Establishing healthy lifestyle habits

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Amanda Lockeridge, State Program Manager for Munch & Move at NSW Health, writes about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity for young children. 

One in four Australian children are overweight or obese. Causes of obesity in children include unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activity.

We know that good nutrition and physical activity for young children are vital to support healthy growth and development, to prevent illness and to provide the energy children need to power through their day. It is also important to lay the foundation for a healthy and active lifestyle from a young age.

As many children spend significant amounts of time in early childhood education and care services, these services provide an ideal setting to promote and foster appropriate healthy eating and physical activity habits early in life.

So how do we support children to learn about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity?

“We can make endless plans, but the true magic of teaching and learning comes from spontaneous, genuine and thoughtful interactions, provisions and relationships with the children,” said Jennifer Wood, Early Childhood Training and Resource Centre (ECTARC) Munch & Move Trainer.

“Promoting a play-based, child-centred environment encourages children to create, explore, practice and interact with materials, equipment, peers and adults.”

The National Quality Framework acknowledges the importance of children’s nutritional and physical health needs and that learning about healthy lifestyles should underpin services’ everyday routines and experiences.  This is supported through Quality Area 2 – Children’s health and safety, Standard 2.2 – Healthy eating and physical activity are embedded in the program for children, and the Early Years Learning Framework and Framework for School Age Care, Learning Outcome 3 -Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.

Ideas on implementing Quality Area 2

Element 2.2.1 – Healthy eating is promoted and food and drinks provided by the service are nutritious and appropriate for each child. 

  • Have a nutrition policy (for food provided by the service and/or the family in the lunchbox). Involve children, families and other agencies (such as Munch and Move) in developing the policy.
  • If the service provides food, display a weekly menu.
  • If families provide the food, make available some suggestions about healthy food options.
  • Food and drinks provided by the service should be consistent with the recommended guidelines for education and care services in Australia, e.g. the Get Up & Grow Guidelines and/or the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
  • Discuss healthy eating and fruit and vegetables with the children at mealtimes, offering a range of foods from different cultures.
  • Involve children in activities that focus on nutrition throughout the educational program. Some activities include setting up the lunch area as a restaurant, creating a vegetable garden, implementing cooking experiences, creating a healthy lunch book that includes recipes, sharing food photos and children’s conversations, using photos to encourage the drinking of water and promotion of fruit and vegetables.

Element 2.2.2 – Physical activity is promoted through planned and spontaneous experiences and is appropriate for each child.

  • Maintain a balance between spontaneous and planned physical activity, and passive and active experiences.
  • Encourage each child to participate in physical activities according to their interests, skills, abilities and their level of comfort.
  • Talk to children about how their bodies work and the importance of physical activity for health and wellbeing.
  • Encourage and participate in children’s physical activity.

There are other important links that can be made with:

  • Standard 3.2 – encourage and support children to participate in new or unfamiliar physical experiences and encourage children to use a range of equipment and resources to engage in energetic experiences.
  • Element 5.1.1 – provide children with relaxed, unhurried mealtimes during which educators sit and talk with children and role model healthy eating practices.
  • Element 6.2.2 – communicate with families about healthy eating, by providing information through newsletter snippets, fact sheets, photos, emails and face to face discussions.
  • Element 7.3.5 – develop a physical activity policy.

Lisa Booth, Director at Wallaroo Children’s Centre in NSW, recognises the importance of encouraging healthy eating and physical activity.

“We encourage and support children by providing nutritious meals and a water station that the children can access,” Lisa said.

“Physical activity and healthy eating are embedded in all areas of the curriculum. Educators understand the importance of promoting children’s health and well-being through both planned and spontaneous experiences.

“By using learning experiences such as music and movement, dramatic and creative play, outdoor activities and group games, the educators intentionally provide children with play-based experiences to support their learning.”

Resources

There are a number of resources that support educators and services to promote and encourage healthy eating and physical activity through relevant learning experiences, resources and interactions.

One, two what can we do? Exploring literacy and numeracy with young children

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With National Literacy and Numeracy Week (25-31 August) just around the corner, Rhonda Livingstone provides some insights into how we embed literacy and numeracy into early childhood education.

National Literacy and Numeracy week (August 25-31) offers an opportunity to consider the rich diversity of experiences and opportunities our early childhood and school age care environments offer to extend children’s thinking, understanding and learning about literacy and numeracy.  As part of this, we need to consider the links with the national learning frameworks and ask ourselves: How do we embed literacy and numeracy into education and practice in a way that is relevant and meaningful for children?

Building on real life experiences, as well as being creative in providing opportunities for children to expand their knowledge and skill in understanding and using literacy and numeracy concepts, is important to engage children and prompt their learning and understanding.

When discussing literacy and numeracy, what often comes to mind is the ability to read, write and solve mathematical problems. This view is potentially limiting and as educators we need to encompass the variety of ways that we communicate through non-verbal, spoken, print, visual and multimodal literacies as well as considering how mathematical thinking is used in everyday life. Technology now plays a big part in many children’s lives and has the potential to offer a wide array of numeracy and literacy experiences.

Both national learning frameworks acknowledge these important concepts, particularly Learning Outcome 5 – Children are confident communicators. The Early Years Learning Framework (p. 38) describes literacy as ‘the capacity, confidence and disposition to use language in all of its forms. Literacy incorporates a range of modes of communication including music, movement, dance, storytelling, visual arts, media and drama, as well as talking, listening, viewing, reading and writing. Contemporary texts include electronic and print based media. In an increasingly technological world, the ability to critically analyse texts is a key component of literacy’.

In addition, the Framework for School Age Care (p. 37) acknowledges that ‘In play and leisure children use their literacy and numeracy skills and understandings in practical ways. Children practice their skills and understandings and use a range of tools and media to express themselves, connect with others and extend themselves’.

Educators have provided us with examples of experiences and practices in this area. Here are a few relatively simple, but literacy and numeracy rich, examples:

  • at an outside school hours care service for children with additional needs, a teenager proudly displayed the sushi shop and cash takings he had made from paper
  • at a long day care service, an educator took a group of children into the local community to interview people about how they use numbers in their work
  • another outside school hours care educator worked with children on developing and writing the rules of a game, keeping score and keeping track, ensuring everyone had the same number of turns
  • young children attending a long day care centre wrote the book for orientation into the service
  • another service encouraged children and adults to use wooden blocks to describe and represent quantities and patterns.

There are many resources to help educators promote and extend children’s thinking and learning in this area.

Resources

Early Literacy and Numeracy Self-Guided Learning Package- Community Child Care Victoria under IPSP program

Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework

Educators’ Guide to the Framework for School Age Care

Zimmer Twins is an online resource allowing children to create animated movies, save their work and share it. It is a great way to engage children in literacy and allow them to explore story telling through technology.

Toddlers as mathematicians? by Shiree Lee Early Childhood Australia Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Improving Mathematics Learning Outcomes for Young Aboriginal Children by Marina Papic and Judy McKay-Tempest, Gowrie Australia

Let’s Read Resources

ECA NQS Professional Learning Program – Play-based approaches to literacy and numeracy

Finding a balanced approach to early language and literacy learning and development and You can’t put forks in the toilet from Reflections Gowrie Australia Winter 2014 Issue 55

Self-authored e-books: Expanding young children’s literacy experiences and skills from Early Childhood Australia explores using self-authored e-books as a vehicle for helping early childhood professionals to engage young children in new literacy and language experiences.

Books, bytes and brains: The implications of new knowledge for children’s early literacy learning Liza Hopkins reviews contemporary literacies and infant brain development to re-examine the foundations of literacy learning in the early years.

Playing with maths: Facilitating the learning in play-based learning from the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood highlights the role of play in young children’s mathematics learning and examines the teacher’s role in facilitating and extending this.

The changing face of family day care

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This week is National Family Day Care Week. To recognise the work family day care educators and providers do for children across Australia, Family Day Care Australia has prepared this blog on their experience of the different ways family day care meets the needs of families, including a service that is helping children with autism.

Family day care has always prided itself on offering unique learning environments and experiences, but the sector has come a long way since the initial pilot program was launched in Australia 43 years ago.

Then, the much smaller sector was unregulated, and thought of as a cheaper and less formal form of child care run by ‘day care mums’ or ‘backyard babysitters’.

Now, family day care has cemented itself as a high-quality form of early childhood education and care provided by qualified, professional educators.

With more than 142,400 children enrolled across Australia, family day care now accounts for 13 per cent* of the entire early childhood sector.

Numbers have jumped 15 per cent in 12 months, making family day care the fastest growing form of child care in the country.

It is the very nature of family day care – being run by individual educators in their homes to the meet the needs of individual children – that contributes to this increasing popularity.

Family Day Care Australia’s Sector Support team has noticed a growing number of new, innovative services popping up – particularly specialising in the areas of multiculturalism and sustainability.

Whether it is through Indigenous programs, remote locations or a holistic, back to nature approach, family day care services are offering a unique form of early childhood education and care.

It is this personal touch that allows family day care services to meet the extremely diverse needs of modern Australian families.

One ground-breaking example of a family day care service that is targeted to a specific need in the community opened last month in Harrington Park, Sydney.

Registered with Camden Family Day Care, educator Dennys Martinez has developed a unique family day care service that is very close to his heart.

Autism Family First Family Day Care is Australia’s first ever family day care service run specifically for children with autism.

The idea was born out of the Martinez family’s own personal experience with autism as Dennys and his wife Maria’s two children, Maya, 7, and Eric, 5, were both diagnosed with the disorder.

As a result, the family travelled to the United States to learn about different therapies to help with their children’s development and discovered the home-based, child-centred “Son-Rise” program, developed by parents for parents with a focus on sensory integration and relationship-based play.

Dennys returned to Australia with a desire to empower other parents with skills and knowledge to support their children who have autism in the long term.

“I ran some workshops but had lot of parents saying to me ‘I don’t know where to take my kids’ as there were only three autism specific early learning and care centres in NSW,” he said.

Dennys said he discovered a real need for autism specific care and found family day care to be the ideal environment.

“The numbers are small, it is in a familiar, home-based setting and the ages go up to 12. But the fact that it is about assisting children in their own way is what is most important because no one child is the same,” he said.

“All children need to find a place where they are understood and can be nurtured and not be left behind so I created this care to allow children on the spectrum to grow and gain the skills they need in life.”

There are structured activities such as martial arts, yoga, music and art, with help from volunteer therapists.

Children and their families have a transition period to adjust to regularly attending family day care and Dennys has even developed a children’s book called ‘Jack & Skye Go to Family Day Care’ to help children with autism understand the process and reduce their anxiety.

The service also offers a lot of support for families. The website has a forum for parents to login and share ideas, tips, events and different therapies or research.

“The parents are all very grateful because I understand what they are going through and they can leave their child with me knowing it is a place they will be assisted and well cared for,” Dennys said.

Dennys hopes other educators will be inspired to develop family day care services that are targeted to meet specific needs within the community.

“This model can be replicated and I would love for other areas and states to embrace a similar model – not necessarily for autism, but it could be for any other special needs.”

Find out more about National Family Day Care Week.

(*Source: The Department of Education (formerly known as DEEWR) Child Care and Early Learning Summary March 2013).

 

Jindi Woraback’s QIP encourages children to contribute

This week on We Hear You, Michelle Walker, Director of Jindi Woraback Children’s Centre, tells us about their Quality Improvement Plan and how they incorporate into their daily program. 

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ACECQA is a girl with a blue face, red and pink hair, pink arms and a green body and legs. She likes to eat fruit, ride her bike, read books and draw.

This is ‘ACECQA child’, the newest addition to Jindi Woraback Children’s Centre (Jindi Woraback) in Victoria.

During the process of reflection whilst developing our Quality Improvement Plan (QIP), we decided to develop a visual QIP that would involve the children, educators and families.

After our assessment and rating visit, we wanted to ensure we were continuously working on our QIP.

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Proudly we received Exceeding in all seven quality areas, which meant we needed a plan of ‘where to next?’

Our visual QIP was placed in a common area, which became a meeting place of ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming’ where children, educators and families could share their stories.

ACECQA child was developed to encourage the children to contribute to the QIP at anytime and for the children and their families to drive its development.

We see children as the directors of the service and our children determine what we do and as educators one of our roles is to facilitate this.

I thought ‘ACECQA’ sounded like a child’s name, so we began by talking with our children about ACECQA being lost and that if they shared with each other what we like doing at Jindi Woraback then maybe she will come and join us.

The children decided what ACECQA looked like and what she liked doing. We then built ACECQA child, which was introduced during group time.

Now ACECQA lives in the room with the children, moves from activity to activity, joins in our Friday Kinder Sports program and has her own portfolio for children to contribute their observations of what ACECQA likes to do while at Jindi Woraback.

She is a vessel for the children to be able to have their say as they tell us what they want.

ACECQA child has been a way to introduce ACECQA to the children and families and make their QIP fun and interactive as well as reduce paperwork.

The children drive the QIP and rather than the educators going away to make notes we involve the children.

No one is telling us to do mountains of paperwork so we try to think of ways to reduce the paperwork.

Now ACECQA is discussed everyday, so rather than just turning up when we have our assessment and rating, the educators, children and families are comfortable because they are working with it all the time, and we can all just enjoy the process.

Zac takes ACECQA out to play outside.
Zac takes ACECQA out to play outside.