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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
7 Eco-Friendly Science Week Experiments for Children
Science Week is a time to embrace the beakers and break out the lab coat! To help inspire your child, check out our fun (and sustainable) science experiments that’ll get the little one’s brains buzzing 👇
Every August, schools, universities, libraries, and museums around the country join for a week to celebrate all things STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This year’s Science Week theme is all about inspiring future world-changers – Innovation: Powering Future Industries.
Moreover, Science Week is the perfect time to spark children’s curiosity through eco-friendly science experiments. By using sustainable materials, you can inspire your child’s scientific curiosity while also introducing them to conservation and sustainable practises.
1. Dancing Sultanas
Simply fill a clear glass with sparkling water, then gently place a few sultanas inside. As bubbles form on the sultanas, you’ll notice some will ascend to the water’s surface before falling, creating a ‘dancing’ effect.
This experiment elegantly demonstrates how the density of objects change based on their environment. Initially the sultanas, being denser than the water, sink. However, as bubbles stick to them, their density decreases, making them to rise to the surface. Eventually these bubbles burst, causing the sultanas to return to the bottom.
Better yet, this experiment generates absolutely no waste! Simply enjoy the remaining sparkling water and sultanas.
What You’ll Need:
- A glass
- Sparkling water
2. Upcycled Rainbow Spinners
Do you have a box of old CDs lying around? Get into the spirit of upcycling by cutting CDs into small shapes to explore light and reflection. Then, drill a small hole in each new shape and invite your child to help thread a piece of twine through the holes. Lastly, hang your colourful new spinner by a window and watch as the sunlight transforms into rainbows. This is the perfect opportunity for additional learning about light and reflections.
What You’ll Need:
- Old CDs
- Power drill
3. Lemon Juice Invisible Ink
Demonstrate the power of chemistry with this simple experiment. Start by squeezing half a lemon or some store-bought lemon juice into a bowl. Next, invite your child to write a message on paper with a brush. It could be their name, a shape, a tree – anything works!
Then, let the ink dry.
The acidic juices will remain invisible until they’re heated with a hairdryer or held close to a light bulb (just be careful not to get the paper too hot to avoid fire risks). Due to oxidisation, the hidden message will appear dark brown as the acid from the lemon juice is heated. Afterwards, hang the paper or recycle it so it doesn’t go to waste!
What You’ll Need:
- Lemon/lemon juice
- Paint brush
- Hairdryer or light bulb
4. DIY Compass
Explore the mind-boggling concepts of magnetism with this DIY experiment.
Start by stroking a needle with one end of a bar magnet 20-30 times, making sure to lift the magnet after each stroke and only stroking in one direction, not back and forth. Next, fill a bowl of water and place your cork in the water.
Lastly, place the now magnetised needle on top of the floating cork and watch as it spins to align the needles to North and South – just like a real compass! This experiment introduces children to the wonders of science and nature, with only a few simple materials that can be reused.
What You’ll Need:
- Small cork
- Steel needle
- Bar magnet
5. Paper Mâché Volcano
The paper mâché volcano is a classic for a reason. This time-honoured experiment offers an engaging way to understand volcanic eruptions and the power of nature, while also providing an opportunity for children to get creative.
Start by taping a clean plastic bottle to your cardboard base. Next, scrunch up some foil to act as the bulk of your mountain. Then, create a paper mâché mixture with flour and water and paste it over layers of old newspapers. This will act as the exterior of your volcano.
Once dried, get your child involved by painting the volcano in browns for rock, greens for grass, or any colours you like! Lastly, carefully pour 2-3 tsps of baking soda into the top of the volcano, add a few drops of your desired food colouring, and add a splash of vinegar to watch the magic erupt.
What You’ll Need:
- Recycled newspaper strips or scrap paper
- A plastic bottle
- Recycled cardboard (as the base)
- Non-toxic paint or natural dyes
- Baking soda
- Optional: food colouring or natural pigments
6. Ocean-in-a-Jar Ecosystem
Teach your child about ecosystems and sustainability with an ocean-in-a-jar experiment. Fill a glass jar with water (collected rainwater works best), leaving about an inch of space at the top. Add a handful of clean sand or small pebbles for the ‘ocean floor.’ Then, place a few aquatic plants or seaweed (real or recycled craft materials) and a tiny figurine representing a marine animal. Seal the jar and place it near a window with indirect sunlight.
Over time, the plants will release oxygen, while the water evaporates and condenses on the sides, creating a self-sustaining mini-ecosystem. This experiment illustrates the delicate balance of ecosystems and the importance of conserving our oceans.
What You’ll Need:
- Glass jar
- Water (preferably collected rainwater)
- Sand or small pebbles
- Aquatic plants or seaweed
- Tiny figurine or toy
7. Sustainable Water Filtration
Raise awareness about water pollution through a sustainable water filtration experiment. Start by filling a large glass container with water and mix in some dirt to simulate polluted water. Next, cut an old plastic bottle in half and punch a hole in the lid.
Then, put the lid back on the top half of the bottle and place it (facing down) inside a clear jar. Carefully pour a cup of sand, gravel, or activated charcoal into the bottle to complete your filtration system.
To complete the experiment, pour the polluted water through the filtration system and observe how the layers clean the water. This visually demonstrates the process of water purification and the need for clean water sources. Remember – don’t drink your filtered water! Although it may look clean, it hasn’t removed the potentially harmful bacteria. Rather, use the leftover water for your garden or indoor plants.
What You’ll Need:
- Recycled plastic bottle and lid
- Clear jar
- Sand, gravel, or activated charcoal
What are the Benefits of Science Experiments for Children?
Eco-friendly science experiments provide valuable learning opportunities for children, while also embedding environmental responsibility from an early age.
And it’s not just for a fun afternoon with invisible ink and dancing sultanas. Science Week is one of the most important yearly events for the future of Australian – and global – innovation. Recently, Ed Husic, the Minister of Science and Innovation, stressed the importance of inspiring future STEM superstars.
‘Why is this so important? Because we want a future made in Australia. One based on our expertise in quantum computing, medical science, renewables, and other advanced technologies. To get there, we’ll need to grow our STEM talent pool.’
Remember, today’s children are tomorrow’s scientists, inventors, and environmental champions!
The First 1000 Days of Life: Why They’re So Important
What are the first 1000 days of human life? And how can you best prepare your child through those exciting early years? Read on for our full breakdown of this precious early childhood journey 👇
The first 1000 days of life, from conception until their second birthday, sets the foundation for your child’s emotional, physical, and academic development. As you can imagine, getting them right is essential. It’s a time full of developmental milestones, precious memories and yes – lots of nappy changes.
In this article, we outline what to expect during your child’s first 1000 days to help you prepare for this incredible early childhood journey.
Prenatal Care and Development
Prenatal care is everything, and we’re lucky in Australia to have free public healthcare and a range of comprehensive private health insurance options. It goes without saying that it’s vital to receive regular medical check-ups, eat a balanced diet, take prenatal vitamins (particularly calcium, vitamin D and folic acid), and check a list of DO’s and DON’Ts to best support your baby’s growth.
In the first months after conception, your baby’s organs develop rapidly and you’ll feel their first flutters of movement sometime between week 16 and 24!
Additionally, studies have suggested that playing soothing music may aid in cognitive development even in the womb. Just make sure the volume is below 50 decibels, which his roughly the same volume as a washing machine.
Birth and the Newborn Phase
The moment your baby arrives is a rush of emotion and relief. In the early days, you and your baby will mostly be getting to know each other. Expect round-the-clock feeding, checking, nappy changes, and lots of cuddles!
Moreover, regular postnatal checks with your GP are a must. Better Health Victoria recommends a check-up at around the six to eight week mark. This is also a great time to raise any questions or concerns.
Additionally, the Victorian Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Service is a free universal primary health service for all Victorian families with children that offers regular check-ups from birth all the way up to school age. This includes:
- Maternal and child health service resources
- Advice for sleep and settling
- Early Parenting Centres
- Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Aboriginal-led MCH services
- Baby Bundle
While it can be easy to be overwhelmed at this early stage of development, try and enjoy these precious moments of bonding. Importantly, remember to reach out for support and guidance from loved ones or healthcare professionals if needed.
As your child passes through the first 1000 days, it’ll feel like they surpass milestones every other week. From their first smile to rolling over, sitting up, and eventually crawling, each accomplishment marks their progression physically and psychologically.
Some milestones to anticipate include:
- Birth to 3 months – lifting their head when lying on your stomach
- 4 to 6 months – rolling over, clapping, babbling
- 7 to 9 months – sitting without support
- 10 to 18 months – taking their first steps
- 13 to 18 months – engaging in pretend play, first words
- 19 to 24 months – sorting shapes and colours, identifying objects, passing things
Keep in mind that these aren’t strict timeframes. Each child develops at their own pace and may surpass these milestones well before or after these windows. During this time, you can encourage their development through tummy time, talking to them, and introducing age-appropriate toys and activities.
Nutrition and Weaning
Nutrition plays a vital role in your child’s growth and development during the first 1000 days. Breast milk, or an appropriate infant formula, is essential for the first six months. Thereafter, you can gradually transition to age-appropriate foods while continuing to breastfeed or offer formula for 2 years or beyond.
Solid foods can be introduced from around six months, which opens a whole new world of tastes, textures, and smells.
Just remember to be patient as your baby explores different foods and adapts to a varied diet. If you have any concerns, be sure to consult your GP or paediatrician regarding specific dietary needs, allergens, or intolerances.
Language and Cognitive Development
During the first 1000 days, your baby’s brain is rapidly developing, laying the foundation for future learning and communication. Some activities to help your child from around the one year mark include:
- Lots of talking and singing
- Reading books together
- Messy play
And it doesn’t always have to be so structured. Something as simple as responding to your child’s babbles and engaging verbally promotes their understanding of the world around them (and makes for a great time!). Try to enjoy these moments of discovery together.
Social and Emotional Development
As your baby grows physically between the one and two year mark, so do their social and emotional skills. Responding to their cues, providing a secure and loving environment, and fostering social interactions with other children nurtures their emotional well-being.
Likewise, be sure to celebrate their achievements verbally and enthusiastically. This not only provides comfort during times of frustration or distress, but rewards children’s curiosity and insatiable hunger to discover and explore.
For parents that are returning to work during the first 1000 days, be assured that Explorers Early Learning offers opportunities for further social and cognitive development.
Overall, the first 1000 days of a child’s life is a time of immense growth and development. From prenatal care to their second birthday, this period shapes their future health, well-being, and development from the cot all the way to adulthood.
Embrace each milestone, enjoy the precious moments, and seek support when needed. Remember, every child is unique, so follow your instincts and trust your best judgement – no one knows your child better than you!
Long Day Care and Sessional Kinder: What’s the Difference?
Are you tossing up between long day care and sessional Kinder? What if we told you that you can get the best of both worlds through integrated Kinder? Read on for our breakdown of these two early learning journeys 👇
The Victorian Government’s Best Start, Best Life program, which has pledged billions into the early learning sector, is generating plenty of buzz around long day care (LDC) centres and sessional Kindergartens. But what exactly is the difference between these two forms of early education, and how do they impact your child’s transition into primary school?
In this post, we break down the key differences between sessional Kinder and LDC, as well as provide some handy insight into Free Kinder!
Long Day Care (LDC)
LDC, often called ‘childcare’ or ‘day care’, are centre-based early learning services provided by childcare professionals (educators) for children as young as six weeks old to school age (six years old in Victoria).
These centres develop their own curriculums guided by the Early Years Leaning Framework (EYLF). Additionally, LDC services provide meals and offer a range of extracurricular activities such as languages, sports, gardening, and multi-sensory workshops.
LDC centres can be privately or government owned, family-run, or operated by local community groups. However, all must meet the National Quality Standard (NQS) and are assessed and rated accordingly.
Importantly, all LDC educators are required by the Department of Education to have completed, or be actively working towards, a recognised ACECQA (Australian’s Children Education and Care Quality Authority) qualification:
- Certificate III in Early Childhood Education
- Diploma of Early Childhood Education
- Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) or equivalent
Educators are also required to have:
- A Valid Working with Children Check
- First Aid Training
- CPR Training
- Asthma and Anaphylaxis Training
- Child Protection Training
Additionally, LDC centres operate longer hours than sessional Kindergartens, opening as early as 6am and closing as late as 7pm. Ultimately, this accommodates working and/or studying parents and guardians.
In short, the flexibility of LDC allows parents to enrol their child into care depending on their specific needs, rather than their provider’s schedule.
Sessional Kindergarten, or ‘preschool’, is a one-to-two-year program for three and four-year old children. Notably, sessional Kinder differs from LDC as they operate on specified session times. Often, these are in three to five-hour blocks over two-to-three days per week.
Moreover, sessional Kinder can be run by local governments, churches, private companies, or independent schools and vary in fees and funding. They’re typically more formal than LDC as children often have to bring their own food, learning materials, and even wear uniforms in some services.
Kinder teachers at sessional Kinder must hold a tertiary qualification:
- Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Education
- Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood)
- Master of Teaching (Early Childhood)
In Victoria, Kindergarten for three and four-year old children is not compulsory. Nevertheless, many parents enrol their child into sessional Kindergarten or LDC with integrated Kinder programs before beginning primary school.
At Explorers, we offer an integrated Kinder program within our long daycare Centres which is guided by Bachelor qualified teachers across the week for our three and four-year-old children. This program gives children first-hand knowledge and confidence to begin their school journey.
Our Reggio Emilia-inspired program is carefully designed to ease children into the rhythm of primary school, rather than forcing them into a strict routine that can be overwhelming and even traumatic for some children.
We focus on five key areas of your child’s development to best prepare them for their transition to primary school:
- Physical and motor skills
- Emotional and social regulation
- Cognitive learning
- Language abilities
- Emotional resilience
Children also attend local primary schools as part of the Prep for Prep program so they can see and experience a classroom in a controlled environment. Overall, integrated Kinder gives you the best of both worlds. Children receive Kinder-quality education and parents benefit from the flexibility of LDC.
Kinder Funding and ‘Free Kinder’
What is Kinder Funding?
Kinder Funding is not the same as Free Kinder. Rather, Kinder Funding is funding provided directly from the Government to the childcare service you’ve nominated. When you enrol your child into Kinder, you are required to ‘claim funding’ with only ONE Kinder service. The Government will then allocate funds to that service for learning materials, excursions, Kinder Teacher wages, etc.
What is Free Kinder?
Free Kinder supports families to access a funded Kindergarten program by providing a discount of up to $2500 per year to offset the out-of-pocket cost of your fees.
It’s important to note that children can only receive Free Kinder funding at one service. Therefore, if you’re enrolled at multiple Kindergartens or LDC centres, you must nominate which service will receive Kinder funding.
In other words, the Free Kinder subsidy covers part of your out-of-pocket cost, whether you’re in LDC or sessional Kinder.
Lastly, Free Kinder does not affect CCS, so please continue to lodge your CCS applications if you haven’t already done so.
Free Kinder at Explorers
At Explorers, children enrolled in our Kinder program will receive a credit towards their fees. This credit – along with any CCS eligibility – reduces your out-of-pocket cost for Kinder.
For three-year olds, your child must be enrolled for at least one day per week to be eligible for Free Kinder, though subsidies vary based on attendance:
- Enrolled for one day – 7.5 hours covered per week with a yearly subsidy of $1000.
- Enrolled for two or more days – 15 hours covered per week with a yearly subsidy of $2000.
Four-year olds must be enrolled at Explorers for at least two days per week to be eligible for Free Kinder. The subsidy will cover 15 hours of Kinder per week, with a yearly subsidy of $2000 made directly to Explorers to offset your fortnightly fees across the year.
Overall, the choice between LDC and sessional Kinder is ultimately up to you. While some prefer the traditional style of sessional Kinder, more and more families are taking advantage of LDC with integrated Kinder programs. With extended operating hours and holistic learning opportunities for children, LDC is a reliable choice that combines care and education, while also accommodating families with even the busiest of schedules!
Children and the Dinosaur Phase: The Benefits of Fascination
What is it with children and dinosaurs? No matter the generation, there’s no escaping the dinosaur phase! But have you ever wondered what’s behind it? It may be more important for early childhood development than you think 🦖
Is your child watching The Land Before Time on repeat? If so, they’re probably in the famous ‘dinosaur phase’ – a time when children become obsessed with all things prehistoric.
The dinosaur phase usually begins around age two or three and can last well into primary school. While it might seem like a passing fad that’ll make for some great additions to the photo album, it may also contribute to your child’s creativity and cognitive development.
In this article, we explore all the benefits of the dinosaur phase, even if your living room does become a temporary velociraptor enclosure.
Promotes Curiosity and Exploration
Children in the dinosaur phase are naturally curious about the world around them. They ask the big questions, seek answers, and investigate new ideas. Naturally, this leads to stimulating learning experiences as they read and discover how dinosaurs lived, what they ate, and how they evolved over their 165 million year reign on Earth.
Better yet, it’s a great opportunity for activities and continued learning:
- A trip to the museum
- Digging for fossils in the backyard
- Taking a nature walk
- Imaginative play in a sandpit
This curiosity and exploration can help children develop a lifelong love of learning and an appreciation for science and research.
Enhanced Language Development
As children learn about dinosaurs, they’re exposed to an extensive vocabulary related to science, history, and palaeontology. Although they may not understand all of these phrases, just pronouncing them is a phonetic exercise that may lead to a better understanding of written and spoken words.
Learning to pronounce terms like ‘tyrannosaurus rex,’ ‘herbivore’ and ‘fossilisation’ create new neural pathways and stimulate cognition. This exposure to new words and concepts can help them develop language skills, improve communication, and expand vocabulary.
Make New Friends
If your toddler is going through the dinosaur phase, chances are there are many others in their childcare room, kinder, or family friends on the same journey. You can use this shared fascination to organise playdates for your child to make new friends!
In fact, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, peer play and games are essential to their early development:
Pretend play encourages self-regulation because children must collaborate on the imaginary environment and agree about pretending and conforming to roles, which improves their ability to reason about hypothetical events.
Sparks Creativity and Imagination
By its very nature, the dinosaur phase requires imaginative play. As dinosaurs no longer exist, they naturally encourage creativity and fascination for children. This is likely because of their likeness to fictional creatures such as dragons.
You can use this fascination to encourage all kinds of creative dinosaur activities. They might draw pictures, build models, or flex their dinosaur muscles by pretending to be a humble brontosaurus or a terrifying t-rex. Likewise, this imaginative play develops creativity and encourages abstract thinking.
Puts Time and History into Perspective
At around age 4-5, children begin to understand that the world existed long before they did. Additionally, they learn that our history is fascinating and complex. Therefore, the dinosaur phase perfectly introduces children to this concept in a fun and accessible way.
Children learn about an entirely different world with its own creatures and ecosystem over 66 million years ago – the number itself enough to spark wonder and awe.
It’s sometimes said that palaeontologists are grownups that never grew out of the dinosaur phase. An early fascination with science can lead to careers in archaeology, geology, meteorology, and environmental sciences!
Promotes a Love of Nature and the Environment
As children learn about dinosaurs, they also learn about the environment they lived in and the impact that humans have on the planet today. This can help them develop a sense of responsibility for the natural world and a desire to preserve it.
Overall, the dinosaur phase is so much more than just a passing fad. It’s an opportunity for your child to express their creativity, independence, and foster a lifelong love of science and the natural world. So be sure to encourage their interest in dinosaurs by reading books, visiting museums, and engaging in imaginative play. Who knows, your child might grow up to discover the next dinosaur species.
Reggio Emilia and Montessori: What’s the Difference?
Reggio Emilia or Montessori? What do they mean and which is right for your child? Read on for our breakdown of these two popular early education philosophies 👇
Does this sound familiar: you’re researching childcare services and two phrases keep appearing – Reggio Emilia and Montessori. It’s easy to get lost in the wording as they both talk about child-centred curriculums and non-traditional learning.
But what if we told you these early learning approaches differ in some really important ways?
In this post, we break down the Reggio Emilia and Montessori approaches to early childhood education to help you decide which is the perfect fit for your child.
What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?
Reggio Emilia classrooms, often connected by a central piazza for collaboration and discussion, are filled with natural materials, light, and open spaces. Children are seen as active participants in their own learning journey. They co-construct knowledge and spark curiosity alongside their peers and Educators.
The Reggio Emilia approach identifies three teachers in children’s learning:
- The teacher – responsible for constructing and guiding learning experiences. Educators provoke discussion, ask open-ended questions, and explore emerging interests with the children. In other words, they’re co-learners.
- The parent – the home environment is key to building on meaningful learning experiences. Therefore, parents are encouraged to take an active role in emerging interests, projects, and hands-on learning.
- The environment – learning spaces are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, stimulating, and interactive. Artwork, natural materials, and plenty of colour are commonplace in Reggio Emilia classrooms to inspire creativity and imagination.
What is the Montessori Approach?
Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, this approach values children’s need to explore, discover, and learn at their own pace.
The Montessori classroom is a carefully prepared environment where children can choose their own activities from a range of self-correcting materials such as puzzles and loose parts. These materials encourage children to problem-solve instinctively and without the need for strict instructions.
Additionally, the Montessori approach features hands-on learning through workshops. These aim to build independence, self-discipline, and practical life skills. Through interactive learning experiences, the Montessori approach encourages self-directed learning, rather than in large groups.
How do Reggio Emilia and Montessori Differ?
While both Montessori and Reggio Emilia value child-centred learning, they’re also different in their approach to curriculum.
Reggio Emilia embraces an emergent curriculum which evolves based on the interests and inquiries of the children. Educators encourage these interests with intentional provocations.
For example, if a child takes an interest in space, and Educator may provide them with different materials to create a star chart. This intentional experience introduces the child to different sensations – the feel of the materials and the sounds they make – while also acting as the foundation for continued learning.
How big is space? What is the Milky Way? How many planets are there in the solar system?
Montessori on the other hand follows a pre-determined curriculum, with specific materials and activities designed to support children’s development across different areas and outcomes.
Moreover, the Montessori curriculum favours observation by teachers, whereas Reggio Educators favour documentation of observations to share with parents and signpost learning milestones.
The Reggio Emilia approach emphasises community and group-based learning, while Montessori values independent and small group learning.
For a full breakdown of the differences, see the table below!
|Learning style||Child-centric, non-traditional.||Child-centric, non-traditional|
|Role of the Educator/Teacher||Observer and facilitator of knowledge.||Collaborator and co-learner. Educators guide learning experiences and ask open-ended questions.|
|Method||Learning through play and self-correcting materials alone or in small groups. Strict development stages.||Children work in small groups in project-based learning. Community and parental involvement encouraged.|
|Curriculum||Pre-determined and can be adapted to primary and secondary education.||Fluid curriculum which is adapted to emerging interests and unique learning styles.|
|Focus||Independence.||Independence and collaboration.|
|Evidence collection||Observation.||Observe and document.|
|Goal||To form independent and curious learners.||To nurture children to become lifelong learners and citizens of the world.|
Which Approach is Right for Your Child?
Overall, it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to early childhood education. Each child is unique, with their own set of interests, learning styles, and needs. The Montessori approach and the Reggio Emilia approach each offer distinct educational experiences.
While some children may thrive in the Montessori system, others blossom in the collaborative environment of Reggio Emilia. The best way to decide is to visit centres, talk with educators, research widely, and consider all approaches. In other words, trust your intuition to decide which approach resonates with your child’s unique personality and stage of development.
What is the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)?
Belonging, Being, Becoming – these three words form the foundation of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Read on for our breakdown of this vital early education resource.
It’s easy to get lost in the sea of early education terminology from government subsidies to the countless regulatory bodies and quality advisors. However, one term you should know about is the Early Learning Years Framework (EYLF).
This comprehensive early education framework extends and enriches early education for children aged from birth to five years.
But as a 70 page Government document, it’s not exactly a quick read. To save you the time, we’ve broken down the EYLF to provide an insight into how it guides our Explorers curriculum from the nursery all the way up to those embarking on their primary school journey.
Creating the EYLF
In 2009, the Department of Education published Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF). While a historic moment as it was Australia’s first national Early Years Learning Framework, it was redeveloped and expanded into a V2.0 in 2022.
This national framework was developed by the Council of Australian Governments to provide a shared understanding of the foundational principles, practices, and outcomes for early childhood education and care in Australia. The EYLF is based on scientific research and empirical evidence to support all children’s education from birth to age five.
Three key principles form the foundation of the EYLF:
- Being: the importance of children’s experiences in the present moment. Children learn through play, exploration, and communication. These experiences are essential to their overall development and can’t be overlooked.
- Belonging: the need for children to feel connected to their family, community, and culture. When children feel a sense of belonging, they’re more likely to feel safe and supported in their educational environment. This principle recognises children as deeply influenced by their social and cultural context.
- Becoming: children are constantly growing and changing. Children aren’t passive recipients of knowledge, but rather active participants in their own learning and development. This principle recognises that children are competent and independent learners – a fundamental concept to the Reggio Emilia approach to early education.
Victorian Early Years Learning Framework (VEYLF)
While the EYLF is a national framework for early childhood education and care, the VEYLF caters for Victorian children specifically. However, it’s still based on the EYLF and its core principles. The VEYLF also includes additional information and guidance on the learning and development of children from birth to eight years of age.
Although both frameworks share similar goals and outcomes, the VEYLF places a greater emphasis on the development of children from birth to three years of age and focuses on cultural diversity, inclusion, and community engagement. Also, the VEYLF provides more specific guidance on how early childhood educators can support children’s learning and development in Victoria’s cultural and social context.
Five Learning Outcomes of the EYLF
The EYLF identifies five learning outcomes for children. These outcomes support children’s development and learning holistically:
- Children have a strong sense of identity.
- Children are connected with and contribute to their world.
- Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.
- Children are confident and involved learners.
- Children are effective communicators.
Explorers and the EYLF
The EYLF outlines a range of experiences and activities designed to support children’s education and growth across the five key outcomes. These experiences and activities are varied and may include music, art, outdoor play, and social interaction.
At Explorers, we embrace the power of experiences and actively embed them into our curriculum through our Enrichment Program. This Program focuses on five key areas:
- Little Impressionists – Art
- Little Linguists – Language
- Active Explorers – Physical Activity
- Prep for Prep – School Readiness
- One World, One Planet – Sustainability
Moreover, we encourage project-based learning as part of our Reggio Emilia inspired curriculum. These projects often take the form of science and the arts to form a comprehensive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) learning experience.
Music, for example, helps children expand their language and communication skills, as well as their coordination and rhythm. Likewise, science and numeracy prepare children for their academic journey in primary school, secondary school and beyond.
EYLF and the Importance of Community
Importantly, these activities build meaningful relationships between children, providing valuable lessons they transition into social situations and the household. Likewise, Educators strive to build strong relationships with children and their families. These relationships ensure our Centres remain a safe, secure, and supportive environment in which children thrive.
As outlined in the EYLF, children feel comfortable and confident when valued, respected and exposed to appropriate learning challenges. Educators, therefore, stimulate discovery by identifying and tailoring learning experiences for children’s emerging interests.
Overall, the EYLF provides a comprehensive approach to early childhood education and care. The Framework emphasises the importance of exploration and communication in children’s learning and development. Most of all, it identifies the power of play which is essential to the development of healthy and happy children!
Exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach® to Early Childhood Education
You’ve probably heard of it, but what exactly is the Reggio Emilia Approach®? Read on for our breakdown of adult and child-centred early learning philosophy.
The Reggio Emilia Approach® has soared in popularity in recent decades. This approach to early education was created in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and has become renowned worldwide for its focus on the child as an active participant in their learning.
At Explorers, we’re proud to deliver a Reggio Emilia inspired curriculum from our intentional teaching strategies along with the construction of our learning spaces. But what exactly is the Reggio Emilia Approach®?
In this post, we break down the Reggio Emilia Approach® and consider how it challenges traditional early childhood views of children, their experiences, and unique ways of learning.
A Brief History of the Reggio Emilia Approach®
The Reggio Emilia Approach® was developed during the aftermath of WWII by Loris Malaguzzi and the community of Reggio Emilia, Italy.
The philosophy was born out of a desire to create a new kind of education that would instil the values of the region, including democracy, community, and solidarity. Malaguzzi firmly believed that children construct their own knowledge through interactions with their peers, adults, the physical and social environment, materials and resources, and more.
The Environment as the Third Teacher
In the Reggio Emilia Approach®, they refer to the metaphor of the environment as the third teacher. This metaphor suggests that children construct knowledge from many sources and their education is enhanced by a collaborative approach, rather than a passive transmissive approach.
Educators are responsible for constructing a learning environment that encourages exploration, creativity, and critical thinking. The teacher observes and documents children’s learning and uses this information to inform their teaching practice. Therefore, the teacher’s responsibility is to empower children to take an active role in their own learning and to facilitate growth, development, and curiosity.
Families are essential partners in the learning process. They are encouraged to talk to their children to share their knowledge and expertise, and to collaborate with teachers in designing learning experiences and contribute to projects that explore children’s curiosities.
The environment is considered just as important as families or educators in children’s educational journey. Carefully designed learning environments promote exploration, creativity, and learning. Children are active participants in the learning process, and environments are therefore designed to be flexible, adaptable, and responsive to deep underlying pursuits and curiosities of children.
Key Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach®
A series of principles inform all aspects of a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum:
- Children are rich, strong, powerful, competent and capable of constructing their own learning.
- Children learn by watching, listening, and experiencing.
- Children are collaborators and learn through interaction with others.
- Documentation is a strategy used by educators to make children’s learning visible.
- Educators provide rich open-ended environments for children to express themselves.
- Projects are developed for children to research the world around them.
Projects are a core component of the Reggio Emilia Approach®. In other words, children’s emerging curiosities are noted and acted upon. Therefore, our Educators play a vital role in guiding emerging curiosities by asking questions and providing materials to nurture awe, wonder, and learning.
An example of a project could be a child taking an interest in how insects move. An Educator would ask questions, listen to children, and may focus on the concepts of flying or crawling as intentionality for the environments they design for children to explore. The Educator would then observe children, interpret their learning, and document their experiences, always thinking about how to extend children’s learning. They may ask children:
How does an insect move?
Does it have wings or legs?
Where do insects live?
The children’s answers would then be recorded in documentation. Documentation is critical to record the process and progress of the project. It is shared with families to communicate their child’s learning and learning processes.
How does the Reggio Emilia Approach® differ from traditional education philosophy?
The Reggio Emilia Approach® differs from traditional early childhood approaches. Firstly, it places a strong emphasis on the image of the child as an active participant in their own learning rather than a passive recipient of knowledge.
Additionally, it values communication and communication among children, teachers, parents, and the broader community.
Lastly, the the educational principles and values of Reggio Emilia include creativity and imagination and therefore children are offered various media as a means of expression and learning.
The Appeal of Reggio Emilia
There are numerous appealing features to the Reggio Emilia Approach®:
- Children are considered citizens with rights.
- Curriculum design builds on the curiosities of children to ignite awe and wonder.
- The value of the unique abilities of each child promotes a sense of individuality, but also value as a group member.
- Creativity and critical thinking enhances engagement and joy.
Encourages creativity and critical thinking, preparing children for success in the modern world.
What is the Image of the Child?
The Reggio Emilia Approach® places a high value on the image of the child. In other words, children are seen as capable, competent, and full of potential. Therefore, the Educator’s role is to facilitate children’s learning by creating an environment that encourages exploration, creating motivation to learn. Ultimately, children are free to express themselves through various means, such as drawing, painting, and sculpture, just to name a few.
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an innovative approach to early education which emphasises collaboration, communication, and creativity. These values are favoured by many early learning providers and families along with recognising the unique abilities and curiosities of each child. Explorers is inspired by the educational project of Reggio Emilia and commits to providing a curriculum for young children that fosters a love of learning.
How (and Why) to Raise a Child Inventor
Is your child going through an inventing phase? It’s more important for early childhood development than you might think. Read on for all the benefits of encouraging little inventors!
Children love inventing. It’s the perfect mix of imagination and creation. They have an idea, make concept art, work with different materials and end with a finished product. Additionally, inventing develops children’s problem-solving, fine and gross motor skills, manual dexterity and intelligence.
However, inventing is more than just a learning exercise. History is full of children creating everyday inventions from toy trucks to braille! So, to celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day, we look at the benefits of encouraging little inventors, as well as listing some famous child inventors for inspiration.
How to Encourage Inventing at Home
There are several ways to promote invention at home. And remember, not all inventions require crafts or elaborate parts. Many are simple alterations to existing objects. Moreover, just creating concept art is a huge step for the little ones!
A few ways to encourage children to invent are:
- Ask them to identify an everyday problem
- Write a story about an inventor (real or imagined)
- Invite them to draw an invention
Likewise, inventor kits have exploded in popularity in recent years. These are containers or boxes filled with everyday household items and loose parts. Inventor boxes present an evocative safe space for children to explore their senses, while also flexing their creative muscles. They can be bought pre-made or you can create your own in just a few easy steps. You’d be surprised at what children can create with the most basic materials!
Why is Inventing Important for Children?
Inventing is the ultimate form of creativity, as it encourages children to think critically and use their motor skills to turn an idea into a physical form. Importantly, this process engages both sides of their brain, which is fundamental to cognitive development. Moreover, creativity has emerged as a priceless skill across all industries, not just those in creative fields.
At Explorers, our Reggio Emilia inspired philosophy encourages play-based learning goals through project-based education. Therefore, if a child has an idea or passion in a specific area, our Educators actively motivate them down this innovative path. Children need to enjoy learning and be free to explore and create in their own unique way.
Educators, therefore, act as guides. They keep children from straying too far into the fanciful and make sure to ask the right questions. Importantly, they reward curiosity. This is integral to the Reggio Emilia approach, and early learning more broadly.
Famous Child Inventors
Toy Truck – Robert W. Patch (Age 6)
Robert Patch was just six when he invented the toy truck out of shoeboxes, bottle caps and a nail. While it sounds simple, Patch became the youngest person in history to receive an official US patent. Importantly, Patch’s invention didn’t require elaborate parts or intricate designs – just a few materials and a good idea.
Crayon Holder – Cassidy Goldstein (age 11)
In 2006, Cassidy Goldstein was named Youth Inventor of the Year by Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation. This was thanks to her ingenious Crayon Holders, which allowed broken crayons to be reused through a retractable plastic tube. Cassidy’s invention solved a common problem children faced daily, as well as drastically reducing crayon waste.
Popsicle – Frank Epperson (Age 11)
Sometimes, a great invention isn’t enough. At age 11, Frank Epperson accidently invented the popsicle (icy poles) by leaving a sugary mixture out on a cold night, the wooden mixing stick frozen inside. Yet, it was a story of perseverance for Epperson. It took over a decade pitching his product around the neighbourhood, beaches and a fireman’s ball to finally get the project off the ground. Children can learn a lot from Epperson, as hard work does pay off!
Braille – Louis Braille (age 15)
By age five, Louis Braille was blind in both eyes. However, this didn’t deter the brilliant young inventor. At the time, reading and writing systems for the visually impaired were costly and inefficient. So, a 12 year-old Braille embarked on developing an entirely new system. By 15, he’d invented the raised-dot system we know today. Braille is now standard across all blind communities, and it’s not just for books. It can be found on signs in public spaces, keypads, restaurant menus, door signs, medicine labels and so much more.
Overall, inventing is a wonderful way to get children’s brains buzzing. In these early years, children start to understand that they’re part of a wider community. Importantly, they learn that their ideas and innovations can impact the world around them. So be sure to encourage and reward children’s ideas, no matter how silly they might seem. You never know – that electric toothbrush sticky taped to a fork might just be the next million dollar idea!
Classroom Mascots – Why They Matter
Did you have a favourite stuffed toy as a child? As it turns out, it may’ve been vital to your early childhood development. Read on to learn how vital these toys are in early learning spaces.
You might’ve noticed the stuffed toy in your child’s Explorers room with a message or name written nearby. It may’ve been a cuddly Koala, a wise old Emu or even a drawing from one of our Little Impressionists. You probably didn’t give it much thought beyond, ‘aw, that’s cute.’
However, these classroom mascots are so much more than just another stuffed toy. In fact, they’re a vital early education resource for increasing attention spans and establishing a sense of belonging and socialisation in children. In this post, we break down the little known benefits of classroom mascots!
What is a Classroom Mascot?
Classroom mascots can be a stuffed toy, an object or even a drawing. They’re almost always given a catchy name, like Emily Emu, Benny Bilby or Lori the Lorikeet. Additionally, classroom mascots are attributed personality traits, so you might find a grumpy kangaroo or a sleepy owl cosying up with the little ones. Establishing an agreed upon name and personality is essential to avoid confusion and arguments among children.
Essentially, classroom mascots act as a blank canvas for children to create a personality profile, complete with likes and dislikes, age and even a backstory (the more detailed the better).
Improved Attention Spans
As you can imagine, creating intricate backstories for classroom mascots is a wonderful exercise for strengthening children’s imaginations. They’re required to keep up with an elaborate network of fictional building blocks that create a cohesive whole.
Moreover, children with active imaginations are free to create fanciful backstories and sprawling family trees for their mascot. Likewise, the less reflective children are encouraged to contribute by building on their peers’ contributions, thereby strengthening relationships during these vital early years.
Teaching Right from Wrong
Some children struggle when adapting to figures of authority. The more wilful children may reject lessons from an adult that aren’t taught by a parent or trusted guardian. Classroom mascots, however, often embody a central message, such as kindness to others, anti-bullying or recycling. This process ultimately simplifies abstract concepts through play and exploration.
Above all, children feel less like they’re being told what to do by a grown up when it’s filtered through a classroom mascot. Rather, children feel like they’re collaborating with a peer.
Bring Children Together
In short, classroom mascots unite classrooms. Children develop entirely unique backstories and identities for each mascot, so no two are exactly alike. Accordingly, this gives children in classrooms a collective sense of identity – and unity – as a group.
A feeling of belonging is essential to children at a developing age, as it sets them up with vital life skills that may lead to a greater chance of success later in life. The Australian Children’s Education and Care Authority (ACECQA) expands upon this need for belonging, outlining that ‘in early childhood, and throughout life, relationships are crucial to a sense of belonging. Belonging is central to being and becoming in that it shapes who children are and who they can become.’
Break Down Cultural Barriers
Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Despite this, it can still be difficult for some children to understand other cultures among their peers. This is where classroom mascots shine as they don’t judge, discriminate or play favourites.
Brisbane-based education expert and primary school teacher, Holly Mitchell, argues that classroom mascots ease children into ‘experiences that they might prematurely judge – or shy away from – if delivered by a human. In a way, the magical world created by the mascot is a safe place for students to test out their understanding of new cultural information, and new skills in general.
Above all, classroom mascots are wonderful for stimulating children’s sense of imagination, creativity and awe. They engage children through humour and quirky personality traits, like hosts in children’s television shows or the talking animals in your little one’s favourite book.
At Explorers, we encourage children to take classroom mascots home for the weekend on a rotating roster. They take photos, journal their adventures and add them to the class scrapbook. This affords children a sense of responsibility, while also cementing their place in the classroom’s legacy. Importantly, this develops children’s confidence and understanding that they’re part of a community of individuals with their own thoughts, feelings and perceptions.