Hello everyone, welcome to our May newsletter! As always, we provide an overview of what is happening within our childcare community. This month we’ll be focusing on tips and suggestions for staying positive during this strange and uncertain time when many of you are isolated at home with young children.
There has been much talk within the media, about making the most of this isolation period by enjoying quality time at home with loved ones. This sounds great in theory. The reality, however, can be quite different with young children at home who aren’t coping well without playdates, park visits, and lunch at grandma & grandpa’s house. Read on to learn our best ideas for supporting families at home.
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…
Topic of the month - Positive Vibes Throughout Isolation
Author: Brooke James
During these uncertain times, many families are choosing to keep their little ones safe at home where they can keep a close eye on them. There are two sides to this that are worth some discussion:
1/ The importance of maintaining a sense of normalcy and routine in your child’s daily life, and,
2/ The intense pressure placed on families with young children during isolation.
Having a plan, or even a loose routine, can really help remove some of the stress that comes with uncertainty and long hours at home with young children. Below we outline our best tips and advice on remaining mentally robust during isolation. Let us show you how to stay positive, alleviate some of this pressure, and use the resources you have on hand (or can access fairly easily) to make the most of the situation.
Firstly, try and keep the outline of each day similar. Young children respond best to routine, so for an easier life, this is worth your effort. Pyjamas all day can get old quickly!
Jot down the basics to keep your day flowing… breakfast; get dressed; craft activity; morning tea… etcetera. You can adjust your routine as you go along, but it’s hard to execute any plan well when you’re under duress, with a screaming child demanding lunch at 9am. If you have a basic script, allowing you to continue in autopilot at these moments, it’ll take some pressure off you.
Here are some suggestions on filling an entire day with a young child, so that you both enjoy the time together.
Put together a basic craft kit for your child to occupy them during exclusion. You can let your child choose their own craft fun each day, or keep control of the kit and allocate different activities each day so the whole kit doesn’t vanish in a few short hours!
Depending on the resources you can access (from places like Kmart, Spotlight, Officeworks or one of the many online crafting stores), this could include items such as:
Basic essentials for any craft kit - craft glue, paper or card, a selection of paints & brushes, pencils, crayons, paddle pop sticks, cellophane, crepe paper, pom-poms, cotton balls, cotton bud tips.
Printables - easy print-out activity sheets available in countless places online. All you need for this activity is some accompanying coloured pencils or crayons.
Pre-literacy Letters - Your child’s initials or full name, printed, or hand-drawn on a piece of blank paper. Under supervision, offer a selection of loose parts that your child is then able to trace the letters with e.g/ pebbles, pasta, beads (age dependent).
Plasticine or air-drying clay - for easy sculpting & moulding, then just as easily pack away afterwards. If you can’t get either of these items,, or prefer the home-made version, here’s an easy playdough recipe. Worth noting that while many sites offer salt-free recipes now, the salt is great for preserving the dough, hence making it last longer.
Collage - Some cardboard & craft glue, and a selection of items off the essentials list above, can keep a child happily occupied for an extended period. You can offer some guidance to extend the activity further, eg/ “can you make a…? or, What can you create with these items?” If you’re struggling with topics, search the internet. Pinterest is an excellent place to start for craft suggestions.
Nature materials - the garden can offer the best natural resources for crafting. You are limited only to your imagination. Gumnuts can be substituted for the pebbles in the pre-lit letter tracing activity or used in collage. Leaves and twigs can be used as an alternative to paintbrushes - or themselves painted.
We may be primarily isolated at home, but we don’t need to let it overwhelm us. Exercise gets essential endorphins pumping through our bodies… let’s remind ourselves why this is so important… endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and offer many benefits, including:
- Alleviating depression (which almost one in five people will experience at some point during their lifetime… and that’s when COVID-19 hasn’t placed restrictions on us!)
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Boosting self-esteem
- Keeping weight in a healthy range
Let’s make sure you’re setting the best example possible for your child, by staying active throughout this period of isolation and encouraging them to do the same. Exercise with children doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive, there are so many options. Here are our suggestions for keeping your child physically active and mentally strong:
P.E with Joe - this English PE teacher will blow your mind with his absolute boundless energy. His Youtube lessons, created out of a need for keeping children active throughout the Coronavirus isolation period, are 20 minutes in total and include short, 30 second bursts that children are highly capable of! Visit: P.E with Joe.
Take a Stroll - stroll along the beach, lake, or local nature reserve. No matter where you live, there is guaranteed to be someplace worthy of a stroll. Pick a time of day that is generally less busy and explore with your child. If you do some quick searches or ask on a local forum, you may even discover some amazing places you didn’t even realise were on your doorstep! (What waterfall?)
Zumba for Children - zumba is fun-filled, dance moves that really make an exercise session fun! Get your child bouncing, side-stepping and laughing! Visit: Zumba for Children.
Walk the Dog - if there’s anyone benefiting from this period of isolation it’s the local pooches! Spot never had such a good life! If you don’t already walk him daily, now is the perfect time for you and your family to set that routine in place for the long-term!
The Rainbow Trail Australia - see how many rainbows you can spot in the windows of houses, on front fences, drawn on sidewalks, or painted on wheely bins! A beautiful symbol of hope that started within the Early Childhood sector, when services began displaying rainbows to motivate and inspire. Having now branched out to suburbia, The Rainbow Trail Australia Facebook Page has incredible inspiration radiating from it daily! Join in, share a rainbow with your neighbours! Visit: The Rainbow Trail Australia.
Teddy Bear Walk - another beautiful initiative that has popped up across the country is the concept of families leaving a favourite teddy in their window for children to spot while on a neighbourhood walk. You might be surprised at how many families are taking part if your eyes are actively looking... and you could always suggest the idea to your local friends or neighbours to make your walk even more worthwhile!
Cosmic Kids Yoga - this is where you’ll find characters like Princess Poppy from Trolls doing yoga! A light-hearted way to introduce your child to yoga. Visit: Cosmic Kids Yoga.
There are activities that can be set in place for your child each day to create a sense of familiarity and routine. Daily challenges are a great way to achieve this, as they can be set individually or as a team (eg/ with siblings, or, a parent and child working together). Depending on the time you have available and your child’s capabilities in a particular area, you can set up a challenge that requires very little interaction - like a drawing challenge with a different subject each day (e.g/ Day 1 - draw a silver cat; Day 2 - draw a green frog).
If you’ve got the time and enthusiasm, you might really enjoy getting in and doing these challenges with your child. Some of the challenges, like cooking, require more organisation and planning, plus they’ll need the help of a family member, so may not be suitable for all families. Other challenges you can almost set-and-forget… which can be essential for a parent with a looming work deadline.
Write up the following day’s challenge the night before, and stick it to the fridge. That way, your child is surprised with it each day. It’s really touching to see how excited they can get! Here are some daily challenge suggestions:
Lego - take the 30-day lego challenge! If your child is fascinated with lego, set them a task from this each day. The tasks can be simplified for younger children, for example, instead of building Dr Who’s The Tardis on Day #12, you could instead suggest they ‘build a time machine’. You can also substitute lego for other building and construction resources, like magnetic tiles or wooden blocks. Visit: Lego challenge.
Baking or Cooking Activities - this challenge can be as simple or complicated as you make it. To keep it simple, you could create fruit-faces out of fruit salad; jelly cups with blueberries & grapes; or fill celery pieces with cream cheese and sultanas (peanut butter if you’ve no allergies at home). If, however, you’re a lover of all things culinary and wish to challenge yourself and your child to make hot cross buns or cheese & vegemite scrolls, do it!
Drawing - you can choose to make this an easier challenge (‘draw a blue car’), or, make it more interesting by placing categories into a hat for your child to pull out themselves. For example, category suggestions might be: ‘Disney Characters’ and ‘actions’, therefore the challenge might be to draw Aladdin riding a bike!
Art and Craft - if your child loves getting creative with art and craft, work to your strengths. You could set-up finger painting one day, followed by cutting out magazine images and glueing them onto cardboard the next. You don’t need to be offering landscape painting (unless you’re a landscape artist, and this is your strength!). Art should be enjoyable! If you are up for an extra challenge, there are plenty of online tutorials available! Visit: art tutorials.
Reading - challenge your family to read a set of books together - one each day. Some companies offer a selection of free online books, so you don’t necessarily need a tangible copy of the books to achieve this. Others, like Fishpond, Amazon and Kmart sell books online.
Suggestions to get you started:
- The Hairy Maclary series by Dame Lynley Dodd;
- Julia Donaldson’s stories (Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale);
- The Pig the Pug series by Aaron Blabey;
- Maisy books by Lucy Cousins;
- Mem Fox stories (Possum Magic, Koala Lou, Where is the Green Sheep?).
Some older classics you might enjoy include:
- Dr Suess stories (Green eggs and ham, The Lorax, The Cat in the Hat);
- Enid Bylton’s magical tales (The Noddy and Big Ears series; The Magic Wishing Chair; The Magical Faraway Tree)
And some longer chapter books which you can read little-by-little, over time, are:
- Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie by May Gibbs
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- The Muddle-Headed Wombat by Ruth Park
Sensory Play - if you have a child that thrives on sensory play and you don’t mind a little mess, this could easily take the award for the most fun-filled daily challenge! You really are limited only to your imagination, as sensory play is limitless! There’s slime, dough rainbow rice, shaving cream, pasta (wet squiggly spaghetti or squishy macaroni). Water can be experienced warm, cold, bubbly, or frozen and used as icebergs with sea animals frozen within. Search online for a wealth of sensory ideas! Visit Pinterest to get you started!
An amazing, free, initiative of residents in any given neighbourhood and often set-up in unassuming places (like outside a house on a suburban street, or attached to the wall of an apartment block). There’s just one simple rule…. take a book, leave a book! Purely for-the-love-of-reading! Street libraries are especially treasured now while public libraries have been closed for the time being.
Check out the street library website to see if there are any listed in your local area - or ask on a local forum if anyone knows where the closest street libraries are. A magical experience for a child to bring their book along to swap! (*worth noting that Coronavirus is believed to stay active on paper for less than 24 hours after contact. Bring some hand sanitiser along to be safe).
If there’s no street library nearby, improvise. Find a nook at home and set-up a cosy reading corner. Invite your child to add some cushions or throws. This will offer a calming corner where you can encourage your child to spend a little quiet time throughout the day, or you can sit and snuggle together with them.
Children can occupy themselves for endless hours with their imaginations. Sometimes they need a little encouragement, which can easily be achieved with simple items found around your home:
Cardboard boxes - such a versatile item. They can be racing cars, boats, cubby, bed for dolls. They can be painted, glued, drawn upon.
Blankets, sheets & pillows - remember the joy of building a fort as a child? How magical it could be? Add some dining chairs, or drape blankets across a table-top and you’ll have an instant play space. Dress-ups/Costumes - a box of old clothing, hats, scarves, bags, purses and bangles to any adult may seem like a collection ready for the charity shops, but to children, they are treasured items which can allow them become anyone of their choosing.
Home corner - a tried and tested pretend-play favourite. Children often imitate real life within their play. Therefore playing families with a selection of dolls, sweeping the house with a broom, or cooking dinner in a toy kitchen (or makeshift toy kitchen - hello cardboard boxes!) with some pots and pans is only natural. They don’t need purchased toy items, whatever they see you using around the house, will likely be what they’d prefer to play with anyway.
Shops - a selection of canned vegetables from the cupboard, empty grocery boxes, or rinsed-out milk bottles from the recycling, in the eyes of a child is an opportunity for play. They’ll turn an empty box into a cash register, use slips of paper for money, and this much-loved game will occupy a child for many hours.
Dressing-Up - One person’s trash is another’s treasure… and just how true is this concept when it comes to dressing-up? Spot on. Along with the store-bought options, put together a collection of your previously loved hats, bags, clothes, jewellry, belts and you’ll find your child might just be mesmerised. Putting on a costume can take children to a fantasy world within their own imagination that enriches their play and occupies their time in all the best ways possible.
If your child needs encouragement for this type of play you could invite them to add some favourite toys, books or musical instruments to their game. Suggest they may like to become a spy, a superhero, a villain, a mummy or daddy, a pet, a shopkeeper, a hairdresser…. There are endless choices, and hours of play to be enjoyed.
On a more serious note, children are highly observant and they hear and see more than you realise. It’s likely they’ll have overheard discussions surrounding COVID-19. Educators have reported that children are increasingly using COVID-19 in their imaginative play. This is not cause for alarm! Play is a natural way for children to express their thoughts and feelings. It’s how they learn. In saying this, we still need to be mindful of conversation topics that might be better had in private, but children acting out what they see and experience in daily life - for example, masks worn in supermarkets - is not something families should be too concerned about.
Set-up a series of treasure hunts. Whether indoors or out, offer your child a basket for storing their finds and you set the theme. Ideas include:
Everyday items - ask children to find a selection of everyday items from around the house.
- A piece of green clothing
- Something sparkly
- Something with a mouth
- An object bigger than their foot
Kitchen items - ask children to find items from within the kitchen.
- A soup ladle
- A mixing bowl
- A whisk
- Measuring cups
Nature items - ask children to find items from amongst the garden or your local walk.
- A yellow flower
- A gumnut
- A piece of bark
- Spot something living (*maybe just for observing!)
Fruit & Vege - an option for younger children...
- A tomato
- A lime
- A capsicum
- A banana
One small word on screen time, because right now, it may be the one saving grace in the long day of a family with children bouncing off the walls!! Limiting exposure to media is not only beneficial for children, but it’s great for adults too. Used in moderation, and combined with a variety of other activities, it can be a saviour for any parent. For the best mental health (and to avoid meeting the angry zombie who resembles your child!), be sure you’re balancing a small amount of Disney Plus (or Netflix if it’s your own fix!) with lots of fresh air, exercise, healthy eating, and other activities. Now is the time to dig out the puzzles and board games that have been collecting dust under the spare bed!
Emotions are highly charged
This is an emotional time for everyone. While some families may be coping well, others are really struggling. Not everyone was built to thrive in isolation, and families with young children at home are particularly vulnerable. Children don’t always understand why limitations are placed on them. Why they can’t go to the park, why they can’t see grandma or their friends. It can be really difficult to console a child who cannot comprehend these adult concepts. Many families are in a heightened state due to pressure to produce work from home, whilst juggling the needs of a family or home-schooling older siblings. Some families have financial pressures from a lack of paid work, and let’s not forget those incredible essential workers on the frontline that have little choice but to keep working for the benefit of society (Thankyou. Thankyou. Thankyou).
Offer extra cuddles or a listening ear to those closest to you. Talk about emotions openly, let your child know you are there. Understand that the irregular behaviour or the wild tantrums you may be seeing more of lately are likely a symptom of the situation. Be gentle. Be kind... Especially to yourself, as you cannot continue drawing from an empty well. Replenish. Whether that’s with a quieter hour each day, a bath in the evening, some chocolate or a glass of wine. Whatever works for you, prioritise it, and don’t let anyone make you think it’s not essential!
At some point, the world will come out the other side of this, and it will be business once more. Take each day at a time and try and make the most of this unprecedented time while you can. Keep in close contact with your family and friends. During times like these, we all need human contact - especially children who may not cope with the sudden change to their routine. So whether it be via phone, Zoom, House Party, Skype, Facetime, letters, or email, make it happen! Be creative. Think outside the box, and, love it or hate it, this time in isolation will be a distant memory before you know it.
Below are some links to support children and families:
Why do babies point? Researchers may have the answer
Author: Suzi Catchpole
Through gestures and body language, parents can communicate with their children long before their little ones can speak themselves. Cradling, rocking and humming to children can help them calm down, while a funny face can cause excitement and laughter.
Babies usually begin pointing between the ages of 9 and 14 months. This is part of an initial stage of the language learning process. Through pointing, children experiment with ways to express their needs and desires.
But why do so many babies begin to communicate through pointing? Scientists now believe that the emergence of pointing in babies comes from their desire to understand the world around them through touch.
Babies from bilingual homes switch attention faster
New research suggests that babies born into bilingual families develop the ability to change the focus of their attention more quickly and more frequently than those who grow up in homes where only one language is spoken.
The study tested babies between 7 and 9 months old. It systematically tested the potential benefits gained from being able to speak a second language. These tests used eye-tracking technology to record the gaze of 102 infants carrying out a variety of tasks, such as viewing two photographs.
When shown two photographs side by side, infants from bilingual homes shifted attention from one picture to another more frequently than infants from monolingual homes, suggesting these babies were exploring more of their environment.
Teaching children to brush their teeth twice a day is incredibly important. Failing to do so can result in serious health complications and a hefty dentistry bill. Furthermore, this daily task provides parents with an opportunity to demonstrate concepts such as responsibility, discipline and routine.
Unfortunately, convincing children that brushing their teeth can prove rather difficult. And that is exactly why we have decided to share these helpful tips with you. From podcasts and TV shows that mention the importance of toothbrushing, to fancy toothbrushes and songs, you have many tools at your disposal.
Read on for further details on these tooth brushing tips.
3-4 year development
Forcing preschoolers to write when they are too young is pointless
Author: Rachel Garlinghouse
Many parents gently nudge their children in the right direction, encouraging them to learn, develop, and test themselves as early as possible. We want the best for our children, but can also end up putting unnecessary pressure on them.
Most children under 5 years old have not developed the physical abilities to write properly, using the texbook three finger pencil holding technique. We suggest that you wait until your child’s hand develops before beginning writing practice.
In the meantime, you can practice creating letters with Play Doh or encourage your child to engage in physical activities, such as climbing monkey bars. Such physical activities strengthen the muscles needed to write.
Continue reading for an in-depth understanding of when to start practising writing with your children.
4-5 year development
Early bedtime may help children maintain healthy weight
Author: Yaqoot Fatima
A new study has found that going to bed early and following a consistent bedtime routine may help reduce a child’s risk of becoming overweight or obese.
The study looked at 1 258 Indigenous Australian children with an average age of 6 years. First off, it showed that children who regularly went to bed late were more likely to gain weight and become obese.
The study also illustrated the benefits of a consistent bedtime. This means that simply ensuring that a childs gets enough sleep each night may not be enough. Parents should also adhere to a strict bedtime schedule for the best results.
‘I struggle to connect with my rough-and-tumble boys’
Author: Meghan Leahy
Understandably, some parents express difficulty connecting with their young boys once they enter their rough-and-tumble stage. This is an especially common issue in households where the other parent enjoys this type of play.
The result is one parent feeling left out and excluded. This feeling is exacerbated if the parent who feels excluded is generally responsible for monitoring the kids’ chores. In such instances, the excluded parent also feels like the ‘bad guy’.
Fortunately, there are ways to connect with your young boys even if you do not relate to their rough-and-tumble phase. This involves putting in a concerted effort to involve yourself in your childrens’ interests, introducing your children to your passions, and spending alone time with each of your children.
Turning preschool into a pipeline for female engineers
Author: Marilyn Fleer
In 2016, Engineers Australia conducted a statistical review of the engineering profession, showing that just 12.4% of the Australian engineering labour force was female. Similar stats have been recorded across the globe
In Sweden, scientists have illustrated how they believe the issue starts at preschool. They describe how, even in Sweden’s famous early-childhood system, girls are rarely seen in the block area.
Ultimately, Marilyn Fleer, the author of this article discusses how we should change Australian preschool play areas to help foster a female interest in engineering. She calls for further research into how we can empower our young girls to become the next generation of engineers.
Use nothing but paper, fairy lights and simple stationary supplies to create cute and colourful lanterns. These flameless lights are the perfect addition to your little ones’ bedroom. They will function well as a nightlight too, keeping any monsters at bay.
Create COVID-Bucks that are used to buy free time, score an extra treat, get out of chores or extend bedtime by a few minutes. You will have a good time making your very own dollar bills, however the real fun is still to come.
Encourage a love for animals and outdoor exploration with this simple craft that uses nothing but simple household goods. Attach two toilet rolls together to create the shape of binoculars. From there all you need to do is decorate.
This simple print-out craft requires nothing but cutting and colouring, making it suitable for toddlers too. Our kids absolutely loved wearing their creations, refusing to remove their new bracelets until they broke. We suggest making a few replacements to avoid tears when the original item breaks.