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This page acknowledges the passionate and talented team of educators who make our family day care program in South Australia so special.
Over 400 family day care educators provide high quality service every day to families across the state. Our resources below are regularly updated to support them in their work.
It’s been a challenging time for everyone experiencing the impacts of COVID-19.
That means managing stress levels, looking after ourselves and supporting children in their mental wellbeing, both while attending family day care and through supporting families.
Here are some great resources that have been developed for the early childhood sector.
Share this Play School video ‘Mindfully Me’ with parents or carers to show their children how to slow down and focus on the small things.
As children engage with experiences that connect them to natural resources and materials they will connect with all of their senses through play. Children will be free to explore, imagine and create in their play. As children collaborate or engage in individual play they will investigate, question, problem solve and experiment. Through interaction with natural resources and loose parts children will develop an understanding of our environment and how they contribute and are a part of this. Children may be supported to share how they care for the environment and nature around them. Through open ended play with natural resources children’s sense of wellbeing will be supported in a time when getting outdoors is limited, children will be given time to simply 'be' as they explore in their own time and their own way.
Early Years Learning Framework and My Time Our Place outcomes
- Outcome 1 – children are connected to and contribute to their world
- Outcome 2 – children have a strong sense of wellbeing
- Outcome 3 – children are confident and involved learners.
Sensory play for family day care – Nature Play SA
Hi, I'm Jason Tyndall, General Manager at Nature Play SA, and I'll be taking you through a snapshot of the importance of sensory play with my colleague, Narrah Zollo. We are all sensory beings. Whatever we do in our lives, whether or not we are looking at the clouds and we're watching them go by, whether or not we're feeling the wind in our face, walking through a forest. These are experiences that we seek. These are experiences that we are drawn to. And the foundation of those experiences goes right back to childhood. In childhood, it is a very, very unique window of development, particularly from a sensory perspective.
When we look at childhood and their experiences, particularly in a daycare setting, then we look at the spectrum of opportunity. How sensory are these opportunities that we are providing our children? Do we even know? So if we look at today's generation, we see a lot of children getting overstimulated in different senses. So it may be sight, it may be hearing through, for example, watching television. We start to see a gap. A gap where other senses have to play catch up, and that gap can cause some problems later in life. What we want to ensure is that we are making sure that all of the senses of a child, so seeing, listening, tasting, hearing, tactile, all of those elements, getting lots and lots of different opportunities.
Sensory play has a broad range of benefits, particularly for children in a daycare setting. Let's start with problem solving because everywhere children are going in life, they're solving problems. From a sensory perspective, if you imagine we have a work bench or a mud kitchen, and on that mud kitchen, we have dirt, we have flowers, we have sticks. We have a range of different natural elements.
The first problem that a child wants to solve is how do we turn this clot of dirt into mud? Obviously that problem can be solved by adding some water, but how much water? And what quantity of water? Now we can easily go in and say, "Oh, we'll make that for you and stir it up and there you go and make your mud pie." But the really important learning is children mixing and experimenting. What happens if I add some flowers. Or they just rub it in their fingers and they squelch. If they squelch, what that does is it starts to send messages to the brain and those messages to the brain are really important connections for sensory development to really start to strengthen.
Out of that also comes sustained play, and sustained play is long periods of time where children play uninterrupted. And sometimes we see children, they play and they come to us and they say, "We're bored and we don't like doing this." But what we see is when it's a sensory experience, there's so much reward and incentive coming out of that, that children are engaged for longer. And when they're engaged for longer, there are a lot more cognitive benefits happening in the brain.
For babies in a family daycare setting, babies are really important when it comes to sensory play and sensory experiences. Dry, wet, even mud. And what this does, you'll see that babies will react straightaway. They'll react because they're like, "Oh, that's different." That's a really important sensory experience. We keep giving these and exposing our babies to these sensory experiences that starts to set them up to engage and to seek those sensory experiences in play.
As children get older, three, four years old, we start to see imagination come to life. We start to see things like, "I've made this mud pie with three flowers on it for my friend, the Gruffalo." So you've made it for the Gruffalo. "And I'm going to add a cup of this orange dirt onto my mud pie because we think the Gruffalos are really going to like that." We start to see not only imagination, we see literacy, we see numeracy, we see problem solving. We see all these other elements, all possible within a family daycare setting. And of course, we've got the development of the whole child, the whole sensory system.
The first thing that I would want to do when setting up for sensory play would be to take a barefoot walk outside. I'd have a look at the different levels I have in the backyard, the things that I can see and smell and hear. I consider what my backyard is like at different times of the day and in different weather, but also take a look at my current resources. What do I have at the moment? Because sensory play doesn't cost a lot of money to set up. We can use things as simple as sticks and stones, different colored leaves, sand, dirt, with some water and pebbles, even scented flowers like lavender and rosemary.
Then I'd fill the gaps. I'd look at what tools I might need for the children, what they might like to use and the basic infrastructure that would help make really deep sensory play. Perhaps consider setting up some work benches, putting out some pots and pans, little child size mortar and pestles and rigging up some cloths to section out the garden. So there's little nooks and crannies for children to play when they feel like they want to be alone.
At that point, I would set up some scenes like a little mud kitchen, and I would have some stones for grinding together to make some pigments, and then I'd get the children to come in and I'd see what works and what holds their interests because children like to play in different spaces and some like to play collaboratively and some like to play alone at times. At the end of the day, I'd see what held their interest. And then I'd work to rearrange that space the following day to see if we could make it really deeply engaging for those children the next day.
And that calming environment is really important for children, because what we find is in a loud, noisy world where there's lots of big feelings happening, it's really important to have those spaces where children can retreat to. And as adults, we love to do calming things, as do children. Children can't articulate their emotions like we can. What they do is they interpret it through the spaces they're in. So having a sensory environment will ensure that children also have opportunity to come and to self-regulate their emotions.
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Nature connection for family day care – Nature Play SA
Hi, I'm Maria Taylor, the manager of education for Nature Play SA. I'm going to be talking to you about nature connection, and I will be joined by Jason Tyndall, our general manager. We'll be offering some insights and ideas to support you in a family daycare setting, to embrace the nature connection within your service.
So what is nature connection? It's all about how our children can make friends with the natural world and how they can see themselves as part of the natural world and not separate to it. So it's about bringing children to that space and noticing the small detail in the every day and bringing a sense of wonder and awe to your outdoor environment. There are lots of opportunities for children's growth and development and learning that come from a nature connection and natural environment is inherently calming and soothing for children. So a natural setting where perhaps all their worries of the day, just get taken over by the bird that just flew past, that's connecting with the natural world and perhaps seeing a link between how their well-being is supported by that natural world. Every single day, you walk outside, it will be different. It exists on its own terms, and it has a sense of timelessness. It's always been there and it always will. What we want children to see is that they can be part of that, that they can connect to that.
There are a number of ways you can encourage a nature connection within your family daycare setting. Don't forget the power of modelling, take the lead to lead children and consider the routines and the responsibilities that you can build in just the every day, to embrace the looking after and taking care of the natural world. Might be the small things that you do every day to look after your setting so that you put things away and you take them off your garden bed if they need to. That you make sure that you are watering the plants when they need it, that you're covering things with shade when they need it to be, that you're looking after the birds and the bees and the butterflies that might otherwise be invited into your setting, that you're treating them with care and respect, no matter how small they are. And it's showing children through your lead, that the care for the small things really can make a big difference.
Finding nature. So go outside and look for the nature within your setting. What is nature? What isn't nature? Think about what's inside your setting and even embrace what's outside your setting, what's beyond your gate. So going for a walk and having a look at the tree on the corner of the street or the park around the corner, or a creek line and exploring what's happening in that space throughout the seasons. What can you hear? What can you see? What can you touch? What can you smell? Think about the questions you're asking children, get them to tune into using their senses in your natural setting. Don't forget to learn in nature, learn from nature. So the nature you have that you use that as the springboard for inquiry and lessons, and then learn together with nature.
There are various benefits of children building a connection to nature within a family daycare setting. So, first and foremost, let's look at the world ahead. We want to prepare their minds and their hearts for an uncertain world. We want them to be resilient citizens moving into the future and where that starts is from when they're born. From when they're born and their exposure to nature helps them build a strong connection and building that connection has broad ranging benefits.
Now, some of those benefits include things like curiosity. I often hear about curiosity in children, but it is one of the most beautiful traits that you'll see. And let's look at an example of a feather. And we look at the feather and we can just say, "Look, it's a feather," or we can go a bit further. We can give that curiosity some incentive to go further. We can say, "I wonder where that feather came from. I wonder if the bird was in the tree. Maybe it floats, maybe it sinks." And we have all these other elements. Now, if a child takes that feather, really excited that they found something, it gives them incentive to go and find something else. And then the cycle of curiosity begins from the natural world.
When you think of going outside, you always hear something, particularly in Australia, we hear birds. One of my favorite birds that I hear, and I hear children also try to mimic is magpies. Now magpies are everywhere and if we encourage children, particularly babies, we say, "What? What is that? Is it a magpie?" As they start to get older, they'll start to mimic that. And their mimics would be something like ... that's my best magpie. And he might not sound like that, but children start to mimic those things and it's a really beautiful thing to see.
Another thing about building a connection to nature is things being outside. So if we were to build a fort in our lounge room, it's inside our house, it's our living room. If we build a fort outside, it becomes something different and it changes every day. Now we can just use a couple of sticks and some hessian, and we see children coming together, building things, problem solving. We see them socializing in different ways, learning different cues, arguing, which, with arguing comes emotional regulation, learning how to make judgements, learning how to react if someone disagrees with you. And also, when we are put into a natural environment, resourcefulness comes into it. And that resourcefulness often utilize as parts of nature that we would often disregard as something separate from us.
So all of these elements together, so learning outside, building things outside, listening to bird song, being curious, and then curious again, and as adults we're curious alongside of our children. All of those things contribute to a strong connection that isn't separate from a family daycare setting, it isn't separate from the occupation you do in the future, but it's part of everything. It's part of our hearts and it's part of who we are.
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Loose parts play for family day care – Nature Play SA
Hi I'm Sarah Sutter, CEO of Nature Play SA. Welcome to the Nature Play SA headquarters at Wittunga Botanic Gardens. Today we are going to work with Maria Taylor, my head of education to take us through a loose parts session.
In this role I get to go all over South Australia and work with early learning and primary and even secondary students and their teachers, so I'm very blessed, best job in the world.
Loose parts play, it's a popular word out there and a lot of people are a little bit confused sometimes about what that is. Loose parts play is really playing with anything that doesn't have a fixed purpose or role or intention. With loose parts play you're not telling a child what to do or how to do it which gives them complete independence and autonomy to create their own world. And we know that a one year old will engage and play with things, so you put pots and pans and they're banging away, give them to a 5-year-old and they will do something completely different.
A backyard setting or in a Family day care setting, you could start small, start with small loose parts collection. Don't be frightened at all by thinking what it has to look like. There are fantastic resources to help you get started with a loose parts collection. Basically start with things you can reuse, recycle... it might just be some boxes, it might be milk cartons, its might be some log rounds you can find or some little sticks. Even just calico and materials and things that can be used to kind of add to any creation. We often find loose parts in driving around and just spotting things. Really just looking at something that has a bit of magic or a bit of wondering about it, something you kind of go that looks interesting I don't know what I would do with it. They're the best things to start with. Small loose parts and large loose parts can be very different. You could have a loose parts collection that you might have in a big tub or big bag. You could have a small loose parts collection which are your shells, your seed pods and all those things you can find in a nature walk, just start building your own collection.
When children are engaging with loose parts play, the number one thing you see is that it's them creating, a divergent thinking is kind of at the forefront, so they're about what they are creating and making, and it will be very different for every child. You really are looking at often it's spatial awareness, having to plan where things go, it's the literacy, it's the oral language. You know there's so much research to show that when children are engaging with loose parts play, the words they're using and their interaction with others, is very different. You know if you give children a pile of loose parts and leave them to play and sometimes support them in their play and to get started, you'll see interactions between children who don't normally play together. So you're breaking down the barriers, all of a sudden you see different relationships form through loose parts play because you're not giving children a kind of a means to an ends with their play, you're keeping it very open ended. Fine motor development, for their hand eye coordination, for just imagination and creativity.
Loose parts play really gives children the forum and space to create their own magic and it's on their terms. Parents and adults can be one step away and not have to go into that play space and just watch. And that's really magic in that space. Backyards are also diverse and different, we don't all have sprawling backyards and backyards have changed a lot, we know that. But it's harnessing the little things that become the special moments for children. Just going outside when it's raining, when it's windy, often it's the moments where rugging up and hiding away from the weather, just going in a place where you can rug up outside and watch that weather, can become you know the great memory of the day. Barefoot walks, barefoot play, exploring a local park and walking on the grass, walking on some pebbles, walking on some bark, all those changes of surfaces; from whether you're crawling or walking, is so important for children and soles of feet and palms of hands are the places you know that have huge sensory input, and so using that it's critical that we keep our children connected to the world outside. We know there's benefits to their wellbeing, their mental health, you know that children are calm when they're in their natural surrounds, that being in the open air, the fresh air is good for everyone. So when your children are playing with loose parts, when children are playing in natural open surroundings, they're having a time and space to just slow down and to take notice of the small things around them and it gives them a way to know how to regulate themselves and to know what to do perhaps when they need a bit of time out. They can go and sit outside in the garden, they can go and play and often it just takes a lot of the stress away, also learning happens inherently and naturally when you're playing outside and with loose parts. Children will direct the learning because you know often they're interested and invested, children have that inherent connection to nature. They want to know what's crawling on the ground and they want to know what's happening up in the tree, and often the adults don't have the answers and that's a really powerful thing to know, that there doesn't have to be an answer, the questions are the most important thing - that wondering and that thirst for knowledge and that thirst for learning, we want to harness that.
Kaarin Wilkinson from Early Education for Sustainability South Australia shares her tips for FDC educators.
Hi my name is Kaarin Wilkinson.
Step 1, establish a kitchen garden in your backyard. You can either do this straight in the ground or with raised garden beds. Or you can buy some large pots. Or maybe you've got these at home. This is a great opportunity for educators and students to actually learn together, to get outside, which is great for your wellbeing, get your hands dirty in the soil, get some of those good microbes that will help support your immune system as well as to grow food that you can both pick and eat together.
The first things that you should grow are things like herbs and some greens, like some spinach and some lettuce, you can get some different varieties of lettuce. This means you will be able to pick these things straight from the garden instead of having to go to the shops and buying them, reduce your plastic waste and it will encourage children to eat this food as they grow it. Ensure you have some biodiversity in your garden as well by planting some flowers like marigolds to attract insects and butterflies into the garden and pollinators like these.
Children could have their own garden pots and actually plant their own seeds and grow these and that will give them the responsibility of watering and watching them grow, they can monitor them, they can watch different things that come into the garden, like the butterflies and the bees and insects and you can both learn together.
Step 2, is to practice ethical and wise consumption. So the most important thing here is to actually learn about where the things you buy come from and you might need to do a bit of research on the internet. Always read the labels of products, sometimes you can find things that are made out of recyclable materials and that's always a good idea, more natural materials are always good if you're buying bigger items like furniture. Buying food, make sure that you look at the labels and try and buy locally grown food or grown in Australia, and there is an Australian made logo on lots of things. A good way to get children involved because they can have a look at the logo. Things for example like bacon often have the label of how much Australian product is in there and that can vary between about ten percent and ninety percent. So getting children to actually observe this is a great way of getting them involved of understanding what come from Australia and what we import. The other things is to always take a shopping list. You can get children to help you do this, if there are particular things they want to buy and then you can go to the shop and you can make a determination as to whether that's a good product to buy because it's made in Australia or whether it's something you're choosing not to buy because it's been imported. Older students can do some research online.
Step 3, choose to refuse. So this means when you go to the shops, you can especially try and refuse plastic, take your own shopping bags and choose not to buy pre-packaged fruit and vegetables, buy it loose and take your own bags to put it in, you don't need to use the plastic bags in the shops. The refusing plastic is a really important one to do with children and you can do quite a few science experiments with this. For example you can bury an apple core in the garden and bury a plastic bag in the garden and children can actually dig them up a couple of months later and see which ones degraded. You could put a plastic bag on the close line and let it biodegrade in the sun and see how it breaks down into tiny little particles and then get children to think about what might happen to those if they're blowing around in the wind across the world.
Step 4, is recycle everything that you can. Always good to repurpose first, so if you've bought something like something in a jar, you can use your jars for storage, you could even have children decorate the jars and then use them for gifts for something that they might make. Make sure you understand what your local council guidelines are with recycling because they're not all the same. Older students can help you research this, but you could do a print out and put it up on the fridge. Children can be involved their own inside recycling containers. So if you have a box for paper and a box for cans and bottles and things that you can get money on, and you can have a box for other things that go in your council recycling bin and children can decorate these themselves and then learn to understand what goes in each container. Learn about the local recycling places, all councils are different and there's different places for recycling things like batteries, sometimes you can do that at your local library, sometimes you can do it at the council offices, electrical goods can go through the e waste and there's usually a local store that will be taking those things from you and there's some places that will take things like corks and plastic lids. Another great thing to do with children is to try and make paper and you can do this, it's a bit messy, but you just need a blender and you just tear up little strips of paper which is a great activity for children and then the paper that they have made they can maybe write a letter to their family on or do something fun with that. If you collect the plastic coloured lids off the tops of bottles, you can also use these for doing mosaic crafts.
So I hope these steps help you to make your home more sustainable. There is a wealth of knowledge that you can gain and we are always learning, I am always learning, even though I've got a lot of knowledge now, I still learn all the time. You can get information from your local library, from the internet, there's a lot organisations that will have things, your local council will have information for you and it's really great that you can be learning together with children every day.
In case you missed them, or if you would like to watch again, Professor Alma Fleet's presentations to educators in May 2019 are a great way to help educators to develop practice in family day care.
Professor Alma Fleet, Honorary Associate Professor Institute of Early Childhood, Department of Educational Studies Macquarie University, presents and shares her knowledge and inspiring experiences on pedagogy and documenting children's learning.