The term ‘emotional intelligence’ describes the ability to both empathise with others and to understand and express our own emotions. It’s often expressed by the acronym, EQ – although this shouldn’t be mistaken for the similar term, IQ. The latter stands for intelligence quotient and describes cognitive abilities.

Conversely to EQ, a person’s IQ is nurtured through education. However, there’s a strong relationship between EQ and IQ, with the emotional element requiring the same diligent care and attention for healthy development. This is especially true during the early formative years of a child’s life.

Together, EQ and IQ complement each other and the championing of both is equally important. It’s also true that raising a child’s EQ has a positive effect on their IQ. Thus, building strong foundations in the early years can have a significant impact on later life.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

EQ, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, can be defined as:

“The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

In a world where we’re now increasingly aware of how mental health has a strong effect on a person’s current and future happiness, success and physical health, nurturing the building blocks of emotional intelligence must be given the highest consideration.

The earlier we make strategic efforts to do so, the more likely a child is to be able to:

The more adept a person is at all the above, the better this impacts their mental health and wellbeing.

Developing and Improving Children’s EQ

It’s important to approach emotional intelligence with the same care and effort that we do for other areas of a child’s education. In the same way as academic prowess, the level of EQ a child can achieve is bespoke to them. We owe it to the future generation to help them develop their own emotional intelligence to the utmost of their ability.

Parents, caregivers and early education professionals have a wide variety of tools at their disposal. These can all be utilised to help tots, toddlers and pre-schoolers create the sound building blocks that will lead to them achieving their best EQ.

One powerful way we can do this is to lead by example. Seeing and being around adults that have healthy emotional behaviour is incredibly influential to young minds. Other, more structured, techniques include:

Early childhood education centres can further build upon the work being done within the family home. They might include mindfulness techniques and play-based learning, This, in combination with positive reinforcement for all efforts (no matter how large or small) helps build the skills that increase emotional intelligence. These include:

A good way for parents, caregivers and early childhood educators to help young children build the basis of a healthy EQ is to think of it as a five-step process:

  1. Recognition: Help teach children to understand and identify emotions. You might want to talk about body language, facial expressions, word choices and tone of voice, for example.
  2. Understanding: Talk about what situations might lead to various emotions (anger, sadness, happiness etc) and what behavioural impacts they might have.
  3. Describing: Teach children to name their emotions. This is a crucial learning element that, given time, will help your child process and deal with a whole spectrum of different feelings.
  4. Expressing: Your child needs to learn how to express their emotions – but it’s equally important for them to learn how to do this appropriately. Be patient, it will take time. A typical example could be a child having a tantrum. There’s a very good reason small children go through such stages – it’s a learning curve of how to deal with complex emotions. A measured response goes a huge way towards helping a child process this and work out how to respectfully communicate their feelings.
  5. Regulating: Children learn best about regulating their emotions through a combination of discussion and observation. Help your child develop healthy coping mechanisms by talking about them and by considering your own emotional behaviours.

At Evoke Early Learning, we place equal importance on both IQ and EQ development. From our philosophy that value and respect of each child is unique to embracing the Reggio Emilia Approach, our highly trained and passionate team works with our children to provide the ultimate preschool environment to fast track future success.

Ready to find out more? Book a tour to come and see us in action…

Creating a diverse environment within an early childhood education facility plays a huge role in how children begin to understand those who are different from them and their families.

A child’s understanding of the world is built upon multiple influences. From life at home to the hours spent in an early learning school, this is the time of life when deep-seated attitudes and beliefs begin to be formed. To fully comprehend how such centres can promote a favourable atmosphere we first need to look at why being exposed to a diverse world during these years is so important.

The What, Why and How of Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity encompasses a huge range of differences. From the most obvious, such as ethnicity, gender and religion, through to an understanding of ecological and technical diversity, the ability to view such differences positively is key to a child discovering and becoming comfortable with their place in the order of the world.

In addition, the more a child explores their natural curiosity and embraces that which is different from their own ‘normal’, the more respectful and inclusive they’ll become – embracing these contrasts rather than seeing them in a negative light.

Every community celebrates a wide range of diversity. From the moment an infant’s brain begins to form neurons and connections, they begin to soak up information like a sponge. As they grow, they naturally begin to develop behaviours that are based on their own norm. The more a child is exposed to the diverse world in combination with – and this is very important – their curiosity being nurtured and nourished – the more they will develop respectful and inclusive social graces and beliefs.

How Early Learning Environments Can Promote Diversity and Inclusion

The first step is to create a wholly inclusive environment. This can be approached in many ways, but typically involves a setting that’s enriched with both the diversity of the natural world and that which is created by humans.

The first step is to create a wholly inclusive environment. This can be approached in many ways, but typically involves a setting that’s enriched with both the diversity of the natural world and that which is created by humans.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of role play in more detail.

The Importance of Active Learning

Children learn best by piquing their interest and encouragement to participate. Use props to let children explore in whatever direction they find interesting. For example, let them handle and play different musical instruments. This could lead on to discussions about where these originated from, which in turn could incorporate the use of maps or globes to discover more about different countries and regions.

A wildlife hunt in a safe outside area might move into the importance of caring for animals. This could include why it’s vital not to drop litter, or perhaps into how and why growing your own food is advantageous.

The reasoning behind diversity and inclusion isn’t solely about accepting and celebrating the difference between us. It’s also about comprehending that every decision and action we take has repercussions – both on other people and the world around us. Early learning centres play an important role in helping nurture tomorrow’s adult population to engage with the world positively and become valuable members of the community.

At Evoke Early Learning, we take this element of early child education very seriously. We’ve developed and constantly review our positive policies and procedures that promote a truly healthy and inclusive environment. All our staff undergo regular diversity training, including how to best support children with additional needs. Our curriculums are tailor-designed to wholly represent the wonderful diverse world we live in today -  from nursery through to toddler and kindergarten.

At Evoke Early Learning, we take this element of early child education very seriously. We’ve developed and constantly review our positive policies and procedures that promote a truly healthy and inclusive environment. All our staff undergo regular diversity training, including how to best support children with additional needs. Our curriculums are tailor-designed to wholly represent the wonderful diverse world we live in today -  from nursery through to toddler and kindergarten.

When young children are playing, it’s very common to see (and hear) them conjuring up different scenarios and pretending to be a character other than themselves.  But while it may look like they’re simply having fun, there’s a really serious side to role play. 

Role play (also sometimes referred to as pretend, dramatic or imaginative play) is an essential and valuable contributor to a child’s healthy development.  Through role play, children start to make sense of their world and they develop important skills which will set them up for future learning, personal growth, social connection and engagement.

It’s a type of play which can take place anywhere, anytime.  It doesn’t require any special equipment or props, so young children can immerse themselves in imaginative roles at home, on a playdate with others, in early learning environments, in a doctor’s waiting room, at the shops - literally anywhere.

That said, with pretend play fulfilling such a vital role in a child’s development, the adults in their lives have an important role of their own in encouraging, inspiring and supporting this type of play.   Role play should even be a factor in your decision-making about your choice of childcare or early education provider. 

Benefits of role play

Childhood experts, researchers and educators all acknowledge that that role play aids child development and that it offers the following benefits:

Why a play-based early learning environment can benefit a child’s development

According to the LEGO Foundation, evidence keeps mounting that play is the best way for children to learn – and thrive.  The science speaks for itself.  Play builds brains and learning through play can help all children develop the breadth of skills they will need throughout their lives.

A play-based environment at childcare and at early school can provide your child with a strong foundation for their future success in life.  Have a read of this article on why quality childcare is essential for a child’s healthy development and discover more about how play-based learning, where imaginative play is embraced and encouraged, benefits children in all the ways listed above - plus more. 

Let’s look at some of the benefits of role play in more detail.

Role play evokes a child’s creative spirit

Using our imaginations is a key cognitive skill.  It’s one we use throughout our daily lives to find solutions, solve problems, lift our moods etc.  Young children need to be given the time and space to initiate and participate in imaginative play where they have the opportunity to be creative and develop their cognitive flexibility.

Role play improves a child’s language, speech and communication skills

Don’t you just love observing children acting out various make-believe play situations?  And while we may think it’s all just good fun, it’s actually serious business.  Getting into character, experimenting with different roles and scenarios, acting out fantasy and real-life situations all present opportunities for young children to express themselves freely, communicate with others and practise their verbal language, vocabulary and listening skills.

They get to see how words and actions affect others and they start to learn the power of effective communication.  This type of play also provides opportunities for learning about teamwork and problem-solving as they explore new concepts, ideas and scenarios.

Role play supports a child’s social and emotional development

Young children use role play to better understand the world around them. 

They experiment with different characters and through their interactions with other children, they expand their life experiences, practise social skills such as teamwork, sharing and taking turns and they expand their way of thinking. 

Role play also offers young children with an emotional outlet and early school is a safe and supportive space where they’re comfortable expressing and addressing how they feel.  This can help them start to learn the importance of emotional regulation and that their behaviour has an impact on others. 

Also, when creative role play is led by the child (in other words, the children take charge of organising different roles, discussing ideas, deciding on the direction of the play, working things out with other children etc), they feel seen and heard.  When children have the freedom to express and act out their own ideas, it can strengthen their confidence and build self-awareness.  Don’t miss this article on how to help your child build self-confidence before starting early school.

Child-led play-based exploration and discovery

Our Evoke Early Learning centres are inspired by the progressive Reggio Emilia approach which centres on the implicit belief that each and every child is born curious, creative and capable and which has child-directed learning at its core.

Imaginative play is integral to our daily curriculum at our two Evoke Early Learning childcare centres in Clayton and Albert Park as we know from experience (and from the science) just how crucial this type of play is to a child’s healthy development. 

Our spaces and the resources at our centres are all carefully designed to stimulate our children’s imaginations and encourage freedom of expression.  Our skilled educators are also there to support and nurture the little ones as they discover the world and develop cognitive, personal and physical skills. If you’re interested in finding out more about our play-based child care centres, we warmly invite you to book a tour, contact us or have a browse through our informative news section on our website.  We look forward to seeing you!

Resilience.  We know the value of being able to bounce back from difficult challenges and adapt to life’s ups and downs, but are some people naturally more bulletproof than others or can resilience be taught?

The good news is that everyone can learn resilience skills - regardless of their age.

That said, the earlier that parents, educators and caregivers start helping young children start building resilience skills, the better.  Life’s not always a bed of roses and the sooner a child learns to respond and adapt to challenges with positivity and hopefulness, the more likely they’ll be able to persevere through tough times as they go through life.

What you can do to help your child build resilience

Adversity for a young child can be many different things - moving home, starting school, friendship issues, bullying, a breakdown in family relationships, not being chosen for a team activity, difficulty mastering a new skill, overhearing a conversation about a traumatic event - and it can leave them feeling sad, anxious, uncertain, helpless, fearful, lonely and defeated. 

There are many things that parents and caregivers can do to help a child acknowledge their emotions, learn to stand up for themselves, cope with whatever difficulties they face and bounce back after challenging times.

Top tips for building resilience in young children

Setting a strong foundation early on with respect to positive and healthy habits, attitudes and skills in the face of adversity will help children handle tough situations and prevail.

Focus on building strong and positive relationships

Children need nurturing.  They thrive on a network of caring connections which make them feel safe, secure and strong - and these relationships could be with parents, family members, friends, teachers, healthcare professionals etc.  When a child has the security of trusted, loving adults who provide them with gentle reassurance and non-judgmental encouragement, they’re more likely to respond strongly to difficult times.

Help a child learn that they’re in control of their response

Getting angry or sad at a situation won’t change the situation, but changing the way you respond will change the way you feel about it.  The key here is communication.  Talk to your child, listen to them, acknowledge and validate their feelings and discuss ways they could shift their response.  Discuss ways to mitigate the problem (for example, if a friendship is strained, perhaps suggest a different companion to play with or if they can’t do an activity, suggest a different approach to solve the problem) and help them understand that they are in control.  For very young children, play is the best way to encourage them to express their emotions.

Encourage them to believe in themselves

Talk to your child about the things they’re good at.  Get them to list their strengths for you.  Focus on the positives and remind them often that they are capable.  Self-belief doesn’t only come from within - it is strengthened by what you hear from others, so invest in your child’s self-esteem and independence.

Empower them to take on new challenges

A confident child will be better equipped to manage adversity, so encourage them to take on new challenges or try new activities.  They’ll feel good when they accomplish new things - and even if they don’t (which you should emphasise to them is also OK), they’ll have the security of loving relationships as a safety net and will feel good about themselves for giving things a go.  Giving a child responsibilities is another way of empowering them and making them feel valued.

Maintain routines

Routines are not only important for children, they’re comforting too.  Structure and consistency in a young child’s day gives them something familiar to lean into when they’re facing tough times. 

Teach your child mindfulness

Mindfulness tends to be seen as an ‘adult’ concept, but it can be an extremely valuable life skill for young people too.  Teaching children about mindfulness can lead to many good things including better self-esteem, emotional regulation, greater happiness, more effective responses to stress and uncertainty, successful conflict resolution and of course, greater resilience.  You may find this article on mindfulness in early learning helpful.

Demonstrate resilience yourself

Children are like sponges, constantly absorbing what they see and hear.  When adults around them demonstrate resilience and patience, a child is more likely to mirror that behaviour.  Take the time to explain your responses to your child, be honest about your emotions and use simple terms to help them understand what being resilient means.  Changes and challenges in life are inevitable - it’s how we choose to respond that determines the outcome.

Does an early learning centre have a role to play in teaching resilience?

Absolutely!  Daily life at childcare or an early learning centre can have a profound effect on the way a young child responds to challenges. 

The space should provide a loving, nurturing environment for every child where the educators continually promote the development of key skills like resilience. The team should also be ultra vigilant with every child in their care and should work in partnership with parents as collaborators and advocates to ensure the child’s holistic wellbeing. 

Here at Evoke Early Learning, we pride ourselves in safe and nurturing environments that promote knowledge and inspire a life-long love of learning. Resilience is one of the many benefits of our Reggio Emilia-inspired approach, along with responsibility, self-confidence, teamwork, problem-solving skills as well as creative and scientific thinking.

You’re welcome to book a tour of our childcare centres in Clayton and Albert Park where you can see our quality childcare in action.

Parenting isn’t easy and there are many times when it doesn’t match up to expectations or reflect the perfect picture of family harmony which you see so often in carefully curated social media feeds or glossy magazines.  

Parenting is real.  It’s precious and beautiful and rewarding, but it can also be messy, challenging, unpredictable, frustrating and of course, unbelievably busy.  There will be plenty of situations when your responses are reactive and you look back and wish you’d acted differently.  Emotions can run high in the heat of the moment or when you’re juggling multiple balls and it’s impossible to get things right every time. And that’s OK.  But if you do want to be less impulsive in stressful situations, slow things down and have more control over your responses, there is something you can do.  You can practice mindfulness.

And that’s OK.  But if you do want to be less impulsive in stressful situations, slow things down and have more control over your responses, there is something you can do.  You can practice mindfulness. 

What is mindfulness?

You hear a lot about mindfulness these days, but what is it exactly?

In a nutshell, being mindful is about being fully present and engaged in the moment.  It’s about calmly and gently focusing all of your attention and awareness on your current experience without distraction, judgement or expectation.  It’s about being in the ‘now’.

It’s also a technique that can be learnt. 

It is possible to teach ourselves how to focus completely on the moment, but it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong to mindfulness.  It’s simply not possible to be fully immersed in whatever you’re doing all of the time, but mindfulness is a very useful technique for dealing with difficult or volatile situations in a more constructive, positive way.  To put it in a nutshell, mindfulness is a valuable tool to support emotional regulation and holistic wellbeing.

What is mindful parenting?

It does take a bit of practise - perhaps that’s why they call it ‘practicing’ mindfulness - but with effort and commitment to learn how to be mindful and how to apply mindful attention to parenting, the outcomes and benefits are remarkable. 

A good way to describe mindful parenting is being actively attentive to interactions with your child and responding in a way that is uplifting and positive for everyone.  It’s an approach to family life that places parents and children fully in the present moment in a calm, thoughtful and intentional way.

Mindful parenting can be a circuit breaker for negative behaviours from both children as well as from parents because it enables a pause between emotion and response.  Mindfulness is not about denying your feelings in a challenging situation, but is rather a mechanism for noticing your emotional responses and using your mindful skills to take a breather, pause and reset. 

Here’s an example.  Your child is having a tantrum because they don’t want to leave the playground.  It’s getting late, supper needs to be made, the older sibling has homework to do and both you and your child are tired and hungry.  Instead of admonishing your child, getting frustrated and hurrying them up, your (better) mindful response would be to acknowledge the situation, accept the realities of your little one’s age and stage, help them name their emotion and then help them calm down and divert their attention.  How you do that will be different for each child. 

Getting home may take a little longer, but when you are grounded and able to help shift your child’s mood, the positive outcomes will be worth any small delays.

Mindful parenting can help parents understand and accept their own feelings as well as help their child understand their own emotions and feel heard and respected.

Benefits of mindful parenting

The example above illustrates one of the benefits of mindful parenting - helping young children identify and acknowledge their strong emotions and learn to shift their focus to something more positive.

There are numerous other benefits for both parent and child, including:

Healthier family relationships and stronger connections

Another key benefit is that children learn from their parents’ behaviours, and so when adults demonstrate mindfulness and are able to regulate their emotions, the child models that approach.

In conclusion

Mindful parenting helps children feel loved unconditionally.  It fosters a healthier attitude towards mistakes or imperfections (on the part of both parent and child) and it helps everyone develop a stronger sense of self-acceptance and acceptance of others. Here at Evoke Early Learning, we strongly believe in mindfulness as a valuable life skill and you may be interested in reading this article on mindfulness in early education to learn more.  You’re also welcome to visit our early learning centres to witness our safe and nurturing environments which promote knowledge and inspire a lifelong love of learning.  Book a tour or get in touch with our friendly team in either our Albert Park or Clayton early learning centres and we look forward to meeting you!

When you watch young children at play, you’ll quickly see that they’re drawn to things that they can manipulate, move around, take apart, combine, manipulate and interpret.  

The concept of ‘loose parts’ was formalised after British architect Simon Nicholson published a paper on the topic in 1971.  He had been researching the impact of various environments on people’s imaginations and creativity, and after observing how they were noticeably more captivated by interactive art installations, he developed a theory that the more variables that an environment had, the more engaging, stimulating and creative it became.

Nicholson’s theory is now widely applied in childcare and early learning environments and the benefits and outcomes of this ‘loose parts play’ are significant.  Let’s take a closer look.

What does ‘loose parts play’ involve?

The key principle of loose parts play is that the elements involved shouldn’t have a pre-determined association.  For example, a train set and miniature house are both great toys, but because their function is already established, the opportunities for creative interpretation are limited.

By contrast, loose parts play involves objects and materials that don’t have a predetermined use. 

It involves random open-ended items such as those found around the house, the garden, the park, the recycling bin.  These can be used, adapted and combined in a myriad of ways when children use their natural curiosity and creativity.  

A cardboard box can be a tank, a castle or a stable.  A wooden spoon can become a wand, a conductor’s baton, a fishing rod or a drumstick.  A piece of fabric can become a cloak, a magic carpet, a paddock.  A wooden block can be a doll’s bed, a car, a cake, a mountain. 

Sticks, pebbles, leaves, sand, water, blocks of old timber, ribbons, sponges, scraps of fabric, foam offcuts, buttons and kitchen utensils are all loose parts with endless possibilities - and the great thing is all these items can be used in different ways by children of varying ages and stages.  What they choose to do with them and how they interpret them is up to their imaginations and their interests.

Loose parts play and Reggio Emilia

The joy of loose parts play is that it feeds children’s imaginations. 

It allows children to do the thinking and creating, it allows them to test theories and to experiment and it allows them to use their imaginations freely - and the more of these variables that children have to play with, the better. 

You’ll find that loose parts are a central feature of Reggio Emilia-inspired early learning environments, because this educational approach embraces child-led open-ended play.  Young children are empowered to explore and discover the world at their own pace, using resources of their own choice.    You can read more about this innovative approach in this article entitled ‘The Reggio Emilia Approach and How it Benefits Your Child’.

Benefits of loose parts play

Loose parts provide children with infinite possibilities for unleashing their creativity.  They allow children to be active thinkers.  Children can move the objects, change them, control them, line them up, construct with them, deconstruct them, mix them up and assign any role they like to them to create their own scenarios and stories.

Here are some of the ways that fun and joyous loose parts play promotes children’s healthy development and learning:

Loose parts play also teaches children about sustainability.  They learn to use items found in nature and they learn to reuse or repurpose items instead of consigning them to landfill - so it promotes a healthier relationship with the environment. Using loose parts for playtime is also inexpensive.

How do parents and educators facilitate loose parts play?

The role of the educator and of the parent or caregiver in the home is to observe, support and encourage the child’s learning through loose parts play - rather than try and direct the process or step in when a problem arises.  Supervising adults should allow children to learn through trial and error, to problem-solve for themselves, to experiment, to make up rules, to interpret materials and to play freely - and just be there for support, encouragement and facilitation.

Parents can have a ‘loose parts’ box in the home which children can explore, add to, change etc. 

Allow children the time to play and experiment with the parts.  Don’t step in when a problem arises or when they make the same mistake over and over.  And even if you don’t agree with their rules of the game - let them work out a way forward and problem-solve on their own.  Of course, you can support and facilitate their play by asking questions like ‘What else could you try?” and “Why do you think that is happening?”

Loose parts play at Evoke Early Learning

Loose parts are a key part of everyday life at Evoke Early Learning and an ever-changing variety of open-ended materials are always available in our classrooms and outdoor environments to inspire our little ones to create, explore, discover and learn.

We welcome you to book a tour of our safe, secure and welcoming Albert Park or Clayton Childcare Centres where our mission is to provide each child with the foundation for the future skills and abilities they need to succeed.  We look forward to meeting you! 

A child’s learning journey starts from the minute they enter the world and we know that the early years are critical for their healthy development.  Their brains grow rapidly during their first few years of life and it’s the time when foundations are laid for the development of vital cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills.

We also know that the quality of inputs and influences in the home and in early education settings can have a significant impact on their development and on their ability to learn.  

In what ways does early education impact a child?

Quality early education has a significant positive influence on a child’s long-term life outcomes and that’s why your choice of childcare and early education centre is so important.  This guide to why quality childcare is essential for a child’s heathy development provides some valuable insights into the topic. 

To an outsider, the sight of children interacting informally in an early education setting may look like they are just playing and not really learning or being ‘taught’ anything.  However, extensive research in Australia and globally shows that play-based learning is a really powerful way to support children’s development. 

The benefits of quality childcare and early education include the development of a child’s:

Let’s take a look at each of these in greater detail.

The development of cognitive skills

When children are playing - either on their own or in a group - they’re learning. 

Children are naturally curious and creative and during play, the neural pathways and synapses in their brains fire up and they start to develop important cognitive skills which help them make sense of their world.

Cognitive skills include numeracy and mathematical thinking, scientific reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving, memory skills as well as literacy, language and communication skills.  Now this may all sound really advanced in the context of a one-year old in childcare, but the foundation for the development of these key skills really does start very early on.   

Play-based programmes which feed children’s natural curiosity and ignite their imaginations help them achieve positive outcomes in terms of their cognitive development.

The development of physical skills

Experienced and knowledgeable educators know how important it is for young children to have opportunities to practise and develop their fine and gross motor skills.   Quality early learning environments offer young children a myriad opportunities for physical exercise (eg running, jumping, climbing, throwing, catching and balancing) as well as activities which require children to make small movements (eg painting, sticking dried leaves to paper and threading wool through dried pasta).

The development of social skills

Socialisation is important for children and that’s why you should choose an early learning setting where development of social skills is a key imperative of the curriculum. 

Exposing young children to a group education setting will help them make social connections.  They’ll start to establish relationships beyond those with family members and start to develop friendships.  In these types of settings, children will learn to follow instructions, take turns, work collaboratively with others, regulate their emotions, learn to manage conflict and share with others. 

A group setting will also help young children learn about empathy and tolerance for others.  They’ll learn to listen, they’ll learn to reflect on their behaviours and they’ll learn to appreciate others’ perspectives and opinions.   

The development of emotional skills

We talk a lot about holistic wellbeing and how important it is in order for adults to function effectively and to be engaged contributors to society, but did you know that the foundations for emotional intelligence are set in the early years?

A quality early learning centre can help a child develop a healthy sense of self and self-belief.  Every child is born capable, but the right environment will nurture that capability and encourage self-expression. 

Strong emotions are hard for a child to understand - let alone regulate - but it is crucial for them to learn that actions have consequences.  A caring and supportive environment staffed by experienced and loving educators where a child feels safe and secure will give them the scaffolding to develop strong emotional skills and become more resilient. 

A last word on how to choose an early learning centre for your child’s healthy development

Early school should be a place where every child is seen, validated and nurtured and where they feel comfortable with their self-expression without judgement or expectation.  It should be a warm and welcoming space where children are supported to learn about making healthy emotional choices which will help them develop a stronger relationship with themselves and with others.  And it should be well-resourced with skilled and caring educators who put the individual children’s interests first and empower them to develop vital skills for lifelong learning and future success.

When you’re looking for an early learning centre for your child, remember that your choice is likely to have a profound effect on them in the long term.

Here at Evoke Early Learning, we understand the value of quality early learning and we are 100% committed to providing every child in our care with experiences that promote their cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.  We invite you to book a tour to experience the Evoke way of life at our Albert Park or Clayton Childcare Centres and to meet our educators and support team whose mission it is to provide the children with the foundation for the future skills and abilities they need to succeed.

Most parents feel a sense of apprehension about their child’s transition to big school.  Is my child ready for the change?  Do they have the foundational skills necessary for the more formal learning environment?  Will they cope?

This article unpacks the concept of ‘school readiness’ and discusses ways to nurture and develop a child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills to help them successfully navigate the transition and reach their learning potential.

What is school readiness?

School readiness is a term often used to describe a preschooler’s ‘preparedness’ for big school, but parents should know that there are no definitive criteria or benchmarks that a child has to achieve in order to transition successfully. 

Most educators agree that early education settings should not mirror those of formal school environments and that the learning and development intentions at these centres should be much more holistic than simply the accumulation of academic skills.  Play-based learning is best.

Children are born with an innate sense of curiosity and wonder about the world and they develop at their own pace.  It’s far more effective over the long-term for early educators to provide the space, resources, encouragement and freedom for children to forge their own paths of discovery.

A quality early learning environment and a supportive connection between their school and home lives will give a child the best chance of developing vital cognitive skills as well as language, communication, social, emotional and physical skills - and will give them the best opportunity for a seamless transition to formal school.

Ways to tell if your child is ready for formal school

A child will usually transition well if they:

A high-quality early learning environment staffed by skilled and experienced educators can be the best way to prepare little ones for the move into more formal schooling.  Here at Evoke Early Learning, we champion the progressive Reggio Emilia approach to childhood education which has proven its credentials in enabling young children to develop the vital foundation skills that set them up for future success at formal school.

Learn more about why high quality childcare matters for a child’s development here.

Ways to encourage and support a child’s lifelong love of learning

As mentioned earlier, play-based learning is the best way for young children to activate their natural curiosity, explore their world and develop a wide range of skills.  

They will learn vital skills by having fun, exploring, experimenting, making mistakes, collecting pebbles, picking flowers, playing with water and sand, singing, dancing, role playing, balancing, painting, threading, cutting, jumping, listening to a story, turning pages of a book - even simply observing others - because their innate wonder and awe about the world around them will lead them to discovery and development.

Here’s a closer look at how to support a child’s skills development and help prepare them for school.

Cognitive skills development

Even something as simple as playing with water and sand or baking cookies can introduce a child to a variety of maths and science concepts like counting, measuring, sorting, weight and dimension. 

Loose parts play, having fun with manipulative materials, dramatic play and outdoor activities are also some excellent ways to stimulate a child’s awareness of maths concepts. Memory games and activities that require children to problem-solve (puzzles, arranging items in a pattern) are also excellent for building vital cognitive skills.

Language and communication skills

Strong language and literacy skills are related to school success and will help children with their social, emotional and cognitive development.  Lots of reading together, fun activities like singing and playing with rhymes and having conversations with your child will help with sentence structure, vocabulary and general language and literacy skills.

Emotional and social skills development

Many parents have concerns about whether their child will be able to cope with a new school environment from a social and emotional perspective.  Will they make friends?  How will they handle conflict?  Will they manage in group situations?  Are they sufficiently independent to cope?

Parents, other family members and educators in early learning environments can play a huge part in helping children build social and emotional skills and become more resilient.  Aim to provide your child with constant positive reinforcement of concepts like kindness, empathy, sharing, taking turns and teamwork and encourage independence by allowing them to do things themselves from an early age.  Even enabling your young child to take ‘safe’ risks in a controlled environment is an important step to help them become more adaptable and resilient.

Self-help during mealtimes, washing hands, bathing and getting ready in the mornings can be time-consuming and a bit frustrating at times, but your investment will pay dividends as they’ll develop confidence in their abilities and become more independent.

Development of physical skills

Some children are naturally adventurous and will happily scale the jungle gym or climb a tree, whilst others will need more encouragement to participate in physical activity.  Movement of any sort (kicking a ball, throwing, dancing, balancing, swimming) will help them build core strength and develop gross motor abilities which are important for success at school.

Fine motor skills are important for formal school too.  You can foster these through activities like holding a pencil or paintbrush, cutting with scissors, threading and moulding play-dough.  

A last word on school readiness

As the time draws closer for the child to make the transition, parents and caregivers can build excitement about the new environment and also address and allay any concerns that the child may have.  Encourage open and honest discussions, build connection to the new school through physical visits, create socialisation opportunities with another child or children who are going to the same place and focus on building up your child’s self-belief and self-confidence.

Our mission at Evoke Early Learning is to provide a safe and nurturing environment that promotes knowledge and inspires a lifelong love of learning.  We strive for outcomes where children are not only ‘school ready’, but are also equipped with the knowledge, skills, dispositions, attitudes, languages and self agency for active participation in all areas of life, at any age and any stage.  You’re welcome to contact us about any aspect of early education and school readiness or to book a tour of our Melbourne childcare centres in Clayton and Albert Park. We look forward to seeing you!

There isn’t an educator, researcher or child development expert in the world who doesn’t agree that reading enhances a child’s cognitive and intellectual development.  Exposing children to books and reading from their earliest days feeds their natural curiosity, enhances their cognitive development and can ignite a lifelong passion for learning.

Early literacy lays the foundation for lifelong learning

Books spark the imagination and they hold endless possibilities for enjoyment, laughter, stimulation and cognitive development.  It doesn’t matter whether the book just has pictures on the page, whether it’s a fairytale, a challenging concept, a reality story or a fantasy one, a funny situation, a new book or a familiar favourite - the printed word has the power to stoke creativity, evoke emotion, foster critical thinking and build a child’s cognitive abilities.

Early literacy starts when young children - and babies too - are exposed to books and where reading is an integral part of daily life. A plastic book in amongst baby’s bath toys.  Paging through a picture book with a toddler.  A bedtime story routine.  A low table with an alluring array of books on offer.  Visits to the local library.  Parents reading books so that children mirror the adult behaviour and learn by example.  All of these activities have a huge impact on early literacy and fostering a love of reading - and learning.

Reading for life

When you consider that birth to age three are the most important years of a child's development and that 90% of a child's brain develops by the time they're five, it’s very clear that the early years are critical.  Reading books and being read to stimulates a child’s brain development and we know that early literacy is vital preparation for their success at school and their overall development.

There are also lifelong benefits to nurturing healthy reading habits. 

When people are exposed to a culture of reading in the home and at school, they’re more likely to grow into more fulfilled, engaged, interested and interesting contributors to society.  They’re also more likely to develop a lifelong love of learning.

How to create an environment that’s conducive to reading

There are many things that parents can do to encourage and support young readers and to shape healthy reading habits.

At home, you can:

By making your reading time dynamic and interactive, you’ll be stimulating your child’s cognitive processes and helping them extend their vocabulary and comprehension skills.  Above all, reading should be fun and enjoyable so that your child looks forward to the next activity involving books.

As your child gets older, you should also encourage opportunities for independent reading.  This will help them develop their critical thinking skills as they learn to interpret and decode text, question things they have read, acknowledge their emotional responses to the story and reflect on the content.  These are all key skills for a child’s successful progression through school and beyond.

Is technology a help or a hindrance when it comes to a child’s reading?

Technology can be a valuable and powerful tool in cultivating a love of reading.  The key issue is finding a balance and establishing a relationship with digital devices that is healthy and sustainable. 

Technology is empowering and can facilitate learning, but it needs to be used mindfully and responsibly.  A good rule of thumb is to start with traditional book formats with your baby and toddler and introduce technology (audiobooks, interactive stories on an iPad etc) slowly and carefully and always under supervision.

Why reading aloud is so important

Reading aloud has a major influence on a child’s intellectual and emotional development. 

When you read to a child, you stimulate their imaginations and give them opportunities to develop their language skills, expand their vocabulary and improve their listening skills.   They get to hear different tones of voice and different emotions being expressed which benefits their own communication skills.

For more information on this, you may be interested in reading this article on supporting your child’s language development.

Reading also gives children the opportunity to broaden their comprehension and critical thinking skills.  It also opens up new worlds of discovery, enabling them to learn about a variety of topics, different cultures and diverse experiences, which in turn can help children develop valuable social skills like respect, empathy, kindness and tolerance.

A last word on reading and learning

A child’s reading skills are inextricably linked to their future success at school and beyond.  By making reading part of everyday life at home, at childcare and in early education settings, we can nurture an avid enthusiasm for reading and set them on a path to lifelong learning.

Here at Evoke Early Learning, we follow the highly regarded Reggio Emilia approach to childhood education.  This approach has proven to be very successful in setting children up for long-term success - and it’s why you’ll find that books and reading are an integral feature in all of our physical spaces and in our daily curriculum. Come and chat to our friendly Evoke team about giving your little one the very best start in life or book a tour through the website.  We’d love to meet you!

How do you feel about sending your baby to daycare?  Are you wracked with guilt?  Anxious at the thought of separating from your little one?  Distressed because you feel like you’ll be losing control?  Overwhelmed by the enormity of this next chapter? 

What to expect on baby’s first day at childcare

Baby’s first day at daycare can elicit strong emotions from parents which can be challenging to manage.  But you should know that everything that you’re feeling ahead of your little’s one’s first day - and everything you will feel on the actual day - is completely normal.  And you aren’t alone. 

At Evoke Early Learning, our highly experienced, warm and caring team will be with you (and your precious baby) every step of the way.  You can have total peace-of-mind that your little one is in safe hands and they’ll work together with you make the transition as smooth as possible.

There’s no ‘right’ way to manage the transition.  The important thing is to do what’s right for your baby and your family.

That said, there are some very effective tools which can help parents and caregivers prepare for the change and get through the first day feeling calmer and more at ease.  There are also ways you can help your baby adapt to this new routine.  So, if your family is facing this new chapter soon, you’ll be interested in these tips on what to do in preparation of baby’s first day at daycare.

Managing your baby’s first day at daycare

Orientation.  Visit the centre a couple of times before your child actually starts in order to familiarise them (and you!) with the new environment.  If your child is enrolled in either our Albert Park or Clayton childcare centre, this ‘pre-visit’ will provide their assigned educator with all the necessary information to facilitate and support their transition, plus it’s an opportunity for the team to help you develop strategies to help your little one settle in.  Read more about our orientation opportunities here.

Create a home routine which resembles the routine at childcare, including meal times, nap times etc.  This will help you feel at ease that your baby will adapt well to the childcare setting.

Be aware of your emotions and be positive.  It’s not only helpful for your baby to hear and see you excited and optimistic about this new chapter, it’s helpful for you too.  It’s not always easy, but choosing to have a positive mindset and making the effort to be upbeat and embrace the change will make the transition easier for you.  The flipside of that is that babies mirror adult behaviour, so if your child senses any anxiety or distress, it can negatively impact their behaviour too.

Don’t prolong your departure on the first day.  This will be distressing for you and for your little one. 

Plan a ‘me-time’ activity on baby’s first day.  We understand that you’ll want to be close to your phone, but it’s a good idea to celebrate this milestone day by doing something for yourself.  It could be a coffee with a friend, going for a walk, taking in a movie - whatever you choose to do, make it a lovely distraction and an acknowledgement of the great job you’re doing as a parent!

Let the childcare centre help YOU!

If you’re feeling a bit anxious or uncertain about this next step, we warmly invite you to book a tour of one of our Evoke Early Learning centres or have a chat to our friendly team.  We often suggest that parents take photos of their child while they’re visiting our centre or borrow a book from our library in order to continue the conversations at home and deepen the connection ahead of the first day. Our Evoke Early Learning centres are family affairs and our aim is to create warm, welcoming and loving spaces where everyone in the family feels at home.  We understand how you feel and we want to help you enjoy this exciting and rewarding new chapter as much as we know your little one will.