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Anxiety, anger and trepidation are all common feelings your children might face when going back to school. Here are some tips to help ease them back into the school routines.

Amidst lockdowns, work from home and isolation requirements the last two school years have been nothing but linear. With a new year emerging from the hopeful end of the tumultuous pandemic brings new precautions, routines and expectations for what school might look like. There are some things you can do to prepare for onsite learning and remember you have been ‘back to school’ before.

Talk to your child about what is happening and set goals

Open conversations will be important, as your children will probably have a lot of questions about the new procedures their school has in place, or why some of their friends or teachers are away. It might be difficult to get your children to like school again after the flexibility of at home learning. Set goals with them they can achieve over the school year, such as packing their bag each day, learning to tie their shoes or to get their pen licence.

Schedule normal family time as something to look forward to for after school. Ask them what they are excited for and what they have missed, whether this is school choir or playing in the playground.

children in classroom art

Be ready for a range of emotions

You might need to prepare for school refusal, your child being extremely upset about going back to school and not wanting to attend classes. Every child will be different, so assess the needs of yours individually.

It is normal for your child to come home from their first day back at school feeling overwhelmed, anxious or even disappointed that school feels different. It could be that their best friend hasn’t come back to school, or that their friendship groups have changed over the break. Talk candidly about friendships and how they evolve over time.

kid reading book

Use a planner and establish routines

Learning from home meant children could work at their own pace, so they might face fatigue and stress upon going back to a full school day. Start now by setting up playdates so that your child will be more prepared for a full classroom setting and the noises and sensory overload that comes with a busy playground.

There is no need to rush back into everything, and it may be hard to see great progress immediately. Ease your child back into extracurricular activities or seeing their friends outside of the classroom. Use lunchboxes for daytime meals at home, and go over drop-off and pick-up routines. Rehearse a normal school day in the week before its return to re-establish familiarity. Do the school shopping together and get a new item such as coloured pens to get your children excited about going back to school.

children and teacher in classroom

Reassure your child it is safe, and believe this yourself

Where you can, give your child stability in processes that you can control. This may be getting them in great hand-washing, mask and sanitisation routines or teaching them about air purification devices that may be present in the classroom to stop the spread of infectious particles.

Assure your child that decisions will be made if it were unsafe to go back to school, and acknowledge that their range of emotions such as excitement, relief, worry, anger and disappointment are all normal. Reinforce good hygiene practices – consider singing their favourite team song when washing their hands.

apple on stack of books

Reach out for support when necessary

Communication with teachers will be crucial to understand how your child is coping coming back into the classroom. After a hands-on home-schooling experience, your child might require more 1:1 support moving forward. Talk to your children about what they are learning, and engage with their curriculum to assist when you can. Parental stress might also be an issue, with fears of the changes to school and work life that come with challenging times.

If you or your child are struggling, visit your local GP, contact 1800 333 497, or visit findapsychologist.org.au.

children studying

Moving into the tail-end of the summer holidays, this is the time where many kids will be getting bored and unsettled.

Fortunately, there are a range of fun ways to keep them occupied, from outdoor adventures to DIY projects and fun games at home.

Here are some easy activities to keep them entertained:

DIY home theatre

theatre
Photo Credit: Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

With the pandemic affecting the accessibility of theatres, many kids are missing the novelty of the movie-going experience. But there’s no reason why it can’t be recreated at home. These holidays, encourage the kids to build their own home theatre.

Simply pick a room in the home and all you’ll need is a projector to display your chosen film on the wall. Throw some popcorn in the microwave and there you have it – the theatre experience in the comfort of your home. The kids may even enjoy it all the more for its cosiness.

Act out a play

play
Photo Credit: Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

This is a great way to keep your child’s mind sharp before they go back to school, while also letting them have fun. It’s a great activity to get creative with – they could choose from a range of popular plays or even write their own script.

From Shakespeare to a Harry Potter play, there are options for all ages and interests. Plus, the whole family can get involved and make a day of it. To add to the excitement, you could invite relatives or neighbours to watch the performance.

Have a dance-off

dance
Photo Credit: Yan Berthemy on Unsplash

This is a fun activity for a group of kids to get involved in a movie-esque dance competition. It’s a simple way to encourage socialisation, while also tackling boredom. And, with the added bonus of physical exercise, it’s a no-lose situation.

The kids could make their own playlist and come up with some unique dance routines. The best part is, it costs nothing and can be done anywhere and with anyone. It could be a family affair, or you could encourage the kids to invite some friends over.

Outdoor sports

swimming
Photo Credit: Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

There’s never a better time to get exploring outside than in the summer. It’s a great time to try out some outdoor sports like open-water swimming. Explore your local area – or travel further out to your nearest beach – and dive into the deep end. This is a great opportunity for the kids to hone their swimming and water safety skills. There are also other activities for those who’d like to stay closer to the shore, such as playing around the rock pools and looking for shells.

Bike riding is a great option to get outside, while also having fun. There are a range of bike tracks out in nature so you can hit two birds with one stone – get the kids in the fresh air and get them exercising. Other types of wheel-based activities can also be a fun solution to holiday boredom, from roller skating to skateboarding – it’s the perfect time to try out some new interests. It could even lead to a long-lasting hobby and reduce hours spent looking at phone and computer screens.

Set up an indoor tent

tent
Photo Credit: Kate Darmody on Unsplash

Making an indoor tent is a novel activity that will thrill kids of all ages. They can design the interiors themselves and could even watch movies or solve puzzles in their cosy new space. It’s a great way to incorporate family bonding time into the holidays and could even become a mainstay the kids to enjoy well into the future – it may even serve as a retreat for them during stressful times.

Festive fairy lights could be added to improve the aesthetics, along with music and colourful pillows to make the space welcoming. The kids could even create their own decorations to make the space their own.

Have a picnic

picnic
Photo Credit: Jarritos on Unsplash

It’s the perfect weather to head down to the park and get some family time in. A picnic is a fun way to get outside and it also gives you a chance to combine it with other activities such as walking through park trails, birdwatching or playing cricket in the park.

To really keep the kids entertained, they can even prepare the food themselves. From finger sandwiches to muffins to sushi – the options to get creative are limitless.

Despite affecting an estimated 5 to 10% of the population, there’s a learning disability lacking much needed awareness – the lack of which is leaving children to fall behind their peers. This condition is known as dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia is a mathematical learning disability known as a Specific Learning Disability (SpLD) – a group of learning disabilities which usually involve mathematics, spelling, listening, speaking or writing. People with dyscalculia generally have difficulty with arithmetic, numbers and mathematic reasoning. The most common components include:

  • Trouble understanding numbers
  • A delay in learning to count
  • Difficulty connecting numerical symbols with words
  • Losing track when counting and
  • Struggling to recognise patterns

As maths education often involves a series of ‘building blocks’ that become incrementally more complex over the years, children who miss out on some of the foundational ‘blocks’ of maths are put at an intense disadvantage to their peers when it comes to more advanced applications of mathematics.  It’s especially difficult for children with dyscalculia as they may fall behind due to a lack support and recognition from the adults around them.

This can negatively impact their mental health, school marks and their options when it comes to higher education and their future career. Some of the main predictors that can indicate a child potentially has dyscalculia include:

  1. Difficulty adding single digit numbers
  2. Difficulty identifying numbers
  3. Inability to understand the relation numbers have to each other.
  4. Having limited working memory
maths
Photo Credit: Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Dyscalculia is not something to be ‘fixed’ or that children will ‘grow out of’, with studies showing that the condition is generally lifelong and that a mentality of ‘fixing’ learning disabilities has been extremely damaging. However, there are techniques that can be used to manage difficulties, cope with challenges and improve their maths skills. If children lack the proper support, this can be a major source of distress for those with the condition, especially in a school setting.

There are fun ways parents, guardians and teachers can help children improve their mathematic skills. These can include playing counting games together, offering homework help, playing online maths games or apps and using maths memorisation cards. Board games are also an excellent tool for improving mathematic reasoning skills.

games with children
Photo Credit: Adam Winger on Unsplash

With 1 in every 10 Australians suffering from a learning disability, research shows this lack of education is a major inhibitor to effective treatment. Children with conditions like dyscalculia and the more well-known dyslexia, often go under the radar, especially if teachers aren’t adequately trained to look out for the signs.

With the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy report finding only 5% of the curriculum in Bachelor of Education training courses is dedicated to teaching reading, there is concern that many kids who are struggling may go unnoticed. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Dyslexia, which is considered the most common learning disability
  • Dysgraphia, which relates to writing and spelling difficulty
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysphasia, which relates to speech difficulties

Depending on the age of a child with dyscalculia, the signs to look out for can be different, although they may overlap:

Primary school-aged children

During primary school years, the condition may go unnoticed or symptoms may be attributed to another cause. Unfortunately, this puts children in a disadvantaged position with the consequences to continue for years. The signs that a child in primary school is dealing with dyscalculia usually include:

  • Difficulty keeping count in games or activities
  • Difficulty making sense of numerical value
  • Trouble writing numerals legibly
  • Struggling with fractions
primary school
Photo Credit: Michal Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Secondary school-aged children

Although the signs among high-schoolers may include the same as those listed for primary school, these signs are more common to find among secondary school students:

  • Struggling with maths relating to finance, for example understanding how to make change or to take a percentage off of a price
  • Difficult with understanding graphs or other visual representations of numbers
  • Has difficulty understanding measurements for recipes or science experiments
school
Secondary school students may show different signs of dyscalculia

If you’ve noticed these signs in your child or student, the next step is for the child to get a proper assessment and rule out any other possibilities, such as eyesight or hearing impairments. Dyscalculia can be diagnosed by a psychologist who will assess the individual’s unique situation. It is generally required that the child being assessed receives 6 months of intervention involving mathematical assessment and instruction before a diagnosis can be made.

While all children may struggle with maths at some point and will learn at different speeds, they can usually improve with time and practice, but for those with dyscalculia, the problems may remain despite regular and intensive practice. If a diagnosis is made, the psychologist will recommend the best course of action for the child based on their strengths and weaknesses.

 

Teenagers are visiting emergency departments for intentional self-harm in record numbers since the pandemic, with some as young as primary-school ages.

The stress and pressures that lockdown has had on children and teenagers have seen reports of self-harm increase by 47% in NSW alone. In the year leading up to July 2021, there were 8489 instances of children and teens up to 17 years old presenting to emergency centers in NSW. This number had increased from 6489 in 2020.

Throughout March, June, July, September and September in NSW, VIC, TAS and the ACT, paramedics responded to 22,400 incidents involving suicide attempts or thoughts. The majority of this number was for young girls ranging from ages 15-19.

Statistics have shown that these numbers were already increasing before the pandemic; however, lockdown seems to have driven the numbers even higher.

The chairman for Lifeline Australia, John Brogden, confirmed that the daily average number of calls nationwide peaked at 3100 per day and has remained at this level since the start of the pandemic. Most of these phone calls are from people of all ages struggling with self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Federal Treasurer Josh Fydenberg called the mental health crisis a ‘shadow pandemic,’ caused partly by the impact of ongoing lockdowns and the research seems to suggest it is impacting young people the hardest.

Schools provide children and teens with face-to-face learning, interaction with peers, extracurricular activities, friendship, and social skills building, and, in most cases, access to mental health and resilience programs. However, with school-aged children already going through a crucial and sensitive time in their development, the added pressure of isolation and stress that is inevitable in lockdown has exacerbated the difficulties they already face.

Living through an unpreceded global event can be stressful for adults, and it is a lot for kids to take in as well. Meanwhile, things like school sports, dances, school performances and graduation ceremonies have seen teenagers lose access to many of the outlets that provide them with stress relief and fun.

Yourtown CEO Tracy Adams says, “The upheaval and stress Australian children and young people are experiencing from the pandemic is a cause for concern. Over the past six months, we have identified that 1,610 contacts to Kids Helpline were from young children aged 5-9 years of age up from 1,588 for the first six months of 2020.”

Adams confirms that Kids Helpline answered 1788 more calls for children and young people than ever in the first half of 2021, compared to the first have of 2020 and that, “Children and young people are increasingly experiencing mental health concerns, including suicidal ideation/behaviour and self-harm”

Self-harm is an issue that has been prevalent for decades and is becoming a predominant coping mechanism for young people.

What is self-harm?

Self-harm is the act of injuring oneself by either cutting or burning to achieve a momentary sense of calm or release of tension of emotional pain. Often, people will self-harm to gain a sense of control again or to momentarily be distracted from mental distress by the sensation of physical pain.

While not classified as a mental illness on its own, it is often symptomatic of a range of other mental illnesses or emotional suffering.

The physical signs of self-harm may look like:

  • cutting, burning, biting, or scratching the skin
  • picking at wounds or scabs so they don’t heal
  • pulling out hair, punching or hitting the body
  • taking harmful substances (such as poisons, or over the counter or prescription medications).

Motivations for self-harming could stem from trauma, anxiety, depression or overwhelming feelings of stress and pressure.

Sometimes children who are self-harming may be fascinated with the topic and spend time online reading about other instances of this. They may attempt to cover their bodies or exhibit a desire to hide their skin such as wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts in warm weather.

Other behaviors might look like mood swings or becoming withdrawn socially and could be potentially triggered by a traumatic event or upsetting circumstances like bullying or difficulties in a peer group.

How to help

If your child or teen approaches you and tells you that they have been self-harming somehow, the most important thing you can do is have a compassionate response. According to Melbourne Child Psychology, the most common misconception about self-harm is that it is a form of ‘attention-seeking or ‘acting out.’

However, in most cases, nothing could be further from the truth and chances are your child is experiencing guilt, shame and genuine psychological distress and confusion. The best thing to do is provide support and be their anchor by acknowledging their feelings and letting them know you are here to help them.

It is crucial to fight the urge to have a shocked or angry reaction and say things like ‘why did you do this?’ or ‘you need to stop this – this is such a stupid thing to do!’

Instead, remain calm and let them know you are here to help by asking open-ended questions that encourage them to talk about why they did it or how they were feeling at the time.

Once they are emotionally assured, ask more open-ended questions such as what they used to harm themselves and where they got it. Be sure to ask if it’s ok to assess their injuries and appropriately dress them or bandage them.

Lastly, seek professional help

As a parent, watching your child self-harm can be heartbreaking, and it is ok to feel that you are out of your depth and need to seek professional help or advice. However, it is essential not to make the mistake of thinking that just because you have addressed the issue with your child, it will go away or get better.

Get in touch with a psychologist and communicate to them what the issue is before an appointment, so they know best how to help.

A child psychologist will provide your child with a safe environment to express themselves and learn effective coping mechanisms and strategies.

 

 

 

 

 

Perth Weekend Guide

We’ve found some fantastic fun and engaging things for the kids to do in Perth year-round, all you have to do is choose where to go first!

KEEP THEM ACTIVE

Are your kids bubbling with energy? These activities are sure to keep them entertained all day.

Zone Bowling Joondalup

Looking for a place with it all? With bowling, laser tag, an arcade and yummy food, Zone Bowling will keep them busy for hours. Visit: https://www.zonebowling.com/venues/wa/zone-bowling-joondalup

 

LatitudeAir Joondalup

Take the kids to LatitudeAir Joondalup to climb, bounce and fly. With over 3,000sqm of aerial entertainment, including trampolines and climbing walls, get the kids ready for a day packed full of activity. For more information, head to their website: https://latitudeair.com/?_ga=2.60282477.1790865332.1605578656-66651972.1605578656

The Climb Zone

At Kerem Adventure Park, the Climb Zone is a fun adventure packed experience – with high ropes, low ropes and rock climbing in a safe and fun family environment. Go to: https://www.theclimbzone.com.au

Adventure World

A favourite for the whole family, Adventure World is now open with awesome rides for everyone. If you’re a thrill-seeker, check out the big scary Abyss or the Kraken. Or if you’re looking for something a bit tamer, go see the Hawaiian resort-themed Kahuna Falls. There’s even something for the little ones in the Dragons Kingdom. Visit: https://adventureworld.net.au

Island Aqua Park

Located in Hillarys, this floating aqua park features climbing walls and slides, and is suitable for children 6 years and over. Just make sure to book 48 hours in advance. Go to: https://islandaquapark.com.au

Trees Adventure

Just one hour out of Perth, this action-packed treetop and zipline adventure is suitable for kids 4 years and older, and offers a great range of courses and challenges for the whole family to enjoy. Hopefully you’re not afraid of heights! Go to: https://treesadventure.com.au/park/lane-poole-park/

Bibra Lake Regional Playground

This playground has something for children of all ages, with everything from water squirting bulrushes to educational giant rocks telling local Nyungar stories. Located near Bibra Lake on Progress Drive, this playground has plenty of activities including a double flying fox, rope obstacle courses and climbing frames, and plenty of shade, so you can even bring a picnic. For more visit: https://www.cockburn.wa.gov.au/Recreation-and-Attractions/Parks-and-Playgrounds/Bibra-Lake-Regional-Playground

VR-Arrival

For the older kids, this fun and new Virtual Reality experience is suitable for children 11 years and older. Much more than just gaming, VR-ARRIVAL delivers extraordinary experiences, transporting you, your friends and family into immersive virtual worlds. Boasting the best in professional VR headset (HTC Vive Pro) and room-scale motion-tracking technology, VR-ARRIVAL lets you experience virtual reality at its very best, with unmatched immersion and realism. Walk freely inside virtual worlds and literally step INTO the experience. Visit: vr-arrival.com.au 

LEARN WHILE YOU PLAY

Keep them learning and growing on the weekends, by making their time off fun but educational.

AQWA

A family favourite located on Hillarys Boat Harbour, the Aquarium of Western Australia is the place to see and learn all about the underwater creatures of our coast as you go on a journey to learn and gain respect for our sea life. There is plenty to see and do, including diving or snorkelling with the sharks. For more info, go to: https://www.aqwa.com.au/

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison has some fantastic experiences such as an Escape Tour, for children aged 5-12; and their making a mark art workshop! With tours for children aged 8-12, the prison is an excellent and exciting place to learn while you play, getting a glimpse into the life of a prisoner at Fremantle prison.  https://fremantleprison.com.au/visit-us/

Boola Bardip Museum

Located in the heart of Perth, the new and improved Perth Museum has finally reopened its doors and has a multitude of fun programs and activities to get up to. From their “Blast off! Stop Motion Animation” program about meteorites and our solar system, to their “Virtual Vortals program” about virtual reality and interactive digital adventures, plus many more. See: https://visit.museum.wa.gov.au/boolabardip/tours-programs-events

WA Maritime Museum

This weekend, head on down to the Maritime Museum in Fremantle to learn all about the fascinating world of the Vikings, with activities such as a Vikings themed game show, a choose-your-own-adventure story, or just relax and enjoy a fun-filled adventure of sailing, raiding and exploring. Go to: http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/maritime

 

Gravity Discovery Centre and Observatory

Located only an hour north of Perth, become a rocket scientist for a day with their rocket making activities, and on Thursdays get the chance to become a space explorer with their school holiday program. Visit: Gravity Discovery Centre

SEE THE WILDLIFE

Are you an animal-loving family? There’s plenty of activities to get out and see some furry (or not so furry) friends.

Perth Zoo

A family favourite for wildlife is the Perth Zoo. There is plenty to do, from kids and youth programs to watching live streams of the animals and Zoocoustics where you can see some of the best emerging Australian musicians with your loved ones. Set in the lush gardens of the Zoo, these unique live acoustic music sessions will have hearts fluttering. There will be food trucks for those looking for a bite to eat, or pack a picnic and bring your own food with responsible BYO drinks. General tickets are $30. Perth Zoo members receive a discounted ticket price of $25 (A valid Perth Zoo membership card must be present upon entry).  For more information check out the website:  https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/programs

Caversham Wildlife Park

Located inside of Whiteman Park, get the chance to meet a wombat, feed a kangaroo, meet the koalas or feed some penguins. Visit: https://www.cavershamwildlife.com.au/daily-attractions/

Yanchep National Park

Have a little explorer on your hands? There are more than 400 caves reported at Yanchep Park, each offering contrasting experiences. Not only this but there are koalas to visit, kangaroos to see, golf to play and the opportunity tolearn about the rich culture and history of the Noongar people of Australia’s South West. For more, go to: https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/yanchep

Cohunu Koala Park

Have a chat with over 30 talking parrots, see dingoes, kangaroos, emus, deer and koalas, just to name a few of the animals that live at this park. Take a ride on the Cohunu Park Railway for $4, it zig-zags its way throughout the park most weekends & public holidays (subject to weather conditions). Visit: http://cohunu.com.au/pioneer-steam-museum/

 

Penguin Island

Just a five-minute ferry ride away, the beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters is an island known for its wildlife. Join them for a cruise to see some dolphins, rare Australian sea lions, as well as the world’s smallest penguins. Plus the chance to swim, snorkel, picnic and explore, Penguin Island is a dream for animal lovers. Go to: https://www.penguinisland.com.au/#welcome-1

Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm

Are cuddly farmyard animals more your style? With entry including free tractor/train rides, a free merry go round ride, free bottle and bucket feeding, and free tea and coffee for the grown-ups, this is a lovely day out for the family. Visit: https://www.cuddlyanimalfarm.com.au

Toodyay Fairy-Tale Farm

Located in the Avon Valley town of Toodyay, this family built and owned farm has a range of indoor and outdoor displays of all your favourite nursery rhymes and fairy tales, friendly farm animals for the kiddies to interact with, and even a vintage toy museum. Go to: https://www.fairytalefarm.com.au

Don’t worry about your kids becoming bored on the weekends because you can make memories in Melbourne with our Activity Guide. We’ve done all the hard work searching for ideas – so all you need to do is decide where to go first!

IN THE CITY:

The CBD offers a variety of interesting and exciting activities all year round. Check out what’s happening now:

  • IMAX is releasing an exclusive documentary SEA LIONS: LIFE BY A WHISKER 3D.Narrated by award-winning actor Sam Neill, this classic coming-of-age story tells the tale of Otto, a young Australian Sea Lion pup, and the Marine Park Ranger dedicated to saving her species. Presented in immersive 3D, the movie features stunning footage of the uninhabited wilderness of the Great Australian Bight and to the lush kelp forests off the Californian coast. Visit https://imaxmelbourne.com.au/ for more.
  • Looking for an exciting and educational day out? Take your family to one of Melbourne’s three biggest zoos where they can meet all sorts of animals! With everything from lions, to giraffes and Australian bush animals you’ll be sure to have a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the new Dino Lab where your little ones can explore the giant dinosaurs and learn about their extinction. Visit Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Zoo. Go to https://www.zoo.org.au/
  • Ride the Scenic Railway around the perimeter of Luna Park where you can catch the view of St Kilda beach or enjoy the range of children’s rides on offer. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, have a go on the Enterprise or Supernova to get your heart racing! Visit https://lunapark.com.au/
  • Catch the best views of the city on the Melbourne Star. The giant ferris wheel takes you 120 metres into the sky to see 360 degree views of the busy port, city gardens and streets and views towards Mount Macedon and the Dandenong Ranges. Go to https://melbournestar.com/
  • Walk amongst creatures of the deep at the Melbourne Aquarium. With everything from sharks to seahorses to the Mega Croc, you are guaranteed a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the Ice Age 4D Cinema! Go to https://www.visitsealife.com/melbourne/

  • If your kids are interested in science, then Scienceworks is a must! With loads of live shows and self-guided activities, your kids will be sure to discover something new! Check out the new show Colour Uncovered! to learn about how and why we see colour or stop by one of the Planetarium shows! Go to https://museumsvictoria.com.au/scienceworks/
  • Discover the rare and beautiful plants in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne. Jump on a bus tour to explore the gardens or visit the new Arid Garden which is over 100 years in the making! Visit https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/
  • Take a stroll down Hosier Lane to admire the artwork of some of Melbourne’s most talented graffiti artists.
  • Discover fresh produce and speciality shops at the Queen Victoria Market. Located on Queen St in the CBD, browse through hundreds of stalls covering 17 acres!

REGIONAL VICTORIA:

Looking to get out of the city for a day? Go for a drive through the beautiful countryside of Victoria where you will stumble upon a number of activities to entertain your family.

  • Summer is here, it’s the perfect time to be with your family and friends making the most of the warm summer evenings – immerse yourself in a magical world of myth and make believe!  Be captivated by a show of world class knights jousting on war horses – as you sip on a cold beer and all enjoy wood fired pizzas together. This summer’s ALL STAR program includes our favourite characters from Alice in wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the White rabbit! Robin Hood and his crew will be defending the kingdom against the nasty Sheriff! Rapunzel and her Prince will plan an escape from the evil witch’s tower! And do not forget to meet our dragons and the brave knights who compete for the title in our world-famous Championship Joust! Go to: https://www.kryalcastle.com.au

  • Your Mornington Peninsula adventure starts here, at the top of Arthurs Seat. Hit the ground running with our ground-based adventure activities – all included with General Admission! Experience the all-new Sky Scramble as well as our garden mazes, stunning formal gardens & boardwalks, Canopy Walk, epic Tube Slides & giant brainteaser puzzles! Embark on an exciting eco-adventure and get your adrenaline pumping with our exhilarating Grand Tree Surfing course. For the little climbers, our Nippers Tree Surfing course is suitable for ages 4 & up. We highly recommend pre-booking to avoid any disappointment. Visit our website for more information and to book your tickets! www.enchantedadventure.com.au

  • Fancy a ride on a century old steam railway? The Puffing Billy takes you on a 25km journey through the Dandenong Ranges, providing a relaxing day out with fantastic photographic opportunities. Pack a picnic and bring your family along for an enjoyable visit just one hour out of Melbourne. Go to https://puffingbilly.com.au/

  • The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery offers a delightful day of fun with hands on chocolate making classes, a showroom featuring thousands of chocolate products and daily tasting sessions! Don’t forget the landscaped gardens and an orchard, where you can go for a stroll while enjoying a treat from the café. Visit https://www.gorci.com.au/

  • Take a drive along the Great Ocean Road to see the famous Twelve Apostles and the beautiful Loch Ard Gorge. Continue along to reach the Great Otway National Park to enjoy a day of adventure.
  • Spend a relaxing day at the Peninsula Hot Springs where you can immerse yourself in the Bath House or relax in the private baths. Seeking a bit of R&R? Indulge in a spa treatment or massage. Visit https://www.peninsulahotsprings.com/

  • Located at the foot of the Grampians, Halls Gap Zoo is Victoria’s largest regional zoo with over 160 species of animals to keep you entertained all day. Experience a close encounter with cheetahs and red pandas or visit the endangered Tasmanian Devil! With over 600 individual animals to check out, you are guaranteed a day of fun! Go to https://hallsgapzoo.com.au/

Perth primary school student, Elissa Bolton, was devastated when she saw a homeless man outside of a shop in Leederville, Perth. She shares, “I came home, I went into my bed and I started crying.”  

Soon after, Elissa and her mum, Rachel sat down to formulate a plan.

“We thought of the project Spread the Warmth,” Elissa says, “Where we collect winter gear such as beanies, gloves, blankets, jeans, jackets and other stuff.  

We have some collection points which are at a few places, and then we collect them and take them to Uniting WA in the city. They take it to homeless people in the streets.” 

Uniting WA provides community services and support to those experiencing complex challenges in the Great Southern and Perth Metro area. More than 9000 people are homeless in Western Australia, 58 per cent of which are male and one in five are aged 25 to 34. 

Starting the project in April this year, Elissa took on a workload that kept her busy during isolation. She started by recording a video campaign to connect with businesses and the community. Elissa has now set up collection boxes at 25 businesses in WA, from Kalamunda to Narambeen and Calingiri 

Elissa’s mother, Rachel says, “It gained momentum; it went huge. We had written down four or five businesses, and within a week there were about 15.” 

Elissa and Rachel wanted to involve the community in the project, creating a ripple effect of conversations around homelessness with businesses and friends.  

“We tried to do some research into what it means to be homeless, because for an 11-year-old kid, what is homelessness? So, it’s certainly generated a lot of conversation in our own family, and then obviously Elissa’s taken that to school, Rachel shares. 

Elissa says she loves sharing the experience with her friends, “they ask if they can come over and help me figure out some stuff about it, and then they tell their families, and their families tell other people, so more people know.”  

Elissa’s teacher has nominated her for the Fred Hollows Humanity Award. The award acknowledges Year 6 students around Australia who make a positive difference in their community, following in the footsteps of Fred Hallows. Students embody the values of kindness, compassion and integrity. 

Elissa plans to make Spread the Warmth an annual event, restarting around February next year with some exciting new ideas. 

To follow along or get involved you can visit Elissa’s Spread the Warmth Facebook Page.

If you have a little one starting school, it’s important to make the transition as smooth as possible – for both of you

Whether your child has been in organised day care five days a week, or has been at home with a parent, they are bound to feel nervous about the challenges of a new school. As a parent, you are also bound to feel apprehension about how they will settle in, or how you will manage the logistics of school drop off and pick up. Whatever you are concerned about, it’s normal! Below, we have compiled a list of top tips to make the transition as easy as A, B, C…

Getting ready for school:

 

Talk about school together.

Don’t push it, but encourage your child to talk about school. What do they think it will be like? What were their favourite parts of orientation? Is there anything they feel worried about? Take the time to have these conversations, being mindful not to dismiss or belittle their feelings whilst also not creating a lot of emotional fuss.

There are some great books which address the topic of starting school and many are available through the library.

Older siblings.

If you have older children, include them in the school preparations for their little brother or sister. It is hard for other children when they are not the centre of attention and including them makes everyone feel part of a team. Having a chat with older siblings about how they talk to younger ones about school is also a great idea. You don’t want your kindergarten child to be terrified by stories their big brother or sister told them!

Let your child wear their uniform and school shoes at home.

 When the big day arrives, you want your little one to be comfortable in their uniform. If it is familiar it will help them feel a little more secure during those first few days. Plus, you will get advance warning of any itchy labels or shoes that might rub.

Practise going to the toilet!

Even if your child has been successfully potty trained for many years, let them practice going to the toilet when they are wearing their uniform. This is especially important for boys who may not be familiar with the fastening on more formal school shorts. It’s also a good idea to pack a spare pair of pants and socks in their school bag just in case. Schools often have spare uniform, but having their own underwear to change into might comfort a child of they have an accident at school.

Use their lunchbox at home.

If you have bought a new lunchbox for your child to use at school, just make sure they are familiar with how to open it and they can manage it on their own. Children love to feel that they are ‘big’ and being able to open their lunchbox and packets by themselves is a great little confidence booster. That said, Kindergarten children will often eat lunch with a Year 6 buddy and so help will be readily available for those first few weeks.

Label their things!

 School is an opportunity to develop responsibility for possessions but it is likely to take some time. Label things that are easily lost like hats, jackets, drink bottles and lunchboxes. It’s up to you whether you choose to label uniform items like dresses, shirts and pants which they won’t be taking off but it is sensible to label shoes! Black school shoes look surprisingly similar when they are all piled up by the sandpit or in the corner of the classroom!

Pack the school bag together.

 It’s a good idea to get your child involved in packing the school bag as it builds a sense of responsibility. They won’t need much at first since most schools provide equipment, but your child is likely to be very excited to pack their sunhat and jacket as well as their lunchbox and drink bottle. Consider popping spare underwear in as well, and letting your child know it’s there. A little bottle of sunscreen is a great idea, and some schools allow children to personalise their bags with keyrings.

The big day:

The first morning of school.

Don’t rush. If that means setting your alarm an hour earlier then do that, but the likelihood is your child will be up early with nervous excitement. Stay calm and focused and get to school at a reasonable time – not too early and definitely not late! Try to get your child to eat a good breakfast, they may not each much lunch!

Take a picture!

Don’t forget to capture this iconic moment! Some parents like to take a picture of their child with a sign saying which year they are in or what they’d like to do when they grow up. You can buy custom signs, but a printed piece of paper works just as well.

Saying goodbye.

 Your child might be super keen to start school, or they may be more reserved and feeling nervous. The same goes for you! Whatever dynamic you are dealing with, make sure you say goodbye with a hug and a smile on your face. This shows your child that you are happy that they are starting school and reassures them that it will be ok and probably a lot of fun! 

What if my child doesn’t want me to leave?

It’s heartbreaking when a child cries and clings to you when it’s time to go in to school. Rest assured that Kindergarten teachers are experts at dealing with this and at helping your child to settle in to their new school.

Some people suggest sneaking out when your child is busy, but this has the potential to cause further separation anxiety and erode the trust between you and your child. The best thing you can do in this situation is get down on your child’s level and reassure them that they are going to be ok and you will be back to collect them in the afternoon. Make sure you give them a big hug and a smile before you leave them with their teacher. In a few minutes it is likely they will have calmed down and will be settled in the classroom engrossed in an activity – you might take longer to recover!

However you feel, don’t hover outside the classroom and try not to let your child see you if you are emotional. When children see that you are worried, it undermines their self-confidence as it sends the message that you think they cannot cope. Loitering around the classroom just drags out the separation process and prolongs the emotional upheaval. A swift, positive goodbye is the best way to give your child the opportunity to develop confidence and resilience.

After school:

Don’t overschedule.

 Your child will be exhausted during the first term of school, so be careful how much extra-curricular activity you schedule. Many schools suggest that Kindergarten children do not do any after school classes for the first term. Even if your child is enjoying school and is settling in well, they are still exerting a lot of effort to manage their emotions, social expectations and a steep academic learning curve throughout their school day. They may burst into tears after school and not know why. This is often tiredness and it happens to most Kindergarten children in the first term – it’s usually nothing to worry about!

Set up a sensible bedtime routine.

You may already have a solid bedtime routine, but giving it a little refresh after a long summer break is bound to lead to a happier household. Make sure you have set a sensible bedtime for your children and build in some time to wind down before it’s time to sleep. It won’t be long before home readers and homework has be to factored in so taking some time now to cement your routine will be well spent.

Screens stimulate children and using them in the hour before bed can make it hard for them to fall asleep, so turn them off in plenty of time. Try to include some time for a chat before bed or to enjoy a book together if you can.

Questions to ask instead of  ‘How was your day?’ 

Ask any child how their day was and you are likely to get a one word answer: Good. Since you probably want more information than that, here are a few ideas of some questions that might spark a conversation:

  • What was your favourite part of today?
  • What did you learn today?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch?
  • What didn’t you like today?
  • What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  • Did anything funny happen at school today?

However you and your child are feeling about school it is bound to cause some challenges. Whether this is the first child you are sending off to school or your fourth, it is often a bittersweet moment for parents as they say goodbye to the preschool years and embark on the primary school journey. It is indeed the end of an era, but it’s also the start of a really exciting one.

Good luck!

Deciding on a school for your little ones can be daunting! With so many options, all with their own pros and cons, it can be overwhelming. So how can you weigh up which is the best option for your child?

Choosing the most suitable school for your child can be a big decision. In addition to finding an education style that fits our child, as parents, we also want to ensure our kids’ learning environment is safe, fun, stimulating and nurturing.
Offspring explores some of the benefits of the education options available in Australia.

GOVERNMENT/PUBLIC:

For many parents, the local public school is their go-to, close to public transport, in their local community and often where past family members have attended. Government/public schools are a popular option in Australia.
Government schools have a guaranteed place for a child if the school is in their local catchment.
However, if you would like to send your child to a public school outside of your area, there is not a guaranteed spot. For your child to attend a Government school they must attend an interview with the principal and there is a voluntary small fee.
Most public school’s fees cost between $50-300 and payment plans are sometimes available for low-socioeconomic areas and families.

INDEPENDENT/PRIVATE:

Independent and private schooling is an umbrella term that covers all independent and private schools, such as Catholic, Steiner and Montessori schools.
For many parents, private education is a great way to find a school that can tailor to your child’s spiritual and learning needs.
If parents decide to choose a private school for their child, they must allow considerable time to apply for various schools as no places are guaranteed, also extra fees and tuition prices must be considered also.

RELIGIOUS:

Religious schooling is a popular option in Australia, with Catholic schooling being the second most popular choice by Australian parents after Government and public schooling.
Religious schools require a meeting with the principal, with all students accepted at the discretion of the school.
In religious schooling, it is most likely families of the church that are accepted first, however many schools do not require your family to be a part of their religion.

There are many different religious schools in Australia, such as Catholic, Jewish and Baptist, providing more options for parents who want their child to be schooled in a religious environment.

STEINER:

Steiner schooling or Waldorf schooling follows a curriculum based upon the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and social reformer. Steiner schools have been operating in Australia for 60 years and are growing in popularity, with statistics from Steiner Education Australia showing that 87 per cent of parents are happy they chose to send their children to a Steiner school.
Steiner schooling is a holistic approach to learning where the children are discouraged from using modern technology whilst at school.
At Steiner schools the teachers stay with the same class not just for one year, but for the student’s entire time in primary school.
Steiner schools base their learning largely on communication and forming strong bonds between child, family and teacher.
Steiner education focuses on moral growth and aims to let their students learn artistically, spiritually and practically, cherishing childhood. As with many private schools your child’s entry is dependent on the school itself and fees apply.
For more information about Steiner schooling go to: www.steinereducation.edu.au

TIP: Have a budget for your child’s schooling fees, uniform and other related costs and try to stick to it!

MONTESSORI:

Montessori is an education program that focuses on developing the ‘full human being’ and providing education that is an aid to life, based on the teachings of Dr Maria Montessori, a physician, anthropologist and teacher.
The Montessori schooling program focuses on children taking their time to complete their schoolwork and having their own independence to work at their own pace.
The Montessori schooling program is growing in Australia, with over 300 schools and centres nationwide.
There are many programs available, starting from as young as 18 months old to adulthood, with the aim of providing a whole life of support for their students.
As with most independent schools your child’s entry is dependent on the school itself and extra fees apply.
For more information about Montessori schooling go to:

COMMUNITY/ALTERNATIVE/OPEN LEARNING:

Community/Open learning education programs and schooling is often referred to as alternative schooling, where the school commonly creates its own curriculum.
These schools are very small, independent and often hold a close- knit community, sometimes running out of community houses.
These learning facilities are targeted at all ages but are especially valuable for children who have different interests or a learning style that doesn’t fit into mainstream curriculums.

HOME SCHOOLING:

Home Schooling is now a viable schooling option used by many, not just families living in remote areas. Home Schooling allows parents to spend more time with their kids and tailor their learning to suit their child’s needs.
Lots of families choose to home school for various reasons such as bullying, disabilities or even their child being gifted.
Each state has its own registration processes, with Home Schooling open to any child aged 6-17 years Australia wide. To register, one must have their child’s birth certificate and have made a learning plan or rough lesson plans to include.
Home education is different to distance education, which follows the national curriculum and is supplied to parents, primarily used by families in remote locations who can’t access their nearest school easily.
For more information about home education go to your state’s registration and qualifications authority.

Take a look at the benefits ‘Learning Through Play’ could have for your child!

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is… UNLESS you’re talking about Learning Through Play! In fact, research into quality, play based learning has shown that learning through play encourages:

Communication – play allows children to develop their speech, language and listening. A child’s language and communication skills develop by listening, reading, music, rhyming etc. so the more they play with their friends and listen to adults the more advanced these will become. 

Cognitive development – (imagination, problem solving, math and science) play encourages children to develop their natural curiosity, create all kinds of scenarios and solve any problems that they encounter all by using their imagination.

For example when a child is taking part in water play and tipping water from a measuring jug into a cup, the educator can stretch their thinking by asking questions such as how much water do you think will fit into the cup, will you have any left, what else can you tip the water into…? This stretches thinking and builds on maths, science and problem solving skills. 

 

Relationships (social skills, friendship and resilience) – play supports children as they create the bonds of friendship and build their understanding of social situations. The more children play with one another, the more they learn to communicate in a social setting and the bigger their friendship circle becomes.

Balanced with child-directed and educator supported play, a quality play based Early Learning Program will closely align with Australia’s Early Years Learning Framework. Children should be able to learn through play in a variety of activities designed to spark their curiosity, individual interests and create an open ended learning experience.

In 2018, Australian researchers advised that 15 hours a week in a quality, play-based three year old pre-kindy can greatly support a child’s learning and development. With pre-kindy attendance showing consistently positive short and long term advantages in the lead up to kindergarten and into higher education. To support these findings, the Australian Government has put their money where their research is and committed to providing universal access to Early Childhood Education. Every child now will now be supported to access a pre-kindy program in the year before they enter school for 15 hours a week.

Where to from here?

Deciding if, when and where to send your child to pre-kindy is one of the biggest decisions you will make in their early childhood. You find yourself balancing the options near you. Should I send my child to a high end early learning school with better educators, fancy facilities and higher ratings? Or should I send them to the more affordable local community pre-school with lovely welcoming staff, small group sizes and a nurturing learning environment?

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At Meerilinga, there’s no need to choose between quality and inclusivity – AND it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Meerilinga is home to a wide range of children from diverse families and backgrounds who share a common goal of wanting the best for their child. Supported by over 100 years of experience, working with toddlers and training quality educators, Meerilinga’s skilled early educators enthusiastically teach children about the world around them.

Your child is gently introduced to the life-cycle through community led chicken hatching programs; learning about sustainable practices through environmental awareness activities, recycling programs and harvesting from their bush tucker gardens.

Meerilinga children are celebrated as capable individuals, with their interests, strengths and challenges identified and fully supported to develop their confidence, learning and development. All of which are shared throughout the day, week and year with parents through a specially designed communications app.

The entire family is supported with access to free parenting support services, community events, street & toy libraries, school holiday activities, play groups and seniors groups. At Meerilinga you’re more than just a number, your family. To join your local Meerilinga community, find a centre near you or contact your local Centre Director.