Networking between educators, engaging children in enriching experiences, arming them with social skills, learning about sustainability… and a lot more fun and education is what goes on in our playgroups.
We recently sat down with a few of our Family Day Care educators and our Assistant Manager from Family Day Care and In-Home Care to chat about the role that playgroups play in Communities@Work’s Family Day Care services.
Read also on our blog: The Benefits of Choosing Family Day Care for your Child
Sustainability and Community Connections
Theresa Roberts, our Assistant Manager for Family Day Care and In-Home Care, facilitates an outdoor nature-based playgroup. She believes that it’s very important to build a love of nature and the environment among children. She is also very passionate about connecting children to their environment.
“There are many benefits of attending outdoor playgroup for both children and educators. These include physical activity, running, balancing, climbing, learning the skills to assess and take risks, building confidence and resilience, and most importantly, building love and appreciation for the outdoor environment.”
Our Outdoor playgroups include visits to Urambi Hills, Mount Taylor, Tidbinbilla, and even the learn-to-ride centre near Tuggeranong Lake. There’s also the Arboretum, the Himalayan cedar forest, and other trails where the children enjoy walking along the tracks and learning about different plants and animals within our local community.
Isabella Dwyer, Family Day Care Educator, with a child at a playgroup
These playgroups promote a love for the environment and enable several community connections for both children and educators.
With the support of Grassroots Environmental, a pilot program for a nature-based outdoor playgroup was created almost six years ago. The program included Bush detectives and nature walks led by the local Ranger at Mulligans Flat and the Cotter to identify bugs in our local rivers.
Community connections formed more recently are ACT Parks and Conservation Services. They assisted us in setting up the Communities@Work Junior Parkcare group and linked us to the Urambi Hills volunteer group. Children and educators used the skills learned from Louise, the Coordinator for Urambi, and helped by weeding and creating seed bombs to plant made from Kangaroo seed, and mud from the dam, and watering newly planted trees.
We have also connected with Indigenous educators to learn about bushtucker and how to use those in cooking.
Learning, Gardening and Playing
Educator with children in the playgroup setting
Ntia Hlevnjak, a Family Day Care Support Coordinator with us, says, “the children in my group love the outdoor playgroup. They are exposed to nature, they are getting out and getting dirty, enjoying the fresh air and exploring the environment.”
Isabella Dwyer, a Family Day Care educator with us, adds, “the children really enjoy being outside. Anything they can do from riding, climbing to exploring, or playing in the water – if they are outside, they are happy.”
Our playgroups are exclusively designed for Communities@Work’s Family Day Care educators. The organisation supports over 100 Family Day Care educators. We have a playgroup for every day of the week. This caters to the needs of all educators depending on the needs and attendance of the children.
Our playgroups encourage a lot of play-based learning, such as constructing loose parts and getting the children to explore their creativity and imagination. The different playgroups further enable children to mingle in social settings and enjoy social engagement (opposed to the small groups they have at home). This broadens their engagement with children, inspiring curiosity and sharing of ideas.
Benefits of Playgroups for Children and Educators
Ntia, Support Coordinator, interacting with Family Day Care Educator at a playgroup
“On Mondays, Ntia runs a playgroup at the Weston Community Center. We also have Edna, who runs a playgroup out at Weston on Thursdays. Our Family Day Care Support Coordinator, Linda, has two playgroups, one at Isabella Plains Primary School and one at the Erindale Community Garden. Families are welcome to attend that playgroup too. And then on Friday, we have our kitchen garden playgroup, which is very popular,” explains Theresa.
“For all our playgroups, we tie in that connection with the community. For instance, we have a connection with the community gardens at Erindale, where we have a couple of beds that we plant vegetables in. Adam Shipp (of Yurbay), specialising in workshops that connect people to local food and medicine plants from the region, often provides support and collaboration. Greening Australian tends to help us when we are sourcing plants.”
A key takeaway from our discussion with our Family Day Care educators was that sustainability and environmental learning are not just limited to outdoor playgroups. For instance, in our kitchen garden playgroups, children learn where food comes from, how it grows and what’s needed to take care of those plants. They get to plant seeds, watch them grow and take care of them by watering them. The educators also gain knowledge and get to take home seeds and carry forward that learning in their own homes.
Family Day Care educator and child at our Weston Playgroup
Our families agree that playgroups form an excellent part of our Family Day Care service. A lot of the feedback that our Family Day Care educators receive from families is that they love the playgroups. They enjoy that the children get out and about into the community. They like the fact that the children learn about the community, learn about the world that they are a part of, the different people who live in their world, and the environment that surrounds them. (And we couldn’t agree more)!
In fact, it’s not just the families and children that reap the benefits of playgroups. Phillipa Hargrave, Assistant Director Children’s Services for Communities@Work, notes, “playgroups help the educators by allowing them an opportunity to come together in an informal setting. The children can have their own social time to get together, while the educators can also have time to come together and talk about how they’re going in their day, how they’re going with their business, etc. It gives that great chance for them to mentor and guide each other and share ideas. And it’s amazing to watch the playgroups in action each week. It’s our favourite thing!”
About Communities@Work’s Family Day Care service
Communities@Work’s Family Day Coordination Unit team supports almost 100 educators in the operations of their Family Day Care business, in line with the National Quality Framework, across Canberra and the surrounding NSW region.
Communities@Work’s Family Day Care and In-Home Care has achieved an overall rating of Exceeding NQS. In fact, we are the only Family Day Care service in Canberra that has an ‘exceeding’ average across the National Quality Framework.
The unique small group setting of family day care allows our approved educators to provide a play-based learning program tailored to each child’s development needs and interests.
Communities@Work Family Day Care and In-Home Care has been recognised as the National Family Day Care service of the year in 2015 and 2016. The award recognises innovation in service delivery, support of educators, education of children and connections to the local community.
In addition to this, each year, the service has over 40 educators nominated and service support staff, demonstrating our commitment to providing high-quality outcomes for children.
To find out more about Communities@Work’s Family Day Care service, please visit this page.