Vacancy Care's July Newsletter

July 2021


Hello and welcome to July!

Now that we are right in the heart of winter in Australia, we want to make certain you and your family are doing everything possible to make the most of it! So no matter where you live, from bush, to outback, to coast, we have created a list of fun-filled activities to make sure your family’s winter is a cracker!


Topic of the month - Gross motor versus fine motor skills

The terms gross motor and fine motor are bandied around a lot in early childhood development. Educators know they’re important in growing bodies, and we want you to trust that we’re prioritising them as much as other key developmental areas… but sometimes we forget that families might not always be clear on exactly what they are, and why they’re important. 


So let’s break down motor skills into bite-sized chunks, explaining why gross and fine motor skills are essential in the early years. We’ll also outline activities for both that you may like to set-up for your child at home, or, be surprised that you’re already doing so, but with a new appreciation of how beneficial they are!

Gross motor

Gross motor skills involve movements of the large muscles of the arms, legs, and torso. These skills are used to do everyday things that involve the large muscles. They cover an extensive range of activities in life, from fitness to bringing in the garbage bins on collection day.

People primarily use these skills automatically, but they’re complex as they involve the coordination of muscles and the neurological system. Gross motor skills impact balance and coordination, plus they’re related to body or spatial awareness, physical strength and reaction times. All very important. Gross motor skills form the basis for fine motor skills, which help us to make small movements. We’ll delve further into this later.


All of these abilities help children participate successfully in activities at daycare, home, and whilst out-and-about. Imagine what sports or playdates are like for a child with weak gross motor skills, it can have an impact on their self-esteem and social life.


Generally, children who struggle with gross motor skills have trouble doing whole-body movements like climbing or jumping jacks. Here’s a suggested list of our best gross motor activities that you may wish to work on with your child at home, but there are many! Check more out here.

Hopscotch -
Hopping and jumping require balance and coordination. Hopscotch is an easy way to practice both of these skills, plus it’s such a simple activity to set-up with chalk and some pebbles. If you don’t have access to a concrete driveway or footpath,  you can even create an indoor version using masking tape. 

Obstacle courses -
Obstacle courses get children moving and provide a goal for them to accomplish, creating nooks and crannies to crawl over, under, and through. Indoor courses can be created using furniture, pillows, and blankets. Outdoors courses are easily made with items like hula-hoops, balance beams (chunky pieces of timber work really well), bean bags, tummy crawling, jumping and running.

Martial arts -
M?rt??l ?rt? tr??n?ng is helpful for your child to develop strength in their arms and legs. Movements like kicking and punching develop core muscle groups. Martial arts can help children with spatial awareness and balance - motor skills that can be difficult for children with sensory issues.

Trampolines -
Using a trampoline is a great activity to improve balance and strength. While trampoline centres are fantastic fun for slightly older children, a smaller trampoline for supervised use at home is great for smaller children. Keep in mind safety rules like keeping the zip on the safety net closed.

Tricycles and scooters -
If children are struggling with gross motor skills they may learn to ride a bike later than their friends, but there are alternative options to get better at balancing. Some tricycles come with handles which you can push while your child pedals, and some children are a whiz on a scooter - all great gross motor practice - and a stepping stone to riding a bike. Bonus if you can find a park that offers bicycle tracks as your child improves.

Playground equipment -
Playgrounds can have many benefits for children. Actions like swinging can develop balance and coordination, by a child shifting their weight and moving their legs back and forth. “Unstable” playground equipment, like rope ladders and wobble bridges, help to work trunk muscles.

Balloons and bubbles -
Balloons and bubbles are a fun way to build gross motor skills because they’re unpredictable… you never know which direction they’ll go. Chasing bubbles, or floaty balloons across a room or garden means plenty of running, jumping, zig-zagging, and moving in ways that require frequent shifts in balance and weight.

Dancing -
Whether it’s a homemade disco or a dance class, dancing is great gross motor practice. Children can develop balance, coordination, and motor sequencing skills. It also helps build your child’s awareness of rhythm. Choosing music that includes actions, like “I’m a Little Teapot” or “The Hokey Pokey” can make gross motor activities especially fun for young children.

Building blocks -
Lay a series of blocks end-to-end to create a balance beam and have your child walk across  “the bridge”. Similar to wobble bridges found in playgrounds, your child will work their trunk muscles and practice their balance.

Picking up -
The act of bending over and picking up is a great gross motor activity that promotes balance, as a young child needs to steady themselves each time they stand upright. So whether you’re laying out a line of toy cars to be collected or you’re having your child clean up the things on the playroom floor, this simple task is beneficial.

Fine motor

Fine motor skills are what are used to make small movements. Movements which come  so naturally to most people they often aren’t even thought about. They too are complex, as just like gross motor, a coordinated effort between the brain and muscles is required. Fine motor skills are built upon established gross motor skills - bigger movements come first, then the smaller movements are honed.

Fine motor skills can include such actions as:

  • Gripping - and maneuvering - a pencil

  • Operating scissors

  • Clicking Lego blocks together/ pulling them apart

  • Dressing - using belts, buttons, zippers and snaps

  • Using cutlery 

  • Opening and closing latches or jar lids

  • Technology use - like mouse manipulation


This offers us a clearer idea of how these skills are essential in everyday tasks and are worth prioritising in childhood activities.

Modern day fine motor difficulties

It’s worth noting, that Sydney children’s occupational therapist, Penny Dalton, has revealed there’s a noticeable lack of age-appropriate fine motor skills emerging in her preschool aged clients. Presenting as children unable to hold a pencil or grip scissors correctly. When asked, the professional opinion amongst operational therapists specialising in young children, according to Penny, is an increased amount of time spent with digital technologies which tends to over-ride traditional activities like regular use of playdough. While there’s no need for panic, it’s  worth understanding the role that fine motor skills play in early childhood development to ensure you’re including activities for your own child, during their play at home.

Here are our favourites, but there are an unlimited amount of fine motor activities that are easily set-up at home, so if you need a little more inspiration, check these out too.

Pegs -
The repetitive squeezing movements required with clothes pegs (the ones with the small wire mechanism that force them to close) are great for finger strength. Have your child squeeze them open then place in a row along a piece of thicker cardboard. 

Buttons, marbles and pom poms -
Items like buttons, marbles and pom poms need small movements to grasp them, pick them up, and move them. A fantastic material to work on hand-eye coordination. Try laying them out on a tray and have your child pick them up one at a time and move them. Be sure your child is no longer at the stage where they pop small items in the mouths when using  resources like these.

Tweezers or tongs -
Fantastic hand-eye coordination is required to practice moving items from A to B. Combine a resource like pom poms with the tweezers, and you’ll occupy your child for some time, moving them from one bowl to another!


Paper clips -
Paper Clips are great for small movements and manipulation of fingers. Sliding a clip onto a piece of paper takes focus and concentration for children in preschool. 


Play dough -
Brilliant for building small muscles! Kneading, pushing and rolling dough really helps to strengthen fingers, hands and wrists. To make new experiences each time, play around with colours, scents (spices, essential oils, herbs), or add things like flowers for an enjoyable  visual experience.

Syringes -
Great at working those small muscles with control so the liquid doesn’t squirt out too fast. Have your child water your pot plants this way… but perhaps the outdoor plants, as liquid and syringes can be a messy combination!

Rubber bands -
Also working on finger strength, but in the opposite direction to pegs - pulling instead of squeezing. If you hammer some nails in a grid pattern on a piece of timber, your child can then stretch rubber bands between the nails.


Eye droppers -
Perfect for working on the pincer grip (squeezing the thumb and forefinger). Give your child a saucer of food colouring to collect in the eye dropper and add to water, milk or shaving cream.

Golf tees -
So versatile! Great for little builders to practice their hammering into sand or a mound of dough, and when placed upright small items - like marbles - can be balanced on top. Fantastic for hand-eye coordination and focus.


Stickers -
Not only will your child be thrilled with a treat of new stickers, but stickers are amazing! Have your child peel the stickers off the sticker sheet then place onto a piece of paper or card. Not only does this take steady hand control, but you can get them to decorate a few cards for friends while they’re unknowingly strengthening!


So now that you’re equipped with knowledge on motor skills, you may begin to observe your own child more closely in their play to see what they’re doing and even recognise where they may still be learning. If you notice, as an example, that your toddler is struggling to grip their paintbrush, you might want to refer back to our list of fine motor activities and choose one designed to strengthen little fingers (keeping in mind that age plays a part in all of this too. A child under approximately nine months should not be expected to have mastered the pincer grip). As always, if you have any concerns or want to know more in relation to your own child, chat to your child’s educator about it.

Childcare Development

0-12 month development

Babies recognise words at just three days old, study reveals

Author: Suzi Catchpole

A recent study set out to discover how early babies begin to recognise certain words from a continuous stream of language. It was conducted by scientists from four European universities and published in Developmental Science.

It revealed that babies have a natural ability to recognise words, even in their very first days of life.

The study familiarised babies with meaningless words during their first days of life. They were then able to prove that the babies recognised these words using near-Infrared Spectroscopy, a technique that shines a light on brain activity. 


Refer to the original article to learn more about the study. 

1-2 year development

Tips For Keeping Your Child's Teeth Healthy

Author: Mom 365

It is a parents job to instil a proper dental care routine and teach their children how to effectively care for their teeth. And with the ever-increasing price of dental care, caring for your teeth is a real no-brainer.

You should start brushing as early as possible, as soon as the first tooth emerges. And don't be afraid to visit the dentist while your child is young - the earlier the better. Otherwise, insist that your children drink water after they brush their teeth.

Refer to the original article to read all 10 tooth care tips.

2-3 year development

Tantrums - what is normal?

Author: Amy Morin, LCSW

First off, tantrums are normal. Children will exhibit uncontrolled bursts of anger and frustration, often involving screaming, stomping, kicking, or throwing themselves to the ground. These episodes usually decline over time as children learn more socially appropriate ways to deal with their emotions. 

Otherwise, children also use tantrums as an attempt to manipulate and get what they want. A child may scream in a grocery store, demanding that you buy them some candy to keep them quiet. If you resist, they may get louder or throw themselves down in front of you to ensure that you understand just how upset they are.

Refer to the full article for an in-depth look at tantrums and what behaviour is abnormal.

3-4 year development

The power of praise: are you doing it properly?

Author: Leith Sterling

It is generally understood that, as a parent, you can use praise to build a child’s self-confidence and resilience. However, parents often worry about striking a balance between praising their children too much, not praise them enough.

The good news is that as long as you are praising positive behaviour, you cannot praise too much. Children who are told that they have the skills and capabilities to manage challenging situations are more likely to put in greater effort and persist in the face of setbacks and adversity.

Furthermore, praise can also help build a child's willingness to participate in activities that they might find difficult, unexciting or intimidating.

Read on to learn exactly how you could praise your children.

4-5 year development

The best learn to read apps

Author: Amanda Prahl

Although online schooling tools have been available for decades, the industry has exploded over the last year. COVID has forced many, many millions of students around the world to learn from home.

And while earlier generations of online reading resources were workbooks and videotapes, today’s toddlers have access to fun, gamified activities they can play on a tablet. These apps really do make learning fun.

There are dozens of apps on the market now, but a few stand head and shoulders above the rest. Refer to the original article to learn about the top learn to read apps.

Craft Corner

Flying rocketship

A space art project is bound to be a hit. Blast off to the moon with our super fun and easy Flying Rocketship craft. A simple pulley system moves the cardboard rocket, creating the impression of flight into space. Although this interactive craft will be loads of fun, you may need to help your children with the pulley system.


Read on for further instructions.

Yarn Rainbow Wall Hanger

This cheerful yarn rainbow wall hanging is a wonderful craft that can be used to tastefully decorate a bedroom or playroom. However, it is suited to slightly older children who have mastered measuring, cutting and tying. All you need is a stick, a few cotton makeup pads, and some coloured yarn (around 7 colours).


Detailed instructions provided here.

Make paper snowflakes

Use one of easypasyfun’s 20 printable templates to make beautifully charming paper snowflakes. Simply fold as instructed and then cut along the lines. When you unfold the paper you will be amazed by an intricate snowflake. 

Follow these steps to create fairy wands

Slinky dog craft

This playful slinky dog craft is inspired by the Toy Story slinky dog. The printable template makes the craft relatively easy to execute, while still giving children the option to create their own doggy design. They can decorate the craft with their slinky dog with their own choice of colours and patterns.

Refer to the original article for exact directions