While it’s perfectly normal for both you and your child to feel a little sad for a few minutes when you part, separation anxiety is a completely different matter. It’s a surprisingly common childhood challenge, most usually experienced in children between six months and three years of age.

Even if your child doesn’t appear to be too concerned when you leave him or her, taking steps to mitigate the negative emotions separation can cause is a wise move.

Understanding what separation anxiety is

Separation anxiety can happen when a child is parted from their primary caregiver (often, but not always, the mother). When very young, they haven’t yet developed the brain connections that allow them to understand that this time apart is only temporary. For the child, what they experience is that their main form of comfort isn’t there. It usually manifests as soon as the caregiver leaves their line of sight.

Signs that might suggest your child is experiencing separation anxiety

One of the most common signs is the child becoming very clingy when you’re about to leave. This might be accompanied by tears – many a parent has experienced those heart breaking moments when they drop their little one at a day care centre, for example.

Other signs include:

6 steps to managing or preventing separation anxiety

Although it can be very upsetting to see your child in distress, take heart that a level of anxiety is a completely natural reaction. During the critical early years of a child’s life, the neural connections within the brain are increasing at an incredibly fast pace – at a rate of thousands per day - all of which are influenced by their surroundings and experiences.

Therefore, there are multiple things you can do to help your child manage and understand the feelings that are driving their anxiety.

  1. Practice separation: From an early age (even if your child doesn’t seem to have any issues with separation), leave your child for short periods with a trusted person. This could be as simple as leaving the room for a few minutes while they cuddle with a grandparent or carer. Gradually increase the time you spend apart – perhaps you nip out to the shops or grab a coffee with a friend. Gauge their reaction as to how much you can extend the time you’re away. Multiple short separation times with no anxiety from your child is what you’re aiming for. Once this is in place, you can think about leaving them for a little longer.
  2. It’s not goodbye: Don’t overdo the leaving process. You’re not saying goodbye – it’s more of a see you very soon. Your emotions at this point are very important (and yes, it can be hard for you too). Make the moment of parting a positive one. Smile, tell them you’ll be back soon – and, most importantly, don’t prolong the situation or make it a big deal.
  3. Provide a comfort object: What is their favourite toy? A stuffed animal or a blanket that they have around them all the time provides a focus upon which they can self-soothe.
  4. Talk about ‘later’: Give your child reassurance that you’re coming back. One of the main drivers behind separation anxiety is that the child thinks you’re leaving them for good. If, for example, you’re going shopping, tell them what will happen when you return. Perhaps you’ll be going out on a nature walk, having a bath, doing some painting… It doesn’t matter what, just that you discuss your plans for your return to give them the confidence that you’re coming back.
  5. Introduce changes gradually: Perhaps you’ve got a new babysitter. Maybe you’re moving your child into their own bedroom… Whatever the change, do it slowly. When introducing a new caregiver, for instance, have a few short meetings where the three of you are together for a while before you leave them alone together.
  6. And – most importantly – listen! Your child will be quick to give you verbal and non-verbal signs about how they feel. Once they can talk, listen to what they say and validate their feelings. Take care to respond accordingly and with reassurance. Children also give out many non-verbal clues to their feelings, such as being clingy, fussy or even withdrawn. Address these in the same compassionate way as you would a vocalised signal.

Dealing with separation anxiety can be tough - no one wants to see their child upset. At Evoke Early Learning, our experienced early childhood educators will always discuss and help parents and caregivers with any challenges. Whether your child is in our nursery, toddler, or kindergarten program, rest assured that we strive to complement the great steps you’re taking to bring up your child – and that includes helping deal with any separation anxiety issues.

Discover more about us and our childcare philosophy today.

In a world where we understand the importance of encouraging children to explore and learn through what piques their interest, the words ‘structured childcare’ can sound rather jarring. Therefore, we need to understand the difference between a program being structured versus one that’s rigid.

Indeed, while the latter harps back to long outdated views and concepts, a structured play and early learning environment have been proven time and time again to be the most advantageous to future happiness and success.

Learning isn’t something that a child performs in isolation. The first five years of life is a period of constant education. It’s when the brain undergoes incredible evolution, building neurological pathways that will influence every aspect of life. From the way they deal with challenges to social interaction, a thirst for knowledge to successful relationships – we owe it to the adults of tomorrow to provide them with the very best grounding from which they can grow.

Enter the structured learning environment – something that provides carefully planned and strategic approaches that benefit every aspect of early education.

5 Advantages that a Structure Brings

Before we dive in, it’s important to know that the concept can be embraced in all environments. Your child begins the learning journey at birth. This means that a positive framework is encouraged both at home and in more formal locations, such as an early learning centre or kindergarten.

The following are examples of how structure will benefit your child.

  1. Communication: From the first moment you hold your babe in arms, learning the art of communication begins. Developing their skills is multi-faceted and includes touch, expression, body language and other subtle nuances – as well as the more obvious one of speech. Equally important is the skill of reciprocation – AKA, listening. Of course, a child needs to learn how to express themselves, but communication is a two-way street. A structured learning environment encourages both these aspects, allowing the child to learn the communication skills that will drive their ability to connect with others and the world around them.
  2. Establishing routines: Every parent and caregiver knows that this can be a challenge. However, human nature thrives on routine – we all gravitate towards the comfort they bring, as well as the physical and psychological advantages. Sleep is a great example of this – no end of studies prove how harmful shift work is to health. You only need to suffer a sleepless night or two (new parents will totally relate) to realise how important good sleep habits are. Of course, it’s no secret that instilling healthy routines into a child’s life can take a while. This is why a well-structured early childcare facility can continue your good work. Following structured time for eating, playing, sleeping etc will filter into home life, helping you fit routine actions, such as bedtime hygiene (teeth brushing, getting into PJs etc) and morning rituals (getting up, breakfast…)
  3. Learning about time (and time management): Time schedules become more important as we grow. Routine nap time transcends over time into getting up for Kindy and, when the time comes, school. Understanding time impacts everything about life, and children develop their awareness as they grow. Structured routines provide the building blocks of time management – something that a good early learning environment manages through routine and flexibility.
  4. Independence: Developing independence is a key life skill – one that can be promoted in so many ways. A structured environment provides a child with a sense of what they need to do next. Once they understand that, encouragement to take control of age-appropriate activities (cleaning their teeth, putting on their shoes, that kind of thing) not only fosters independence, but also the feel-good factor that comes with the freedom to make choices and action these decisions.
  5. Developing social skills: A structured environment where healthy interactions with others are actively encouraged is crucial for developing social skills. Learning in a safe and positive environment is key, providing the space to understand how to deal with their own emotions and those of others, process their feelings, communicate and learn how to empathise.

At Evoke Early Learning, we advocate for the rights of all of our children, respecting them as individuals and providing a home-from-home that supports and continues the great work that parents and caregivers are doing.

We offer nursery, toddler/pre-Kindy and Kindergarten programs that combine the benefits of structure with the flexibility that encourages each child to learn the skills necessary to fulfil their unique potential.

Discover more about our values and contact our team for a chat today.

Independence is an essential life skill. Building the foundations starts at a very young age – and there’s plenty that parents and caregivers can do to encourage this.

Toddlers are naturally inquisitive. Every waking hour is filled with new discoveries and the brain is undergoing the steepest learning curve of life. Every day, new neural connections are being formed. From learning the names of animals to following bedtime routines, there are many age-appropriate activities that play a large part in encouraging a child to explore and build resilient independence.

Why is learning to be independent so important?

As adults, we all know how feelings of self-doubt can plague our decisions, actions and day-to-day activities. While such emotions are natural and a central part of who we are, a strong sense of independence is what helps us cope at times of high stress, uncertainty and change.

Independence helps us to:

Ultimately, fostering independence from a young age has a direct impact on current and future happiness. This is something we all want for our children and there are many ways that we can help them during the earliest stages of life.

5 age-appropriate tips to foster toddler independence

You only need to look at children – even during their first early months – to see that they’re on a quest for independence. Trying to get out of the playpen, grabbing for a favourite toy, trying to feed themselves… These are all examples of exploring and pushing the boundaries of increasing independence.

Encouragement and guidance are key. In fact, it’s pretty much all we need to do – the child’s natural curiosity will do all the rest.

  1. The importance of free play: Unstructured play is one of the best ways to nurture independence. This means letting your toddler guide where play might be going, instead of always making suggestions. Provide them with the tools to do this. Crayons, building bricks, soft toys, for example. Let them explore how they want to interact with such items and provide encouragement. For instance, if they’re building a tower, praise them on how high it is. If they’re drawing, compliment them on their colour choices. Interject with suggestions only if they become a little stuck for ideas. If they’re happily making up their own entertainment, support them and go with the flow.
  2. Set regular routines: This doesn’t mean a schedule, more of creating guidelines around what happens every day. Examples include cleaning their teeth before bed or hand washing before food. As your child becomes accustomed to such actions, let them help with the stages (such as squeezing out the toothpaste). As time goes by they’ll begin to anticipate what needs to be done and need less and less help to do so.
  3. Let them problem solve: It can be so tempting to interrupt a child when, for instance, they’ve put their shoes on the wrong feet. However, allowing them to make mistakes and work out things for themselves is a vital skill that helps build independence. Rather than jumping in, gently encourage and praise when they manage to work out a problem. If your child asks for help, rather than simply solving it for them, provide assistance that still allows them to achieve the end goal themselves.
  4. Encourage your child to help: Children love to get involved with what you’re doing. Baking a cake? Let them mix the ingredients. Working in the garden? Let your child help dispose of the weeds or fill up the bird feeders. While such tasks might seem small, you’re providing a great grounding in shared actions, building their confidence and allowing them a sense of control.
  5. Use appropriate words, phrases and actions: What you say while your child is playing or helping with chores is really important. Praise is really important – as is regular acknowledgment when they’re trying to do something (whether or not they’re successful). Imitate what they’re doing. If they’re building a tower, you could build one too. This is a truly powerful way of encouraging appropriate behaviours and builds even stronger bonds with your child. Be enthusiastic and positive about your child’s achievements (and failures) – remember, it’s only by failing that we learn to adapt and discover how to figure out a way to success.

It's really easy to incorporate little stages of independence into everyday life. Let your child dress themselves, allow them to self-feed, choose their own toys, help with simple chores (with assistance if needed or asked for, of course). Before you know it they’ll be making choices, solving problems and showing you many other signs of readiness that they’re ready to take on more complex issues.

At Evoke Childcare, encouraging independence is key within our open learning environment. Toddlers are encouraged to explore and express themselves in our carefully curated, age-appropriate spaces. Our whole childcare philosophy is based on our belief that every child is a curious, capable and unique individual.

Discover more about us, our values and childcare centres by getting in contact today.

Parents and guardians play a huge role in childhood education. Even if you take full advantage of a great early childhood education centre, the most precious member (or members) of your family still spends more time with you than anyone else.

The more you understand the impact you have during these crucial formative years, the more you can create the positive environment and surroundings that provide the building blocks of future success.

Early childhood education begins both at home and in an early learning environment

The more you’re involved in your child’s early education, the better. Nothing is more rewarding than sitting down and reading a book with your little one – and such activities are the cornerstones on which their future academic success relies.

Academic qualities aren’t the only area where parents and caregivers have an impact. Creating a positive home environment where the child is encouraged to explore their natural curiosity and learn plays a massive role in developing life skills as well.

The following looks at ways that you, as a parent, caregiver or guardian can work in tandem with your child’s early learning centre.

The more activities and the home environment encourage positive and fun learning, the better you’ll be supporting the more formal education they receive at your chosen centre. Many early childhood learning facilities have children completing a daily log or journal to share with their parents.

And if they don’t? Well, why not suggest it?  Every good early education school welcomes feedback from parents. You could even offer to get more hands-on by reading a story to the children or, if you have the capacity, volunteer to help out on a regular basis.

The more involvement you have in your child’s early education, the more your child will benefit. Bedtime stories, those fun/educational days out, asking your child about their day and encouraging them to share what they’ve learned… Plus that all-important communication with early childhood educators to understand what your child is good at and where they need more support… These are all simple yet powerful ways that you can ensure you have the best positive impact.

We all want what’s best for our children – and these little steps don’t only benefit our little ones, it’s also incredibly rewarding for you as well.

At Evoke Early Learning we actively encourage parental engagement. From our carefully created curriculum that we’re delighted to share with you, through our use of the Reggio Emilia approach and curated nursery, toddler and kindergarten-specific education programme, we consider our centre as the perfect home-from-home extension that continues the great work that parents and guardians are doing.

Read more about our childcare philosophy and call your local centre today.

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.

‘No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted’

There’s no doubt that the world could benefit from more acts of kindness - both big and small - and our first step towards this is to raise our children to be kind, compassionate and caring.

But how do we do that?  Is it easier said than done?  Is it even possible to teach kindness and compassion or are these simply genetic traits that are stronger in some people than in others?

The reality is that everyone has the capacity for altruism, but not everyone is given the opportunity to develop that innate concern for the wellbeing of other people into a guiding principle which informs how they go about their daily lives.

That’s where parents, caregivers and educators have a huge role to play.  We can lay the foundations for young children to become kinder, gentler and more compassionate - and by doing so, will help set them on course to become more ethical, connected, appreciative and contented adults.

So how do we raise kind and compassionate children?

If you look at some of the most influential people in world history such as Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, you’ll notice that they were all deeply compassionate people.  They genuinely cared about the wellbeing of others and were motivated by a desire to take action which would help others.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could teach our children to empathise with others, to understand and respect people’s differences, to be considerate, to give back and to be generous?  Well, we can.

Whether at home, at childcare or early school, here are five ways that we can help our kids become more thoughtful, kind and compassionate.

Encouraging compassion and kindness in your child

1. Be a good role model

Children do as they see.  They’ll mirror your behaviour and take their cues from you, so it is important to set a good example and to be consistent in your actions.  Talk to your child often about the importance of kindness and respect and why your family values these qualities - and remember, always use positive and encouraging language.

2. Point out acts of kindness

Communication is so important when it comes to instilling values in our young children.  Try and point out occasions where you have done - or are doing - something for another person and explain the reasons why you acted in that way.  Talking about emotions and feelings will help children develop a sense of empathy and also to be more proactive about being kind, caring and thoughtful. 

“I opened the door for the lady in the wheelchair as I could see it might be difficult for her to reach the handle”.  “Let’s check that there’s water in the dog’s bowl as it is so hot today and he might be extra thirsty”.  “Let’s ask that child if she would like to join in the game as she is sitting on her own”.  “I’m making a cake for Jenny as she is sick at home”.

Giving your child lots of examples of compassionate and kind acts will help them learn to put themselves in others’ shoes.  And remember, these don’t have to always be substantial interventions.  Simply being polite and respectful towards other people in your everyday interactions will encourage your child to follow your lead.

3. Show kindness and respect to your own child.

Try not to leap straight into admonishment or punishment mode when your child has erred - and avoid embarrassing them in public.  Rather be supportive, talk through the situation with them, ask why they behaved in a certain way, ask about what emotions they were feeling and if they could suggest a different way of doing things.  When a child feels that they’ve been heard and their feelings acknowledged, they’re more likely to listen to others.

4. Demonstrate gratitude

Gratitude teaches children to be kinder as it helps develop a sense of appreciation for what they have (and who they have) in their lives and how the acts of others impact how they feel.

There are many ways you can encourage your child to be grateful.  Talk to your child often about what you’re grateful for. Set aside time at the dinner table where every member of the family can chat about something that they were thankful for during the day.  Have a gratitude jar in which the family can pop little ‘thank you’ notes.  Stick a piece of paper on the fridge with a magnet and write down regular ‘gratitude’ posts.  Encourage your child to do something positive for the person for whom they are grateful.

5. Read books with your child

Experts agree that reading books with your child helps them develop empathy and compassion.  They identify with the feelings of characters in the book.  They learn about different cultures and perspectives and this helps them develop an understanding that not everyone experiences the world in the same way.

A last word on raising kind and compassionate children

Thankfully, kindness and compassion are qualities that children can learn over time and through practice.  What we do in the home, at school and out in the community all play a significant part in fostering these skills in young children and setting them on course to becoming decent, well-adjusted, engaged and caring adults who are not only kind to others, but who are kind to themselves too.

Here at Evoke Early Learning, we nurture professional, trusting and reciprocal relationships between our educators, our children and their families.  Our safe, nurturing and inclusive environments not only promote knowledge, inspire a lifelong love of learning, built resilience, responsibility, self-confidence, teamwork, problem-solving skills as well as creative and scientific thinking - they’re also geared towards encouraging our children to become kinder and more compassionate individuals. 

To find out more, or to see these values in action at our childcare centre in Albert Park and our childcare centre in Clayton, we warmly invite you to book a tour or get in touch with our friendly team.  We’d love to meet you and your child!

It’s not easy teaching little ones to become more independent, but it is really worth putting in time and effort to help children develop this key skill.

A child who is self-sufficient is likely to have a healthier self-esteem and in a better position to navigate the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them.  They’ll learn to trust themselves, take responsibility for their actions and not be reliant on others, but for some young children (and for some parents), learning to let go and do things for themselves is a challenge.

If your child is starting to show signs of wanting to be more independent, if you want to help your child build self-confidence before starting early school or if you’re looking for ways to encourage their self-sufficiency, you’ll find the following tips helpful. 

Nurturing independence in your young child

Nurturing independence is far easier in safe, supportive spaces which are set up properly. 

Elements like having a low hook for a young child to hang a coat onto, providing easy access to toy and shoe boxes, placing books on low shelves, keeping non-breakable cups and plates in a reachable area, having a stool so they can reach the sink to wash their hands etc will increase the chances of them doing things for themselves.

Encourage age-appropriate risks

When children don’t do things for themselves and therefore don’t get an understanding of what it means to persevere until they succeed or find a solution, they can develop a fear of failure.  By encouraging a young child to take age-appropriate risks (like walking along a low log without an adult’s helping hand or climbing the monkey bars), you help them learn from their mistakes, build resilience, confidence and independence.

Encourage self-dressing

Allowing a young child to choose their clothes and self-dress can be as much an exercise in parental patience as it is in encouraging independence, but the rewards are significant. Fine and gross motor skills are honed and the child will feel a sense of accomplishment and will feel empowered.

Provide opportunities for self-help activities

Brushing teeth, helping in the kitchen, putting dirty clothes in the wash basket, turning off a tap, filling up a pet’s water bowl, turning the knob on the washing machine are all examples of ways you can help a child learn to DIY.  Mastering these will take practice and there will be slip-ups and frustrations along the way - so remember to always focus on positive reinforcement and encourage them to try and try again. 

Resist the urge to step in

It can feel counter-intuitive to stand back and watch a child struggle because it goes against your natural instinct as a parent, but there is real merit in allowing them the time and space to keep trying.  This will help them develop important problem-solving skills, help improve their self-esteem and cope with adversity.  And remember, you’re not aiming for perfection! 

Kitchen assistance

It’s helpful to encourage your young child to help in the kitchen with meal preparation, tidying up, getting a cup of water etc.  They will learn that their contribution is important and valued and they’ll like (and want) the feeling of achievement and purpose that it brings.


Learning to self-feed is a gradual process.  Yes, it will be messy and time-consuming, but young children really benefit from having a sense of control and the earlier you start, the better. 

Some key takeaways about young children and independence

If we’re always rushing in to correct our child’s actions and sort things out so they’re done the ‘right’ way, we run the risk of teaching them to be helpless rather than self-sufficient and independent.  Our role is to set strong foundations for children to thrive and to provide for them, but equally, our job is to empower children to provide for themselves. 

That brings us to the question of why high quality childcare matters for children’s development and how your choice of early education provider can have a material impact on your child’s ability to become self-sufficient.

Our spaces at Evoke Early Learning are carefully designed to develop independence as the children create their own play and direct their own explorations.  We’re inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early education which ‘future proofs’ young children, equips them with the necessary knowledge, skills, dispositions, attitudes, languages and self-agency for transitioning to big school and for active participation in all areas of life. If you’re considering quality childcare in Clayton or early learning in Albert Park, you’re welcome to book a tour or have a chat to our team about enrolling your child.

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!

Summer is here, but while some people welcome the long-awaited arrival of warmer weather, longer days and the outdoor life, the season can be a bit of a challenge for parents with young children.  How do you keep your little ones occupied?  What activities can you do that won’t cost a fortune?  How do you combine fun with opportunities for learning?

The team at Evoke Early Learning has compiled a list of some fun and educational activities which will keep your kids entertained, occupied and stimulated over summer - and the good news is, your wallet will be safe too.  All our suggestions involve ordinary household items or things found in nature and the kids will be developing important skills while they’re out there having fun.  And if you’re keen to find out more about the best way for kids to learn, have a read of this short piece on how play-based learning benefits children.

Go on a scavenger hunt

Choose an age-appropriate area to have your scavenger hunt (around the home, around the neighbourhood or in the park) and then compile a list of things that the kids have to find.  You can print off a list using pictures, sort items by number (for example one orange flower, two pebbles) or by shape (a round object, a square object etc), by letter (eg items starting with ‘B’ etc).

Learning opportunities include counting, sorting, problem-solving, communication

Build a fort or castle

Set up a space in the yard where children can build their fort, palace, castle - whatever they choose!  Provide them with a ‘starter pack’ of construction materials such as large cardboard boxes, bits of fabric and foam offcuts and watch their creative juices start flowing!

Learning opportunities include problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork, resilience

Paper plate faces

Set up a creative space in your yard (for example an old bed sheet in a shady spot) You’ll need some paper plates, a paper punch and some arts and crafts supplies like wool, cotton wool, crayons, scissors and a glue stick plus a couple of old magazines.  Each child can then create a face on their paper plate (think wool, dry spaghetti or cotton wool for hair) and cut out eyes, mouths and other facial features from the magazine. 

Learning opportunities include fine motor skills (cutting, sticking, threading) as well as cognitive and verbal skills

Paper planes

Paper planes may be as old as time, but the joy kids that get from them will never go out of fashion!  All you need is some paper, some crayons (for decorating their plane) and some open space in your garden or in the park for the airborne activation!  It’s a great way for young children to practise their construction skills and expend some energy chasing after their winged wonders!  (Note to adults: it’s a good idea to try out some designs ahead of time to ascertain which ones work best).  You can also change up this activity and get the kids to design boats using paper or card - and then try them out in the pool, pond or tub of water.

Learning opportunities include fine and gross motor skills, maths skills like measurement and symmetry, problem solving

Obstacle course

Set up an obstacle course in your backyard or in the park.  You can use ordinary items like a box (for climbing over), a piece of wood (for balancing on), a piece of fabric connected to the ground using tent poles (for crawling under), balls and a tub for a throwing activity … the choices are endless. 

Learning opportunities include physical development, problem solving and taking turns

Chalk hopscotch

Mark out a hopscotch grid on your driveway and get the kids hopping and jumping for joy.

Learning opportunities include gross motor skills, counting, co-ordination, taking turns

Outdoor ‘ten pin bowling’

All you need for this are some empty aluminium cans or plastic containers (empty 2 litre cold drink bottles are ideal) with a little sand in the bottom to stabilise them if need be.  Kids can then take turns throwing or rolling a ball at the cans or bottles, trying to knock them over.

Learning opportunities include maths skills (counting the number of fallen tins etc), physical skills, dexterity, sharing and teamwork.

Frozen Lego

Put bits of Lego into a couple of ice trays, fill them with water and freeze.  Once frozen, put them all into a tub on the lawn and get the kids to take turns fishing out an ice cube (either using a net or a pair of tongs).  Once they’ve each had turns to accumulate a number of cubes, they can wait until the ice melts and then make something fun with the bits they’ve collected before describing their construction to the other children.

Learning opportunities include fine motor, language and communication, science (why ice turns to water etc).

Create an outdoor kitchen

Find a space where kids are free to get wet and play with mud where you can set up an outdoor ‘kitchen’.  Find a couple of plastic containers, wooden spoons, whisks, pots, a sieve, a box for an oven etc and then get them to bake something or make their favourite dish.  They can use water to mix sand into a paste, mould mud pies, make a soup with bits collected from the garden etc and once they’ve ‘cooked’ their dish, they can have a ‘pretend’ meal together.

Learning opportunities include dramatic play, language and communication, collaboration, science (what happens when water is added to sand etc).

A last word on summer fun with young kids

Play-based learning is the very best way for children to discover the world, identify their areas of interest and develop their skills.  And when summer’s here, there’s no better place than the great outdoors to get their creative juices flowing and you can learn why in this article entitled why outdoor education matters in early childhood.

We know that children are naturally inquisitive and capable of constructing their own learning (these are among the guiding philosophies of our Reggio Emilia-inspired childcare centres in Clayton and Albert Park) and they’re masters of ingenuity when it comes to playing games.  However, as collaborators in their learning journey, our role as adults is to support and encourage (and of course, participate when appropriate!) 

By introducing some of the above activities during the summer season and joining in the fun, you can be sure your young children will be having heaps of fun whilst learning and developing valuable skills along the way.

If you’d like more ideas or want to chat about our Evoke Early Learning centres in Clayton and Albert Park, you are most welcome to get in touch or book a tour.  We’d love to meet you and your little one.