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
- 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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
How to Manage Sibling Rivalry: A Parent’s Guide to Peace
Whether it’s the last slice of pizza or who gets the window seat, sibling rivalry can get out of control fast. So be sure to check out our handy tips to get a hold of sibling rivalries before they turn into lifelong competition 👇
One minute they’re playing and laughing together, the next they’re in a screaming match. Sibling rivalry is an inevitable part of raising multiple children. While it’s most prominent between children less than two years apart, it can happen in any sibling dynamic.
While common, sibling rivalry can be challenging for any parent. Therefore, understanding its roots and how to manage it can lead to a happier and more peaceful household.
In this post, we’ll explore the dynamics of sibling rivalry, its underlying causes, and practical strategies for parents and caregivers to foster healthy relationships among siblings.
Is Sibling Rivalry Normal?
Sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up. Brothers and sisters are children’s first peers. However, unlike in social situations or school, siblings often infringe on children’s most sacred spaces. In other words, the home.
This forces children out of their comfort zone. They’re forced to share, cooperate, and co-exist with another in areas that were once entirely their own. This often takes the form of sharing toys, food, attention, and space!
Children, especially toddlers, are territorial and experience what experts call the ‘mine stage.’ Therefore, having to suddenly share the back seat, play spaces, or even their room is a huge dynamic shift for children. And keep in mind that a new baby or stepsibling is effectively a total stranger to a child.
However, it’s an invaluable lesson that forces children to accept an inescapable fact of life – change. You can’t always control your situation or circumstances, and sibling rivalry forces children to accept this reality and develop coping mechanisms.
What Causes Sibling Rivalry?
While it can be easy to look at sibling rivalry from an adult perspective, try and put yourself in your child’s shoes. For their whole life, your child has been the centre of the universe. They’ve had food all to themselves, toys, and more attention than they could ever need.
Then one day, that all changes. They’re now forced to share and have their source of attention halved overnight. This is a huge and understandably jarring shift for children of any age. In some ways, it can feel like their entire routine has been split down the middle.
And as children get older, these feelings may intensify and grow more complex as children develop differing interests. Understanding that each child has unique needs can help address this, as well as taking a deep dive into the core causes of sibling rivalry:
- Competition for Resources – siblings may consider limited resources like toys, space, or parental time as their own, leading to rivalries when these resources are challenged or divided.
- Identity and Individuality – as children develop their identities, they may compete to establish themselves within the family or for parental approval.
- Developmental Differences – siblings of different ages have distinct needs, leading to competition as they grow and mature where one child may excel in areas while another struggles.
Effective Strategies for Managing Sibling Rivalry
With the causes of sibling rivalry in mind, where do you go from here? While you can’t wave a magic wand to stop sibling rivalry from occurring, there are many ways you can manage it.
1. Encourage Individuality
This is perhaps the most important step to preventing childhood sibling rivalries from growing into lifelong competition. If you’re child loves sports, wonderful! Get out and kick the ball together or sign them up for a local team. If they’re artsy and love to draw, terrific! Get creative with them and encourage this passion.
Importantly, don’t compare or label them purely on these passions. Empower them to thrive in their own special way by celebrating their achievements.
2. Avoid Labels
Have you ever found yourself calling one of your children ‘the sporty one’ or ‘the smart one’? While this may seem harmless, labels inevitably draw comparisons and may lead to inadequacy in children. If one child is struggling academically, seeing their sibling praised as ‘the brainy one’ may hinder their motivation and limit their potential.
Therefore, try to be mindful of the labels you’re using. It’s a natural habit in modern society to feel the need to label and categorise the world around us. It gives a sense of security and comfort to know exactly how things and people fit in. However, people (especially children) are full of complexity and need to have their sense of individuality nurtured from an early age.
3. Stay in Control
No matter what you try, you’ll inevitably have to play referee between bickering siblings. However, children feed off your tone and body language. Therefore, joining the fight won’t exactly help to restore peace to the household.
Instead, try and remain as calm and neutral as possible – don’t play favourites! Over time, you’ll start to pick up cues for when a fight is starting to escalate into aggression and when you need to step in.
4. Set Clear Boundaries
Although sibling rivalries are often trivial and harmless, they can quickly cross the line into physicality. Be sure to be clear and assertive if siblings become aggressive, abusive, or violent with one another.
Set clear boundaries that respect and fairness are non-negotiables in the household and that physical violence is never the solution to an argument. Writing up house rules or having children sign a family contract can help to reinforce these values.
5. Be There to Listen
Emotional regulation is a vital lifelong skill for children. Likewise, fights between siblings often arise from perceived injustice. Therefore, sitting down with your child one-on-one after the conflict is a healthy outlet for children to express and articulate their feelings.
Children are far more likely to hear you out when they feel like they’re being heard and understood, rather than being told what to do. This will also aid in their emotional maturity and strengthen your bond with your child.
6. Quality Time with Each Child
Listening to your child isn’t always enough. Be sure to spend plenty of time one-on-one with your child engaging in their favourite activities, passions, or emerging interests.
While co-operation and spending time as a family is a must, it’s just as important to spend quality alone time with children. Talk with them, listen to their thoughts, and stimulate their budding curiosities.
7. Trust your Children
Despite all your best efforts, sometimes you have to let children work it out themselves. Of course, intervene if arguments become physically or verbally abusive. However, disagreements and discourse are a natural part of life and something your child will have to learn to navigate.
What may seem like a ‘fight’ may just be children using their problem-solving skills to resolve a conflict. This is an incredibly healthy sign for children as they learn to navigate social interactions and compromise. So be sure to congratulate children when they work issues out on their own – this is a huge developmental step!
Overall, sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up, but with the right guidance and approach, it can be a valuable learning experience for children and parents. By understanding the causes, benefits, and effective strategies for managing sibling rivalry, parents and caregivers can create a nurturing environment where siblings build stronger bonds, empathy, and lifelong bonds.
Remember, fostering healthy sibling relationships takes time and patience. As children grow and change, so will the dynamics of their interactions. The key is to provide a supportive foundation that allows them to navigate rivalry while building a lasting connection, even if you will have to endure the arguments over toy dinosaurs and imaginary injustices.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Children?
Worried about your child’s screen time? Should they be on screens at all? Read on for our deep dive into the science of screen time, along with some handy tips to get your child experiencing the world 👇
Like it or not, computers, tablets, and smartphones are a normal part of growing up in 2023. While technology provides a world of possibilities for additional learning, too much screen time is regularly topping lists as the number one health concern among parents.
But how much screen time is too much? Should children use screens at all? In this post, we dive into the science behind screen time and provide our top tips to help your family in this increasingly techy world.
What Do the Experts Say About Screen Time?
According to AIFS (Australian Institute of Family Studies), screens should be introduced carefully to children:
- 0-2 years: no screen time – in the early years, screens provide too much stimulation for children’s rapidly developing brains. Therefore, health experts recommend avoiding screens entirely and to instead engage in sensory play, talking out loud, and reading.
- 2-5 years: one hour per day – at this age, children learn by imitating adults and exploring their environments. In other words, they need to experience the world around them. As screens limit children’s sensory experiences, they may develop ‘tunnel vision’.
- 5-17 years: no more than two hours per day – this will change as children enter high school and incorporate devices into their studies. However, during the primary school years, experts recommend two hours as the maximum for daily recreational screen time.
What Should Children Watch?
Although excessive screen time can be harmful, it can be beneficial in moderation. Just ensure that you’re always supervising your child during screen time and engaging in high-quality, educational content. This could be through interactive shows, animated stories, or apps.
Some of our top picks are:
- Sesame Street
- Ask the StoryBots
- ABC Mose Early Learning Academy
How Can You Limit Screen Time for Children?
We recommend taking steps as early as possible to limit screen time. This will reduce the number of tantrums as children gradually develop screen-free habits. It doesn’t always have to be a strict rule, but everyday steps play a significant role in changing your child’s screen time habits.
1. Turn off the TV in the Background
Have you ever come home and turned on the television without even realising? Nobody’s watching it, so what’s the problem? Well, this background noise can be an unnecessary distraction for children which may lead to poor focus and shortened attention spans.
Additionally, televisions encourage passive viewing. In the early years, children need to be active. Whether it’s through physical activity or exploration, active play stimulates cognitive development, along with a range of other health benefits.
Try using soothing music or an age-appropriate podcast instead. Or, better yet, play nothing at all! Learning to sit with silence is an important skill for children to learn as they progress through life, particularly school, where there won’t always be a television or speaker to entertain them.
2. Set Rules for Screen Time
Children thrive on structure and routine. Therefore, establishing a screen time schedule reduces tantrums as children have a clear and defined timeframe for when screen time is allowed.
If you have older children, get them involved in the process. Hold a family meeting to decide which times work best for screen time. Once the whole family agrees, have them all sign a family contract. This will reduce future disagreements, while also introducing children to the importance of promises and sticking to your word.
3. Introduce Screen-Free Days
You’ve heard of meat-free Fridays, but what about screen-free Fridays? Frequent screen time can overstimulate children, literally rewiring their brains and potentially leading to increased risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
Therefore, try allocating days of the week, or entire weekends, to screen-free activities. You can then use these screen-free days to engage in family bonding.
4. Engage in Screen-Free Activities
Screen-free activities range from a trip to the museum to reading a book with your child. Anything to get them experiencing the world is a positive step in their development:
- Take a trip to the library or museum
- Engage in sensory play
- Go on a nature walk
- Read a book together
- Solve puzzles
- Play board/card games
- Engage in arts and crafts
- Get out into the garden
- Cook or bake a meal together
5. Set a Good Example
Children love playing grown-up. Whether it’s dressing up or making pretend dinner, children love acting like Mum and Dad.
Therefore, if your child sees you watching television, scrolling through your phone, or spending hours on your laptop in your spare time, they’re going to do the same. So, if you want your child to reduce their screen time, the tough fact is you’re going to have to as well!
Additionally, be mindful when using screens. Do you really need to scroll through your phone or are you just doing it out of habit? Likewise, you can also use this as an opportunity to educate your child about the purpose of screens and devices. If you work from home, have a discussion with your child about how you use your laptop for work or study.
Try to prioritise face-to-face interactions with your child. You might be surprised how much your child learns from something as simple as watching your facial expressions.
Overall, screens are an inevitable part of living in the modern world. Whether it’s at work, out in public, lounging at home, or at school, your child will be exposed to technology. However, you don’t have to be constrained to overstimulation and the tantrums that follow.
By engaging in face-to-face activities, setting clear boundaries, and leading by example, you can limit your child’s screen time with just a few simple steps. Even better, you can take control of your child’s development, so they’ll get the best possible start for primary school, secondary school, and beyond.
The Benefits of Messy and Sensory Play: Why Children Need to Make a Mess
What is messy and sensory play, and is it worth the clean-up? Read on for our full breakdown of messy play, along with some suggestions to get your child’s brain buzzing 👇
Messy and sensory play is incredibly beneficial for children as young as six months old. From finger painting to exploring sensory materials, messy play offers a world of opportunities for learning and physical development, even if the clean-up can be a hassle!
In this post, we break down the physical and cognitive benefits of messy play and explore why your child should embrace the mess.
Messy play engages (almost) all the senses. When children squish their fingers into mud or clay, they feel the sensation, hear the sounds, and smell the material. Therefore, sensory activities provide valuable cognitive input, helping children refine their tactile perception and develop a greater understanding of different textures.
And there’s so many sustainable options to choose from:
- Homemade playdough
Messy Play Activities
Although they’re mostly babbling at the 6-12 month mark, babies love messy play and sensory exploration! Just be sure to supervise and only use gentle materials:
- Crinkly paper
By age two, children are as curious as ever. Their brains develop rapidly as they near the end of the first 1000 days of life. Therefore, they want to touch, smell, and experience the world around them. This is perfect for messy play:
- Sensory bins
- Homemade playdough exploration
- Finger painting
Children between ages 2 and 3 are typically walking, talking, and full of attitude! This is where you can really start to inspire their artistic side by adding more elements to their messy play experience.
- Water-based paints
- Sensory ice play
- Clay time
By the time your child is in Kinder, you’ll probably be looking for ways to give them the best start for primary school. Therefore, this is the perfect time broaden their messy play experience to prep them for their next big steps:
- Nature exploration
- Sensory storytelling
- Painting and drawing
Messy play goes beyond engaging the senses. Rather, it aims to nurture children’s emerging cognitive skills.
When children engage in messy play, they’re presented with open-ended materials and situations which encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making. For instance, when building sandcastles or clay sculptures, children think creatively and strategically to achieve their desired outcomes.
In addition, messy play provides opportunities for experimentation and exploration. Children mix colours, observe cause-and-effect relationships, and question what happens next when different materials are combined. This hands-on approach fosters curiosity and a love for discovery, promoting a growth mindset in children.
Fine Motor Skills
Messy play activities often involve actions such as squeezing, pouring, and scooping. These activities promote the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination in children. Whether they’re using a paintbrush, pouring water, or moulding clay, children flex their dexterity and refine their ability to control and coordinate their movements.
Messy play also plays a vital role in language development. During messy play, children inevitably engage in conversation and storytelling. They describe the sensory experience, use descriptive language to express how the colours make them feel, and share their observations. This rich linguistic environment expands vocabulary, improves communication skills, and nurtures creative expression.
Emotional and Social Development
Embracing messy play allows children to express themselves freely and build independence. When children are given the freedom to explore materials and engage in unstructured play, they develop a sense of ownership and pride in their creations.
Messy play also offers opportunities for collaboration and sharing as children work together on projects and exchange ideas.
Moreover, messy play provides a safe space for children to experience a range of emotions. Whether it’s the joy of squishing paint or the frustration of a sandcastle collapsing, children navigate and express their feelings through these immersive experiences. As they explore and experiment, they develop emotional resilience and adapt to different situations.
Creativity and Imagination
Messy play and creativity go hand-in-hand. When given open-ended materials and the freedom to explore, children create, transform, and invent things most adults couldn’t dream of.
Whether they’re sculpting clay, mixing colours, or creating sand masterpieces, messy play encourages divergent thinking and fosters innovation.
Why is Messy Play Important?
The focus of messy play is on process rather than the end result. Children learn that there’s no one rule to express yourself, allowing them to embrace their creativity without fear of judgment. This freedom nurtures self-discovery and fuels a lifelong love for art and curiosity.
Ultimately, messy play provides children with invaluable opportunities for growth, development, and self-expression. By embracing the mess, they unlock a world of creativity and sensory exploration. Additionally, the benefits of messy play extend beyond the temporary chaos and strengthen cognitive, emotional, and social skills in children well into primary school.
Just remember to provide a safe and supervised environment for messy play, use child-friendly (and sustainable) materials, and try to involve your child in the clean-up process. After all, the mess is temporary, but the skills they gain last a lifetime.
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.
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.
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 months – lifting their head when lying on your stomach
- 4 to 6 months – rolling over, clapping, babbling
- 7 to 9 months – sitting without support
- 10 to 18 months – taking their first steps
- 13 to 18 months – engaging in pretend play, first words
- 19 to 24 months – sorting 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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
- Physical and motor skills
- Emotional and social regulation
- Cognitive learning
- Language abilities
- 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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
|Learning style||Child-centric, non-traditional.||Child-centric, non-traditional|
|Role of the Educator/Teacher||Observer and facilitator of knowledge.||Collaborator and co-learner. Educators guide learning experiences and ask open-ended questions.|
|Method||Learning 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.|
|Curriculum||Pre-determined and can be adapted to primary and secondary education.||Fluid curriculum which is adapted to emerging interests and unique learning styles.|
|Focus||Independence.||Independence and collaboration.|
|Evidence collection||Observation.||Observe and document.|
|Goal||To 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.
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:
- Children have a strong sense of identity.
- Children are connected with and contribute to their world.
- Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.
- Children are confident and involved learners.
- 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!
Exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach® to Early Childhood Education
You’ve probably heard of it, but what exactly is the Reggio Emilia Approach®? Read on for our breakdown of adult and child-centred early learning philosophy.
The Reggio Emilia Approach® has soared in popularity in recent decades. This approach to early education was created in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and has become renowned worldwide for its focus on the child as an active participant in their learning.
At Explorers, we’re proud to deliver a Reggio Emilia inspired curriculum from our intentional teaching strategies along with the construction of our learning spaces. But what exactly is the Reggio Emilia Approach®?
In this post, we break down the Reggio Emilia Approach® and consider how it challenges traditional early childhood views of children, their experiences, and unique ways of learning.
A Brief History of the Reggio Emilia Approach®
The Reggio Emilia Approach® was developed during the aftermath of WWII by Loris Malaguzzi and the community of Reggio Emilia, Italy.
The philosophy was born out of a desire to create a new kind of education that would instil the values of the region, including democracy, community, and solidarity. Malaguzzi firmly believed that children construct their own knowledge through interactions with their peers, adults, the physical and social environment, materials and resources, and more.
The Environment as the Third Teacher
In the Reggio Emilia Approach®, they refer to the metaphor of the environment as the third teacher. This metaphor suggests that children construct knowledge from many sources and their education is enhanced by a collaborative approach, rather than a passive transmissive approach.
Educators are responsible for constructing a learning environment that encourages exploration, creativity, and critical thinking. The teacher observes and documents children’s learning and uses this information to inform their teaching practice. Therefore, the teacher’s responsibility is to empower children to take an active role in their own learning and to facilitate growth, development, and curiosity.
Families are essential partners in the learning process. They are encouraged to talk to their children to share their knowledge and expertise, and to collaborate with teachers in designing learning experiences and contribute to projects that explore children’s curiosities.
The environment is considered just as important as families or educators in children’s educational journey. Carefully designed learning environments promote exploration, creativity, and learning. Children are active participants in the learning process, and environments are therefore designed to be flexible, adaptable, and responsive to deep underlying pursuits and curiosities of children.
Key Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach®
A series of principles inform all aspects of a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum:
- Children are rich, strong, powerful, competent and capable of constructing their own learning.
- Children learn by watching, listening, and experiencing.
- Children are collaborators and learn through interaction with others.
- Documentation is a strategy used by educators to make children’s learning visible.
- Educators provide rich open-ended environments for children to express themselves.
- Projects are developed for children to research the world around them.
Projects are a core component of the Reggio Emilia Approach®. In other words, children’s emerging curiosities are noted and acted upon. Therefore, our Educators play a vital role in guiding emerging curiosities by asking questions and providing materials to nurture awe, wonder, and learning.
An example of a project could be a child taking an interest in how insects move. An Educator would ask questions, listen to children, and may focus on the concepts of flying or crawling as intentionality for the environments they design for children to explore. The Educator would then observe children, interpret their learning, and document their experiences, always thinking about how to extend children’s learning. They may ask children:
How does an insect move?
Does it have wings or legs?
Where do insects live?
The children’s answers would then be recorded in documentation. Documentation is critical to record the process and progress of the project. It is shared with families to communicate their child’s learning and learning processes.
How does the Reggio Emilia Approach® differ from traditional education philosophy?
The Reggio Emilia Approach® differs from traditional early childhood approaches. Firstly, it places a strong emphasis on the image of the child as an active participant in their own learning rather than a passive recipient of knowledge.
Additionally, it values communication and communication among children, teachers, parents, and the broader community.
Lastly, the the educational principles and values of Reggio Emilia include creativity and imagination and therefore children are offered various media as a means of expression and learning.
The Appeal of Reggio Emilia
There are numerous appealing features to the Reggio Emilia Approach®:
- Children are considered citizens with rights.
- Curriculum design builds on the curiosities of children to ignite awe and wonder.
- The value of the unique abilities of each child promotes a sense of individuality, but also value as a group member.
- Creativity and critical thinking enhances engagement and joy.
Encourages creativity and critical thinking, preparing children for success in the modern world.
What is the Image of the Child?
The Reggio Emilia Approach® places a high value on the image of the child. In other words, children are seen as capable, competent, and full of potential. Therefore, the Educator’s role is to facilitate children’s learning by creating an environment that encourages exploration, creating motivation to learn. Ultimately, children are free to express themselves through various means, such as drawing, painting, and sculpture, just to name a few.
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative approach to early education which emphasises collaboration, communication, and creativity. These values are favoured by many early learning providers and families along with recognising the unique abilities and curiosities of each child. Explorers is inspired by the educational project of Reggio Emilia and commits to providing a curriculum for young children that fosters a love of learning.