Holistic approach nurtures children

3 Oct 2018
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More than early learning, an inspiring start to life

Every year of a child’s life is precious, however the first five years are considered the most important in terms of development. As much as 90 per cent of a child’s brain has developed by the time they enter a kindergarten classroom. This means childcare and preschool providers have a mammoth responsibility. However, a checklist of academic skills a child should attain before starting school is just one element of their development.

Only About Children (OAC), with almost 70 centres across Sydney and Melbourne, offers a holistic approach to early childhood education that focuses as much on each child’s health and wellbeing as it does a child’s education.

Emma Forbes, head of education and curriculum at OAC, believes we should consider each child as a ‘whole’ to help give them the best possible start in life.

‘‘The foundation skills of all learning includes building and maintaining positive relationships, social and emotional development, resilience and learning to be a collaborative member of a community,’’ says Forbes.

Creating the right environment is crucial, she says, because children are learning at every moment of the day through play, routines, physical activity and small group experiences.

OAC has years of experience in early childhood education. Its Sydney and Melbourne campuses are purpose-built and aim to create environments in which newborns to six-year-olds can begin to form their own creative and individual identities.

Each centre has a mixture of indoor and outdoor play areas with meaningful displays and a range of toys at childrens’ eye level to encourage decision making and independence. Structured experiences include music, Spanish language activities, sustainability practices and physical activity programs designed by a sports science physiologist.

While OAC centres are stimulating places for children to be, they also aim to mimic home environments, with soft furnishings and a calming, muted colour palette. ‘‘The best learning environments create a link with home,’’ says Forbes.

Educators work closely with parents to learn about home routines, sleep and meal patterns and stay in regular communication as a child’s needs change. Each child is assigned a primary caregiver, which can help them feel safe and secure.

One of the greatest needs for a growing body and mind, of course, is healthy food and OAC takes nutrition seriously.

A delicious menu designed by paediatric dietitians is served and those with individual dietary needs are catered for.

Children can learn a lot during mealtimes. Educators use them as a time to discuss the seasonality of produce and where it comes from. Sometimes the older kids do some cooking themselves.

OAC is one of very few early childhood groups to offer an allied health team that works to support children, educators and families in areas such as speech and occupational therapy.

‘‘OAC’s health workers and educators are committed to delivering inspired, holistic childcare that is about building positive and collaborative relationships, and about a child’s health and wellbeing,’’ says Forbes,

‘‘It is our staff who make our centres such special places for children to be.’’

‘It is our staff who make our centres such special places for children to be.’

- Emma Forbes