Have you chosen a career in Early Education?

If so, my next question is have you considered KinderPark?

As Early Childhood Educators we should all know that we make a supreme difference in a child’s early years and, ultimately, a significant difference in their lives. We should be proud of this! More than 1.3 million children across Australia are utilising approved Early Learning Services; so, we are in strong demand! The number of service providers continues to grow annually, and the demand for early childhood professionals is expected to remain strong.

This is great news for Educators, the decision is then ‘where’? How do I choose my centre?

When we do family tours, we tell families that they should ‘know’ as soon as they walk in; the parent and the child should get a vibe and a comforting feel for the centre when they enter.

Well, so should Co-workers!! They should also have that gut feeling that ‘this is the place for me’. That’s what we strive to achieve. Our aim is to create a culture where the team feel that they can be themselves, they can be unique and that they are heard.

When you come to our centres not only do you spend the day with children, you also work side by side with likeminded, dedicated Co-workers. You share in camaraderie and make lifelong friendships.

You also build trusting relationships with the children and families, helping to relieve parent anxiety when children are away for extended periods of time. There can’t be anything more rewarding than seeing the pride and a sense of achievement on a child’s face when they see their hard work come through. Those funny moments that break up the day. Anyone who has spent time with children knows they can come out with some hilarious statements and questions; like “why don’t elephants have wings”? or “why do we call the moon the moon”?

Essentially Educators play a pivotal role in helping children master new skills as well as develop resilience, well-being, and a foundation for lifelong learning. We forever evolve as we cross paths with a wide range of personalities, learning styles and behavioural traits encouraging us to develop new strategies, ideas, and approaches.

The word evolve is key; there are ways to ‘earn while you learn’, this means that you can obtain nationally recognised qualifications while working in the sector to gain valuable experience. Opportunities to complete your certificate III, your diploma and potentially even your bachelor’s degree; there is so much to explore. We can help and support you to achieve this! You deserve the opportunity to do meaningful and satisfying work. Do what you love.

I circle back to the original question; Have you considered KinderPark?

Why outdoor play is important in Early Childhood

Remember when you were young and spent much of your time playing outside? Let’s take a step back together and remember the fun we had when we got messy, enjoying the sun on our faces, and running around with our friends. I bet you’ve just recalled some of your best memories!

It’s just the same for the children that attend KinderPark! We pride ourselves in providing the children with engaging, explorative, imaginative, and positive experiences within our natural outdoor environments to create their own adventures.

At KinderPark we encourage children to play games, challenge themselves physically and build self-confidence. The best part of outdoor play generally means more mess and quite often more mess means more fun!!!

No matter the season, outdoor environments provide an abundance of unique opportunities for children to engage in. Simple things like running their hands through the sand offering a sensory experience, exploring the garden to find creatures and bugs such as snails and caterpillars, and as I’m sure you know children love collecting bugs. These experiences can be the basis of our program where our Co-workers can offer further opportunities to the children for learning.

At KinderPark we value and understand that outdoor play isn’t just about the gross motor and physical aspects. It also provides our children the opportunities to explore, discover and appreciate the natural world.

Did you know that there are five important benefits of outdoor play!

It helps to relax by providing children the opportunity to read books under the trees or on comfy cushions.
It exercises the body when children run, jump, and climb.
It boosts the immune system, breathing in fresh air while at play
It improves focus and brain development assisting children to create new games, explore and be more independent.
It’s a chance to be social – playing chasey, peek a boo and taking turns on the equipment.

Outdoor play is a critical component in the development of children, supporting their mental wellbeing, physical growth and social skills. All KinderPark centres place a large focus on outdoor play through our programs and purpose-built outdoor play spaces as we prepare our children ‘Ready for Life’.

School Readiness of Life Readiness?

As we head towards the end of the year we are preparing for family celebrations and the excitement of a new year! There is something very important that our Kindy children are also preparing for…BIG school! There is a lot of talk about school readiness and ensuring that children are ready for their next step in their education. What does being school ready actually mean though?

There has been a huge shift in what school readiness means for children, previously it was thought that school readiness relied heavily on children knowing how to read and write, how high they could count and if they can identify shapes and colours. It is now understood that each child’s emotional readiness is just as important, if not more important, for each child’s entrance into their new environment.

We have Early Childhood Teachers who guide this learning and preparation in KinderPark centres. Through our child-led and environment-focused programs we are able to integrate the WA Curriculum Guidelines and focus on meeting the requirements that children need as they take the next step in their learning journey. By having a child-led curriculum we are able to tailor the needs of each child and move at their pace. We include their interests in the learning process and consider their wellbeing, given this is just as important as any development goals or milestones set.

The Kindy-aged children in our centres receive the support and ongoing cycle of learning that they need to develop a love of learning and curiosity; our environments are created with their lead and we learn just as much as they do most days! We know the world they are going into is a world where imagination and unlimited possibilities exist and we are so excited to be part of their journey to becoming valued and important citizens of our communities!

From planter box to plate

We all know the health and general wellness benefits from gardening; it can be calming, educational and encourage sustainable practices.  It may be something that we recall watching our parents or grandparents enjoy when we were children, but why wait until we are a certain age before this is part of our lifestyle? 

The idea of planting seeds, nurturing the sprouts, harvesting, and then eating produce, that may have been a challenge previously for some children, is now exciting and attractive as there is a curiosity to taste what has been grown.

This practice and experience offer children the opportunity to socialise and interact together as they develop an appreciation for nature and the cycle of plants.  It gives children a sense of responsibility and patience being a caretaker and encourages discussions with friends and Co-workers regarding when to plant seeds based on seasons. It helps children develop a respect for the environment and simply smelling the fresh herbs and seeing the vibrant colours will stimulate their senses.

Numeracy and science concepts are part of the learning process, even if we are not aware of the intentional teaching happening in that moment.  Counting seeds, measuring the water and understanding that the relationship between plants and the weather is vital to their health.

Composting food scraps, using worm juice from the worm farm to fertilise plants and using leftover water from drink bottles at the end of the day to water plants educates children on the importance of sustainability.

Food grown at our centres is either used in our lunches and snacks prepared by our cooks, or provided to families to take away and enjoy with their children at home. 

We encourage families to try this at home also, make it fun for the children! Discuss what you will do and draw a plan, you don’t have to go with tradition.  How about a ‘pizza vegetable garden’ where you can grow tomatoes, basil, oregano, and capsicum.  Once they have been harvested you have your perfect topping; that’s the foundation of our ‘planter box to plate’ idea.

At KinderPark we encourage this within our program daily and stand by our value of ‘Planet Positive’ which in turn creates the foundation for lifelong learning together.

Together let’s taste the outcome of our hard work! The opportunities are endless.

Do children in childcare develop differently from those who do not attend?

There has been many studies exploring the advantages of childcare and the benefits for children. One of the biggest findings has been that childcare offers opportunities for more extensive social contacts with peers and adults, which leads to open, extended social worlds for children.

When a baby arrives in the world, they are totally dependent on others for their survival. When a baby enrols in one of our centres, they may enter the nursery or babies room and with the support of their families and our Co-workers, the children learn to walk and talk and form attachments to others. By being present and engaged and by meeting the children’s needs the Co-workers teach the children to trust others.

From this circle of security children develop the confidence to build onto their skills and knowledge of the world. Co-workers support them to also develop their physical and language skills. They become stronger, more independent and able to use simple words and gestures to communicate.

As they become toddlers, children are encouraged to develop their self-help skills and to learn to manage the big emotions which emerge at this age. Co-workers support the development of social skills as they become more interested in forming relationships and engaging in shared play.

Their journey will then bring them to the kindy room. A strong physical, social and emotional foundation has already been established and Co-workers are able to lead the children into developing more complex skills and knowledge, for example: communicating to enquire, hypothesize and to share their understanding and their theories.

They discover other ways to communicate through music, movement, drama, drawing, painting, sculpture, symbols and signs. Their physical skills grow to be more complex with abilities to dodge a ball, balancing, throwing and catching. Socially, they will learn how to negotiate and resolve conflict while they develop an awareness of fairness as they learn how to play games with rules.

Childcare and early learning centres play a pivotal role in encouraging children to embark on a journey of lifelong learning. At KinderPark, we promote this idea through our curriculum, resources and spaces, providing stimulating environments that prepare our children, ready for life!  

The importance of child-led play

Have you ever sat back and watched your child play?

Their imaginations and creative minds can take you by surprise.

Child led play is all about following a child’s lead and allowing yourself to be directed, things to remember when you’re allowing your child to lead.

Observe, watch and listen.

As a child leads they build communication skills and learn how to influence things around them.

We can provide an opportunity, but the idea of child led play is to observe how the child approaches the activity and how they adapt the task to their own direction.

For example, As Adults We may ask children if they’d like to play the sandpit expecting children would build sandcastles, but a child may decide to take cars into the sandpit and build a racetrack.

This is child led play They’ve created a new adventure for themselves without instruction from an adult or a teacher.

When children initiate play, they can make their own choices, by being given this space children learn that their own ideas are important, validating their choices.

As child lead play can include things such as role play, they can also explore specific ideas and emotions that are relevant to them at the time.

Its great for letting them work through emotions in a safe space in their own way.

Child led play gives children a level of independence from an early age that is not provided by adult led play.

Thiers so many benefits as children learn through play, build confidence, feel loved happy and safe, gain ownership, which allows them to understand more about how the world works.

Its also a key element to the EYLF of Being, Belonging and Becoming.

At KinderPark we believe their way is our way, together we create child-led environments that encourage children to explore, play discover and learn in their own unique way.

Let’s empower our children The opportunities are endless.

As Albert Einstein said Play is the Highest form of research.

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)