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Educator support

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.

Support for family day care educators

It’s been a challenging time for everyone experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 this year. As restrictions in South Australia ease it’s important to continue focussing on mental wellbeing.

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.

Nature Play SA resources for family day care educators

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.

Loose parts play for Family day care – Nature Play SA

Video transcript

Sarah Sutter:

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.


Four steps to make your home more sustainable for family day care

Kaarin Wilkinson from Early Education for Sustainability South Australia shares her tips for FDC educators.

Video transcript

Kaarin Wilkinson:

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.


#ICYMI Professor Alma Fleet ‘What’s Pedagogy Anyway?’

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.


Family Day Care Business and Customer Support Centre

Phone (metro): 8343 6533
Phone (country): 1300 551 890
Email: educationfdcbusiness [at] sa.gov.au