Learning

One Small Step, One Giant Leap: Is Your Child ‘Ready’ for Primary School?

Reading, writing, and sitting still. That’s all there is to prep, right? Well, not exactly. Read on for our full breakdown of all the essential skills your child needs to thrive in prep and beyond 👇

The transition between early childhood education and primary school is an exciting and sometimes challenging time for parents and children alike. It marks the next step in your child’s educational journey, and their first foray into the formal schooling system.  

But with all the talk of ‘school readiness’ and the Victorian Government’s upcoming ‘Pre-Prep’ program, how can you really know if your child is mentally and emotionally prepared for the big first day?

In this post, we break down the key developmental areas to keep an eye on in the days, weeks, and months before the first day of prep!

What Age Do Children Start Prep in Victoria?

In Victoria, children need to turn 5 years of age by 30 April of the year that they start school. Alternatively, children must be at school in the year that they turn 6 years of age – this is the compulsory school starting age.

Additionally, parents have several options for schooling depending on location, fees, religious preferences, and educational philosophy:

  • Government schools
  • Private schools
  • Language schools
  • Specialist schools
  • Distance education
  • Home schooling

More than Reading and Writing

Once your child is enrolled, it’s important to remember that the essentials for primary school extend far beyond reading, writing, and sitting still. Rather, children grow and develop in a number of key growth areas, such as independence, emotional maturity, and sociability.

Therefore, try a holistic approach to gauging your child’s ‘readiness’ for primary school. Every child is unique with individual skills, passions, and ways of learning. In other words, no two children are exactly alike.  

So, get a feel for your child’s development in the following areas, and be sure to discuss these with your Kinder teacher leading up to the first day.  

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Social Skills and Independence 

Is your child getting along with other children? Do they stand up for themselves or others? Sociability is a vital skill for children entering primary school, and one that experts suggest is improved with quality early childhood education. Social skills form the foundation of conversation, compromise, and relationship bonding.  

Without established social skills, children may struggle to adapt to the primary school environment where children grow physically and psychologically with their peers. Some signs your child is displaying social skills leading into primary school include: 

  • Sharing toys
  • Organising games and making friends on their own
  • Role-playing as adults through games like ‘mummies and daddies’, ‘superman’, or ‘cooking’ in a dramatic play area
  • Asserting themselves (even being a bit bossy!) 
  • Going to the toilet on their own (including using toilet paper properly and flushing the toilet)

Emotional Maturity 

Can your child regulate their emotions with minimal adult intervention? Essentially, emotional maturity highlights a child’s ability to empathise and identify emotions in others, while also expressing their own in healthy ways – this doesn’t mean bottling everything up!   

According to the Australian Early Development Consensus, children’s ‘ability to understand their emotions helps children to empathise with others.’ Therefore, children who display emotional maturity ‘can infer the feelings of others and respond in prosocial ways that demonstrate that they care for other people and value relationships.’ 

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Language Skills 

Language skills are so much more than a child’s ability to speak and enunciate their vowels. Rather, a vital component of language skills is children’s ability to listen and collaborate with others. These interpersonal skills equip children with the tools to:

  • Express and understand complex emotions 
  • Think and learn for themselves
  • Problem solve
  • Develop and maintain long-lasting relationships

Cognitive Skills  

Reading and writing are just two of the many cognitive skills expected in primary school. Cognitive skills strengthen children’s ability to absorb and critically analyse information, so it’s more than just remembering that two plus two equals four. 

Rather, cognitive skills allow children to: 

  • Focus on mentally strenuous tasks
  • Analyse information 
  • Compare and evaluate
  • Problem solve
  • Grasp cause and effect 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all children learn at the same rate or in similar ways. Some children thrive with mathematical concepts, while others learn from artistic or abstract activities. Be sure to speak with your child’s Kinder teacher if you have any concerns.

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Fine and Gross Motor Skills

The ability to touch, feel, and manipulate objects is one of the most important skills for children. It’s an extension of their independence in a tangible, physical way. Therefore, children’s fine and gross motor skills are vital for success in academic and social development.

According to the Early Years Learning Framework, ‘Physical activity and attention to fine and gross motor skills provide children with the foundations for their growing independence and satisfaction in being able to do things for themselves.’

In other words, children need to interact with the world around them, whether that be through drawing, writing, moulding, solving puzzles, or playing with toys.

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Ultimately, as your child embarks on the exciting transition from Kinder to primary school, it’s vital to consider readiness beyond academics. Social skills, emotional maturity, language proficiency, cognitive abilities, and motor skills all contribute to a well-rounded preparation that’ll ease those first day worries. Therefore, nurturing these aspects ensures a smoother transition and sets the stage for a fulfilling educational journey and a lifelong love of learning.

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

Why Nutrition is Everything for Toddlers

Is your toddler getting all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they need? And what do they need anyway? In this post, we break down why a well-balanced diet is everything for toddlers 👇

A balanced diet with all the necessary macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are the building blocks of a healthy body and mind. After all, there’s a reason you heard ‘if you don’t eat your veggies, you won’t grow up big and strong’ as a child on repeat.   

Therefore, it’s vital to embed healthy eating habits and proper nutrition from an early age to ensure the best chance for success later in life.

In this post, we break down why nutrition is everything for toddlers. We’ll also provide some handy tips to get your toddler eating their fruit and veg!

How Much Protein Does my Toddler Need?

Toddlers need around 13g of protein daily, or roughly 15-25% of their diet. Protein is a vital macronutrient as it contains essential amino acids. While you’re probably familiar with its muscle building effects, protein is a part of every cell in the human body! It builds and repairs skin, nails, and even hair. Additionally, protein helps maintain a healthy weight, curb hunger, and repair injuries.

Some high-protein foods for toddlers include:

  • Lean meats
  • Dairy products
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Chickpeas
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How Many Carbs Does my Toddler Need?

Paediatric experts recommend toddlers get around 45-65% of their diet from carbs. However, it’s essential to be mindful of the sources and quality of carbohydrates. Importantly, there are two types of carbs: simple and complex.

Simple carbs (or simple sugars) contain only one or two types of sugar, while complex have many. Sugary foods, fruit, and soft drinks contain simple carbohydrates which are quickly broken down into energy. This is why you might find your toddler bouncing off the walls on a sugar high.

Conversely, complex carbs, such as starches and fibre, break down slowly as they’re made up of many chains of carbs. Therefore, complex carbs release energy slowly and are less likely to spike blood sugar, hence avoiding those dreaded sugar crashes.

While some simple carbs are naturally occurring, experts recommend avoiding processed foods and drinks with added sugar entirely for children under 2, and preferably well into childhood and adolescence. Instead, reach for whole foods to boost your toddler’s energy.

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include:

  • Whole grains (whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice)
  • Pulses (lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans)
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas)

How Much Fat Does my Toddler Need?

According to recent studies, fats should make up around 30-40% of a toddler’s diet. However, there are different types of fat to keep in mind, both healthy and not so healthy.

Firstly, there are two kinds of healthy fats. These fats derive from natural sources and should be consumed on a regular basis for brain function, hormone balance, and energy:

  • Monosaturated fats (nuts, avocado, canola oil, olive oil, sesame oil)
  • Polyunsaturated fats (fish, sunflower seeds, flaxseed oils, soybean)

Additionally, while not necessarily healthy or unhealthy, saturated fats should be consumed in moderation:

  • Saturated fats (beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products, eggs)

Lastly, trans fats (or trans fatty-acids) should be avoided entirely. In fact, the World Health Organisation recommends limiting trans fats to less than 1% of total energy intake. In several cities around the world, such as New York City, trans fats have been severely limited or outright banned and there’s a growing movement in Australia to follow suit.

Trans fats can be naturally occurring but are most often industrially made. You’ll find trans fats in highly processed foods which offer little to no nutritional value to you or your child. Additionally, a diet high in trans fat has been regularly linked to an increased likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

  • Deep fried foods
  • Fast food
  • Commercially baked goods (cakes, biscuits, pies, muffins, etc.)
  • Frozen food (pizza, nuggets, ice cream, etc.)
  • Potato chips
  • Butter and margarine
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Micronutrients

What are the Essential Vitamins for My Toddler?

Vitamins are essential for toddlers to boost the immune system and strengthen cell function. Likewise, vitamin deficiency can lead to lower energy levels and may affect children’s development. Therefore, if you suspect your toddler may have a vitamin deficiency, consult your GP or a healthcare professional. Rest assured, these deficiencies are common and often easily treatable.

There are seven vitamins needed for healthy growth:

  • Vitamin A (eggs, fish, sweet potatoes, spinach)
  • Vitamin B (whole grains, poultry, fish)
  • Vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes)
  • Vitamin D (fortified milk and cereals, fatty fish, sunlight)
  • Vitamin E (vegetable oils, leafy green veggies, nuts)
  • Vitamin K (eggs, milk, broccoli)
  • Folate (beans, fresh fruits, beans, sunflower seeds)

What are the Essential Minerals for my Toddler?

Minerals are key for building strong bones and teeth. While vitamins help the body’s functions, minerals help the body’s structure. Similarly, mineral deficiencies are also commonplace, especially with fussy eaters. So, be sure to contact a healthcare professional if you’re concerned and they can take the necessary steps.

Essential minerals include:

  • Calcium (dairy products, fortified cereals, leafy greens)
  • Iodine (dairy products, chicken, iodised table salt, seaweed)
  • Iron (red meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, dried fruit, leafy greens)
  • Zinc (beef, oysters, pumpkin seeds, rolled oats)
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Tips to Get Your Toddler Eating Healthy

While it’s handy to know what your toddler needs to eat, for some the battle is just getting the food into their mouths in the first place. We’ve compiled a few handy tips to get your child eating more, and some ways you can incorporate healthy foods into healthy habits:

  • Don’t serve too much – this one might sound obvious, but only serve what your toddler will eat. Forcing children to ‘clean their plate’ when they’re not hungry can impact their ability to read hunger cues, make healthy eating choices, and listen to their body. It also prevents food waste!
    a) 1-2 year olds: let them decide how much they want to eat. Importantly, think about how much your child eats over the course of a week, rather than day-by-day. This is because toddlers appetite wanes often, which is okay!
    b) 3-4 year olds: offer a wider variety of healthy foods. Likewise, give them the choice to eat or not, but be sure to include foods from the five food groups.
  • Offer variety – toddlers often refuse to eat as a way to express control. Therefore, food choices offer fussy toddlers a compromise. Something as small as choosing between mashed potatoes and mashed pumpkins can be a huge boost for a toddler’s sense of agency.
  • Get creative with consistencies – dips, dips, dips! By using hummus, yogurt, or blended veg, you can make healthy eating a more fun and interactive experience for toddlers. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to strengthen fine and gross motor skills. 
  • Make a routine – children thrive off structure, so be sure to encourage family mealtimes at the same time every day (where possible) can ease stress and anxiety around mealtime.

Overall, getting enough macro and micronutrients is essential for babies and toddlers alike. Whether it’s for brain health, bone strength, the immune system, or making sure everything is working just right, a balanced diet is a must for growing bodies. With these facts and tips in mind, you can ensure your child is getting all the building blocks they need for a healthy and fulfilling life.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Kinder? 

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

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

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

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

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What is Kinder Funding? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Kinder at Explorers 

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 STEAM-Themed World Space Week Books for Toddlers

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

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

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

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

Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engineering

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maths

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

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

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

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

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

Returning to Work After Parental Leave: What to Expect

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

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

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

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

What is Parental Leave?

Unpaid Parental Leave

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

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

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

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

Australian Government Paid Parental Leave

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

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

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

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

Your Rights When Returning to Work

An employee returning from unpaid parental leave is entitled to:

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

For more information, click here.

Return to Work Tips

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

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1. Keep an Open Mind

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

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

2. Organise Childcare in Advance

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

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

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3. Stay in the Loop!

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

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

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

4. Consider Working from Home

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

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

5. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

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

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

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6. Sit Down with Your Boss

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

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

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

7. Reach Out if You’re Struggling

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

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

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

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

13 Must-Read Books for Book Week 2023

Read, Grow, Inspire. This year’s Book Week theme is all about fostering future creatives. To give your child the best start in their creative journey, check out our list of 13 must-read books for Book Week 2023 👇

Book Week has exploded in popularity in recent years with school and library events, activities, and dress-up parades taking centre stage. However, it’s important to remember the true purpose of Book Week which is, of course, reading!

This year’s Book Week theme – Read, Grow, Inspire – perfectly illustrates the importance of reading and engaging with stories from an early age. In fact, experts suggest that reading with toddlers promotes bonding and builds lasting relationships.

To celebrate Book Week 2023, we’ve compiled a list of 13 books that every child should read. The stories vary from rhyming cats to wombat stew, while also planning a costume or two!

1. How the Birds Got Their Colours by Mary Albert and Pamela Lofts

This Dreaming story is a wonderful introduction for children into the incredible world of Indigenous Australian culture. Mary Albert, a woman of the Bardi people, beautifully combines retellings of Dreamtime stories and children’s paintings to form a mosaic of Indigenous heritage.  

If you have a passion for the more extravagant costumes, honour this important story by dressing your child as their favourite bird – just make sure to use plenty of colour!

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

At just 224 words long, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar has endured as a bestseller for over 50 years. Carle’s story cleverly teaches children the days of the week, counting, patterns, and healthy eating while also being a captivating read for adults.

The best part of this costume is its simplicity. All you need is a stripy green shirt and a few materials to make the crown. Alternatively, there’s plenty of The Very Hungry Caterpillar costumes in stores or online.

3. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister  

One look at The Rainbow Fish proves it’s a book like no other. Pfister’s ingenious use of holographic foil for the shimmering scales meant this book was destined for greatness. But like the Rainbow Fish himself, it’s about what’s beneath the surface. Take a journey of self-discovery with your child and delve into The Rainbow Fish to learn all about sharing and the power of friendship.

Dress your child as the glittering Rainbow Fish complete with shiny scales, and use the opportunity to discuss the importance of kindness and generosity.

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4. Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan and Pamela Lofts

Marcia K. Vaughan’s Wombat Stew seamlessly intertwines Australian wildlife into a story of teamwork, cunning, and whimsy. This is one to read aloud with its captivating illustrations and unique rhymes!

Grab a onesie and encourage your child to dress up as a mischievous wombat, a cheeky dingo, a friendly platypus, or any of the other Australian animals featured in Wombat Stew. The best part about this is it also reduces waste as they’ll get plenty of use out of a cosy onesie in the colder months.  

5. Possum Magic by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

Mem Fox’s enchanting tale of an invisible possum is an unforgettable celebration of Australia’s native wildlife and the need to preserve them. Even better, both Mem Fox and illustrator Julie Vivas are Australian, so you’re supporting local authors while enjoying this timeless Aussie classic.  

Invite your child to dress up as Hush, the invisible possum, or her friend Grandma Poss. This is an opportunity to get creative with stars, face paint, and props!

6. Neil, the Boring Amazing Sea Cucumber by Amelia McInerney and Lucinda Gifford

Did you ever think you’d reach for a story starring a sea cucumber? This hilarious aquatic story is one for children and parents alike. Through deadpan delivery, plenty of puns, and smooth illustrations, this is one your child won’t soon forget.

The beauty of this costume is its simplicity – all you need is some glasses and plenty of green!

7. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Take a stroll with a mouse in a deep dark wood. The Gruffalo endures to this day as a regular on children’s bookshelves, thanks to its clever turn of phrase, striking illustrations, and clever storytelling.

As for costumes, there’s so many animals to choose from in The Gruffalo! While a costume of the Gruffalo himself may be a bit too crafty for some, there’s plenty to work with for the mouse, snake, owl, or the silly old fox!

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8. Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat took home the Young Australian Readers’ Award, Kids Own Australian Literature Award: Best Picture Book, and so many more. Like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Diary of a Wombat cleverly teaches children the days of the week and even the times of the day.  

Dress your child as Mothball the sleepy wombat – just be sure to bring plenty of carrots for props.

9. The Rainbow Serpent by Dick Roughsey and Percy Trezise  

This Dreamtime classic is a must-read for children to broaden their understanding and appreciation of Indigenous heritage. The Rainbow Serpent is a cornerstone of Aboriginal traditions, with land rock art depicting the brilliant serpent more than 6,000 years ago!

To spread the word of this important cultural story, dress your child as the titular rainbow serpent! Just remember to be mindful and respectful of cultural traditions when dressing your child as this iconic figure.

10. Respect by Fay Stewart-Muir and Sue Lawson

This important book teaches children about the oldest living civilisation, the importance of respecting others, and the unending beauty of nature from the flickering stars to the red earth.

Dressing to convey the natural beauty of Australia fits for this wonderful story. From the scarlet robin on the cover to a cunning crow, there’s plenty to chose from in this moving tale.  

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11. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Despite being written in the 60s, Maurice Dendak’s Where the Wild Things Are has endured as a must-read children’s classic to this day. With a short film, an opera, a video game, and a feature length film based on the book, there’s a reason this story has remained in the public consciousness for decades (and showing no signs of slowing).

Encourage your child to don Max’s crowned wolf suit or go all out and make a Wild Things costume complete with horns, fur, and bulging yellow eyes. This one will make for some unforgettable snaps for the photo album.

12. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Today you are you, that is true. There is no one alive who is youer than you. We could have chosen from dozens of iconic Dr. Seuss quotes and tales, which really need no introduction. However, it’s hard to pass the iconic classic of The Cat in the Hat. This colourful masterpiece teaches children about counting, rhyme, and the virtue of honesty.

Get out the whiskers and grab a stripy red hat to dress your child as the mischievous Cat in the Hat and enjoy the rhymes together. Conversely, dress them up as any character in the Seuss books – just don’t forget the green eggs and ham!

13. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit regularly features in top children’s book lists, despite being written over 100 years ago! And this enduring legacy is for good reason. Few books have illustrated the dangers of adult life and the consequences of our actions quite like Peter Rabbit’s venture into McGregor’s woods.

Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Rabbit, Farmer McGregor; there’s so many costume choices from this wonderful book – just don’t be surprised if your little one wants a pet rabbit after this Book Week!

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Why Is Reading Important for Children?

Whether your child is into the fantastical, the everyday, or a story about a sea cucumber, reading is essential for growing minds. In fact, the Children’s Bureau of Southern California outlines 7 key benefits for reading:

  • Supported cognitive development
  • Improved language skills
  • Preparation for academic success
  • Developing a special bond with your child
  • Increased concentration and discipline
  • Improved imagination and creativity
  • Cultivating a lifelong love of reading

So, be sure to encourage your child’s reading and writing habits, no matter what the genre or style. Read widely and nurture their interests as they to progress from picture books to middle grade and young adult. And most of all, try not to stress over the Book Week festivities! The costumes and events are all in service of the real meaning of Book Week – to read, grow, and inspire.

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

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
  • Bluey
  • Ask the StoryBots
  • Octonauts
  • Alphablocks
  • Numberblocks
  • Vooks
  • ABC Mose Early Learning Academy
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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.

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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.

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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.

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

The 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.  

Sensory Development

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:

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Messy Play Activities

6-12 months

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:

  • Cotton
  • Fabric
  • Crinkly paper
  • Fleece
  • Satin
  • Water

12-24 months

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
  • Sand/clay
  • Homemade playdough exploration
  • Finger painting
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2-3 Years

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

3-5 Years

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

Cognitive Skills

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.

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Language Development

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

Prenatal Care and Development

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

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

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

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Birth and the Newborn Phase

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

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

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

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

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

Infant Milestones

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

Some milestones to anticipate include:

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

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

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Nutrition and Weaning

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

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

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

Language and Cognitive Development

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

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

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

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Social and Emotional Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long Day Care (LDC)

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

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

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

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

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

Educators are also required to have: 

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

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

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

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Sessional Kindergarten 

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

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

Kinder teachers at sessional Kinder must hold a tertiary qualification: 
 

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

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

Integrated Kinder

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

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

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

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


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

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Kinder Funding and ‘Free Kinder’ 

What is Kinder Funding?

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

What is Free Kinder?

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

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

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

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

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Free Kinder at Explorers 

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

Three-Year-Old Kinder 

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

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

Four-Year-Old Kinder 

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

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

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