Health & wellbeing
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 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.
Maternity Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack for Childbirth
Are you approaching your third trimester? If so, stop what you’re doing and read through our maternity bag checklist to ensure you and your family are ready for the big day!
Preparing for the arrival of a child is an exciting and sometimes daunting experience, whether it’s your first time or your fifth. Therefore, packing your maternity hospital bag well in advance will save you a lot of time and stress.
In this post, we provide a handy maternity bag checklist for everything you need to make your hospital stay as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
For a PDF of the following list – click here.
When Should You Have Your Maternity Bag Packed?
We suggest having a maternity bag packed and ready by the door (or in the car), around the 36 week mark, which is well into the third trimester. This will give you plenty of time to ensure everything is ready for the big day, night, or early morning (labour often strikes when you least expect it!).
However, every pregnancy is unique. Some women may prefer to have their bags packed earlier, especially if there are known risk factors or signs of preterm labour.
Why is a Hospital Maternity Bag Important?
You may be asking yourself why you need a hospital maternity bag at all. Hospitals are staffed by doctors and professional midwives, so they’ll have everything you need, right?
While the hospital will provide essentials, they won’t provide extra clothing for the baby, books, entertainment devices, snacks, personal toiletries, etc. Although hospitals are great at what they do, they aren’t supermarkets!
Therefore, we recommend sitting down with your partner, family, or doctor to run through the following list and check off any items that need to be added or removed. Once you have your personalised list, set aside an afternoon to pack your bag and prepare for the big day!
Essential Documents and Information
- Birth plan (if you have one)
- Medicare card
- ID and hospital paperwork
- Health insurance information
- List of important phone numbers (family, friends, and support network)
- Loose-fitting nightgowns or pyjamas
- Comfortable nursing bras or maternity bras
- Recovery pants
- Warm socks and slippers
- Loose-fitting outfit to wear when leaving the hospital
Personal Care Items
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.)
- Hairbrush and hair ties
- Lip balm
- Maternity pads
- Nursing pads and nipple balm (if planning to breastfeed)
- Disposable postpartum underwear and/or full-brief underwear
- Any personal medication if needed
- Newborn nappies
- Baby blankets
- Onesies or baby clothes
- Hat and mittens
- Burp cloths
- Nursing pillow (if desired)
- Going-home outfit for the baby
- Car seat or capsule (installed in the car prior to going to the hospital)
- Infant formula (only if planning to use a milk replacement formula to feed your baby)
Comfort and Entertainment
- Pillows (for extra comfort during labour)
- Extra blanket for partner/support person
- Snacks and drinks for labour and postpartum
- Water bottle with a straw for easy sipping during labour
- Entertainment device (phone, tablet, e-reader, laptop, etc.) and charger
- Camera or video recorder
- Books and/or magazines
- Nursing cover (if desired)
- Nursing-friendly nightwear for easy breastfeeding
- Extra clothes and toiletries for your partner/support person
- Cash or change for vending machines or parking
- Breast pump (if planning to use one)
- Any special items for support during labour such as a TENS machine
Overall, preparing your maternity bag in advance is an exciting milestone as you approach your due date. By having a well-organised and well-stocked bag, you can ensure you’ll have all the essential items you’ll need during labour, delivery, and postpartum.
Remember – every birth experience is unique, so feel free to customise the list based on your preferences and needs. With your maternity bag packed and ready, you can focus on welcoming your precious child into the world.
Unlocking Inner Calm: Mindfulness Activities for Children
Looking for ways for your child to stay grounded in the here and now? Look no further than our list of mindfulness activities for children and adults alike 👇
Mindfulness for children is more important than ever in the digital age. With so much for children to do and see, it’s vital to teach them how to slow down and tap into their inner calm. After all, childhood goes so fast – you don’t want them to miss it!
In this post, we’ve curated some fun and engaging activities to help your child develop lifelong mindfulness skills.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is awareness of one’s internal state and surroundings. In other words, it’s being grounded in the here and now. While this may sound obvious, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many forms of entertainment and technology. And children are no exception.
Therefore, it’s important to teach children how to be grounded in the present to reduce stress, anxiety, and boost overall happiness.
In fact, experts at the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) suggest that mindfulness and ‘connectedness to school and home is the #1 most protective factor for youth well-being and resiliency.’
Explore the Five Senses
We use them every day, but how often do you stop to really think about your senses? Something as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breath can do wonders to ground yourself in the present. So, find a cosy spot, get comfy and invite your child to engage with their senses:
- Sight: Look at around you. What colours do you see? What shapes? Where is light coming from?
- Sound: What can you hear? Are there any background noises? Where are the sounds coming from?
For smell and touch, consider a sensory board filled with natural materials like sand or pebbles. For taste, you can lay out foods of differing consistencies to broaden your child’s palette:
- Smell: What does this space smell like? Is it a nice smell?
- Touch: What do they feel like? Are they soft? Hard? Scratchy?
- Taste: Describe the taste. Is it sweet? Sour? What foods also taste like that?
Sensory Nature Walk
Step into the great outdoors and embark on a nature walk together. Take your child to a nearby park, beach, or nature trail and encourage them to connect with all their senses.
Listen to the chirping of birds, feel the grass under their feet, inhale the sweet scent of flowers. This is a wonderful opportunity to get children out of the house and into nature. With each step, guide them to be fully present. What kind of animals do you see? What sounds do they make? What do they eat?
Additionally, it’s an important reminder of the beauty of our natural spaces and the need to preserve them for generations to come.
Yoga is the perfect time to stretch, breathe, and relax. Clear some space and invite your child to join in a sensory yoga session. Pretend to be wild animals, mimicking their movements, and encourage them to focus on their breath.
If your child is more a visual learner, there are plenty of YouTube guides on how to strike the perfect pose – just make sure you do it together!
As they flow through various poses, highlight the importance of being present and tuning into their bodies. Wind down the adventure with a soothing relaxation exercise, allowing them to relax and find inner calm.
Unleash your children’s creative spirits with mindful art! Set up an art station with natural, colourful materials and let their imagination run free. Encourage them to paint or draw with mindful awareness, feeling the brush strokes and textures of the materials.
Remind them to stay present in the moment, letting go of distractions. Remember, the aim is to let their inner artists shine while also experiencing a sense of peace and relaxation through creative expression.
There are over 600 muscles in the human body, but when was the last time you stopped to think about them?
Invite your child to close their eyes and to consciously relax their muscles. Start slow and simple by asking them to gently squeeze their feet, and then their hands. As they progress, move to larger muscle groups like the calves, biceps, and abdomen.
This is also a great opportunity for continued learning. Explore the different kinds of muscles and bones in the body through research and discussion. You can even take a trip to Scienceworks or the Melbourne Museum!
Why is Mindfulness Important?
More and more studies are showing the profound benefits of mindfulness for children and adults alike. It’s easy to get lost in the rush of modern life but taking as little as 10-15 minutes a day to reflect and recharge can do wonders for overall joy. Likewise, teaching these skills to children at an early age is vital for long-term happiness and success.
With these engaging activities, you can introduce your child to the wonders of mindfulness while also having some fun along the way. So why not invite your child to take a breath, look around, and smell the roses?
Healthy (and Tasty) Easter Treats for Children
Easter is a time for family, fun, and treats! However, it’s also a time where we can get carried away with sugar-filled, highly processed chocolates. Read on for our comprehensive list of 7 creative treats for your child’s basket this Easter!
Easter is a time for family, fun, and of course, treats! A little chocolate won’t hurt, but it’s easy to get carried away and load up the little one’s baskets with sugar-filled, highly processed eggs and chocolate bunnies.
If you’re looking for a healthier option this year, there are plenty of creative options for making an Easter basket that’s still filled with fun and tasty treats. Here are seven healthy Easter treats for your child’s basket!
1. Rabbit-Shaped Sandwiches
Sandwiches are a great way to get creative while also providing a healthy meal for the little ones. Simply use a bunny-shaped cookie cutter over multigrain sandwiches filled with delicious fillings like ham, turkey, cheese and plenty of veggies.
You can also incorporate the Easter theme into the fillings like egg salad, cucumbers and shredded carrot! Feel free to make them as creative as possible, as children are more likely to engage with healthy eating when it’s colourful and fun.
2. Carrots and Hummus
Carrots are a fitting snack for Easter, as they’re the Easter Bunny’s favourite treat. Experiment with veggies to make little bunnies, creative platters or baby carrot flowerpots. Additionally, hummus comes in a range of flavours and variations for even the fussiest of eaters.
Best of all, hummus is full of nutrients, fibre and protein which are essential for growing bodies. If you’re going for storebought, just avoid anything too spicy for the little ones! There’s loads of recipes online to make your own, which can be a wonderful bonding experience.
3. Fresh Fruit
Fill your child’s Easter basket with a variety of colourful fruits, such as sliced apples, bananas, oranges, berries or grapes. Fresh fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which are vital to children’s physical and psychological development.
Additionally, fruits – especially grapes and berries – are naturally sweet, making them a great alternative to lollies and chocolate. Just add a small container of grapes or berries to your child’s basket, or even freeze them for a fun and refreshing treat.
Popcorn is an underrated healthy snack. It can be salty or sweet and it’s full of fibre and important antioxidants. Pop or your own or opt for store bought, just be sure to read the labels carefully. Many store-bought popcorns are filled with sugar, butter and salt.
You can then portion out the popcorn and get decorative with colourful packaging, ribbons and cards!
5. Homemade Easter Treats
Children love helping out in the kitchen – they just don’t like to clean up the mess! Get the little ones involved in the kitchen to make a whole range of healthy easter treats such as carrot cake bites, hot cross buns, muffins, biscuits, banana bread, energy balls or fruit leather.
This is a great way to get creative in the kitchen while also providing children with a healthier alternative to store-bought treats that are often filled with loads of sugar and nasty preservatives.
6. Chocolate Covered Fruit
Remember, creating a healthy Easter basket is all about balance and moderation. Therefore, coating healthier foods like strawberries, bananas, kiwi fruit or watermelon is a great way to get the best of both worlds. It’s still chocolate, but not in the dense blocks or eggs you’ll find in a typical Easter basket.
This is also a great opportunity to get creative with platters, colours and designs. And remember – you don’t need to cover the entire fruit. A half-covered strawberry or the tip of a mandarin slice is a tasteful, and aesthetic, way to manage your child’s chocolate intake.
7. Sugar-free Chocolate
If pure chocolate is a must, consider a sugar-free (or low sugar) option. These are made with natural sweeteners such as stevia, without comprising the taste. The lack of sugar will result in less hyperactivity, sugar crashes, and trips to the dentist in the long term.
In recent years, sugar-free alternatives to everyday treats have exploded in popularity. Most supermarkets now stock ample sugar-free and low sugar alternatives in their health food aisles.
Just remember to always get your little one to brush after eating even these sugar-free treats. For tips on how to get your little one brushing, check out our blog post here.
Overall, Easter baskets don’t have to be a pit of sugar-filled, processed chocolate and sweets. In fact, they’re an opportunity to teach children about healthy eating and to broaden their palette. Through a mixture of homemade and storebought Easter basket treats, you can ensure your child indulges their sweet tooth.
7 Ways to Manage Separation Anxiety in Childcare
Is your little one struggling with separation anxiety? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Read on for our list of 7 strategies to help manage the transition into childcare.
Separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development and can be just as stressful for parents as it is for children. It’s not uncommon for the little ones to experience separation anxiety during the transition to starting childcare.
As children develop and grow, they become more aware of their surroundings and develop a strong attachment to their primary caregiver (i.e. you). This attachment provides them with a sense of safety and security, making them feel protected and loved. Therefore, when a child is separated from their caregiver, they may feel uncertain, scared or anxious.
Rest assured, this usually doesn’t last long as children adapt to their settings quicker than you might think. However, having a structured plan in place to manage this transition can do wonders in saving you and your little one the unnecessary stress.
In this post, we list seven ways to help your child cope with separation anxiety.
1. Explain What Will Happen
It’s important that your child understands where they are, why you’re leaving and that you’ll come back. Tell them that they’ll play their favourite game with their friends, have a tasty lunch and get to play outside.
Additionally, let them know what time you’ll come to pick them up. You don’t have to give them the exact minute, but something as simple as ‘I’ll be back to pick you up after afternoon tea’ can mean the world to a child. Likewise, a settled routine can make the transition into care, primary school or just visiting friends much easier for children who thrive on structure and predictability.
2. Create a Goodbye Routine
Developing a special goodbye routine with your little one every time you drop off can do wonders in easing separation anxiety. This could include a special handshake, a hug, a kiss or anything that’s meaningful to you and your child. Establishing a consistent routine can help your child feel more secure and less anxious when you leave.
3. Speak with the Centre Team
Our Educators are knowledgeable, understanding and, most of all, caring! They understand that while many children ease into care seamlessly, others require a gentler transition process. Together with your child’s Room Leader, you can develop a plan to help your child adjust.
This could include providing extra attention and reassurance during the transition period, phone calls to your child’s room to check in with the Educators, and plenty of positive encouragement and praise throughout the day from both parents and Educators alike.
4. Establish Familiarity
Some families may choose to start with bookings of just two or three days a week to ease their child into care. However, more days early on builds consistency and fast tracks a child’s familiarity with their new environment.
When commencing at Explorers, all children attend an Orientation Session to familiarise themselves with the Educators, environment and other children. If you feel your child needs more time, you can book an extra Orientation Session to help your child further adjust to their new learning spaces.
Additionally, research has shown that familiarity is perhaps the most important factor for reducing stress during periods of separation, as ‘at around 10 months, most babies get upset if a stranger comes up to them in an unfamiliar room. Only 50% get upset if they have time to get used to the room. This means that in new situations, babies cope better when they come across new things gradually.’
Before commencing care, you can also practise time apart at home by leaving your child with a family member for increasing amounts of time, ‘I’m just going into the garden for a bit. Pop will look after you while I’m gone.’
5. Provide Comfort Items
A comfort item, such as a stuffed animal or favourite blanket, can help your child feel more secure about entering an unfamiliar environment. It’s like taking a little bit of home with them. Therefore, comfort items provide children a sense of reassurance and companionship, which can help them calm down, sleep and even join in on activities.
Be sure to provide plenty of positive attention and encouragement for your little one’s comfort item, whether it be a teddy, a blanket or even a piece of clothing.
6. Stay Calm and Be Patient
It’s important to be patient when dealing with even the most anxious child, even if their crying and tantrums are making you anxious. Reacting with frustration or being negative about their experience will only make the situation more challenging. Moreover, be relaxed and cheerful so your child knows they’re somewhere safe, as children have a remarkable ability to identify – and imitate – the actions of adults.
7. Keep Goodbyes Short and Sweet
Kiss and go. Lingering with your child will only prolong the experience and can make it worse for the both of you. If you feel your child is really struggling to adapt their new play space, try and spend a little time with them doing something they enjoy in the room or outside at pick up to help them feel more comfortable and confident.
When to Seek Help for Separation Anxiety
Although separation anxiety usually goes away on its own, it’s important to be aware that it can develop into Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This disorder develops when it:
- interferes with your child’s life and your family life.
- is more severe than the anxiety of other children the same age.
- has gone on for at least 4 weeks.
If you’re concerned about your child’s separation anxiety, it’s important to speak with your child’s healthcare provider or your Centre Leadership Team for guidance and support.
In conclusion, separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development. While it can be challenging, there are several things that you can do to help manage separation anxiety and make the transition smoother. By establishing a consistent routine, gradually increasing separation time and providing reassurance, you can ease your child’s anxiety and build their confidence for childcare, primary school and the world beyond.
How to Get Children Excited About Toothbrushing
Does teeth time become tantrum time in your household? Check out our blog for our top tips to get the little ones brushing.
From the moment children’s teeth erupt, they need brushing. Experts say children’s teeth need cleaning twice a day – and the same goes for adults! While this sounds fine in theory, does teeth time become tantrum time in your household?
Head shakes, crying, and firmly shut mouths are daily struggles for parents when teaching children the brushing basics. In this post, we’ve listed some fun ways to motivate your child to brush from newborns all the way to their first visit from the Tooth Fairy!
0 – 6 months
Although baby teeth don’t usually emerge until around six months, you can gently wipe their gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad. This is best done after feeding and before bed. Importantly, a toothbrush or toothpaste isn’t needed at this age. Be soothing and gentle, as babies are at a delicate stage of development.
6 – 18 months
This age is often where the trouble begins, as it’s when the toothbrush enters the picture. This can be particularly problematic for highly sensitive or autistic children. However, small changes to your brushing routine can ease the experience for any child:
- Sing songs while brushing
- Use lukewarm water – children aren’t ready for toothpaste at this age, and water’s that’s too cold can irritate sensitivity
- Use a mirror to ensure slow circular motions in all corners of the mouth
- Play music (soothing for younger children, upbeat for older)
- Be gentle, but thorough
Furthermore, children love to imitate adults. Brushing your teeth alongside them is a great way to get them to take the initiative. Additionally, children thrive on independence. Tying their shoelaces or pouring their cereal are big steps for the little ones. Therefore, framing toothbrushing as a grown up activity can be a huge motivator.
Lastly, always remember to always replace brushes every three months, only use a pea-sized amount of age-appropriate toothpaste and remind children to never swallow toothpaste.
18 months – 3 years
By now, children are fully immersed in the experience, with the toothbrush, low-fluoride toothpaste and flossing (when teeth touch at around two to three years old) all a part of the equation. Naturally, this may make children apprehensive with all the new routines and sensations.
Remember, toothbrushing is repetitive – needed twice every single day – so it’s understandable if children get bored, as they often avoid difficult tasks. They prefer what’s familiar and easy. Also, young children don’t understand long term consequences for their actions. If their teeth aren’t rotting that second, they don’t see the problem.
Some activities to get children brushing at this age include:
- Star charts – a reward system to encourage brushing for consecutive days.
- A fun toothbrush – try your child’s favourite character, colour or design.
- Bring in a stuffed toy – children feel in charge when ‘brushing’ their favourite toy’s teeth, so getting teddy involved can be the difference.
- Apps – there are loads of apps from Disney, the Wiggles and many more which offer an immersive brushing experience.
- Picture books – there are countless board books about the importance of brushing teeth which pairs perfectly with story time.
- Get the family involved – children look up to family members, so get brothers, sisters, mum, dad, grandparents or cousins into the picture – whoever it takes to get them brushing!
3 – 6 years
At this age, children are more attuned to their environment. Therefore, you can start adding more complex elements like games, educating them about why toothbrushing is important and, of course, the Tooth Fairy! Although children don’t start losing their baby teeth until around age six, you can begin introducing them to the idea. Be sure to remind them that the Tooth Fairy only accepts clean teeth!
Nevertheless, there’s no one method or life hack to get children brushing. Each child is different and responds to encouragement in their own unique way. Therefore, it’s best to experiment and borrow elements from different approaches to discover what works best for your child.
By around six, children develop the necessary responsibility and motor skills to brush independently. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’ll magically start brushing morning and night without issue. Rather, managing children’s healthy brushing habits continues well into adolescence. If unchecked, poor habits can bleed into adulthood and lead to a variety of physical, psychological, social, and even financial issues for your child.
Overall, getting children brushing early in life is crucial to developing long-term hygiene habits. After all, it’s more than just to maintain a good smile, although that is a nice perk.
Why Your Child Should Get Active this Spring
Spring is ideal for getting the little ones active, but how much exercise is enough? Read on to learn the science of why it’s so important to get the little one’s moving this spring.
Spring is the perfect time to get outside, stretch your legs and smell the flowers with the family. While it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with nature, it’s also a wonderful way to get your little ones moving so they can lead an active and healthy lifestyle.
Remember, your child doesn’t have to play organised sports or gymnastics to get active. Rather, the key is to get them moving more and sitting down less to experience all the physical, psychological and developmental benefits of an active life.
1. How Much Exercise is Enough?
Firstly, you may be asking yourself, how much exercise do children really need? According to Better Health Victoria, the amount of recommended exercise for children varies by age group:
- Babies (birth to 1 year) – no set time required; however, it’s encouraged to get babies active with supervised floor-based play in safe environments.
- Toddlers (1-3 years) and pre-schoolers (3-5 years) – at least three hours spread throughout the day.
- Children (5-12 years) and teenagers (13-17 years) – at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity throughout the day. For additional health benefits, up to three hours.
But what exactly is exercise? Well, leading experts define exercise as ‘any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.’ In other words, anything that quickens your breath and spikes your heart rate is exercise – so don’t stress if your child isn’t bucketing with sweat.
2. Types of Active Play
There are countless types of active play, so don’t feel limited! Playground play, dancing, climbing, crawling, backyard cricket, tiggy, bike riding, skateboarding and swimming are just a few examples.
- Babies (birth to 1 year) – no set time required; however, it’s encouraged to get babies active with supervised floor-based play in safe environments.
- Toddlers (1-3 years) and pre-schoolers (3-5 years) – at least three hours spread throughout the day.
- Children (5-12 years) and teenagers (13-17 years) – at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity throughout the day. For additional health benefits, up to three hours.
But what exactly is exercise? Well, researchers at Public Health Reports define exercise as ‘any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.’ In other words, anything that gets your child moving is exercise – so don’t stress if your child isn’t bucketing with sweat.
The trick is to discover and nurture the activity your child enjoys. You might’ve loved basketball growing up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your child will too. They might love gardening or skipping rope or running around in circles pretending they’re a dinosaur. Encourage their chosen activity and reward them by doing it together!
Here are just some of the many benefits of active play:
3. Better Sleep Quality
Steady exercise has been regularly linked with improved length, and more importantly, quality of sleep. The more energy they burn throughout the day, the quicker they’ll doze off when it’s time for bed.
Sleep is a vital part of children’s physical and neurological development. Toddlers are recommended to get anywhere between 12 to 13 hours of sleep per day, so making sure they’re getting quality sleep is crucial.
Children’s Health Queensland suggest that children who don’t get enough sleep ‘may be easily distracted, irritable, disruptive or generally hyperactive and restless,’ and argue that a ‘lack of healthy sleep has been linked to mental health problems, poor growth, excessive weight gain, and reduced school performance.’
4. Improved Intelligence
A new study recently suggested that regular aerobic and resistance training may actually boost intelligence in children. Researchers at the University of Granada gathered a group of 109 children aged 8-11 and placed them into two groups:
- Control group: usual routine over a 20-week period.
- Exercise group: participated in a 20-week cardiovascular and resistance training program consisting of three supervised 90-minute sessions per week.
The results were remarkable, as the exercise group showed significantly improved:
- Crystalised intelligence (stored knowledge)
- Fluid intelligence (problem solving)
- Cognitive flexibility (ability to switch thought processes to adapt to different situations)
Overall, the study found that general intelligence was considerably boosted by exercise sessions just three times per week. Programs such as Auskick, local sporting clubs, scouts and many others are a great way to achieve this, as well as building teamwork and collaboration skills. However, playing at home also works (just make sure it’s consistent)
5. Muscle and Bone Strength
While any exercise is great for strengthening bones and muscles in children, it’s best to engage in weight-bearing activities. Although your two-year-old won’t be spotting you at the bench press, they can run, hike, dance or play team sports.
Bone and muscle strength are essential to children’s growth and physical development. In fact, the bones in children actively absorb nutrients and minerals to develop bone density – a process that doesn’t stop until their late 20s!
6. Reduced Health Risks
Being active at an early age gives your child the best possible chance at leading a long and healthy life. Regular exercise in childhood and adolescence has regularly been linked to reduced risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Moreover, regular exercise and a balanced diet have been proven to reduce the likelihood of children developing anxiety and depressive disorders later in life. If you’d like to read up on some techniques to begin a healthy dialogue with your child about mental health, be sure to check out our R U OK? Day blog post!
In conclusion, there’s countless benefits to getting your child active this spring and beyond. Regular exercise makes them fitter, smarter and gives them the tools to succeed. The secret is to find a way to make them actually want to exercise, so it doesn’t feel like a chore!