Empowering children to spread their wings

Children explore their world independently during the early years.

By Taylor Lee - Educator, Cire Children’s Services

It is critical to empower children in their crucial early years to spread their wings and become more independent.

During this phase of life’s journey, children grow and develop and become more able to do things for themselves. They express themselves, explore their world independently and appreciate the consequence of their actions and behaviours.

As newborns, we enter the world completely dependent on others for food, warmth, shelter and survival. Throughout our lives, we remain connected to those around us. We also strike out on our own, developing the confidence to explore and make sense of our surroundings. We gradually become more aware that we can influence and control certain events.

Humans are fundamentally social creatures. We live in families and communities and actively seek connections with others. One of our key roles as educators is to help children relate to others in positive and collaborative ways. The emphasis on connection is strongly reflected in both the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standard.

Alongside this sense of togetherness, it is also vital to help children develop a sense of themselves as individuals with their own skills, strengths, likes and dislikes.

Independence contributes to the development of self-esteem, identity and wellbeing. Doing something for yourself produces a powerful sense of achievement and success. When children have opportunities to make choices, to attempt tasks for themselves, and to take on increasing responsibilities, their sense of themselves as competent members of society grows.

We have a sense of ‘agency’ when we feel in control of things that happen around us; when we feel that we can influence events. This is an essential attribute for children to develop. As educators at Cire Children’s Services, we listen to and respect children’s words and ideas. We model collaboration and cooperation, and show that we recognise the differing capabilities of all our children.

Independence is further developed through ‘real-life’ tasks and challenges that allow children to attempt difficult and challenging work. Experiences that are not simple and that require practice and perseverance help children to become resilient and provide a sense of tremendous achievement. Cooking, gardening and woodwork are all examples of experiences that provide opportunities to use real tools or utensils and complete real ‘adult’ work. Perhaps this is why children respond so enthusiastically to real tasks.

Cire Children’s Services actively achieves a balance between education and care, and encouraging and fostering children to become more independent and confident. We do this, for example, by assisting them to learn how to wash their hands, sensing and understanding their own needs from hunger and meal times, to finding their drink bottles that are accessible all day and easily identified by their own photograph. Meal times are self-service, allowing children to use tongs and serving spoons. These skills are constantly scaffolded throughout their early years with different and new experiences to enhance independence and sense of ‘agency’ further.

Encouraging independence in children is an ongoing responsibility.

Occasional Care Report released 

Cire is currently considering the recently released findings of a report it commissioned into occasional care and other early years services, particularly in the Upper Yarra and Healesville. The focus was on locally identified needs and barriers to accessing such services.

The report stated the majority of parents and carers of preschool children in the Yarra Ranges would like to access occasional care. There is particular interest in having such a service in Healesville and Woori Yallock.

One of the key findings was that many parents valued highly the flexibility of occasional care and that they pay for what they use.

However, many parents and carers viewed occasional care as being cost-prohibitive. This was attributed to a lack of understanding of the availability and access to government childcare subsidies, which could substantially reduce the real cost of childcare.

“Ninety per cent of the parents who showed an interest in using occasional care to attend formal education/training viewed childcare as being too expensive,” the report stated.

In addition, all aspects of Cire’s occasional care services at Upper Yarra Family Centre at Yarra Junction and Chirnside Park Community Hub were valued highly by those already accessing them.

As a result of the study, Cire aims to address the following issues to increase the accessibility of occasional care:

Promote occasional care to parents and carers, including the availability of government subsidies. Consistent and simple information about occasional care and the real cost of childcare was essential.

Promote occasional care to other service providers in the community as the report identified a lack of understanding of what was available.

Establish clear and direct referral pathways

Further investigate potential occasional care venues in Healesville and Woori Yallock.

The need for the project was informed by the outcome of the Yarra Ranges Council’s Child and Youth Strategy (2014-2024) and the 2016 ‘Let’s Talk about Warby’ project.