Why relaxation? Is it just about sleep?

“Holistic approaches to teaching and learning recognise the connectedness of mind, body and spirit.” (Belonging, Being and Becoming p14) At Flinders University Childcare Centre, children engage with a wide variety of activities over the course of the day. Their minds and bodies are challenged in myriad ways as they move, run, roll, climb, dig, play, pretend, draw, make, paint, explore, garden, build or any other activity we can conceive of together. Many children choose to be perpetually “on the go”, even using mealtimes as a further opportunity to wonder, question, recount or network rather than as down-time. Not every child’s need for sleep is going to be the same at any age. Especially as they learn with age to meet most of their sleeping needs overnight, the intent of having a short “relaxation time” may shift from the focus necessarily being sleep, to providing children with an opportunity to stop and find stillness. Some children may regularly still need to sleep during the day, or may need a catch-up sleep on occasion, meanwhile others find their need for daily naps reduces. Marion Dowling points out that “…children are bombarded with stimuli and invitations to expand their lives…and this can lead them to look always for answers outside of themselves. We offer young children something of infinite value if we help them to look for resources within.” When children of any age slow down their bodies, teaching themselves to be still and quiet their minds are freed up to work inRead more

The Developmental Agenda

At the Early Childhood Australia Conference we attended in September, we saw Dr. Kristie Brandt speak about infant and toddler mental health. During her presentation she talked to us about children’s developmental agendas and the the significance of our response to this. The developmental agenda was something of a new term for us, but it essentially directs educators to focus on what the child is trying to learn in that particular moment, and how we then respond to that, by either embracing it, putting limits on it, or punishing it. She shared with us a series of images to help make the concept clear. One that really resonated was an image of a child, crawling but not yet walking, sitting on the open door of a dishwasher. She asked us to consider firstly what our immediate response might be; how would we react if we came into the kitchen and saw this? Next she asked us to consider the developmental agenda; what is the child trying to do here? What might they be thinking, wondering, trying to achieve? Do they see significant adults in their life working in the dishwasher and want to know what is so fascinating about it? Have they figured out that’s where the dishes go when they are dirty, and want to help put them in? Are they looking for a clean cup because they are thirsty? What are they trying to learn? Finally Dr. Brandt asked us to reconsider our response to the child; do we embraceRead more

Children and Screens

At the Early Childhood Australia Conference we saw Michael McQueen speak about generational changes, working across different generations, and the impact generational trends has on our work as early childhood educators. He said many things that resonated with us, but one thing in particular has become firmly lodged in our minds… The average eight year old’s daily screen time is eight hours. Eight hours in front of a screen. Eight. He also quoted research stating 1/4 of 3-year-olds accesses the internet every day. And children aged 8 to 11 spend approximately 1.3 hours on the internet. When we returned we began to wonder about these statistics and how they might translate to a South Australian context. We investigated and discovered that South Australian children have the highest average amount of screen time of all Australian children. So what are the implications of this? In one study, preschoolers (1-4) risk of overweight was increased by 6% for every hour of television watched each day, and that this accrued. If, for example, a child watched 3 hours of television every day their risk of being overweight would be 18%. If children have a television in their bedroom their risk increases by 31% for every hour watched, and children in this situation watch on average 4.8 hours more television per week. Further, research indicates that children’s risk of later attention-related problems increases by 10% for every hour of television watched. Studies seem to suggest that the reason children are exposed to such high amounts of screenRead more

Nature Play Week and Nature Play SA

At Flinders, we love being outdoors. All our houses run indoor-outdoor programs and winter play programs. Sturt House runs nature play sessions. Our environments are filled with plants, trees, bark, sand, mud, rocks and sticks, and we encourage children to play with these elements. Because our gardens are natural, we are visited by a range of local wildlife, such as birds, koalas, lizards and bugs. But not all children have the opportunity to access natural play spaces, and contemporary research is showing that children are spending increasingly less time outdoors. This trend has sparked international concern, and a dramatic social response from experts in a range of fields, such as education and health. In South Australia, Nature Play SA has recently been launched to encourage children and families to spend more time outdoors, in nature, in unstructured play. Among their many initiatives is Nature Play Week, running from September 27 to October 4. Nature Play Week has a range of experiences planned in partnership with a range of local councils and organisations, all focused on getting children outside in their local environments. You can find out more about Nature Play Week here: Nature Play Week Noel Probert has also written a great article on Nature Play SA, published last weekend in The Advertiser. You can read the article here: 51 things your kids should do before they turn 12 We would love to hear about how you and your family get involved in nature!

Benefits of Quality Childcare

Adelaide University PhD student Angela Gialamas has recently published a study finding a link between high quality childcare and later success in transitioning to school, specifically in relation to children’s attention to task and ability to regulate their emotions. You can read the article summary here; Benefits of Quality Childcare This study emphasises the importance of relationships between educators and children in the care environment. At Flinders, development and maintenance of strong, reciprocal and trusting relationships between educators and children is paramount to our practice. It is exciting to see local, contemporary research supporting research undertaken internationally (for example, the EPPE Project in the UK) and current practices within early childhood education.

…and now for something different

We have spent a bit of time talking about play and learning, so we thought it might be time to change it up a bit…you know, take a break from the pressure of exploring practices in early childhood education and look more holistically at Western systems of education. The easy stuff. Have a look at the video below…Sir Ken Robinson has some interesting ideas on creativity and education. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U]

Play-Based Learning Vs. Formal Learning

In our last couple of posts we have been discussing play and play based learning. This post links to an article discussing play-based learning and formal learning for children, written by an educator and published by Early Childhood Australia, a national peak body, in their journal Every Child. You can read the article here: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/our-publications/every-child-magazine/every-child-index/every-child-vol-19-3-2013/formal-learning-yes/ This article is very much in keeping with our approach to education at Flinders. We would love to know what you are thinking about the role of play in children’s learning…would you like to comment?

What is Play?

Our last post introduced the concept of play and play based learning in relation to the Early Years Learning Framework. This post links you to an article describing some of the agreed upon characteristics of play, and how play is a context for children’s learning. It also talks about some of the ways in which educators support children’s learning through play. The article is written by Lennie Barblett, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Arts at Edith Cowan University. The article was published by Early Childhood Australia, a peak organisation in the field of early childhood education, in their journal Every Child. You can read the post by following the link below; http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/our-publications/every-child-magazine/every-child-index/every-child-vol-16-3-2010/play-based-learning-free-article/ Happy reading!

Why Play-Based Learning?

At Flinders, we spend a lot of time thinking, talking, wondering, inspiring, dreaming, observing, planning for, assessing and documenting play. We live and breathe play. Indoor play, outdoor play, nature play, arts-based play, block play, socio-dramatic play, experimental play, creative play, imaginative play, sensory play; any kind of play you can think of, we want to know about it. We. Love. Play. But sometimes there is a difference in understanding about the role of play in children’s learning, and what we mean at Flinders when we talk about play. Over the next couple of weeks on Our Million Opportunities, we are going to delve deeply into the idea of play as a context for learning. We will share with you a range of articles, videos, and our personal reflections, on the role of play in children’s lives. Because play is much more than fun for children. Play is how children engage, how they begin to understand their place in the world. Play is how children make authentic connections between ideas and concepts, enabling long term success in learning. Play is how children learn. The Early Years Learning Framework marks play as a key practice for early childhood educators, recognising play as a context for learning. The EYLF discusses play as follows; Learning Through Play Play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine. When children play with other children they create social groups, test out ideas, challenge each other’s thinking and build new understandings. PlayRead more