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“There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. It puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.” – Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist.

Gen Z were the first generation to grow up amidst social media, with the first notable site, Six Degrees, being created in 1997. Rapidly, social media has proliferated out of control, gaining popularity across the well known sites we know today. 

But what effects has this had on generations starting with Gen Z and that of which followed?

A popular documentary released on Netflix called ‘The Social Dilemma’ examines this and the damaging effect that this has had on children’s social skills. Teenagers in particular have been the primary focus and their ability to create new relationships.

“We’ve created a world in which online connection has become primary. Especially for younger generations. And yet, in that world, anytime two people connect, the only way it’s financed is through a sneaky third person whose paying to manipulate those two people. So we’ve created an entire global generation of people who were raised within a context with the very meaning of communication, the very meaning of culture, is manipulation.” – Jaron Lainer, founding father of Virtual Reality Computer Scientist

In America, a short survey was conducted to discuss this by The Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and they discovered:

– 75% of teens said social media negatively affected their romantic relationship

– 77% chose texting as one of the popular ways to start a relationship

– 82% said texting is one of the two ways to end a relationship.

As children engage in face-to-face communication, they are developing social skills through vocal and visual cues which brings context to the situation. These communication cues can be portrayed through eye contact, tone of voice, facial expressions and space between individuals (Knapp & Hall, 2010).

But if children are communicating solely through social media, they aren’t learning these non-verbal communication skills that are necessary to succeed in life.

It has become trendy across all social media platforms for Gen Z to joke about their social incompetencies with comments such as needing their parents to book doctor’s appointments for them because they’re afraid to talk over the phone, but to what extent is this going to affect how society will function in the future? 

“We’re training and conditioning a whole new generation of people that when we are uncomfortable or lonely or uncertain or afraid, we have a digital pacifier for ourselves. That is kind of atrophying our own ability to deal with that.” – Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of Centre for Humane Technologies

Perhaps social media isn’t the future, but something that needs to be changed or consumed in extreme moderation.

An OSHC coordinator shares what she wishes parents knew about the educators and programs their children attend.

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) programs can often be overlooked by the community as a babysitting service, but it’s more advanced than that. Educators of an OSHC program are required to do a number of things based on the National Quality Standards and National Regulations set out by the Department of Education

During my eight years as a coordinator and running a large service of 60+ kids, here’s a few things that I wish the parents knew and feel they would have benefitted from. 

Child portfolios

Every service dedicates a portfolio to each child. In these portfolios, they will have the child’s development using My Time, Our Place. Alternative to school-based education, educators will observe the children in a social setting, paying attention to their ability to learn adequate life skills. These skills can be in making friends, solving tense situations, being environmentally conscious, considering their community, interacting with others in a respectful way, being resilient, and many more. 

Portfolios often have photos and examples of what they’ve done within the service, accompanied by a written learning story/observation.

These are used for the educators to document the child’s development and ensure that they’re developing specific to their needs. The educators focus on one key area of development, determined by the parent or the educator’s observations, and then work on developing that skill.

Parents can gain access to this by asking the educators, but this should also leave with the child at the end of their journey at the OSHC program.

Daily reflection journal and program

Most OSHC services will have a reflection journal near the sign out desk. The intention of the journal is for the educators, children and parents to critically reflect on the program for the week. This is also used to document experiences within the program such as evacuation drills, community participation, and any major changes. 

OSHC can get loud and busy so it’s important for parents to read the reflection journal or planner so they are aware of what’s happening within the service. Parents can also use the journal to make comments about the program, whether that’s positive or simply a suggestion of improvement.

Parents are always encouraged to provide their feedback and get involved.

Complaints

More commonly, services are run by large companies (Camp Australia, OSHClub, Team Kids, Big Childcare, and more). It can be easier for a parent to address any complaints directly to the company and avoid confrontation, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to communicate with the service educators.

Most educators take pride in their work and working with children can often lead to miscommunications or misinterpretations. Each child and family are different, and unfortunately, educators aren’t perfect.

With an industry that is incredibly personal and high intensity, I wish parents would communicate directly to the educators with any concerns.

Communicate clearly and build that relationship. If it doesn’t improve, then take it further. 

Documentation

There are expectations set by the Department of Education and National Regulations about specific documentation that is required from the parents for their child to attend. It is stressful for the coordinator because if it’s not perfect, this can leave the service non-compliant and unsafe under the Regulations. 

This type of documentation commonly includes enrolment forms (filled out correctly and fully) and medical management plans with their corresponding risk minimisation and authorisation to give medication (medication provided should be in the prescription packaging including full name of child and dosage labelled).

The government sets high standards for the safety of the children and if the service doesn’t comply, they can risk being shut down. If parents don’t provide this, they have to then confront the parent and have a difficult conversation about excluding their child until compliant. It’s unfortunately not as simple as “letting them come” anymore. There are laws and regulations to follow, so I hope that parents have this in mind when working with their educators.

Assessment and Rating

Every service goes through a process with the Department of Education called Assessment and Rating where they will attend and assess the service based off of the seven National Quality Areas. These areas include: 

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  7. Leadership and service management

These assessments should be completed frequently, but usually occur every couple of years. These rating outcomes can be accessed on the ACECQA website and is a good indication of where the service is at for quality of care. 

I highly recommend that parents get involved in this process and ask where they can assist in improving the quality of care as having the community and families involved is a huge part of this. A service that has a rating of Meeting, Exceeding Themes or Excellent is doing well. If a service has received Working Towards, it usually means that they weren’t compliant when the department visited (back to that documentation!).

Food provided

Each service has a licence to serve specific food through the local council and must abide by the level of that licence. This means that some services can’t provide food that requires refrigeration. 

Educators understand that children might want butter on their toast and real milk with their cereal, but unfortunately the licence doesn’t allow this. And no, families can’t provide these items to be consumed by their child. If any of these foods are found by the council, the service could receive a fine and be closed for breaking their licence agreements. 

Please, be understanding with this. Most educators at the service can’t control this or change it. The same goes for nut products. Most schools do ban nuts, but being in a space that has a large variety of children attending, it isn’t worth a child’s life so another can eat a Nutella sandwich.

Educators buying supplies using their own money

Most companies have a clause in the employee’s agreement that they’re not to buy anything for the children using their own money, but most educators don’t comply. Throughout my eight years in the industry, I bought many things like craft supplies, storage solutions, candy canes, Halloween and Christmas decorations, books, costumes, Easter eggs, speakers, movies, games, sporting equipment and many more. 

There’s a budget for each service and it’s usually never enough to decorate the room and provide enough supplies to entertain the children. It means the world when parents recognise the hard work educators put into not only the presentation of the service, but also the activities provided. There is a lot that goes on outside of those couple of minutes parents’ step into the service, so recognition is always appreciated.

With all of this in mind, I just ask that parents take the time to appreciate their educators more.

I understand that this isn’t applicable for all educators (I know more than anyone that there can be a few awful educators out there), but for the majority, they work really hard. They go above and beyond for the children in their service to ensure that they feel at home while their parents are working late. 

Parents can get busy, but taking the time to stop every once in a while, and having a conversation with the educators, read what they write in the journal, asking to see their child’s portfolio or even complimenting how the room looks can completely change an educator’s day. 

Building those trusting and respectful relationships can be incredibly important not just to the children, but also the adults involved. 

Optimum nutrition is crucial for physiological and cognitive development, however evidence shows that diet quality in children has declined. Processed foods, skipping meals and following fad diets may cause children to fail in meeting nutritional requirements necessary for growth and development.

Essential vitamins and minerals cannot be synthesised by the body, so a child must obtain them in adequate amounts from food. Poor intake of nutrients and energy could have detrimental effects on health, and contribute to the onset of low self-esteem, dental issues and decreased academic performance.

Epidemiological data estimates that one in five children are expected to develop some kind of mental health issue before adulthood, with half of adult mental health problems developing in childhood and teenage years. This highlights the importance of early prevention.

An Australian study examining 7114 adolescents aged 10-14 years, demonstrated that teenagers on a healthy diet were less likely to report symptoms of depression. The association exists above the influence of family, socioeconomic and other factors.

1. Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is key for skeletal development, bone health and teeth, providing hard tissue with its strength. Due to its importance for growth, requirements are higher in childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and lactation.

Calcium is also necessary for learning, mental capacity, the immune system, nerve impulse transmissions and contracting muscles.

Ensuring intake of adequate calcium helps minimise risk of fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis. Research connected calcium intake with prevention of colon cancer, insulin resistance, kidney stones, hypertension and obesity.

Absorption of calcium from food is only 20-40 per cent, and bioavailability is hindered in foods with phytic and oxalic acids, such as rhubarb, spinach, chard and some cereals.

Factors that increase Calcium bioavailability:

  • Vitamin D
  • Fat
  • Proteins
  • Vitamin C

Factors increasing demand for Calcium:

  • Bone fractures
  • Diarrhoea
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • High sugar diets
  • Lack of exercise
  • Magnesium deficiency

Calcium is involved in the following functions:

  • Activates insulin
  • Blood clotting
  • Bone and tooth formation
  • Muscle contraction
  • Nerve transmission
  • Cellular functions
  • Heart rhythm regulation

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Buckwheat
  • Dairy products
  • Egg yolk
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Sardines
  • Molasses
  • Soybeans
  • Turnips

2. Magnesium

Cells die without sufficient Magnesium, and it is required for over 300 biochemical processes in the body. Approximately 99% of total body magnesium is found in the bone, muscles and soft tissue, fifty to sixty percent residing in the bone. Magnesium is necessary for strong bones, healthy immune function, muscular and neurological function, blood glucose regulation and energy.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency in Children:

  • Requirements are higher due to growth and development.
  • Inadequate intake.
  • Cooking methods can result in magnesium loss.
  • Diets high in salt, sugar and soft drinks.
  • Reduced magnesium absorption due to low protein diet, vitamin D deficiency or medications.
  • Active children may have a higher requirement due to loss through sweat.
  • A child who is experiencing prolonged diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Prolonged stress, worry or anxiety.

Signs your child may need more Magnesium:

  • Twitching muscles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Teeth grinding
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lethargy

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Barley
  • Cashews
  • Cocoa
  • Cod
  • Eggs
  • Figs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Kelp
  • Wholegrains
  • Legumes
  • Molasses
  • Parsnips

Inadequate magnesium can contribute to poor mood and influence anxiety. Both calcium and magnesium are important for mood modulation, cognition and brain function.

Write a list of your favourite calcium and magnesium foods, and each week ask your child to choose a new food to incorporate into your meals.

Kelly has more than eight years’ experience as a coordinator for an Outside School Hours Care Program and has completed hundreds of engaging and educating programs with children based on the National Regulation requirements. So, to help any struggling parents out there, here are her suggestions for easy and fun activities to keep children engaged during Covid restrictions.

With current Covid precautions in Australia and Melbourne’s Stage Four lockdown still in effect, parents may have gone through every option to keep their child engaged. Children are out of routine and forced to learn at home, so trying to come up with new and exciting activities that are educating can be almost impossible.

1. ‘Spoonville’

It can be difficult to convince children to leave the house for some exercise when they have technology to keep themselves entertained, so why not create a town out of spoon people and get the community involved?

Using old spoons from the drawer, dress up your spoon into a person, animal or character. Every time the children go for a walk, they can see if anyone else in their neighbourhood has contributed to ‘Spoonville’ with their own spoons. It brings the excitement of wanting to leave the house for exercise while also engaging the children into creating a new spoon to add to the collection.

Materials: Wooden, metal or plastic spoon, wool for hair, googly eyes, scrap material for clothing, texta or paint for any additional details.

 

 

2. Toilet roll characters

Instead of throwing out the toilet rolls, turn them into characters!

There are plenty of websites that provide print out templates of different characters to stick onto a toilet roll. These are easy for kids to follow because all they need to do is cut, colour and paste. Alternatively, parents can print off reference pictures to spark creativity.

This also teaches children the importance of re-using materials around the house instead of throwing them out. Use this opportunity to discuss the environment and what they can do to help.

To further build on this experience, the children can create their own puppet show. This will be sure to keep them entertained for hours, build their confidence and encourage their pretend-play skills.

Materials: Toilet rolls, paper, textas, scissors, glue sticks.

3. Gooey slime

Slime can be a great tool for sensory development and is also one of the most popular science experiments with children at the moment. The ingredients to create this slime can be found at the supermarket and is easy to create, but it does get messy. So, make sure the floor, table and clothing are protected.

 

Slime recipe:

240ml bottle Elmer’s white school glue

1 1/2 – 2 tbs contact saline solution

1 tbs baking soda

Food colouring

To make the slime more exciting, the children can add shaving cream (poofy slime), glitter, beads (crunchy slime) or Styrofoam (foam slime) to the mixture.

Materials: Glue, saline solution, baking soda, food colouring.

4. Pac-man (2 or more people)

Pac-man is a game Kelly played frequently with children at work because it encouraged them to think quickly and increase their general knowledge.

The aim of the game is to stand around the room, the parent will shout out a question and for every question a child gets right, they take a step towards their opposition. Once they’ve answered enough questions and have reached their opposition, they tap them on the shoulder to get them out.

Adjust the questions based on their age and knowledge level, making them easier or harder depending on who is left in the game.

Materials: None.

5. DIY masks

Masks are a part of everyday life with Covid-19, so why not make it exciting? This will not only open the conversation about why it’s important to wear masks but will also teach them how to cut fabric to a pattern and sew it together. This could also encourage a conversation about fast fashion and the hard work that goes into creating clothes.

To further this experience, children could sew more patterns such as cushions, toys or pencil cases.

Materials: Needle, thread, three layers of fabric, scissors.

6. Terrarium

Terrariums are easy to assemble and can be created by things found outdoors. Although it isn’t necessary to build one that grows plants, it can be beneficial for children to learn the importance of a small eco-system and a terrarium is perfect to do so.

Materials: Glass bowl, dirt, sticks, rocks, water, plants (I recommend succulents because they don’t need much water).

 

 

7. Veggie patch

Similar to a terrarium, growing plants can be a beneficial lesson to children, but can be done using scraps from last night’s dinner. There are many vegetables/fruits that can grow from scraps. These are:

Lettuce, celery, avocado, potato, sweet potato, ginger, pineapple, garlic, onion, pumpkin, capsicum, tomato, carrot, strawberry, apricot, cherry, and many more.

Just place these vegetables or seeds in water, wait for roots to sprout, and then plant in dirt. Eventually, a new vegetable will sprout and the kids can eat their home-grown food.

Materials: Vegetable scraps, dirt, water.

8. Patty pan craft

Children can unleash their creativity by creating their favourite animal or character using the left-over patty pans sitting in the bottom drawer. Using either a photo for reference or a printed colouring page, children can cut the patty pan to size and paste. This will not only benefit their fine motor skills but will encourage creativity when it comes to alternative materials and repurposing.

Materials: Patty pans, paint or texta, scissors, glue.

 

Since the conflict broke out in 2015, life for children in Yemen, has been a living hell. Around 2 million children under the age of 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition. To put these numbers into perspective, that is the entirety of Perth’s population.

10.3 million brittle boys and girls don’t have enough food to eat, and half of Yemeni children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished. Chronic malnutrition has an incredibly important impact on a child’s development. So, the 50 per cent of Yemeni children who are chronically malnourished, will never develop their full intellectual potential.

Whilst these statistics are disturbing to us readers, you can only imagine how frightful, how soul-crushing, how helpless, it must feel to be the mother of a Yemeni child.

These kids have been deprived of their childhoods and a hopeful future. And, the dark reality is, this has worsened due to COVID-19 as they are confined to remnants of their war-torn homes.

The damage and closure of schools has disrupted the children’s access to education. Before COVID-19, 2 million children were out of school. Now, because of the pandemic, the latest statistics from UNICEF have found an additional 5 million children are out of school.

Sadly, the education of these children is the smallest of their problems. Five years of war has exhausted the country’s health system. Many of Yemen’s medical facilities have been destroyed and the country is inadequate to cope with a pandemic.

Alongside a lack of medicine, equipment, and medics, coronavirus has essentially caused Yemen’s health system to collapse.

As the pandemic ravages through the country, the Yemeni people have reached breaking point.

Poverty levels are deepening and putting financial strain on families. The United Nations (U.N) have reported that parents of these fragile children are now resorting to “harmful coping mechanisms,” like begging, child labor, and marrying off their young daughters to survive.

Young Yemeni girls, if weren’t already, are now the most vulnerable, frail, and helpless they’ve ever been.

Worldwide, around 12 million girls under the age of 18 are estimated to be married off every year. That works out to be nearly one girl every three seconds.

Already seen to be happening in Yemen, a recent U.N report predicts the pandemic has put an additional 4 million girls at risk of child marriage.

And, when you think the horrendous conditions for these innocent girls couldn’t get any worse, they do.

86% of mothers in Yemen believe that female gentile mutilation is a purifying and cleansing practice and is closely tied with their religious and cultural beliefs. With almost every health care facility closing and the ones that are still open being overpopulated by coronavirus and war-stricken victims, the infection rate, as a direct result of this practice, on these baby girls, is expected to sky-rocket.

The U.N appealed to the international community $2.4 billion to help the suffering of the Yemen people who are being hit harder than any other civilians in the world by the pandemic. On June 2, manly Arab and Western countries pledged $1.35 billion toward aid. This is far less than what is needed to give these people a chance at survival.

Yemen is in the middle of a war, suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the coronavirus is sucking the breath and freedom out of the life of malnourished children who don’t have the choice or immune system to fight it.

These conditions are gut-wrenching.

The suffering of these girls and boys is nothing short of devastating.

And, it is worsening with every minute that passes.

If you would like to donate directly to help save the lives of these kids, please do so here https://support.savethechildren.org/site/Donation2?df_id=2521&2521.donation=form1

Children who struggle with literacy can improve through parental help and a different approach to their learning, as explored by Emma Saurus.

My memory of Year 1 is learning the alphabet, writing a lot of wavy shapes (“You mean you wanted them between the lines? Geez.”), and using scissors with my tongue out.

Today, by the end of pre-primary, the Australian Curriculum expects children to write three-letter words and “experiment with capital letters and full stops”.

My peak pre-primary experiment was, “How long can I get away with speaking only in neighs and eating without using my hooves?”

From Pre-Primary to Post-Doctorate, your child will be assessed through their writing. In almost every subject, they will be required to demonstrate their knowledge on paper.

There has been a global early-education panic as studies show that children who lag in language skills in the early years tend to fall further and further behind their peers.

At the same time that literacy requirements are being shunted into earlier grades, the new overstuffed, micro-managed Australian Curriculum requires teachers to cover more topics than can fit into a school year (according to the Australian Primary Principals Association, “The overcrowded primary curriculum: A way forward”, and the Australian Government’s own Review of the Australian Curriculum by Donnelly and Wiltshire, both 2014).

The outcome is that if your child is not developmentally ready to gain those crucial foundational skills of reading and writing in Pre-Primary — and my son was not — teachers in later years are unlikely to have enough time available to help your child catch up.

It will be up to you to recognise that your young’un is struggling and provide the targeted help they need to get up to speed.

Any improvements you make
to children’s literacy skills will
have positive flow-on effects
throughout their academic
and professional lives.

Helping your child is completely doable. If you’re skilful, it can be a fun, bonding activity.

If your child has struggled to the point that they have become despondent about writing, or flat-out hate it as much as mine did, it can become a bribing activity. Whatever works! It’s worth it.

But the keyword for gaining cooperation is “let’s”, as in “Let’s do a writing game together.”

Here’s an exercise that can be used from toddlerhood. (I have even used it with children preparing for the Gifted and Talented exam.) If your child cannot yet write (or hates it), you can do the writing for them.

Some children prefer to be absolutely clear about what is expected of them before they begin. You can demonstrate it for them. Before long, they will will be taking the pencil out of your hand.

Curious Captions

 

You can’t become a great writer without knowing how to compose a strong sentence. This activity teaches planning, descriptive vocabulary, and even introduces the idea of revising and editing.

Choose a picture — a photograph of family, a picture from a magazine or the internet — and say, “Let’s write a caption to describe what’s in the picture. What do we see?”

The child might say, “Birds.”

In a list off to the side, write down ‘birds’, and prompt for more information.

“How many?” “What colour?” “What could they be doing?” You might end up with a list of words including: two, pink, dancing.

Say, “Let’s put these words into a sentence.” Read the list out, and try speaking a few variations.

Write out the child’s preferred phrasing. Talk about what was good about the sentence. Praise any powerful words.

If the child wrote it, praise them if they remembered capitals and full stops, or if they spelled words correctly.

Don’t worry about fixing any errors (though you could secretly note spelling mistakes for later teaching); this exercise is about encouraging expression.

If your child is still interested, you can say, “Shall we make it even fancier?”

You can add relevant vocabulary. (“These birds are called flamingos.”)

You can add description and invite your child’s contribution. (“They’re dancing elegantly.”)

You can add imagination. (“What could they be thinking or feeling? Maybe this one is a daddy flamingo and he just got home from work. Or maybe this one is saying, ‘Get out of my way!’”)

Write the new sentence under the first one. The more over-the-top you make it, the more enjoyable it will be.

If you want more suggestions from your child, find something good and useful in whatever they offer.

Older children are often asked to analyse images in English exams; this activity can prepare them.

If you use advertisements, it can also help your children begin to understand how some images attempt to manipulate the viewer.

Any improvements you make to children’s literacy skills will have positive flow-on effects throughout their academic and professional lives.

Powerful writing helps teens sound smarter in essays and exams. It allows young adults to write compelling job applications. It lets employees make client presentations more impressive.

Enrich your child’s writing. The investment will pay off their whole life long.

Letters of Complaint

 

If your child has difficulty remembering the letters of the alphabet, has trouble physically writing the letters, cannot holding the pencil with even pressure (giving faint, wiggly letters), or simply cannot recall spelling patterns after lengthy study, this requires a different kind of intervention.

American special educator Dianne Craft (diannecraft. org) has developed a program that can be undertaken at home to address these issues.

I used them successfully with my son, who was diagnosed with Dysgraphia in PrePrimary.

His writing was like giving birth: slow, painful, and messy.

When the occupational therapist gave her pronouncement, I thought, “Great, a diagnosis! That reassuringly fancy Latin label must mean that experts understand his condition and how to treat it. What does dysgraphia mean? ‘Difficulty writing’? I told you that when we walked in!”

Months of occupational therapy exercises did not make a difference.

One month of Dianne Craft’s method led to significant improvement.

My son no longer meets the technical criteria for dysgraphia.

If you are experiencing similar issues, please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss your situation: emma@emmasaurus.com.au

Emma Saurus helps students of all levels sound smarter.  She is based in Perth. Look her up at emmasaurus.com.au

“If I can’t find my perfect job, then I need to create it.”

This was the catalyst that encouraged 33-year-old Perth mother of two, Chevon Semmens, to launch Little Land, an interactive role-play centre for young children to play and learn.

 

From a young age, Chevon had a passion for play, she aspired to work with children and own a childcare centre. Despite these dreams, Chevon opted for a career in marketing and advertising.

 However, her interest in play and learning persisted. Chevon volunteered for over 10 years with Radio Lollipop, providing entertainment to children during their stay at Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital. Chevon recalls always finding a way to integrate play and learning, even if they were “just playing Uno.”

While on maternity leave with her first child, Chevon stumbled across a photo of a little girl with a child size shopping trolley at a role play centre in the UK. Chevon was excited by the idea of a role-play centre, “I knew this concept would come to Perth eventually and was looking forward to being able to take my own children.”

 

Prompted by a desire to transition into a different career, Chevon used the opportunity of maternity leave to consider her options and compile a list of priorities, “I wanted it to be a business that involved working with children and it had to be something creative”.

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

“I knew my ideal job probably didn’t exist, so I had to invent it.”

Inspired by the image of the little girl with the shopping trolley, Chevon announced to her husband Kayne, “I am going to open up a role play centre. He thought I was mad.”

With unyielding determination, Chevon took on the challenge of convincing her husband she could make this dream a reality.

Chevon’s family and friends became sounding boards for her new venture. “Many thought it was a good idea but probably never assumed I would go through with it, while others felt the idea was too gimmicky.” Undeterred, Chevon used their constructive feedback as encouragement to eradicate potential flaws.

“I knew the concept could work and I knew I would enjoy taking my kids there, but would others?” Chevon put together an advisory group, consisting of Paediatric Occupational Therapists, Paediatric Speech Pathologists, Early Childhood Educators, Primary Teachers and professionals who worked with children with autism. Chevon used their expert knowledge in conjunction with her marketing expertise to educate parents about the benefits the role play centre would bring.

Despite Chevon’s confidence and robust business plan, the process from conceptualisation to delivery was anything but quick. Two years of extensive planning included a painstaking search for the right premises.

“I did not want to settle for a half option. The location needed to be central, close to families, with plenty of parking and onsite facilities.”

In the midst of the search, falling pregnant with her second child threw another “amazing spanner into the works.” Financially, Chevon also needed enough money to launch the business. Rather serendipitously, she was offered voluntary redundancy from her existing day job. “It happened to be the exact amount of money needed to get the idea of the ground.”

The dream was about to become a reality.

Chevon opened the doors of Little Land in May 2019. “We were fully booked for the first three months” and the success has continued, with some ebbs and flows in the mix, as they approach their one-year anniversary.*

What can someone expect from a trip to Little Land?

Little Land offers a welcome break from the usual loud colours and noises you expect of a childcare centre. “Many parents comment on how surprised they are at how calm the environment feels.” The welcome area is filled with calming pastel colours, while the sound system plays modern songs in the form of lullabies.

Beyond the welcome area, you will find Little Land’s ‘little town’, complete with a shopping centre, school; home; doctor’s surgery; café; hairdressing salon; construction zone and veterinary practice.

Role-play is at the forefront of play between the ages of 18 months and 8 years and so each area is uniquely designed to meet the needs of children within this age range. The numbers are kept to a maximum of 30 children per session with a total of four sessions per day to avoid overwhelm for the children.

Children are given the opportunity to explore formal settings in an informal way, enabling them to take control of the experience. Many children were recently role-playing evacuations and ‘safety first’ procedures following recent bush fires. Parents who visit the centre express how valuable it is for children to be able to visit these locations on a small scale and at their own pace.

What does the future hold for Little Land?

Chevon is proud to announce Little Land have worked with the Autism Association in Western Australia to launch weekly ‘Sensory Sessions’. “We reduce the number of people who attend, change the format and provide a story book for children to read beforehand of what to expect, we also use a timer instead of a bell to mark the end of the sessions.”

Chevon’s dream is for play and learning to be accessible to all Australians. “We currently have people travelling over an hour to see us, so I would like to possibly open a second location to make it more accessible. We have also launched several pop ups, including four stalls at local events and shopping centres to help spread awareness of the benefits of our centre.”

How to balance motherhood and business

As a mum to three a half year old Zack and 16 month old Archer, Chevon admits life can get busy.

“Someone said to me recently, maybe it’s not so much as trying to find a balance between being a mother and business owner, perhaps it’s finding a blend of the two.”

“I am fortunate that I have a great husband who helps pick up the slack, whether that’s with our children or the business. We try to eat well and get as much sleep as you can with a 16 month old.”

Chevon and her husband make time for themselves separately to re-energise, “I try to get up earlier a couple of days a week to go for an hour long walk, this gives me the energy I need for the next couple of days.”

Chevon also has a day that is non-negotiable, “I always have Mondays with my boys, to play and just spend time with them, it revitalises me and reminds me how we never stop learning.”

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

Despite the huge success of the business, Chevon has realised it’s the small wins she celebrates, “I found in the initial stages of Little Land, we were so busy ‘doing’ that we didn’t stop to appreciate what we had achieved, so now we make an effort to regularly pause and express gratitude for what we have accomplished.”

Keep up to date with the latest Little Land news, @littleland_perth

Thank you to Photographer, Lanie Sims for all images supplied in this article.

 *Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Land has closed for the unforeseeable future. During this time, we’re determined to continue inspiring play and learning for the community and we hope it isn’t too long before we see the return of big smiles on little faces as they run through our big and little doors to wander and explore the magic.

 

As parents, it can be challenging to find ways to support children experiencing fears about the future of the planet while managing our own worries about an uncertain future. Psychologist, author and broadcaster Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a specialist in parenting and child/adolescent mental health, in conjunction with SchoolTV, guides parents on how to best respond to a child experiencing eco-anxiety, irrespective of varying personal views on the climate change debate.

The Australian Curriculum on Sustainability addresses the ongoing capacity of Earth to maintain all life.

Primary schools are immersed in school gardens and recycling initiatives. Teenagers across the globe are striking from school in protest to leader inaction on mitigating the effects of climate change.

Extreme weather events such as drought, fire and flood regularly dominate news reports and popular media revels in polarising debate.

Our children are more environmentally aware than ever and with this awareness can come fear and anxiety as children grapple with notions of disaster, with some experiencing it directly amid bushfires and drought stricken rural areas.

The World Health Organisation regard climate change as the greatest threat to global health in the 21st Century, due to results of extreme weather events and a recent survey by YouGovGalaxy for UNICEF Australia reveals that children are most worried, on a world level, about the environment.

What is Eco-Anxiety?

Eco-Anxiety refers to the fear felt about the threat of ecological disaster, leading to feelings of disempowerment, helplessness and apathy.

A brief report by Millennium Kids through the University of Western Australia, found 60 per cent of children surveyed believed the Australian Government does not adequately acknowledge climate change as a serious problem and is not committed to tackling the issue.

They also felt their personal actions to mitigate climate change were inadequate.

How to Respond

Finding ways as a parent to allay a child’s fear on the issue without being disingenuous can be confusing, particularly when a child is very young.

However, Dr Carr-Gregg believes early intervention is critical when addressing the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing issues which are now impacting our children at a much younger age.

In a recent special report with SchoolTV, a resource used to support schools and parents in addressing the modern day issues affecting today’s children, Dr Carr-Gregg outlines ways to best respond to a child’s eco-anxiety.

Building Hope

Dr Carr-Gregg believes, as adults, we have a responsibility to give hope and must be careful not to terrify children into a state of hopelessness, fear and panic.

He encourages instilling faith that our society has the capacity to solve big problems, and by working together, taking positive action and maintaining honesty, positive change can happen.

Parents are then best positioned to respond to the fear experienced by our children about climate change and the sustainability of the planet. How to

Protecting Innocence

 

Under 5’s

This is a tender developmental stage and children need to believe the world is a safe and secure place.

However, Dr Carr-Gregg recommends answering questions, if they are raised, in honest, yet gentle terms such as, “The earth does face some challenges but many people, our schools and leaders are working to solve them.”

Dr Carr-Gregg explains, cocooning Pre-Schoolers from catastrophic thinking about the fate of the planet is very important and if they seek further reassurance, it can be helpful to focus on the environmentally friendly practices of the family.

He says, “Help them learn to appreciate and care for their environment.”

Positive Action

 

Primary school aged

Dr Carr-Gregg suggests being guided by your child’s curiosity at this age, to answer questions honestly, in accordance to your beliefs, being mindful to not focus solely on problems.

Instead, emphasise positive initiatives being implemented worldwide. He says, “Talk about renewables, emission reduction and that human beings do have a history of being able to solve, what has often been seen in the past, as intractable problems.”

He encourages involving your primary aged children in Community Gardens, Recycling Programs and other initiatives which can give them agency over their future.

Deep Fears

For children experiencing extreme anxiety, Dr Carr-Gregg explains this can be diffused by encouraging them to talk.

He says, “Gradually introduce them to known facts. Then ask them how they feel, before acknowledging that the ultimate outcome is uncertain.

Finally, parents should agree to practical steps to make a difference such as cutting down on non-recyclable waste and by choosing food with a better climate footprint.

Working Together

 

Adolescents

Older children are perhaps, more well-versed on the effects of climate change than their parents and views may vary, however, Dr Carr-Gregg recommends dissuading narratives of doom.

He encourages parents to welcome conversations around the issue but to keep reminding teenagers that many people are working together to help solve the problem.

He says, “Big problems have been solved in the past by people working together.”

Solution Based Thinking

Dr Carr-Gregg says, “The most important thing a parent can do to allay eco-anxiety, while still encouraging realism is to tell children that solutions do exist and if we implement changes now. In the future, more people will be living in cleaner cities, eating healthier diets and working in resilient, buoyant economies. When a child sees a parent acting to make things better it shines an entirely different light on the problem. Young people see their parents as Superheroes and our actions speak louder than words.”

“We can work to find solutions to serious problems without giving way to despair and impotence.”

Keeping the Faith

Dr Carr-Gregg’s special report on SchoolTV asks parents to look to practical and positive responses to their children’s fears about climate change and to implement positive action whilst acknowledging the positive actions of others.

Hope is an essential component to not only assuaging anxiety but also in overcoming the problems faced by the world.

Albert Wiggan, a Bardi-Kija-Nyul Nyual man from the Kimberley and Conservationist of the Year at the 2019 Australian Geographic Society said, in his acceptance speech in November, it was time Australia and the world looked to Indigenous cultures for the answers on how to sustain the earth.

He said, “I still have a lot of belief that we can turn things around in this great country. And we will turn things around. And we are going to instil the strength in our children who are out there fighting for their future and every single one of us, who are accepting these awards, are doing it for you. And we are doing it for you so you can maintain your vigorous conviction. And you maintain your faith in your future. And you maintain the faith of who we are as human beings.”

Role-play is an important part of child development and a way for children to make sense of the world around them. Children start to engage in role-play from around 18 months of age. Understanding why and how children role-play can provide parents with knowledge to best support role-play fun and learning

There are three key role-play categories;

  • Family; Mum, Dad, siblings or pets – allows children to explore different dynamics
  • Character or fantasy; princesses or Spiderman – helps children identify good from bad and encourages bravery
  • Functional or occupational; such as a firefighter, police or doctor, defined by specific actions and not the identity of the character – allows children to learn about their real environment

 

Role-play encourages creativity and imagination. It can provide a safe space for problem solving and support children in developing social skills (how they get along with their peers) and emotional skills (how they react to situations) including empathy, conflict resolution and teamwork. These are all important skills that will serve them in the school setting and other aspects of life.

 

Role-play can assist physical development, engaging children’s motor skills and hand to eye coordination – whether it be dressing or feeding baby or building at the construction site.

Role-play can also have a positive effect on speech and language acquisition – enhancing communication skills with the use of eye contact, turn-taking and listening skills. New words and new characters can combine to build new vocabulary for different events and experiences.

Perth Speech Pathologist and mum of three, Alex Trichilo explains, ‘Role-play is an essential part of a child’s journey to becoming an adult. It gives them the opportunity to practice language that they wouldn’t usually use on a day-to-day basis.

Little land has created a play space that integrates fun and learning, specifically designed for children up to approximately 8 years of age. The play space’s little town has been designed by a team of early childhood educators, paediatric occupational therapists and speech pathologists to offer a creative and educational play experience.Just like visiting the real shops, Little Land’s Little Growers Market is a great place to explore language. The groceries may be ‘big’ or ‘small’, or you can search for items starting with a certain letter. Visiting Little Land’s construction site can promote language in lots of ways too by modelling verbs – stack, dig, build, bang.

A little tipdon’t be afraid to use something to imitate something else. Blocks can be used as pet food and cardboard boxes are only limited by your little one’s imagination! Using items to represent other items is known as Symbolic Play and is a critical aspect of play development.

Alex says, ‘Role-play is an ongoing skill throughout childhood and is a fantastic activity for developing play at all developmental stages.’

 

‘It is important to see the progression from children playing by themselves, to playing next to other children, and then to playing in an organised way with each other in groups.’

Little Land also offers Sensory Sessions, developed in consultation with the Autism Association of Western Australia – a low stimulus environment to support the needs of children with Autism and specific sensory needs. Limited to 15 Wanderers, the Sensory Sessions incorporate additional materials including the ‘Going to Little Land’ storybook to help prepare your child before your visit, and play sequence guides to further support play and learning.

Play sessions are 90 minutes and run at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm Tuesday through to Saturday.

Book your play session at www.littleland.fun

 

 

 

What’s wrong with a father concerned about his daughter’s virginity? 

Rapper T.I has been in the news recently for comments involving his 18-year-old daughter, Deyjah Harris.

T.I, aged 39 and born Clifford Joseph Harris, has been a rapper and actor for decades, cementing his position as a R&B superstar in the early 2000’s.

The scandal gained traction in early November after T.I was a guest on the podcast  Ladies Like Us with Nazanin and Nadia for their episode titled ‘Life Hacks’.

In the episode, T.I discusses his daughter and how every birthday he takes her to the gynaecologist to check if her hymen is intact. Throughout the podcast hosts Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham laugh as T.I describes his obsession with Deyjah’s virginity.

The hymen is a thin membrane that covers the opening of the vagina, with the tearing of the hymen typically associated with the loss of virginity. In reality there are many ways a hymen can break that has nothing to do with sex (such as horse riding and tampon use).

“Look, doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports, man. Just check the hymen please and give me back my results, expeditiously” said T.I. in the now infamous interview.

Since the worldwide discussion of her virginity, Deyjah Harris has deleted all her social media, including her Instagram @princess_of_da_south that boasts a following of 1.5 million.

T.I’s daughter rose to fame through his family’s long time running reality television program T.I & Tiny: Family Hustle that followed the rapper and his family’s life after T.I’s prison sentence ended.

T.I’s comments sparked worldwide discussion over the construct of virginity, which is the idea that virginity is a construct created by society and the patriarchy, with patriarchal ideals as the foundation. The construct placing a large focus on commoditising women’s bodies and women losing their purity after sex.

T.I’s comments are problematic for multiple reasons, one of the most unsettling being how the rapper seems to believe he owns his daughter’s virginity.

This is still a common practice, with the concept of virginity stemmed in the idea that women’s bodies are not their own, they belong to their fathers and then are passed to their husbands.

The loss of virginity has also always been associated with heterosexual sex, with the loss of virginity for members of the LGBTI community having always been blurry.

As a society, sex, sexuality and virginity need to be discussed openly and regularly with young people. It is a pivotal part of a child’s growth and teaching children how to respect sexual partners and how to understand consent from an early age is crucial.

In Australia our sex education is heterosexual orientated and starts when children are aged 11 or 12 (depending on the state). The Victorian Government’s health advice and services focused website, Better Channel health offers advice for parents of young children for discussing sex and sexuality.

Parents should aim to be approachable to their children so they don’t seek sex education from other sources, such as their peers or the internet, states Better Channel Health.

In the Netherlands children as young as four are taught about sexuality, a sexual education program that is recognised worldwide.

The Netherlands has some of the best results of sex education, low teen pregnancy rates, high rates of contraception use and high rates of young people losing their virginity in a safe, fun and wanted way.

The T.I scandal raises many issues that in society we seem scared to raise and discuss, is it that over- protective fathers are a symptom of the patriarchy, or some would argue is this just feminism gone too far.