Vacancy Care's August Newsletter

August 2020


Hello everyone, welcome to our August newsletter! As always, we provide an overview of what is happening within our childcare community.

Send us an email to let us know what you think of this newsletter. We would love to hear any suggestions, which articles you enjoyed, and what you would like to see more of!

But first up this month we will discuss The incredible benefits of sensory play

Topic of the month - The incredible benefits of sensory play

Author: Brooke James

The incredible benefits of sensory play

The concept of sensory play is any activity that stimulates a child's senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Sensory play is hugely beneficial to a child’s development and is limited only by your imagination and the materials you have on hand - with a little common sense surrounding appropriate materials for your child’s age and ability. 

Excellent for exploring every topic imaginable, the themes you could incorporate when creating a sensory play experience are limitless. Fill a tub with water, some sand and a collection of sea animals and you’ll have an ocean. Use a packet of green lentils instead, add some sheep and cow figurines to create a farm experience. If you then add a book and song with each theme, every activity can be turned into a morning of enjoyment, where learning is occurring, and even a quiet cup of tea may be squeezed in! 

Don’t feel pressured to come up with themes on your own. Use the resources available online. Pinterest and Instagram have countless examples. Search ‘sensory’ or ‘sensory play’ to get started. There are passionate educators and mums out there who love nothing more than sharing their ideas and activities. Use them! ...exactly as they are, or adapt them to work with what you have in the house. You may even find yourself inspired enough to create and share your own ideas! 

There’s a wonderful, enriching, community out there, fascinated by early childhood education and the role sensory play has in it, all brought closer thanks to the internet and its ability to connect people across the globe!

Examining the many benefits of sensory play


Encouraging the development of fine and gross motor skills.
Motor skills are actions that involve movement. They are strengthened and developed with use. Sensory play encourages children of all ages to move during play, regularly using repetitive movements. A great example is the use of playdough. The repetitive kneading and squeezing movements used with dough strengthen fine motor muscles. This small act has a flow-on effect, ensuring a child can grasp a pencil or operate a pair of scissors as they mature.  


Supporting cognitive development.
New and repeated experiences create connections in the brain that improve a child’s ability to learn. Sensory play assists developing brains and cognitive development by creating connections via nerves, and as brain development continues into adulthood, sensory play is beneficial for all ages.


Sensory is often tactile.
Sensory experiences are regularly tactile - connected with the sense of touch. We can consciously create a mixture of wet or dry tactile experiences for children with a little knowledge and planning, so their learning is extended. Wet being activities like waterplay, and dry incorporating materials like sand or dry leaves. 


Language development.
Using the senses encourages discussion, which in-turn, encourages speech. Try asking your child simple questions to encourage them, like “what does that feel like?”, “Is it warm or cold?”, “What does it smell like?” Encourage older children to describe what they’re doing. Prompting them to think, feel and compare the world around them, stimulating learning and language.


Develop and enhance memory.
The sense of smell, in particular, is strongly linked to memory. Scientific research suggests memory recall and memory are scattered across the brain’s sensory centres, stimulated by sensory-rich play.


Development of knowledge.
Sensory experiences create tangible, self-directed, and self-centred play. They encourage exploration, questioning, discovery and development. Appealing to children who learn and think in different ways. There’s no one correct path to learning.

Sensory play is inclusive play.
Many games and activities have specific rules to follow. The beauty of sensory play is there are no rules. No right or wrong way to play, therefore encouraging inclusion. Young children still  learning to speak, those that speak more than one language, children with special needs, or who enjoy a practical approach to learning will therefore benefit from learning through sensory play. 


Variety is the spice of life.
Offering a variety of sensory experiences provides a child with fun challenges to explore and solve. Creating opportunities to discover strengths, and learn about weaknesses, hone and develop new skills. 


Recognising similarities and differences.
Sensory play provides a child with the chance to discover the similarities and differences of materials and substances. Milk and water are both wet. Pasta and rice are dry. Wet sand is heavy and won’t pour through a funnel, while dry sand is light and flows easily through a funnel.


Agitation turns to calm.
Sensory play often has the natural effect of absorbing one in the moment. Being absorbed in anything takes focus. An absorbed, focused child is not a distracted, agitated or upset child. 

Sensory play supports scientific thinking.
Scientific thinking encourages a child to use their senses to make new discoveries. ‘Let’s see what happens when I make really big splashes’ or ‘Will the ice break if I drop it on the concrete?’ Will it melt if it sits in the sun too long?’ Science involves experimentation, questioning, hypothesising, researching and investigation…. And we definitely need strong-minded thinkers, researchers and scientists in future generations, so let’s encourage them!

Creativity, problem-solving, exploration and question.
Children love nothing more than opportunities to squash, pull, pour, stir, grasp, tap, knead, stretch, rub, squeeze, push, squish, sniff, listen, pour, stir, whisk, combine, create patterns, taste, explore, solve, create and question  – all things offered during sensory play.


Outdoors or indoors.
While the outdoors can be more suited to messy play, it’s possible to explore messier options indoors and still keep your home in a reasonable state (see the section on play trays, tables and tubs below). Consider choosing an area that will be easier to wipe up, like a dining room. Lay plastic sheets out if you need a bit of protection.

The bath is a great place to experiment with water play (while ticking bathtime off the list too!). You can turn most experiences into fun, learning opportunities by changing small things. Add some funnels, jugs & sieves and bathtime today will be entirely different to bathtime yesterday!

Sensory trays, tables and tubs

The use of sensory trays, tables and tubs is a great way of bringing outdoor activities inside, or to contain them so they’re easier to set-up and pack away afterwards. It’s a way of creating a fun, learning  experience for your child, but ensuring it’s also enjoyable for you. A positive experience, that wasn’t a nightmare to clean-up, will more likely be repeated regularly! ...if this means setting up in the garden or on a patio with a hose or bucket of soapy water nearby, then so be it! Sometimes the weather doesn’t allow you to go outside, and some families don’t have access to an outdoor space. This is where sensory trays, tables and tubs will help! 


A product that has emerged over recent years and is brilliant for containing sensory play is Tuff tray, but if you’re not wanting to invest in the price tag that accompanies it, there are affordable options that work just as well. For example, Kmart sells a deep-sided tray with handles in the kitchen section that was likely designed for carrying items like cups and glasses… but has been used by early childhood enthusiasts, so regularly, for creating sensory experiences that it has been tagged socially as the #kmartplaytray (instagram offers 11k images worth of inspiration!). It’s cheap and perfect for this kind of activity!

IKEA sells a children’s table called ‘Flisat’ that has inbuilt trays, perfect for sensory play. Remove the trays for easy cleaning, and there’s the added benefit of being a height that young children can stand alongside to really immerse themselves in countless activities.

But let’s not forget that just about any plastic food container you’ll find in your own cupboard or at the local supermarket will do the job just as well. The larger the container, the better!

It’s worth noting that smaller items and loose parts aren’t always ideal for little mouths. Supervision for younger children is always a good idea.

Children who explore and experiment through a variety of sensory play experiences will expand and develop their skills across all senses. Encouraging capable, inspired and resourceful children with a love of learning! 


Activities and Experiences to try at home

Most families love the idea of introducing their child to different sensory experiences, but the reality is many are juggling work, study, other children, or are just plain busy! Below are a selection of activities and experiences to create at home for your child - broken into categories based on how much time you have available to prepare, set-up and pack away.


The basics - six simple activities that pack a punch.

Basic activities that shouldn’t be under-estimated for the simple joy and learning opportunities they provide!

A tray of sand, or an entire sandpit, can occupy a child for hours. Include different sized buckets, scoops, cardboard or pvc tubes, funnels


Dirt or Mud
Who doesn’t love making mudpies? Mixing dirt with water to different consistencies is all part of the process. Add spoons or twigs for mixing, baking trays, cake tins, and a selection of flowers, leaves, gumnuts and pebbles.


Water play
Add bubble bath, a few drops of colour, or offer different temperature trays of water for experimenting between hot and cold. Include a few ice cubes in a tray of warm water to experience the difference in temperature.

Coloured sensory blocks or glass beads - place in an area that gets lots of sunshine for the full stained-glass effect, or include a mirror for a different dimension.


Touch-and-feel books - stories to explore with furry, scratchy, crinkly, crackly, rough, smooth & shiny surfaces.


Nature play
Get out in the great outdoors and see what nature has to offer! A scavenger hunt will likely provide something for all the senses. Birdsong; scratchy dirt; gumnuts; rough trees; vivid blue skies; spiky leaves; whistling wind; cold water; pungent herbs; bright sunshine; colourful flowers & dark, mossy bushland areas. Bring a basket along and collect your favourites.


Intermediate - six experiences to entice your child.

Not complicated - but a little preparation or clean-up for these activities is required.


Ice play
Freeze animal figurines in pockets of ice to “free” later. Larger ice trays can work, or a good trick is to fill, tie and freeze water within a deflated party balloon - creating an organic shape. The larger the piece of ice, the longer the activity will last. Coloured pom-poms and flowers petals are also great to freeze, providing a vivid pop of colour!



Finger painting
Add some sand to the paint to give it a gritty grain-like feel. Make some home-made paint with flour, water and colouring to create a thicker texture. Or choose to paint on a large sheet of plastic or piece of aluminium foil for a slippery-smooth, gliding feel.

Dry pasta, lentils, rice or seeds
A tray of uncooked pasta directly from the packet offers a dry tactile experience. Throw in a few diggers or some scoops and you have an instant transporting activity! Easily change this to a new experience by switching to lentils, seeds, or rice. Rainbow sensory rice is amazing and simple to make. All you need is some plain white rice, food colouring of your choice and a tablespoon of white vinegar to set the colour. Mix it all together, and allow to dry.


Shaving cream
Messy but incredibly versatile. Add a few drops of colour and use as an alternative to paint. Fill a tray and hide some gems, glass beads or other loose parts inside to be discovered. Hot tip! Keep the garden hose or bucket of soapy water handy!

Make dough easily in a variety of ways: some recipes require heating and some don’t. Search the web to find the recipe that works best for you (just quietly, the Thermomix recipe is the BEST dough ever!). Adding different spices or chopped herbs from the garden can make a standard batch of dough into an incredible treat for the sense of smell - as well as touch! 


*Tip…. the more salt a recipe contains, the longer the dough lasts. So a busy family can re-use it for a week or more!

To stimulate your child’s sense of hearing, a fun activity is to create a homemade xylophone, and you can do this with water. You’ll need a selection of small glass bottles - ideally five or six  (places like Kmart sell these quite cheaply). Fill each bottle with a different level of water - each a little less than the bottle next to it. A drop of colour in each bottle will add some visual spark. Then using a spoon, demonstrate for your child the different sounds made when you gently tap each bottle.

Next level activities - six experiences that will blow your child’s mind!


More preparation may be needed for these activities… but they’re oh, so fun!

Chia slime
Part-fill a bowl with boiling water and a small packet of chia seeds. Include a few drops of colour at this stage if you want. Cover and allow the bowl to sit overnight. The result should be similar to jelly, then mix some cornflour through. The magic of chia slime is that the consistency changes. It can feel like a hard, even crumbly, solid, but as warm hands knead it, chia slime turns into an almost runny liquid! Completely safe if little mouths nibble on it(!) and afterwards, pop it into the fridge and re-used multiple times over.


Sensory bottles
Fill a water bottle with two-thirds water & one-third clear oil. Include a few drops of colour, some sequins, glitter, glass beads, etc. Screw the lid on tightly and seal with some tape. Then watch the magic as you tip the bottle in different directions! *Tip! Voss water bottles (sold in supermarkets) are great for this activity, but seek out their plastic - not glass - bottles.

Slimy spaghetti worms
Boil up a packet of spaghetti along with some food colouring, then drain and add a liberal splash of olive oil. Put into a tub for exploration. Create a hunt by adding green colouring and insects hidden amongst the slippery pasta.

Jelly play 
Not only does jelly feel incredibly slippery & slimy, but it initially sets hard in the fridge then becomes increasingly sloppier as the temperature naturally rises. Perfect for setting up an activity with a cold, glassy surface - like a frog pond - then as little hands get more involved, it gets wetter and runnier.


Cocoa mud
Mix cocoa powder with some cornflour and water to a sticky consistency. Add some animal figurines, like crocodiles, and some long grass or leaves gathered in the garden or a local park and you’ll have a muddy habitat! Hot tip! Paint smocks are useful for this activity!


Light exploration
Allow children to experiment with colour and light. Educational resource companies sell light tables for this purpose, but you could create a similar experience by cutting-out and taping pieces of cellophane to a window in a sunny area of your home. Watch the rainbow when the sun hits! Covering a torch lens with cellophane produces a similar effect and would also work in a darkened room.

Whatever sensory experience you set-up at home, be confident knowing that your child is enjoying themselves AND learning at the same time. They won’t necessarily love everything on offer. Some things they’ll walk away from after five minutes. But don’t give up! When you find the activity that stirs a passion in your child, you’ll know it and you’ll likely be speechless as you  watch how absorbed they become in their new interest! Knowledge is power… but it may even be worth your while persevering, even if it’s for the holy grail of an uninterrupted cup of tea!


Childcare development

0-12 month development

Understanding Your Baby's Developing Vision

Author: Emily Cook

As humans, vision is one of our most important senses. We rely on it heavily for almost all facets of life. So as parents, it is important to understand how our little ones’ vision develops, as well as what we can do to help.

The second a baby is born, his or her visual development begins. Between birth and the age of 3 to 5 years old, your child will go from a visual activity score of 20/400 to 20/20, with much of this progress taking place in the first few months of life.

While newborns can only see 8-12 inches in front of their face and struggle to pick up colours. However, despite their limited vision, babies as young as two weeks old can often recognise their caregivers’ faces.


Refer to the original article to learn how you can help your babies’ vision develop. 


1-2 year development

High-fibre foods for babies

Author: Natasha Uspensky

Fibre is an incredibly important part of anyone’s diet, enhancing gut microflora and keeping the digestive system healthy. Furthermore, it is understood that the first years of life are crucial for establishing a healthy colonic microflora and good eating habits, making the correct intake of dietary fibre for babies especially important.

Besides ensuring your child ingests the right amount of fibre, the American Dietetic Association recommends fibre from a variety of plant foods. Parents can choose from a variety of grains and cereals, vegetables, fruits, pulses and legumes.

However, too much fibre is also a problem and can cause constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence, bloating abdominal cramps, and nausea. 


Refer to the full article to fully understand how to manage your child’s fibre intake. 

2-3 year development

Loss Of Appetite In Toddlers: Causes And Ways To Deal With It

Author: Rohit Garoo

Temporary loss of appetite in toddlers is common and seldom a cause of concern. Toddlers tend to have erratic appetite due to their growth spurts and psychological development. The general rule is that if your toddler appears healthy and seems to be growing at a normal pace, a loss of appetite is nothing to worry about

A toddler can lose his/her appetite for many reasons, including illness, extra calorie intake from other places, a change in food preferences, bodily changes and difficulties maintaining attention.

However, a loss of appetite  can be concerning when it is associated with weight loss or other chronic illnesses. In such cases it is always advisable to visit a doctor.


Read on to learn about the complexities of toddlers losing their appetite.

3-4 year development

Dad and dentist tells us how to protect our kid's teeth

Author: Kami Hoss

Teaching children to take care of their teeth is of the utmost importance. You only get one set of permanent teeth, so if proper teeth cleaning habits are not instilled before then, any damage will be permanent or costly. 

Kami Hoss, a dentist and father shares his wisdom, explaining how to take care of children’s teeth to help avoid cavities and crooked teeth. His advice covers advice for babies, as well as tips older children would benefit from.

While thumb sucking and night feeding can damage babies’ teeth, mouth-breathing can affect the way older children’s teeth grow.


Continue reading to understand how to evaluate your children’s’ readiness for kindy.

4-5 year development

Chores for busy toddlers

Author: Kathy Barnes 

The earlier your child learns how to do housework, the easier it will be to get him to complete chores in the future. Furthermore, chores teach children that they need to contribute to communal efforts.

Unfortunately, toddlers are not suitable for many tasks because of rather obvious safety and competence issues. This means that you have got to keep it safe and simple.

To start, teach your children to tidy up after themselves with fun lessons teaching them to pack away their clothes and pick up their dirty laundry. From there, they can graduate to helping out with the pet 

Refer to the original article to understand how you can make the return to school a little easier.

Development of boys

Creating a boy-friendly learning environment

Author: Francis Wardle

Education professionals have warned of a mismatch between how most young boys develop, grow and learn, and early education. They believe that the expectations, education outcomes, activities, and discipline approaches typically used can be problematic.

They have begun to experiment with ways the classroom environment can be arranged to maximize a young boy’s development and learning. Focus is also placed on ensuring a secure, nurturing learning environment.

Continue reading to learn what diverse materials can aid a boy’s development, as well as how they can benefit from different areas of the classroom.

Development of girls

Girls and Toys

Author: Richard Gottlieb

The subject of ‘Girls and Toys’ was discussed at two conferences, in New York City and Nuremberg respectively. The aim was to aggressively question the generally accepted notions of toys and gender.

Some speakers argued that girl’s toys were too focused about nurturance and as a result failed to challenge females in the way that boy’s toys challenge males. In contrast, others argued that girls were by nature nurturing creatures and that the toy industry was simply providing them with the toys they wanted.

Refer to the original article for a greater understanding of the debates around ‘Girls and Toys’. It discusses if toys have the power to impact the choices one makes as an adult.

Craft Corner: Special Sports Fun 

Melted crayon rainbow rock balancing

This project will take some time but is flexible. You could decide to just to the rock balancing bit, or opt to simply decorate your rocks with melted crayon. Be aware that rock balancing requires patience, a steady hand, and a feeling for the centre of mass - so you may have to take over for that part.


Read on for further instructions

Turn an old T-Shirt into a no-sew mask

Face masks are new to most Australian kids. While some kids are perfectly happy covering their faces, others resist the masks, fearing a foreign item covering their face. Either way, making homemade facemasks could be a great idea. Kids who fear face masks may become more familiar with the idea of wearing one as they make it, reducing mask-anxiety.


Detailed instructions provided here

2 ways to make stickers

Simply download and print a free sticker file and you are ready to go. From there, all you have to do is colour, print and stick. Be aware that an unlimited supply of stickers may quickly become a problem if your children get carried away. 


Follow the steps to create your very own stickers.

Giraffe Toilet Paper Roll Craft

This craft takes some effort, but the result is an amusing giraffe sticking its tongue out. This craft also provides parents with an opportunity to introduce their children to one of world’s most interesting species, hopefully sparking a life-long interest in the natural world.


Refer to the original article for exact directions.