areas where children are active, and an abundance of loose-part resources are available to them.
Loose parts allow children to move, manipulate, control, change, carry, combine, redesign, line up, take apart and put back together in endless ways. They invite conversations, interactions and they encourage collaboration and cooperation. They promote social competence because they support creativity and innovation. Loose parts can be available in both indoor and outdoor environments and offer excellent opportunities for open-ended learning and higher levels of critical thinking and creativity.
The Australian Government has developed this Framework to help childcare educators develop a foundation for children’s future success in learning. It’s not a bible or syllabus, but a guide for early childhood teachers to help their children become their best.
Children may play in a group but they still have a strong sense of self. They don’t turn into “another face in the crowd”. They develop a sense of identity first in a family setting, where they spend most of their time, and this is built up further in kindy.
The EYLF encourages a “safe” environment where children will discover themselves and understand what it means to belong in a group. Discovering identity also means knowing their background/cultural heritage and taking pride in it.
We build bonds constantly, but it starts in childhood. After discovering their sense of self and feeling like they belong, children start to form bonds with others. This happens at home and in childcare. It’s important to make connections and become a part of a group. A group dynamic helps children learn about the diversity of the world around them and to respect it.
Contributing is encouraged in group discussion and play. The teachers create settings where children are able to voice their opinions and feel comfortable doing so. This part of the Early Years Learning Framework encourages children to have a voice, respect those of others and have an awareness of their surroundings.
A sense of wellbeing
Nobody should ever feel isolated, excluded or feel mentally drained to the point of it affecting their physical health. This is especially true during the critical development years in childhood.
The third outcomes of EYLF aim to have children not only feel happy and healthy but also take responsibility for it. Children can’t develop strong bonds and a sense of belonging if their wellbeing is low mentally or physically. Signs of a sense of wellbeing in children include “owning” their feelings, taking risks and facing challenges, recognising what their body needs and having an awareness for the health of others.
Confident, involved learners
When children feel like they belong in a community, they feel more confident in their abilities. They’ll learn effectively, make mistakes and have more involvement in a group learning situation. They hypothesise, experiment, research and investigate like scientists with a curiosity only they can manage. Their teachers are the “guides”, encouraging open-ended discussion and helping them work towards a solution when problems arise.
Communication is key in relationships, work and general everyday life. The Early Years Learning Framework guides educators on how to help children develop these skills. Their job is to help teach the children how to communicate politely with others and how to interpret nonverbal cues. This starts from infancy and doesn’t stop when the children leave go to prep; learning is lifelong, after all.
Communicating effectively applies to play situations. The childcare teachers create scenarios or supply materials to help the children verbalise what they learn. Popular outlets for self-expression are drama and music.