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An Explorers Guide: Babyproofing 

Have you got a bundle of joy on the way? If so, read on for our comprehensive checklist so you can babyproof every nook and cranny! 👶

Whether you’re nesting in a house, apartment, or flat, one thing remains constant – babyproofing is non-negotiable. As you eagerly anticipate the arrival of your new bundle of joy, it’s crucial to ensure that every nook and cranny of your home is safe and secure.  

But with all the cabinets, doors, and toys scattered around, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. In this comprehensive post, we’ve got you covered with a detailed room-by-room guide on how to safeguard your home.

What is Babyproofing? 

Babyproofing – or childproofing – is the process of making your home as safe as possible for newborns infants and young children. Once babies start crawling at around 7 to 12 month mark, their curious little fingers will fumble for cabinets, bottles, and practically anything you have lying around the house. 

Therefore, it’s vital to take proactive measures to minimise potential hazards and create a secure environment. Babyproofing encompasses various strategies and products designed to prevent accidents and injuries, allowing both you and your baby to feel safe and comfortable at home.

How do I Babyproof my Kitchen? 

The kitchen, with its bustling activity, enticing aromas, and abundant noise, often becomes a magnet for infants. However, it also harbours numerous potential hazards. Here are a few ways to safeguard your kitchen: 

  • Cabinet Locks and Latches: Install magnetic locks or latches on cabinets and drawers containing cleaning supplies, sharp objects, or potentially harmful items.  
  • Stove Guards and Knobs: Consider installing a stove guard or stove knobs to prevent your child from reaching hot surfaces or pulling down pots and pans.  
  • Appliance Safety: Secure appliances such as fridges, ovens, and dishwashers to prevent tipping. Additionally, keep cords out of reach! 
  • Keep Toxins High Up: While safety locks and magnetic seals are a great way to keep hazards safe, the best protection is to keep them out of reach. Consider storing all toxins (cleaning products etc) in shelves above the stove, fridge, or anywhere babies and toddlers can’t reach.  
  • Consider a Baby/Toddler Accessible Drawer: Fill with safe-to-play-with items such as plastic containers and wooden or plastic utensils.  
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How do I Babyproof my Living Room? 

The living room is where your baby is most likely to spend the days rolling, crawling and climbing. Therefore, its essential to ensure this area for play and exploration is also one of safety. Safeguard your living room by incorporating: 

  • Edge and Corner Guards: Cover sharp edges of furniture with cushioned edge guards to protect against bumps and bruises. 
  • Secure Furniture: Anchor heavy furniture such as bookshelves, TV stands, and coffee tables to the wall to prevent tipping.  
  • Cord Management: Keep cords for the tv, electronics, and lamps out of reach or use cord organisers to bundle and secure them safely. Electrical outlet covers are a must!  
  • Gates and Barriers: Install safety gates to block off stairs or restrict access to certain areas of the room. 

How do I Babyproof my Bathroom and Laundry? 

The bathroom and laundry can be a hazardous area due to slippery surfaces and potential access to harmful substances. Here’s how to make it safer: 

  • Lock Away Toxins: Store medications, cleaning products, and toiletries out of reach in locked cabinets or drawers. 
  • Non-Slip Mats: Place non-slip mats in the bathtub and on the floor to prevent slips and falls. 
  • Water Temperature Control: Set the water heater temperature to between 37°C and 38°C or lower to avoid scalding in the bath. Remember – babies and young children should never be left unattended around water.  
  • Secure Toilet Lid Locks: Install toilet lid locks to prevent drowning hazards and keep curious hands out of the toilet bowl. 

How do I Babyproof my Backyard and Garage? 

Babyproofing your backyard and garage is essential to create a safe environment for your little one to explore without the worry. Just be sure to supervise your baby outdoors at all times:  

  • Secure gates and fences: Ensure that gates are properly latched, and fences are in good repair to prevent your child from wandering into unsafe areas or leaving the backyard unattended. Fences are especially important if you have a pool and in Australia it’s a legal requirement for pools to be fenced!  
  • Remove small objects, sharp tools, and hazardous chemicals: Thoroughly inspect the backyard and garage, removing any items that could pose a choking hazard, cause injury, or be harmful if ingested.  
  • Install safety locks on garage cabinets: Use childproof locks or latches on cabinets containing tools, cleaning supplies, or other potentially dangerous items.  
  • Ensure outdoor play equipment is age-appropriate: Check that swings, slides, and other play structures are suitable for your child’s age and developmental stage. Ensure they are securely anchored and free from sharp edges or loose parts that could cause injury. 
  • Inspect the flora and fauna: Regularly walk through your backyard and garage to identify potentially toxic plants, mushrooms, or insect hives (such as ants or wasps).  
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Double-Check the Nursery 

Even though the nursery is designed with your baby’s safety in mind, it’s essential to double-check for any potential hazards: 

  • Cot Safety: Ensure crib slats are spaced no more than 6cm apart to prevent entrapment. Remove any soft or loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed animals from the cot or bassinet to reduce the risk of suffocation. 
  • Secure Furniture: Anchor dressers, changing tables, and other furniture to the wall to prevent tipping. 
  • Window Safety: Install window guards or window stops to prevent falls. Keep cords from blinds or curtains out of reach or secured to the wall. 
  • Electrical Outlet Covers: Use outlet covers to prevent electrical shocks or injuries from curious fingers. 

By following these room-by-room babyproofing tips, you can create a safe and secure environment for your baby to explore and grow. Remember, every child is unique, so regularly reassess your home for new hazards as your baby develops and becomes more mobile. With a bit of preparation and foresight, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your home is a safe haven for your new bundle of joy. 

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website at Explorers Early Learning today! 

Explorers Kitchen – Hearty Beef and Vegetable Bolognese

Quick, healthy, tasty. Looking for an easy family dinner? Check out our classic beef bolognese and veggie pasta recipe below 🍝 👇

Is it your turn to cook family dinner? When in doubt, reach for a trusty classic – bolognese! Elevate your dinner with our hearty beef and vegetable pasta, a dish which binds savoury beef, colourful veggies, and aromatic herbs.

And this family-friendly recipe isn’t just tasty, but it also packs plenty of protein for growing bodies and minds.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg beef mince
  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 400g-500g dry pasta of your choice
  • 4 cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 red capsicums, diced
  • 2 brown onions, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 celery, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dried Basil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced Garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried Indigenous bush tomato
  • Parmesan cheese (for serving)
  • Vegetable oil

Method

  1. Boil the Pasta: Begin by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and cooking the pasta until Al Dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Sauté Garlic: In another pot over medium heat, add vegetable oil and minced garlic. Sauté until the garlic turns a golden brown.
  3. Cook the Mince: Add the beef mince to the pot, cooking until brown. Then, introduce the diced brown onions, carrot, celery, and red capsicums. Continue cooking until the vegetables tender and brown.
  4. Add the Herbs: Sprinkle in the dried basil, dried oregano, and the a touch of dried Indigenous bush tomato. This herbaceous trio enhances the flavours, creating a robust and aromatic sauce.
  5. Make the Sauce: Pour in the vegetable stock, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil and then let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced.
  6. Serve: Dish out the hearty beef and vegetable pasta onto plates, serving it alongside the cooked pasta. For an authentic touch, offer parmesan cheese on the side.
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Fun Fact

Did you know that despite spaghetti and bolognese being a popular combination around the world, the traditional bolognese dish is served with tagliatelle, a flatter egg-based pasta similar to fettuccine?

Spaghetti’s integration into the dish can be traced back to American soldiers in World War II who, after tasting pasta in Bologna, incorporated it into their recipes upon returning home.

Furthermore, authentic bolognese always includes two types of meat: beef and pork. The earliest bolognese recipes describe a ragu served with pasta, highlighting the historical significance of this flavourful meat sauce.

Our beef and vegetable pasta is more than just a meal – it’s a celebration of flavours and culture. Perfect for family dinners or a cozy night in, this dish promises to satisfy both the young and the young-at-heart.

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website at Explorers Early Learning today!

Free Kinder and Kinder Funding: What’s the Difference? 

What exactly is Free Kinder? And what’s Kinder funding? In this post, we spilt the difference between these often confused early childhood initiatives 👇

Early childhood education is the first step in ensuring academic (and lifelong) success for your child. Therefore, Kindergarten should be at the front of mind if your child is three or four-years-old. 

However, there’s some confusion in Victoria around the different kinds of Government subsidised Kinder programs. Particularly, between ‘Free Kinder’ and ‘Kinder funding’. 

In this post, we’ll outline the differences between the often conflated Free Kinder and Kinder funding, which are actually quite different from one another!

What is Kinder? 

Kindergarten is the two years of early learning before your child begins primary school. This is also known as three and four-year-old Kinder. 

Kinder programs are play-based and run by qualified Kinder teachers who hold a graduate diploma, bachelors degree, or masters degree. While these programs incorporate play-based learning, they emphasise essentials such as literacy, numeracy, social skills and emotional development. In Victoria, these programs are guided by the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLF).

Kinder can be integrated into a long day care program at an early learning centre, or run as sessional programs at a church, community centre, or standalone Kinder service (this could include three-to-five hour blocks over a few days a week).

For a full breakdown of the difference between long day care and sessional Kinder, check out our blog post here

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What is Kinder Funding? 

Firstly, Kinder funding is not the same as Free Kinder. Rather, Kinder funding takes the form of subsidies provided directly from the Government to the childcare service you’ve nominated.

Therefore, when you enrol your child into Kinder, you are required to ‘claim funding’ with only one Kinder service. The Government will then allocate funds directly to that service. 

These funds are used to directly benefit and enhance the service’s Kinder program. This can be done in several ways, such as:  

  • Employing staff members to directly deliver the funded Kindergarten program 
  • Kindergarten staff professional development 
  • Resources and equipment used for the funded Kindergarten program 
  • Excursions and incursions related to the funded Kindergarten program 
  • Extra support for educationally disadvantaged children  
  • Parental engagement 
  • Transition in and out of Kindergarten 
  • Specialist programs (e.g. music, science, languages) 
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What is Free Kinder? 

There’s a lot of confusion around what exactly is meant by ‘free’ Kinder.

In simple terms, ‘Free Kinder’ supports families to access a funded Kindergarten program by providing a discount of up to $2,500 per year to offset the out-of-pocket cost of your fees. So, if your child attends less than $2,500 worth of Kinder in a calendar year, it is technically free Kinder. 

Free Kinder at Explorers 

If your child attends a long day care centre, such as Explorers, Kinder is integrated into the long day care program (if your child is three or four-years-old). You will receive the Free Kinder discount in the form of Free Kinder Credits. 

These Credits act as a discount on your childcare fees, alongside any Child Care Subsidy (CCS) entitlements. Ultimately, this will reduce your out-of-pocket Kinder expenses.  

These Credits, as with all Free Kinder subsidies, rely on the hours your child spends in the Kinder program. In 2024, the State Government will be boosting the Kinder funding figures:

  • Four-year-old Kinder children must be enrolled for at least two days per week and the funding covers 15 hours, totalling up to a maximum $2,050 for the year.    
  • Three-year-old Kinder children can access 7.5 hours (maximum $1,025) or 15 hours (maximum $2,050) depending on days of attendance and Kinder teacher placement.  
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In conclusion, Free Kinder and Kinder funding are two incredible Government subsidised programs which are designed to enhance the quality and accessibility of Kinder. Over the next decade, the scale of Free Kinder and Kinder funding is planned to vastly expand.

By 2032, the State Government has proposed for regional areas to be better represented, accessibility for all families to be increased, and the hourly caps and Free Kinder discounts to be raised. So be sure to keep an eye out for future Kinder updates, as this period sets the foundation for children’s academic, developmental, and lifelong success!

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today! 

25 STEAM-Themed World Space Week Books for Toddlers

Paper mâché planets and homemade star maps can only mean one thing – it’s Space Week! To celebrate this astronomical event, we’ve compiled our list of must-read STEAM books to get your toddler thinking big 🚀

World Space Week is the largest space event in the world with more than 11,221 events in 87 nations. Celebrated annually between October 4 – 10, Space Week is the perfect opportunity to ignite your child’s curiosity.

While experiments and trips to the museum are fun ways to get into the Space Week spirit, the first step is to get your toddler thinking big. And what better way than to dive into the wide world of books?

In this post, we’ve listed our top Space Week books which are fun and educational. Whether your child is a budding inventor or the next H.G. Wells, there’s something on this STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths) list for everyone!

Science

Children love science. From dazzling chemical reactions to mind-boggling facts about the Milky Way, it’s no wonder that children get lost for hours in these captivating reads. Additionally, a keen interest in science boosts children’s curiosity and imagination, so it’s always worth encouraging.

Whether it’s exploring the solar system, physics, or ecosystems, there’s so many science books to choose from:

  • 8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie, illustrated by Lizzy Doyle
  • The Solar System: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Steven Wood
  • Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists: Ecosystems with Rachel Carson by Maureen McQuerry, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal
  • ABCs of Physics by Chris Ferrie
  • Priddy Explorers: Space by Roger Priddy  
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Technology

In today’s digital age, technology is everywhere. It shapes the way we live and interact with the world. Therefore, introducing your toddler to technology at an early age can set the foundation for success in school and the workplace.

From exploring the inner workings of robots to understanding coding; technology books open a world of possibilities for toddlers:

  • Robots, Robots, Everywhere! by Sue Fliess and Bob Staake
  • What Do Machines Do All Day? by Jo Nelson, illustrated by Aleksander Savic
  • Peekaboo Car by Ingela P Arrhenius and Camilla Reid
  • Help! My Robots are Lost in the City! by Webber Books
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Robot Beep by Jeffery Burton, illustrated by Zoe Waring

Engineering

Engineering is all about creativity and problem-solving. It’s the art of designing, building, and making things work. Therefore, introducing engineering concepts to toddlers fosters creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking skills.

Whether it’s building with blocks or learning about simple machines, engineering books spark ingenuity and inspires little builders and inventors:

  • Baby Loves Structural Engineering! by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan
  • Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie
  • Things that Go by Becky Davies, illustrated by Mei Stoyva
  • ABCs of Engineering by Chris Ferrie
  • Baby Loves Coding! by Ruth Spiro
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Arts

The world of arts is a boundless realm of imagination and self-expression. Encouraging your toddler to explore their artistic side is a journey of discovery. Additionally, arts encompass a wide range of activities from painting and drawing to music and dance.

These books explore space in their own unique ways with differing art styles, storytelling techniques, and points-of-view. Therefore, your child will gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty of artistic expression and how books – just one artform – can tell a deeper story:

  • Life on Mars by Jon Agee
  • Curious George and the Rocket by Margret Rey, illustrated by H. A. Rey
  • Meanwhile Back on Earth by Oliver Jeffers
  • Pop-up Peekaboo! Space by DK
  • Bizzy Bear: Space Rocket by Benji Davies

Maths

Maths is the language of the universe, and it’s never too early to introduce your toddler to its wonders. Likewise, maths isn’t just about numbers. It’s about patterns, shapes, and problem-solving.

Importantly, these maths books make understanding the foundations of academic success fun! Before long, you might even find your child looking forward to solving equations and counting all on their own:

  • Peck Peck Peck by Lucy Cousins
  • ABCs of Mathematics by Chris Ferrie
  • How Many Legs? by Kes Grey, illustrated by Jim Field
  • Space Baby: Blast Off! by Pat-a-Cake, illustrated by Kat Uno
  • One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre and Randy Cecil
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Overall, exploring these spacey, STEAM-themed books is a fantastic way to nurture your toddler’s curiosity and a life-long love for learning. Science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths are all integral parts of the rich tapestry of knowledge which shape your child’s understanding of the world. As you embark on this literary adventure, remember to encourage questions and engage in discussion with your child.

So why not dive into these captivating books together and watch your child’s imagination light the darkest corners of the great unknown?

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

Returning to Work After Parental Leave: What to Expect

Are you dreading that first day back in the office? If so, read on for our full breakdown of how different kinds of leave, medical resources, and simple tips can help you navigate your return to work!

When you’re cosied up on the couch with your new bundle of joy, returning to work is probably the last thing on your mind. Likewise, the period following childbirth or adoption is a mix of emotions, milestones, and precious memories you’ll carry for life.

However, if you’ve made the decision to return to work, the first day will come around before you know it! While you might think you’ll settle back into the rhythm right away, parents often struggle to ease back into the work-life balance.

To make sure you’re ready for that first day back on the job, we’ve broken down parental leave, your entitlements, and some handy tips to keep in mind!

What is Parental Leave?

Unpaid Parental Leave

In Australia, all employees are eligible for unpaid parental leave if they have completed at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer.

This entitlement applies to an employee that gives birth, an employee whose de-facto partner gives birth, or an employee who adopts a child aged under 16.

Eligible employees are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave, with the option to request an extension for a further 12 months.

For information on other types of leave (such as pre-adoption leave), click here.

Australian Government Paid Parental Leave

As of July 1 2023, the Australian Government Paid Parental Leave scheme provides the following additional support to eligible employees:

  • A combined 20 weeks government-funded paid leave that is paid at the national minimum wage and shared between you and your de-facto partner.  In summary, government funded paid parental leave:
    i) can only be claimed at a workplace where you or your partner have worked for at least 12 months.
    ii) must be shared, i.e., one partner can’t use more than 90% (18) of the 20 weeks (unless a single parent).
    iii) must be used within 12 months of birth by the primary caregiver, while the secondary caregiver can use the leave within 24 months.
    iv) doesn’t have to be taken all at once. For example, you could take one day off a week over several months.
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Employer Funded Paid Parental Leave

Some employers offer additional paid parental leave to new parents. The amount of leave and pay entitlements are at the discretion of each employer and will be detailed in enterprise agreements or contracts of employment.

Moreover, employer funded parental leave doesn’t affect an employer’s eligibility for the government funded paid parental leave scheme.

Your Rights When Returning to Work

An employee returning from unpaid parental leave is entitled to:

  • Return to their old role or one of equal pay and responsibilities upon their return.
  • Request flexible working arrangements such as working reduced hours or adjusting start and finish times.
  • Support if they’re breastfeeding. For example, your workplace must make reasonable efforts for those expressing breastmilk at work. These include providing a clean and private area (not a toilet), access to a fridge to store the milk, an area to store your manual or electric pump (if you use one), a hand washing station, and regular breaks.

For more information, click here.

Return to Work Tips

To help you mentally prepare for the coming transition, we’ve listed some everyday steps you can take to reduce the dread of that fast-approaching first day back!

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1. Keep an Open Mind

If you were working full-time before going on parental leave, don’t assume you’ll slide right back into your old routine like nothing happened. If you feel you need an extra year to care for your child, you can request this with your employer. Likewise, if you have family support or childcare organised and you want to jump back into your career earlier, that’s also okay!

Every child is unique, and their development and dependency differ greatly. Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns with a healthcare professional, and work with them to develop your return-to-work pathway. This may involve returning on a part-time or casual basis or taking on less responsibilities.

2. Organise Childcare in Advance

If you’re enrolling your child into childcare, don’t leave it until the last minute. Most early learning providers have waitlists, as well as orientation and induction processes. Also, you’ll want to give yourself as much time as possible to acclimatise your child into care and find the best fit.

If you’re looking for Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood education to give your child the best start, why not take a tour of one of our Explorers Centres? Explorers offers premium quality early childhood education and care from six weeks to school age!

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3. Stay in the Loop!

It’s tempting to shelve any thought of work during parental leave. After all, it’s time off right? However, it’s important to keep tabs on your workplace and stay in touch with colleagues and old work friends, particularly as you near your return date. This doesn’t have to be formal – something as simple as a catchup over coffee goes a long way!

This will help you avoid the culture shock of returning to work and seeing all the new faces or a new direction of the business. Moreover, it will give you valuable information and insights to inform your decision of when, and in what capacity, you’ll return to work.

Additionally, you can request to work up to 10 days while on parental leave through keeping in touch days. These could be for a conference, training days, or just to keep involved in the business. They don’t have to be taken all at once and can be for part of a day. The payment for these days is your normal wage and you accumulate your usual leave entitlements too!

4. Consider Working from Home

A common contributor to the returning to work nerves are feelings of guilt and anxiety when leaving your child on their own for the first time.

While this is a completely normal and natural reaction, it can be eased by working from home if this an option with your employer. Flexible work arrangements remove commute time, allow you to tend to appointments and checkups, so long as you have in-home care of a family support network.

5. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Don’t forget to prioritise self-care during the transition back to work. The demands of parenthood and work can be overwhelming, so it’s essential to carve out time for yourself.

Whether it’s taking short breaks, practicing mindfulness, leaning on family and friends, or engaging in physical activities, self-care will help you maintain your well-being and perform better both at home and in the workplace.

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6. Sit Down with Your Boss

Open and honest communication with your employer is vital before, during, and after parental leave. Discuss your expectations, responsibilities, and any potential adjustments to your workload.

Many employers are willing to accommodate new parents, offering flexible hours or remote work options. Importantly, it’s a chance to be express any points of worry or anxiety so they can be ironed out before your return to work. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with your boss, try your human resources department or union representative.

Be sure to understand your rights and entitlements under the Paid Parental Leave Act (2010) or any other applicable laws.

7. Reach Out if You’re Struggling

Building a strong support network is essential for working parents. Reach out to family, friends, colleagues, medical professionals, and other parents who can offer advice, assistance, or simply a listening ear when you need it. Consider joining local parenting groups or online communities to connect with others facing similar challenges.

Returning to work after parental leave is a significant life transition, and it’s entirely natural to feel a mixture of excitement and worry. By following these tips, you can ease the process, maintain your well-being, and ensure a smooth transition both at home and in the workplace.

Just remember that you’re not alone. With the right support and mindset, you can focus on what matters most – building memories with your newest addition to the family!

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

The First 1000 Days of Life: Why They’re So Important

What are the first 1000 days of human life? And how can you best prepare your child through those exciting early years? Read on for our full breakdown of this precious early childhood journey 👇

The first 1000 days of life, from conception until their second birthday, sets the foundation for your child’s emotional, physical, and academic development. As you can imagine, getting them right is essential. It’s a time full of developmental milestones, precious memories and yes – lots of nappy changes.

In this article, we outline what to expect during your child’s first 1000 days to help you prepare for this incredible early childhood journey.

Prenatal Care and Development

Prenatal care is everything, and we’re lucky in Australia to have free public healthcare and a range of comprehensive private health insurance options. It goes without saying that it’s vital to receive regular medical check-ups, eat a balanced diet, take prenatal vitamins (particularly calcium, vitamin D and folic acid), and check a list of DO’s and DON’Ts to best support your baby’s growth.

In the first months after conception, your baby’s organs develop rapidly and you’ll feel their first flutters of movement sometime between week 16 and 24!

Additionally, studies have suggested that playing soothing music may aid in cognitive development even in the womb. Just make sure the volume is below 50 decibels, which his roughly the same volume as a washing machine.

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Birth and the Newborn Phase

The moment your baby arrives is a rush of emotion and relief. In the early days, you and your baby will mostly be getting to know each other. Expect round-the-clock feeding, checking, nappy changes, and lots of cuddles!

Moreover, regular postnatal checks with your GP are a must. Better Health Victoria recommends a check-up at around the six to eight week mark. This is also a great time to raise any questions or concerns.

Additionally, the Victorian Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Service is a free universal primary health service for all Victorian families with children that offers regular check-ups from birth all the way up to school age. This includes:

  • Maternal and child health service resources
  • Advice for sleep and settling
  • Early Parenting Centres
  • Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Aboriginal-led MCH services
  • Baby Bundle

While it can be easy to be overwhelmed at this early stage of development, try and enjoy these precious moments of bonding. Importantly, remember to reach out for support and guidance from loved ones or healthcare professionals if needed.

Infant Milestones

As your child passes through the first 1000 days, it’ll feel like they surpass milestones every other week. From their first smile to rolling over, sitting up, and eventually crawling, each accomplishment marks their progression physically and psychologically.

Some milestones to anticipate include:

  • Birth to 3 monthslifting their head when lying on your stomach
  • 4 to 6 monthsrolling over, clapping, babbling
  • 7 to 9 monthssitting without support
  • 10 to 18 monthstaking their first steps
  • 13 to 18 monthsengaging in pretend play, first words
  • 19 to 24 monthssorting shapes and colours, identifying objects, passing things   

Keep in mind that these aren’t strict timeframes. Each child develops at their own pace and may surpass these milestones well before or after these windows. During this time, you can encourage their development through tummy time, talking to them, and introducing age-appropriate toys and activities.

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Nutrition and Weaning

Nutrition plays a vital role in your child’s growth and development during the first 1000 days. Breast milk, or an appropriate infant formula, is essential for the first six months. Thereafter, you can gradually transition to age-appropriate foods while continuing to breastfeed or offer formula for 2 years or beyond.

Solid foods can be introduced from around six months, which opens a whole new world of tastes, textures, and smells.

Just remember to be patient as your baby explores different foods and adapts to a varied diet. If you have any concerns, be sure to consult your GP or paediatrician regarding specific dietary needs, allergens, or intolerances.

Language and Cognitive Development

During the first 1000 days, your baby’s brain is rapidly developing, laying the foundation for future learning and communication. Some activities to help your child from around the one year mark include:

  • Lots of talking and singing
  • Reading books together
  • Messy play
  • Puzzles
  • Art

And it doesn’t always have to be so structured. Something as simple as responding to your child’s babbles and engaging verbally promotes their understanding of the world around them (and makes for a great time!). Try to enjoy these moments of discovery together.

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Social and Emotional Development

As your baby grows physically between the one and two year mark, so do their social and emotional skills. Responding to their cues, providing a secure and loving environment, and fostering social interactions with other children nurtures their emotional well-being.

Likewise, be sure to celebrate their achievements verbally and enthusiastically. This not only provides comfort during times of frustration or distress, but rewards children’s curiosity and insatiable hunger to discover and explore.

For parents that are returning to work during the first 1000 days, be assured that Explorers Early Learning offers opportunities for further social and cognitive development.

Overall, the first 1000 days of a child’s life is a time of immense growth and development. From prenatal care to their second birthday, this period shapes their future health, well-being, and development from the cot all the way to adulthood.

Embrace each milestone, enjoy the precious moments, and seek support when needed. Remember, every child is unique, so follow your instincts and trust your best judgement – no one knows your child better than you!  

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

Long Day Care and Sessional Kinder: What’s the Difference?

Are you tossing up between long day care and sessional Kinder? What if we told you that you can get the best of both worlds through integrated Kinder? Read on for our breakdown of these two early learning journeys 👇

The Victorian Government’s Best Start, Best Life program, which has pledged billions into the early learning sector, is generating plenty of buzz around long day care (LDC) centres and sessional Kindergartens. But what exactly is the difference between these two forms of early education, and how do they impact your child’s transition into primary school? 

In this post, we break down the key differences between sessional Kinder and LDC, as well as provide some handy insight into Free Kinder! 

Long Day Care (LDC)

LDC, often called ‘childcare’ or ‘day care’, are centre-based early learning services provided by childcare professionals (educators) for children as young as six weeks old to school age (six years old in Victoria).

These centres develop their own curriculums guided by the Early Years Leaning Framework (EYLF). Additionally, LDC services provide meals and offer a range of extracurricular activities such as languages, sports, gardening, and multi-sensory workshops.  

LDC centres can be privately or government owned, family-run, or operated by local community groups. However, all must meet the National Quality Standard (NQS) and are assessed and rated accordingly. 

Importantly, all LDC educators are required by the Department of Education to have completed, or be actively working towards, a recognised ACECQA (Australian’s Children Education and Care Quality Authority) qualification: 

  • Certificate III in Early Childhood Education 
  • Diploma of Early Childhood Education 
  • Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) or equivalent  
     

Educators are also required to have: 

  • A Valid Working with Children Check 
  • First Aid Training 
  • CPR Training 
  • Asthma and Anaphylaxis Training 
  • Child Protection Training
     

Additionally, LDC centres operate longer hours than sessional Kindergartens, opening as early as 6am and closing as late as 7pm. Ultimately, this accommodates working and/or studying parents and guardians.  

In short, the flexibility of LDC allows parents to enrol their child into care depending on their specific needs, rather than their provider’s schedule.  

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Sessional Kindergarten 

Sessional Kindergarten, or ‘preschool’, is a one-to-two-year program for three and four-year old children. Notably, sessional Kinder differs from LDC as they operate on specified session times. Often, these are in three to five-hour blocks over two-to-three days per week.  

Moreover, sessional Kinder can be run by local governments, churches, private companies, or independent schools and vary in fees and funding. They’re typically more formal than LDC as children often have to bring their own food, learning materials, and even wear uniforms in some services.   

Kinder teachers at sessional Kinder must hold a tertiary qualification: 
 

  • Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Education  
  • Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) 
  • Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) 
     

In Victoria, Kindergarten for three and four-year old children is not compulsory. Nevertheless, many parents enrol their child into sessional Kindergarten or LDC with integrated Kinder programs before beginning primary school. 

Integrated Kinder

At Explorers, we offer an integrated Kinder program within our long daycare Centres which is guided by Bachelor qualified teachers across the week for our three and four-year-old children. This program gives children first-hand knowledge and confidence to begin their school journey. 

Our Reggio Emilia-inspired program is carefully designed to ease children into the rhythm of primary school, rather than forcing them into a strict routine that can be overwhelming and even traumatic for some children. 

We focus on five key areas of your child’s development to best prepare them for their transition to primary school: 
 

  1. Physical and motor skills 
  1. Emotional and social regulation 
  1. Cognitive learning 
  1. Language abilities 
  1. Emotional resilience 


Children also attend local primary schools as part of the Prep for Prep program so they can see and experience a classroom in a controlled environment. Overall, integrated Kinder gives you the best of both worlds. Children receive Kinder-quality education and parents benefit from the flexibility of LDC. 

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Kinder Funding and ‘Free Kinder’ 

What is Kinder Funding?

Kinder Funding is not the same as Free Kinder. Rather, Kinder Funding is funding provided directly from the Government to the childcare service you’ve nominated. When you enrol your child into Kinder, you are required to ‘claim funding’ with only ONE Kinder service. The Government will then allocate funds to that service for learning materials, excursions, Kinder Teacher wages, etc. 

What is Free Kinder?

Free Kinder supports families to access a funded Kindergarten program by providing a discount of up to $2500 per year to offset the out-of-pocket cost of your fees.  

It’s important to note that children can only receive Free Kinder funding at one service. Therefore, if you’re enrolled at multiple Kindergartens or LDC centres, you must nominate which service will receive Kinder funding.  

In other words, the Free Kinder subsidy covers part of your out-of-pocket cost, whether you’re in LDC or sessional Kinder.  

Lastly, Free Kinder does not affect CCS, so please continue to lodge your CCS applications if you haven’t already done so.  

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Free Kinder at Explorers 

At Explorers, children enrolled in our Kinder program will receive a credit towards their fees. This credit – along with any CCS eligibility – reduces your out-of-pocket cost for Kinder.   

Three-Year-Old Kinder 

For three-year olds, your child must be enrolled for at least one day per week to be eligible for Free Kinder, though subsidies vary based on attendance: 

  • Enrolled for one day – 7.5 hours covered per week with a yearly subsidy of $1000. 
  • Enrolled for two or more days – 15 hours covered per week with a yearly subsidy of $2000. 

Four-Year-Old Kinder 

Four-year olds must be enrolled at Explorers for at least two days per week to be eligible for Free Kinder. The subsidy will cover 15 hours of Kinder per week, with a yearly subsidy of $2000 made directly to Explorers to offset your fortnightly fees across the year.  

Overall, the choice between LDC and sessional Kinder is ultimately up to you. While some prefer the traditional style of sessional Kinder, more and more families are taking advantage of LDC with integrated Kinder programs. With extended operating hours and holistic learning opportunities for children, LDC is a reliable choice that combines care and education, while also accommodating families with even the busiest of schedules!  

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today! 

Children and the Dinosaur Phase: The Benefits of Fascination

What is it with children and dinosaurs? No matter the generation, there’s no escaping the dinosaur phase! But have you ever wondered what’s behind it? It may be more important for early childhood development than you think 🦖

Is your child watching The Land Before Time on repeat? If so, they’re probably in the famous ‘dinosaur phase’ – a time when children become obsessed with all things prehistoric.

The dinosaur phase usually begins around age two or three and can last well into primary school. While it might seem like a passing fad that’ll make for some great additions to the photo album, it may also contribute to your child’s creativity and cognitive development.

In this article, we explore all the benefits of the dinosaur phase, even if your living room does become a temporary velociraptor enclosure.

Promotes Curiosity and Exploration

Children in the dinosaur phase are naturally curious about the world around them. They ask the big questions, seek answers, and investigate new ideas. Naturally, this leads to stimulating learning experiences as they read and discover how dinosaurs lived, what they ate, and how they evolved over their 165 million year reign on Earth.

Better yet, it’s a great opportunity for activities and continued learning:

  • A trip to the museum
  • Digging for fossils in the backyard
  • Taking a nature walk
  • Imaginative play in a sandpit

This curiosity and exploration can help children develop a lifelong love of learning and an appreciation for science and research.

Enhanced Language Development

As children learn about dinosaurs, they’re exposed to an extensive vocabulary related to science, history, and palaeontology. Although they may not understand all of these phrases, just pronouncing them is a phonetic exercise that may lead to a better understanding of written and spoken words.

Learning to pronounce terms like ‘tyrannosaurus rex,’ ‘herbivore’ and ‘fossilisation’ create new neural pathways and stimulate cognition. This exposure to new words and concepts can help them develop language skills, improve communication, and expand vocabulary.

Make New Friends

If your toddler is going through the dinosaur phase, chances are there are many others in their childcare room, kinder, or family friends on the same journey. You can use this shared fascination to organise playdates for your child to make new friends!

In fact, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, peer play and games are essential to their early development:

Pretend play encourages self-regulation because children must collaborate on the imaginary environment and agree about pretending and conforming to roles, which improves their ability to reason about hypothetical events.

Sparks Creativity and Imagination

By its very nature, the dinosaur phase requires imaginative play. As dinosaurs no longer exist, they naturally encourage creativity and fascination for children. This is likely because of their likeness to fictional creatures such as dragons.

You can use this fascination to encourage all kinds of creative dinosaur activities. They might draw pictures, build models, or flex their dinosaur muscles by pretending to be a humble brontosaurus or a terrifying t-rex. Likewise, this imaginative play develops creativity and encourages abstract thinking.

Puts Time and History into Perspective

At around age 4-5, children begin to understand that the world existed long before they did. Additionally, they learn that our history is fascinating and complex. Therefore, the dinosaur phase perfectly introduces children to this concept in a fun and accessible way.

Children learn about an entirely different world with its own creatures and ecosystem over 66 million years ago – the number itself enough to spark wonder and awe.

It’s sometimes said that palaeontologists are grownups that never grew out of the dinosaur phase. An early fascination with science can lead to careers in archaeology, geology, meteorology, and environmental sciences! 

Promotes a Love of Nature and the Environment

As children learn about dinosaurs, they also learn about the environment they lived in and the impact that humans have on the planet today. This can help them develop a sense of responsibility for the natural world and a desire to preserve it.  

Overall, the dinosaur phase is so much more than just a passing fad. It’s an opportunity for your child to express their creativity, independence, and foster a lifelong love of science and the natural world. So be sure to encourage their interest in dinosaurs by reading books, visiting museums, and engaging in imaginative play. Who knows, your child might grow up to discover the next dinosaur species.

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

Reggio Emilia and Montessori: What’s the Difference?

Reggio Emilia or Montessori? What do they mean and which is right for your child? Read on for our breakdown of these two popular early education philosophies 👇

Does this sound familiar: you’re researching childcare services and two phrases keep appearing – Reggio Emilia and Montessori. It’s easy to get lost in the wording as they both talk about child-centred curriculums and non-traditional learning.

But what if we told you these early learning approaches differ in some really important ways?

In this post, we break down the Reggio Emilia and Montessori approaches to early childhood education to help you decide which is the perfect fit for your child.

What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?

The Reggio Emilia approach, named after the Italian town where it was founded by Loris Malaguzzi, emphasises project-based learning, creativity, and community involvement.

Reggio Emilia classrooms, often connected by a central piazza for collaboration and discussion, are filled with natural materials, light, and open spaces. Children are seen as active participants in their own learning journey. They co-construct knowledge and spark curiosity alongside their peers and Educators.

The Reggio Emilia approach identifies three teachers in children’s learning:

  • The teacher – responsible for constructing and guiding learning experiences. Educators provoke discussion, ask open-ended questions, and explore emerging interests with the children. In other words, they’re co-learners.
  • The parent – the home environment is key to building on meaningful learning experiences. Therefore, parents are encouraged to take an active role in emerging interests, projects, and hands-on learning. 
  • The environment – learning spaces are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, stimulating, and interactive. Artwork, natural materials, and plenty of colour are commonplace in Reggio Emilia classrooms to inspire creativity and imagination.

What is the Montessori Approach?

Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, this approach values children’s need to explore, discover, and learn at their own pace.

The Montessori classroom is a carefully prepared environment where children can choose their own activities from a range of self-correcting materials such as puzzles and loose parts. These materials encourage children to problem-solve instinctively and without the need for strict instructions.

Additionally, the Montessori approach features hands-on learning through workshops. These aim to build independence, self-discipline, and practical life skills. Through interactive learning experiences, the Montessori approach encourages self-directed learning, rather than in large groups.  

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How do Reggio Emilia and Montessori Differ?

While both Montessori and Reggio Emilia value child-centred learning, they’re also different in their approach to curriculum.

Reggio Emilia embraces an emergent curriculum which evolves based on the interests and inquiries of the children. Educators encourage these interests with intentional provocations.

For example, if a child takes an interest in space, and Educator may provide them with different materials to create a star chart. This intentional experience introduces the child to different sensations – the feel of the materials and the sounds they make – while also acting as the foundation for continued learning.  

How big is space? What is the Milky Way? How many planets are there in the solar system?

Montessori on the other hand follows a pre-determined curriculum, with specific materials and activities designed to support children’s development across different areas and outcomes.

Moreover, the Montessori curriculum favours observation by teachers, whereas Reggio Educators favour documentation of observations to share with parents and signpost learning milestones.

The Reggio Emilia approach emphasises community and group-based learning, while Montessori values independent and small group learning.

For a full breakdown of the differences, see the table below!

 MontessoriReggio Emilia
Learning styleChild-centric, non-traditional.Child-centric, non-traditional
Role of the Educator/TeacherObserver and facilitator of knowledge.Collaborator and co-learner. Educators guide learning experiences and ask open-ended questions.
MethodLearning through play and self-correcting materials alone or in small groups. Strict development stages.Children work in small groups in project-based learning. Community and parental involvement encouraged.
CurriculumPre-determined and can be adapted to primary and secondary education.Fluid curriculum which is adapted to emerging interests and unique learning styles.
FocusIndependence.Independence and collaboration.
Evidence collectionObservation.Observe and document.
GoalTo form independent and curious learners.To nurture children to become lifelong learners and citizens of the world.

Which Approach is Right for Your Child?

Overall, it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to early childhood education. Each child is unique, with their own set of interests, learning styles, and needs. The Montessori approach and the Reggio Emilia approach each offer distinct educational experiences.

While some children may thrive in the Montessori system, others blossom in the collaborative environment of Reggio Emilia. The best way to decide is to visit centres, talk with educators, research widely, and consider all approaches. In other words, trust your intuition to decide which approach resonates with your child’s unique personality and stage of development.

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

What is the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)?

Belonging, Being, Becoming – these three words form the foundation of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Read on for our breakdown of this vital early education resource.

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of early education terminology from government subsidies to the countless regulatory bodies and quality advisors. However, one term you should know about is the Early Learning Years Framework (EYLF).

This comprehensive early education framework extends and enriches early education for children aged from birth to five years.

But as a 70 page Government document, it’s not exactly a quick read. To save you the time, we’ve broken down the EYLF to provide an insight into how it guides our Explorers curriculum from the nursery all the way up to those embarking on their primary school journey.

Creating the EYLF

In 2009, the Department of Education published Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF). While a historic moment as it was Australia’s first national Early Years Learning Framework, it was redeveloped and expanded into a V2.0 in 2022.

This national framework was developed by the Council of Australian Governments to provide a shared understanding of the foundational principles, practices, and outcomes for early childhood education and care in Australia. The EYLF is based on scientific research and empirical evidence to support all children’s education from birth to age five.

Three key principles form the foundation of the EYLF:

  • Being: the importance of children’s experiences in the present moment. Children learn through play, exploration, and communication. These experiences are essential to their overall development and can’t be overlooked.
  • Belonging: the need for children to feel connected to their family, community, and culture. When children feel a sense of belonging, they’re more likely to feel safe and supported in their educational environment. This principle recognises children as deeply influenced by their social and cultural context.
  • Becoming: children are constantly growing and changing. Children aren’t passive recipients of knowledge, but rather active participants in their own learning and development. This principle recognises that children are competent and independent learners – a fundamental concept to the Reggio Emilia approach to early education.

Victorian Early Years Learning Framework (VEYLF)

While the EYLF is a national framework for early childhood education and care, the VEYLF caters for Victorian children specifically. However, it’s still based on the EYLF and its core principles. The VEYLF also includes additional information and guidance on the learning and development of children from birth to eight years of age.

Although both frameworks share similar goals and outcomes, the VEYLF places a greater emphasis on the development of children from birth to three years of age and focuses on cultural diversity, inclusion, and community engagement. Also, the VEYLF provides more specific guidance on how early childhood educators can support children’s learning and development in Victoria’s cultural and social context.

Five Learning Outcomes of the EYLF

The EYLF identifies five learning outcomes for children. These outcomes support children’s development and learning holistically:

  1. Children have a strong sense of identity.
  2. Children are connected with and contribute to their world.
  3. Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.
  4. Children are confident and involved learners.
  5. Children are effective communicators.

Explorers and the EYLF

The EYLF outlines a range of experiences and activities designed to support children’s education and growth across the five key outcomes. These experiences and activities are varied and may include music, art, outdoor play, and social interaction.

At Explorers, we embrace the power of experiences and actively embed them into our curriculum through our Enrichment Program. This Program focuses on five key areas:

  • Little Impressionists – Art
  • Little Linguists – Language
  • Active Explorers – Physical Activity
  • Prep for Prep – School Readiness
  • One World, One Planet – Sustainability

Moreover, we encourage project-based learning as part of our Reggio Emilia inspired curriculum. These projects often take the form of science and the arts to form a comprehensive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) learning experience.

Music, for example, helps children expand their language and communication skills, as well as their coordination and rhythm. Likewise, science and numeracy prepare children for their academic journey in primary school, secondary school and beyond.

EYLF and the Importance of Community

Importantly, these activities build meaningful relationships between children, providing valuable lessons they transition into social situations and the household. Likewise, Educators strive to build strong relationships with children and their families. These relationships ensure our Centres remain a safe, secure, and supportive environment in which children thrive.

As outlined in the EYLF, children feel comfortable and confident when valued, respected and exposed to appropriate learning challenges. Educators, therefore, stimulate discovery by identifying and tailoring learning experiences for children’s emerging interests.

Overall, the EYLF provides a comprehensive approach to early childhood education and care. The Framework emphasises the importance of exploration and communication in children’s learning and development. Most of all, it identifies the power of play which is essential to the development of healthy and happy children!

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!