Lock us in! We are on your team!

As KinderPark Co-workers we believe partnerships with our families are an integral part of your child’s emotional wellbeing and how they connect and feel part of the world around them. We have the same common goal of supporting them on the journey of lifelong learning.

Let’s look at some groups with a common goal…
• A football club who aim to be premiers
• A research group who are theorising and trialling ways to find a cure or
• A government that wants to make a change.

When we think of these three groups our mind is cast to a team.
A team of people who are working together from different perspectives, aspects and aspirations to build a solution, reach a target or make a difference.
When we consider this let’s ask ourselves ‘Who is in your child’s team?’

At KinderPark we are part of your child’s team…

Quite often we look at the people in each child’s life and think how lucky they are to have so many people considering their needs, health and wellbeing. They often look like; parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, extended family members, close friends etc. How often do we consider the Co-workers at KinderPark as members of this team? What are their perspectives, aspects and aspirations for our children?

Building a relationship with this team would allow our Co-workers to give you insights and may provide some clarity around the current set ups in the environments, documentation and experiences that are being provided in the Centre.

A Child’s Experience
The Raising Children Network describes the first five years of a child’s life as

“…critical for development. The experiences children have in these years help shape the adults they will become. More than anything else, your relationship with your child shapes the way they learn and develop.”

When we consider that children only have one time to enjoy, learn and explore their early childhood then we must acknowledge that the adults responsible for cherishing young children and ensuring they feel accepted for who they are and where they belong within their world. Have you noticed when you are meeting with a new friend or family member that your child does not know that they tend to stay closer to you, maybe pulling on your leg, standing behind you or needing to sit in your lap? This is your child’s way of identifying their need for security in that moment – by inviting the KinderPark Co-workers into your team you are giving your child another form of security at their centre and when children are secure they can explore, learn and develop confidently.

Meaningful relationships built between families and our team can mean so much to a child, not only does the above identify things children need it also shows the amazing support that can be provided when we become one, become collaborators and become a team!

The Team’s Goal
You may have heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” – this proverb suggests that… “the child has the best ability to become a healthy adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to the rearing of the child.” If we were to say that our ‘team’ focus is ultimately the village in which your child is being supported then we are right on track to building healthy adults, so where shall we start?

To build your child’s team the first step we take from here is to set a challenge. The challenge we can set would be share a story, an interest or tradition the next time you drop your child at your centre. Begin building a rapport with the KinderPark Co-workers. Chances are that the first time you invite them to your child’s team they will play their best game and quickly become an extremely valuable player of your child’s team.

A team with one goal, the goal to provide your child with the confidence, resilience and emotional support to set their own goals and become part of and build their own teams!

It starts with the food!

Great conversations are had when we get together with family and friends and share a meal. We see this is the same for the children in our care and we that have a role to play in co-creating with our families the foundation for a lifelong passion for nutritious healthy eating.

Our approach at Kinderpark is to see the kitchen as the heart of our centres. Mealtimes are important to us they are a time for us to be together as important as a family bbq on the weekend, sharing stories and connecting. We see our cooks as an integral part of supporting this movement by creating food that we are proud to serve at mealtimes in our centres. Supported by great food our Co-workers have an opportunity to build positive connections, interactions and discussions about healthy eating with our children as we sit together and enjoy our food.

The challenge is how do we create a consistent and nutritious menu and encourage our children to have a passion for healthy food? Yes we know – every families challenge – so we are in this together to find some amazing meals that the children will love! Firstly, we asked our centre communities to suggest ideas for menus. Our families and children had some great suggestions which we took with our ideas to a centre cook’s meeting with Grace Bancroft our consultant nutritionist. Together with our cooks our meeting with Grace gave us the opportunity to select ideas from our community and start to plan our menus. With Grace we have devised recipes and a menu that is nutritious, healthy and supports our children’s wellbeing. Our menus cover not only lunch but health snacks, breakfast and afternoon teas.

Grace works as a Nutritionist for Gracious Food Stories. While studying at Curtin University, Grace worked as an Early Learning Centre cook for two years. This experience coupled with her Bachelor of Science (Nutrition & Food Science) helped us to connect and focus. Together we discussed and explored Graces passion for the connection between eating skills & behavioural/developmental skills and our role in supporting this with great menus and conversations with our children. One of the key questions we had was how to help children explore new flavours and textures. Grace was able to share the experience of being a mum to a 16-month-old, connecting, understanding, and supporting our team with ideas of how to help our children adapt to our new menus. We like to keep it simple and with Grace we have created:

  • a four weekly menu adapted to each centre’s community
  • recipes for all meals to support our cooks prepare delicious food
  • a recommended product list to support our cooks to select the best products for a balanced diet.

We had many requests from our families for build your own meals, a great social way for children to learn about food. So don’t be surprised to see build your own Beef san choy bow on the menu soon.  Self-serve and sharing meals are great for social connection and fine motors skills and with old favourites like Super spaghetti bolognaise (spag bol with a twist!) and new soon to be favourites like Baked Asian style fish with soba noodles, carrot, broccoli & cabbage we are sure to all going back for seconds!

Our new menus will launch in our centres over the next few weeks.

Practice makes perfect

“Practice makes perfect!” – This saying is applicable in so many scenarios. When we consider how children manage risk to keep themselves safe then we need to think if practice does make perfect then how many opportunities are we providing for children to practice? There are many ways that this can be done where children are provided with experiences where risk is present. Our role is to minimise the risk through how we engage with the children, and we plan the experiences.

From our own childhood we know risky play was the best part of play! Holding on to the monkey bars until we were sure we would fall but still putting in every effort to get to the end – that is where we learnt persistence and problem solving. Including these opportunities for our children gives them the same growth, they can try and fail, climb, and fall while learning their own strength and capabilities.

While we talk about risky play let us think about trees, beautiful, large, leafy trees! So many benefits come from climbing trees but it is a part of play that has very quickly been removed from childhood due to the risks included, but there are so many life skills that come with climbing trees, appreciation for the world around us, physical activity that strengthens and engages muscles and emotional resilience as children try to climb and miss a branch and catch themselves – they practice the courage to go again.

At KinderPark we engage children in different parts of risky play, this can come from outdoor physical play or tools in the indoor environment. When we introduce risk, we consult our risk assessments and ensure that we teach. Then the children have the time to explore, we believe that giving the children the opportunity to discover on their own allows them to assess risk themselves.

We discuss over-restriction where children have opportunities to explore but our Co-workers over direct and guide, this can create more risk as children are not free to find their own comfort space with risk. Allowing children to identify risk and what risks they are comfortable taking with support from Co-workers rather than direction we see the children grow their lifelong learning journey with practice, while this may not make us all perfect it does allow us to feel comfortable with the perfect amount of risk – so let us all practice some risk together!

Nature for us all!

With the end of summer fast approaching we start to think about how our time lapping up the sunshine is coming to an end. Though that’s true…just because the sunshine is ending it does not mean our time to explore the outdoors should too. Some of my favourite childhood memories are making mud sculptures and the classic….jumping in a huge puddle!

Outside has so many benefits not just for children but even for adult wellbeing! It is shown that being outdoors reduces stress and stress hormones, so not only are we creating a connection for our children to encourage their love of nature but we are giving ourselves some time to reset and relax.

These times are achieved easily by a park visit, a walk around a lake spotting different birds or sitting outside in your own yard listening for different sounds. No matter the size of your yard the sounds you can hear and the sheer peace this brings is amazing, leave your devices inside and enjoy the one on one connection that follows.

The benefits for children having regular outdoor play in addition to the wellbeing identified above makes outdoor play an absolute must for young children. The physical, social, emotional and intellectual development benefits outlined on the raising children network are listed below and provide a thought provoking focus on outdoor play:

Physical Development Benefits -> Improved motor skills -> Lower body mass index -> Improved overall health -> Improved muscle strength

Social Development Benefits -> Increased openness with parents and caregivers -> Great self awareness -> Appreciation for the environment -> Improved peer to peer relationships

Emotional Development Benefits -> Use of all five senses -> Develop a sense of independence

Intellectual Development Benefits -> Aid with brain development -> Improve communication skills -> Expanded learning space.

Having considered all these benefits our centres we provide our children with a healthy balance of indoor and outdoor play, mindfulness is something we can encourage through nature and enjoy seeing the connections the children make. We incorporate aspects of nature in our indoor environments as well such as plants, rocks, sand etc which allow children to explore and discover the wonders that they hold!

Our framework encourages us to reflect on how children respond and connect with nature and it is something we incorporate and discuss often, teaching the children to respect and appreciate nature is so important to us as one of the values we hold dear is ‘Planet Positive’. Through this value:

“We are committed to supporting our children to connect with and contribute to their world. We focus on minimising our impact on the planet. We nurture a sense of wonder and exploration in nature and our environment.”

So the next time your child stops you while walking to appreciate a dragonfly or a long trail of ants take that time to destress and enjoy all that nature has to offer us all, big and small!

By Antonette Neri (KinderPark Co-worker)

Settling in at child care: tips for the early weeks

1. Get organised early
Taking care of practical things like lunches and clothes labels the night before (or earlier) will reduce the stress of trying to get out the door. This means you can focus on your child and how he’s feeling on child care mornings.

2. Allow plenty of down time at home
Child care is very stimulating. Your child will probably be tired and need recovery time at home. This might mean an earlier bedtime or longer naps. Or maybe just quiet play in a familiar environment.

3. Make special time at home with you
Now that you have less time with your child, you’ll want to make the most of the time you do have together.

Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding before and after child care can be a good way to connect. You might also be able to build special time into your evening routine, with songs and play at bath time, or cuddles and stories at bedtime. Or plan for relaxed family time together on the weekends – for example, a regular play at the park.

4. Make time to stay with your child the first few mornings
Try staying with your child for five minutes for the first few days. You could read a book together or watch your child do activities. As you and your child become more comfortable at child care, you might take your child in and leave more quickly.

5. Say goodbye
When it’s time to go, let your child know you’re going and when you’ll be back. Give your child a hug and a kiss, say goodbye to your child’s early childhood educator and leave.

6. Build a relationship with your child’s early childhood educators and carers
Your child is more likely to feel secure in the new child care setting if she sees that you have a good relationship with early childhood educators and carers. If your child can see you trust the educator, she’s more likely to trust the educator too.

7. Plan for breastfeeding
If your child is still breastfeeding, and if it’s possible for you, you might want to think about visiting the centre during the day to give your child a feed. Many centres encourage breastfeeding mothers to visit, and it might help your child settle into care.

Choosing a quality child care service for your child and family

Choosing and getting ready for an early childhood education and care service can be an exciting and overwhelming time for you and your child, considering there are so many options out there. So, the earlier you start preparing, the better.

Choosing an option that suits your needs

Start with thinking about your child care options before you need it, including the days and hours you might need it for.

There are various types of early childhood education and care services and you can choose the one that suits your lifestyle best. Most are regulated under the National Quality Framework (NQF) including:

  • Family day care
  • Long day care
  • Kindergarten/preschool
  • Outside school hours care

Other services like occasional care, crèches, mobile services and some school holiday care programs are not regulated under the NQF, but may be regulated under other state legislation. If you’re not sure if a service is regulated or not, it’s best to ask the service.

Read our factsheet on types of child care or watch this video for more information on these services.

Most services have a waiting list so it’s a good idea to put down your child’s name for more than one place to better your chances of finding a service you are happy with.

Understanding quality

All the regulated services across Australia are required to meet high national standards to ensure your child is safe and is given opportunities for learning and development on a regular basis.  These services are given quality ratings to help families choose the best service for their child and family.

These ratings are for the services that are regulated under the NQF.

There are seven quality areas which services are rated against under the National Quality Standard:

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative Partnerships with families and communities
  7. Governance and Leadership

For each of the seven areas, most of the services will be rated either:

  • Significant Improvement Required
  • Working Towards NQS
  • Meeting NQS
  • Exceeding NQS

Services can also be given an overall “Excellent” rating when they exceed in all seven quality areas.

Finding a service

Research shows quality early education and care leads to better health, education and employment outcomes later in life. So, it’s really important for you to know if the child care service your child will be attending provides quality experiences that will cater for your child’s overall growth and development.

You can find your nearest regulated services and their quality ratings using our Find Child Care search.

Asking the right questions

  • What hours do you operate?
  • What times can I drop off and pick up my child?
  • Do you close throughout the year and how long for e.g. Christmas or Easter time
  • Will I be able to visit my child or call them at any time?
  • Will I be charged fees for public holidays or when my child is not there?
  • Do you provide things like nappies and meals, or do I need to bring them from home?
  • What is the ratio of staff to children?
  • What skills, qualifications and experience do the staff have?
  • Has your service been quality rated and what was the rating?
  • What ages do you care for? This is important because you might need to think about future child care options if they only provide care for children aged from birth to five.
  • How will I know that my child’s learning and development will be encouraged?
  • What are your internal policies and procedures?
  • Will I be eligible for any subsidies or other financial assistance?

You can also refer to Starting Blocks’ resource on what to see and ask for at your service.

Storytelling is pure literacy gold!

We celebrated World Storytelling Day on 20th March, this day was originally introduced to highlight the importance of children reading every day! This was celebrated in many different ways at KinderPark with some centres reading their children’s favourite stories or re-enacting scenes from books – ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ is always a popular choice for this experience! Some of our centres had families share cultural stories with their children and their peers.

Reading to your child every day provides so many benefits, some of the most relevant are:

  • Helping your child get to know sounds, word and language, and develop early literacy skills
  • Learning to value books and stories
  • Sparking your child’s imagination ad stimulate curiosity
  • Helping develop your child’s brain, ability to focus, concentration, social skills and communication skills
  • Helping your child learn the difference between ‘real’ and ‘make-believe’
  • Helping your child understand new or frightening events, and the strong emotions that come with them
  • Helping your child learn about the world, their own culture and other cultures

In addition to the benefits above, reading a story with your child is a time to cuddle, feel connection and share interests. These are times that children cherish and create positive interactions with their most valued people!

At KinderPark we encourage literacy in all different ways, reading stories one on one and in groups is just one way that literacy is introduced to the children in our centres. By talking to children about stories or making stories with them we begin building the foundation of a lifelong love of reading and stories. This feeds into singing songs, rhymes and describing routines that we are following and what we are doing. An example might be reading the menu for the day, this creates an understanding that by reading we can gather and share information.

As children grow and move into older rooms we begin to focus on their recognition of letters and use ways to engage their curiosity in the written word without set expectations of outcomes. By teaching literacy through play children integrate themselves into play and begin to show understanding, some experiences you may see us include are pads of paper in a shopping experience where children may write a ‘list’ of what they are buying, construction areas with blank paper so that children can write their plans for the buildings they will create or locker tags with their name clearly labelled so that they can begin to recognise their own names. All these examples are ways that we embed and encourage literacy while enabling your children to explore and discover at their own pace.

We can definitely see that literacy and story telling is an important part of early childhood so share a story with your children today! If you are looking for a recommendation just speak to one of our Co-workers the next time you are in one of our KinderPark centres, we all have a favourite!

By Antonette Neri (KinderPark Co-worker)