William’s First Birthday- 1 year on!

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I can’t believe that nearly a year has passed since William was born and since my last post! On the eve of his first birthday I thought I would reflect back on an amazing 12 months and our journey as new parents.

William was born on the 16th of April 2013. He was four and a half weeks early. Maybe he was too excited to wait! Alana and I were stoked and once we got home we settled into a good home routine. The first week at home was a blur. Alana and I had to remind each other whether we had eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am sure there are many other parents out there that can relate! Luckily for us we were very well supported by both sides of our family. William had been in special care for nearly two weeks but came home and was a good and regular feeder and sleeper. The first few weeks at home were very special and I really enjoyed feeling him sleep on my chest on the lounge.

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During the first three months we had lots of special visits from family and friends. William grew quickly. He began the awesome habit of sleeping well through the night (only waking once or twice and easily settled). Alana became a fantastic mum. She is a natural. Funnily enough it took us both a while to get used to being called ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ or even considering ourselves as parents. But as our bond with William quickly grew so did the concept of our parenthood and the joys, challenges, responsibilities and triumphs that come with it. Parents really dont sell how good it is to be a parent. Everyone hears how much sleep you dont get, how messy the last nappy was and how painful the delivery was. But until you go through the process I dont think you realise how special and individual and life changing it will be.

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William was a great little baby although I did have restrain my enthusiasm to go on adventures with the little man in his first few nurturing months. Too much stimulation can affect infants growth and they need lots of cuddles, food and rest to develop. I loved taking him for walks in the pram and sling. I remember Alana and my first meal out at a restaurant after William was born. Im sure we had packed and repacked a million things we didnt need but thats all part of learning. William was a cruisey and happy little man.

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After six months we enjoyed the daily rituals of smiles at nappy time, cuddles, massages and time on the floor. Alana returned back to work and recieved incredible support from her employers who allowed her to bring William and his portable cot into the office. Alana’s mother supported us immeasurably and provided childcare on 3 days. William has a strong bond with his oma (Alana’s parents have dutch and danish heritage) and gets time with my parents and family too. I will never forget hearing William laughing for the first time. He would (and still does) have us in hysterics when he would laugh at us, or our pet dog, ‘Muscles’ or other random noises or events.

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William came on road trips with us to visit family and friends and is a big part of our lives. He has come to visit my preschool and was star attraction on our dress up day last year! When surfboat season started we had to organise our weekly schedule around dual work, training and competitions. William and Alana are well loved in our surfclub and have been to many surfboat carnivals and events including awards nights, fundraising and dinners.

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I am so grateful that I have been able to continue the sport I love. I continued training at my crossfit gym for about four weeks after William was born but the training clashed with surfboats and Alana supported me to “pick my favourite” and prioritise family and work time. My rowing team and club had a busy season competing in several major national interstate competitions with good success. Our season finished two weeks ago at the Australian Titles in Perth, WA. I am glad the season is over. I have more home time and have started sneaking back to crossfit classes. Alanas sporting season has started now. She plays netball and trains at the gym 4 days per week. She also pulls her weight as mother and breadwinner! Super mum?

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Over the past few months William has become more and more active and vocal. He is fascinated with moving things (cars, planes, birds, people), his favourite toys are pegs, coins and paper. He is super responsive to people and can turn the charm on with big smiles and laughter. He has learned to clap and gives beautiful cuddles. He crawls, climbs and looks ready to walk on the eve of his first birthday. I love to wrestle and roll with him and I regularly make a fool of myself singing, pulling faces and walking down the street towing him on his ride-on digger. William babbles and only seems to get upset when he runs out of food! Teething at the moment has given him and us a shock to the system with disrupted sleep but we look forward to toothy grins in the next few months!

So as I sit down to start assembling William’s first bike I think back on the top moments in the past twelve months and smile. Parenthood is an intensely personal and special journey and we have a lot to be grateful for. So thankyou to all our friends, family and those who have supported us over the past twelve months, sorry to our neighbours! And happy birthday to William for tomorrow!

Baby Home Remedies

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The past 4 weeks has been an awesome learning experience for my wife and I. Bringing William firstly into the world and then home has provided plenty of challenge and conversation. We have both heard and discussed lots of childcare and parental advice. We both follow the attitude that it is good to listen but we make up our own minds on how to do things at home. Our family and friends have been very supportive.

But now we are home we realise that it is now us as parents that are responsible for making important decisions for raising William and their consequences! This seems difficult when we consider that neither of us has previously raised a child before. Instincts and ten years of childcare provide a good base but where do we go from here?

So far we are very stoked and confident with how everything has gone. Alana has a fantastic attitude to raising William and has been very relaxed and happy throughout most of the pregnancy. William in turn has been a happy and relaxed little baby.

His latest weigh-in has him at 3.92kg. He has put on 1kg since he left the hospital. According to the community health nurse William has been growing at twice the average growth rate for the past few weeks. What a champion. This has been great for Alana as she has had many questions about how much to feed him especially about how to know whether he has had enough to eat. Obviously he is getting enough!

This brings me to the topic of my post. Many people have experiences having and raising children. All children are different. But I have heard some awesome and fantastic and very practical advice so far. Alana and I are fairly relaxed towards most things. I have an obsessive need to research things I am interested in sometimes (pregnancy and childbirth not included) but even Alana during pregnancy was fairly cruisy. So for some people these may be well known facts but for us they were awesome!

For example;

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After a few days at home William began to develop an irritated right eye. I thought it looked like conjunctivitis but it only appeared in one eye. We thought it could be a blocked tear duct. Alana’s mum suggested treating it with breast milk. This worked wonders and cleared it up very quickly. Nice work mum!

William also developed a slight nappy rash that was subsequently enflamed by powders and creams. A family friend suggested paw paw cream (for everything). This worked very quickly too.

We are stoked to receive advice that is practical and ‘natural’.

So the next question is…

Do you have any helpful natural home remedies or experiences that you would like to share for us to add to our home remedy book???

Please share below!

PS. Our families have a running wager on how heavy William will be on his original ‘due date’ (Friday, May 17)

I’m a Childcare, Surfboat, Crossfit- DAD! William’s Story

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Wow! What an amazing fortnight! Two weeks of being a dad. A very proud dad!
Our son, William Isaac Kee, was born on Tuesday 16th April at Port Macquarie Base Hospital.

This is William’s story.

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For those of you who have been following my blog you would know that it started as a way to countdown the ten weeks until William’s birth and to get some of my childcare ideas out onto online ‘paper’. William came early because he knew I work better with a bit of pressure and a firm deadline. I joke that he has all the hallmarks of a top project manager as he was ahead of time, a healthy weight and under budget. Well done William (and mum!).

But let’s go back to the start. It all happened on our honeymoon on a beautiful European Summers night in Stockholm…. Woah! Too far, sorry William.

Fast forward 8 weeks and Alana and I found out we were going to have a baby. We waited until 12 weeks to tell our friends and relatives. We enjoyed the ultrasounds and 4-dimensional pictures. Everything was going very smoothly. Alana didn’t get any morning sickness and continued to work and attend social functions and enjoy the Australian Summer surfboat season.

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At 30 weeks Alana began to get itchy. Very itchy! Afternoons and nights were the worst for her and her sleep and quality of life rapidly decreased. Doctors confirmed that she had cholestasis, a liver condition linked with itchiness, and would need to be closely monitored for the remainder of her pregnancy. This involved twice weekly blood tests and CTG scans at the hospital. She saw doctors and naturopaths to receive medication and herbs to relieve the symptoms of cholestasis and help to naturally take the pressure off her dysfunctional liver. Cholestasis is also linked to increased risk of still birth after 37 weeks gestation and we were told that Alana would be induced around the 37 week mark to keep our baby (as yet unnamed) safe.

William (and Alana’s body) had other plans.

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Alana’s blood tests, one testing her liver function and the other testing her bile acid levels, provided hope and horror as they initially dropped then reached a plateau then spiked. She didn’t receive much relief from her medication and herbs and was up most nights scratching and showering.

Note: The day William was born the doctor received Alana’s latest blood test results to find that her liver function results had skyrocketed from 30 up to 110 (normal range is around 6). If he hadn’t arrived when he did, the doctor said she would have had to have some serious discussions about emergency c-section delivery.

Alana’s waters broke unexpectedly on the Monday night (sorry William I won’t go into detail about what possibly led to your mum’s water breaking!). We spent the night in hospital getting more tests and on Tuesday morning the doctor announced, “You’re having a baby today!”

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Alana was induced at 9am,

received epidural at 11am,

started active labour at 1:45pm

and with one tremendous push

William arrived at 3:10pm.

(Maybe he will be a school teacher, they work 9-3!)

Note: Some of you may hear rumours that I went home when the contractions started so I could catch up on rest and avoid some abuse. This is not true! I went home to work very hard on packing Alana’s hospital bag, quickly scribbling some potential baby names and tidying the house. I was back after lunch (and the worst of the contractions I hear) and enjoyed the entire amazing process!

William was born a healthy 3kg (6”10) and 50cm after only 35 weeks plus 4 days. He left his mum with a grade three tear that will take some recovery but we are both very happy that William arrived when he did.

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William spent his first night with mum and dad in the maternity ward and then was sent to the nursery for tube feeding and monitoring the following day. Taking William over to the special care nursery for the first time was an incredibly overwhelming experience for me and I feel for anyone who has to go through that process. We were lucky that he was born a healthy weight and only needed help with breastfeeding properly.

I feel sorry for the midwife that was on shift when I arrived with William on Wednesday morning. After a healthy shot of adrenaline in the labour ward and some father hormones after skin-to-skin cuddles to warm William up on Tuesday night I was not the most rational person to deal with.

I was a 1.95m tall, 95kg gorilla.

After walking through past the humidi-cribs, light beds and life support equipment I was becoming overwhelmed. Every part of my body bristled with protective paternal energy and my primate brain yelled, “take this baby straight back to his mother!” Luckily the midwife was able to manage me well and after a few tense moments (with my feet and baby pointing towards the door!) the rational part of my brain eventually overcame my primal instincts! But that was only stage one of my emotional roller coaster. Next the midwife showed and explained to me that she would now insert a small tube down William’s nose down into his stomach so they could start feeding.

Now I turned into the baby.

The tube went in. William tried to sneeze, then he cried, then I cried! I returned to Alana’s room a blubbering mess and took a good half an hour to regain basic unbroken English.

That was the first 24 hours.

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Ten days later little William was sent home after passing every test the midwives could throw at him and Alana. I went back to work during this time and enjoyed all the love and attention of our preschool and vacation care groups and families. Children asked, “what is William’s favourite colour?” and made some beautiful cards, posters and ‘creations’ that I delivered in my lunch breaks. Needless to say Alana was well and truly sick of being at hospital but she made friends with most of the midwives and mothers and we look forward to extending these friendships in the future.

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Sadly we returned home to our naughty neighbor who likes to party between 10:30pm and 4am every night! This lasted 10 minutes and we packed bags and stayed at Alana’s parents place for several nights. After an owners meeting our troublesome neighbor is hopefully gone for now and we have returned home and Alana is enjoying the comfort and privacy of her own bed and lounges.

What an amazing process! I can see why midwives love their jobs! Don’t worry I think I’ll stick to childcare but I am very impressed by the level of skill, compassion and professional of our local mid wives! Thank you.

Alana held William’s baby shower (with William) at her parent’s house on Saturday (after we had been released from hospital). Some of the women commented that it was the best baby shower ever because they got to meet the baby! Thank you to all our friends and family for their amazing generosity and ongoing support.

So what is it like being a dad??

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I’m on the sideline a fair bit. William sleeps most of the day and Alana is the only successful breast feeder out of the two of us so far. I get lots of cuddles and nappy changes. It is really hard for me to tone down my early childhood energy/ daddy desire to squeeze every fun thing in the world into today’s schedule but William arriving preterm has meant that we get to enjoy lots of cuddles and rest. I love the way he wakes up, wriggles, stretches and pulls faces. He is so amazing! We are learning and he is growing every day. I’m looking forward to getting to know William and spending time with him as he grows. I hope he loves surf lifesaving and going on adventures (imagined and real) with his old man.

To all the dads before me (including my own) I have a new found respect for you. I am grateful to all the fathers who spend time with their sons and daughters and do their best to guide and love their children.

To all the future fathers I wish you good luck and I hope you enjoy every moment. My advice for you is to support your partner as best you can; get out of the house whenever you need to; avoid listening to women’s labour stories and do not ever watch the anti natal class birthing video!

Midwives say that nature has its way of making sure things happen the way they do. I certainly agree.

Thank you again. Ten years of childcare and now we have our own child to love and raise and advocate for.

Let me know what you think or please share if you think it may help anyone else out there.

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Early Childhood on the Move: Why men love rough and tough play (and why this is good for children)

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Tony blog post #10- 14.04.13

For those of you familiar with Crossfit training, Crossfit teaches us to be ready for anything. The training is “constantly varied, high intensity and functional movements”. This sounds like my preschool room!

I am a firm believer that children are born ready to move. Movement promotes learning and physical development. Children love to move. They run, jump, squat, climb, press and throw (like all good crossfitters do). Children don’t need to be taught to do these things regularly like adults do.

Research indicates that children (particularly boys) learn through movement. Moving helps us develop physical strength and skills along with perception based and location-awareness skills. In a social setting children can also develop social, emotional and language skills.

I love being outside with children. There are many reasons for this, from
philosophical to practical.

Firstly, it is good to be out in nature as much as we can. The modern world has changed the way we live, work and play. We spend more time inside for many different reasons including safety, weather and screen time (aka computer, video games and television). Being outside with children has numerous benefits that I am not going to go into this time. There is a whole field of research on this topic alone and I’m a huge advocate.

Secondly, there is not a lot of room for me inside. I know this sounds selfish but the average 4 year old preschooler (male or female) is 15kg and 100cm tall.

I am 95kg and 194cm tall.

It is good to have room to move.

The NSW regulations for children’s indoor space is 3.25m2 of unencumbered floor space per child. This means you can fit 30 children into a room that is about 100 square metres (think 10m by 10m). Ceiling height is usually 2.4m (I can reach this with my hands, the children ask me to do it most days). The typical childcare room has room for table activities, mat space and a couple of ‘corners’ (bookcorner and homecorner).

No gym mats, Olympic bars or pull up rigs. No plants or bugs or dirt.

We do crossfit workouts at my work. Children don’t train for strength or fitness. They move because it is fun!

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There is more room to move outside. Unfortunately for me I don’t make the rules.

Most childcare services have a summer and winter routine. This indicates when they will allocate indoor and outdoor time and is based around children’s meal and rest times. In summer children are allowed outside in the morning before 11am and they can go outside again after 3 to avoid the most dangerous ultraviolet light (because trees, clothes and sunscreen don’t provide enough protection I guess). In winter children stay inside until it is ‘warm enough’. If it rains or is cold children can stay inside. Unfortunately I don’t live in Sweden, Norway or Denmark. In Scandinavia they have a saying, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!”

In Australian childcare centres outdoor play is not usually part of the documented preschool program. (Note: my current workplace has recently begun using the local school oval for large scale outdoor play and we have mini-Olympics and nature walks! It is AWESOME!). For some reason, in my experience, other educators see children’s learning as noteworthy when a child cuts with scissors, writes their name and counts to 20. Social learning occurs in the home corner, early literacy occurs in the book corner and building occurs on the block mat.

But why???

I did a story time for over 90 minutes with the rowdiest boys in the class. How?

I did it outside… in the sandpit… without a book.

This provided opportunities for movement, discussion, language, exploration, role play and ‘outdoor play’. There was room to move and space for all the children. This story time led to further story times and extensions on our stories (Note: the stories included “Hansel and Gretel” and “Wombat stew”)

I have noticed that most men like to move and be outside, especially when they are with children. Men in childcare such as fathers, uncles, brothers and educators seem to enjoy the movement during play as much as children do. This might involve running races, kicking the football, swimming or playing cricket.

Something else mostly unique to male play is “rough and tumble” play. When I first started in early childhood this sort of play grew naturally from children jumping and throwing themselves at me. There is something primal about wrestling. Wrestling is the world’s oldest sport. But I am not talking about Spartan wrestling school at daycare although I can see why it was valued by children and men in ancient cultures! I mean the playful rough and tumble that seems to be so natural to men in childcare.
I was often criticized for roughing up the kids and getting them all wound up and excited. This play was condemned for being dangerous and aggressive. This led me to write my own theory on rough and tumble play… as an overly motivated trainee.

This is my thesis (never published) that was written in 2004…

“Why play fighting is important at preschool”

Play fighting or rough and tumble play is an important part of a preschool education. It is also fun. It should not be banned. There is a time and place for play fighting at preschool.

Beyond learning physical skills such as balance, strength, coordination and how to fall children also learn problem-solving, self belief, teamwork, self control and limits.

Play fighting is not ‘out of control’ playing. There is (and should be) a high level of control and balance. Children are taught the rules and boundaries and parameters of the game and know that they are important. There are limits and guidelines to protect children’s safety and children know their needs will be met if they are hurt or injured.

Play fighting is a humbling experience. You are not the best or above everybody else. You are a physical being with arms and legs like everyone else. There is always someone bigger or stronger or faster. Educators can help teach children self control and that you should not abuse your role of power over younger children, people not as strong or as fortunate as yourself.

Children learn to overcome challenges by working as a team. They may not be able to tackle or bring down an adult by themselves but by working together they can achieve a common goal during play.

Children use educators during play fighting in different role playing scenarios. Sometimes as a ‘bad guy’ or villain; sometimes as someone on their team; as a character in their role play or as a ‘horse’, ‘camel’, ‘pet tiger’, etc.

Some children want to pit their strengths against educators. I encourage children to take on things that are bigger than themselves but also to develop judgment to assess risks. If they decide to take on the biggest child out there (aka me!) they are accountable for their actions and consequences. For me, this is how you judge yourself; by competing against the best and seeing how you come off. You may not win but you will learn. You can weigh your performance, grow and learn. I praise children for ‘having a go’. I look down upon bigger, older children hurting or using their strength or size to exert power over them. During play educators become a third party to help children realize that they have a responsibility to help younger and smaller children.

Play fighting is a way to manage ‘difficult’ and energetic behavior. Like role play and day dreaming it is a way for children to release physical and emotional tension and resolve problems, subconsciously putting their minds at ease. Play fighting is a type of therapy.

Play fighting teaches resilience.

“Wipe it off”; “Suck it in”; “Up you get”; “You’ll be ‘right”; “Go and get a drink and cool down”; “Alright we had better get an icepack!”

Phrases like this teach children that there are different ways of getting what you want. They don’t have to stop and have a cuddle before they play again. They can pick themselves up and roll on. I certainly don’t ignore children’s reactions but I challenge them to find out ‘if it really hurts’ or whether it is just a trained reaction to falling over.

To put things in perspective:
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So what children get involved in play fighting?

I have observed several different approaches. Some children jump right in. Some children are unsure at first but after watching for a certain amount of time they realize it is safe and join in. Some children use it as role play (“good guys, bad guys, superheroes, etc”). Some children are afraid to join in. Some children join in by telling other children to do what they want to do themselves. Some children stay away from the activity entirely.

It is my experience that children who play fight are happy and confident in themselves. The most confident children can be involved but they are also just as happy to join in other activities. For some children who are obsessed or “intensely focused” on their current favourite superhero or action figure it helps to act out their role plays and gain valuable insight to their self esteem and social and emotional skills and values.

Playfighting is not just ‘spontaneous, attention-seeking, rough-housing, self-gratifying activity to wind up the kids”. It is a learning experience where children learn about themselves, the consequences of their behaviours and how to fit into a group. As long as play fighting is responsibly managed by educators I feel it offers opportunities to learn how to play responsibly (“no hitting, pushing, kicking”); learn compassion and fairness (“stop if someone is hurt, make sure they are ok”); observe children’s confidence levels and physical skills and develop trusting caring relationships between educators and children.

Influences

Crossfit. http://www.crossfit.com/

Steve Biddulph. Raising Boys

Images my own except for one from this great site.

http://450012743448340298.weebly.com/superhero-play.html

How children learn metaphysics (meta-what?)! An educators notes.

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Tony blog post #9- 14.04.13

When I started this blog my goals were to record an important stage of my life (preparing for parenthood) and to get my ideas about early childhood and life out onto ‘paper’. I decided that I would write about things I know and that my articles would be childcare-related or health and fitness-related. I want to become fluent at writing and preparing articles and to become a leader in early childhood. I am looking for ways to connect with early childhood educators and like minded people in order to make the world a better place for children, families and communities. My real work is in childcare centres with children and staff ‘on the floor’, in the office and in my community. This article is a combination of my spiritual and physical understanding of human and child development and is a bit of a leap of faith. I have also included some of my own cartoons to help visualise my understanding. Let me know what you think.

When you start in childcare you are asked to define your philosophy towards children. This includes how you think children learn and develop and what your role as an educator and carer is. With experience and study of other people’s understandings and theories you begin to try out and develop your own. Eventually you get to a stage where you can write down and explain your theories. These theories are temporary and specific to time and place and continue to change and evolve from day to day. After ten years in childcare and 29 years on this planet (including 9 months in the womb) this is my understanding of how we learn and experience life…

First we are sensory beings.
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We absorb and receive constant information and energy from our environments. This is our subconscious level. This is how we feel and experience things. This is how children start and how we receive most of our information.

Educators note: In a classroom children are often feeling the vibe of the room rather than listening to the educator. Children might hear the noises you make (pitch, tone and volume, along with your gestures) rather than your words. They are not listening, they are feeling and perceiving. Are you calm and responsive to this child, or are you frustrated, angry or overwhelmed by this child? Is the environment set up to provide safety and security along with challenge and stimulation? We only receive a small but important percentage of information through thought and language. Meditation and relaxation exercises are effective if they can get you back to this stage and away from your ‘worrying’ thoughts and first world stresses and problems.

Next we are physical beings.
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We start to control our physical selves. All our internal systems link together from eyesight to digestion to memory to movement. Genetic and environmental factors combine to create ‘you’. Our metabolism adjusts to the level of activity we have daily, our genetically-determined growth patterns and the quality of our nutrition. Our electro-chemical systems flourish. We learn that our actions are connected to results in the environment. We feed ourselves, we roll over and run. We develop physical skills. We learn agency. We can show others how we feel and interact through body language and gestures. When children see something that they like or feel an emotion they are in this ‘stage’.

Educators note: This is how we feel physically when we are tired, hungry, sick or having trouble digesting. It is important as educators that we manage our physical selves well. Creating a healthy lifestyle where we receive enough rest, quality food and exercise sets us up for success. Firstly to act as a model for children (with positive ways to manage your emotions) and also to extend the time when we are ‘ourselves’ (and not just cranky, snappy teachers). Remember children will ‘absorb’ information about themselves from you whether you are responsive and warm or cold and irritated. This does not mean don’t feel emotion but be a role model for how you manage your emotions in front of children.

Then we are cognitive (and meta-cognitive) beings.
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This is arguably what makes us human and ‘separates’ us from the animal world. We learn to think, remember and plan. We begin to create strategies to get what we want and attitudes towards ourselves and others. We develop self esteem and interact with symbols and society. We learn ‘language’. We learn the rules of our culture and adjust our behaviours. We learn to moralise and perceive other people’s thoughts and feelings. This is where we develop ‘higher’ thought processes and abstract thought. We can reflect and imagine.

Educators note: Helping children to learn symbols and language is important so that children can interact effectively with their families and community. Educators develop philosophies about child development and their role as educators and learn how to implement them on a sensory, physical and mental level in their rooms.

In conclusion I believe that we experience the world in all of these ways daily and moment by moment. Educational psychologists indicate that our bodies receive sensory information constantly. Our working memory can only focus on so many things at once.

Sure we can focus on what we are thinking about (stage 3), or how we are ‘feeling’ (stage 2) or just be open and in tune with our environment (stage 3) but all these ways of ‘being’ interact and compete for our attention as adults. They are all operating simultaneously (once they develop) but can be skewed certain ways.

For example:

Have you ever been so focused on a game or engaged by a book that you have not realized how much time has passed or where you are? This is you ‘thinking’ at a high level.

Have you ever been so angry or racked with grief or ‘in love’ that you can’t think straight? This is you feeling at a high level.

Finally have you ever felt so in tune with your environment that you were ‘connected’ or conversely in a room where your neck hairs stand on end and you know you have to leave quickly but you don’t know why? This is you perceiving at a high level.

We need to manage these competing processes within ourselves in order to become effective educators (or bank managers, or doctors or humans). Our role as educators is to help children develop in positive ways that will allow them to adjust to their communities and culture. By understanding child development and how children learn we can set up environments and interact in ways that allow children to learn and grow in themselves and their understanding of the world.

Influences

Chin-Ning Chu. 1992. Thick face, black heart: Thriving and succeeding in everyday life and work using the ancient wisdom of the East. Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd. St Leonards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chin_Ning_Chu

Howard Gardner. 2011. The Unschooled Mind: How children think and how schools should teach. Twentieth anniversary edition. Basic Books. New York.
http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm

Daniel Goleman. 1996. Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury Publishing. London. http://danielgoleman.info/

Jeanne Ellis Ormrod. 2006. Educational Pyschology: Developing Learners. Fifth edition. Pearson Education, Inc. New Jersey.

Caarol Sigelman & Elizabeth Rider. 2009. Lifespan Human Development. Sixth edition. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Belmont.

Note: What is metaphysics?? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

Aussie boy in Norway: What Australian educators can learn from Scandinavian nature preschools.

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Tony blog post #8- 8.04.13:

I can remember the exact day that I was inspired to learn about Scandinavian attitudes towards children and outdoor play. On 17th September 2005 I attended a Children’s Services Conference in Coffs Harbour and heard a lady from the Mia Mia Early Childhood Centre at Macquarie University speak about her recent study trip to Norway. The images that stuck in my mind include children playing in the forests, climbing trees, making cubby houses and infants sleeping outside in prams in the snow! I told my mum right then that I wanted to go there and see it for myself. It took almost exactly 7 years but on the 17th of August 2012 I arrived in Oslo, Norway with my wife on our honeymoon and my Scandinavian adventure!

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(Stone Trolls in Norway!)

Alana and I spent three weeks travelling and exploring in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. From Australia there are probably not many further places you could go for a honeymoon but it was one of the highlights of my life! The people, the settings and the outdoor preschools were amazing. Being a last minute holiday I didn’t have time to organize any planned nature preschool training but I was lucky enough to ‘wing it’ and have a chance to see a couple of different outdoor preschools in Denmark and in Norway.

Here are my brief journal entries from both encounters (photos used with permission):
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Burlunden Naturbomehave
14th August 2012 (In Denmark):

“Ok, so we just got back from a nature kindergarten, Burlunden in Dragor, a state/city run kindergarten on at least 3 acre block.
Flat, green and shady/sunny. 60 year old centre catering for 100 children daily from 7am-5pm. Bus pick up available. Small town area out of Copenhagen city (20 minutes away).
Run by Arme, we were welcomed by Tanya who guided us around and showed us the extensive grounds (where the pool used to be, younger children’s areas). Preschool for 2 years 9 months to 6 years.
When we walked around there were children and staff setting up tents, feeding rabbits, chickens and small goats, using bike tracks, forts, climbing frames and trees. There was a large soccer pitch, seats/tables, swings, a flying fox, a fallen tree, fire places, small huts and houses, forest areas inside yard.
Children eat meals provided (inside). Staff follow children’s interests, talk to parents, fill out daily journal of activities.
Great fun to see another centre (in another country!).
Funny moments:
Taxi ride to preschool. Card payment not accepted. Had to borrow 290 danish kroners (cash) from a staff member! (Note: we paid them back the following day!)
On arrival a boy asked, “Are you from England?” (Note: Most Scandinavian countries are bi or multi- lingual including English and their home language, this was the only boy who spoke or understood my Australian English well enough to converse with me!)
Showing Tanya and children Australia on the map and kangaroos on our school oval (via images on my phone)
The highlight of the day was starting a game of soccer with three boys without using English. They could not understand me and I could not understand them but the game started and we played for about 15 minutes. More children arrived and we laughed about counting goals (as we could not agree to count in English or Danish) and the only English we shared was ‘red card!”
An English speaking parent gave us a lift to metro station (during which we briefly discussed childcare in Denmark) and then we caught city rail to the station near our hotel and walked back.”

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(Couldn’t wipe the smile off my face after visiting a real life nature preschool in Norway- a dream come true!)

Voksenkollen friluftsbarnehage
20th August 2012 (In Norway):

“Have a window of opportunity to visit a Norwegian nature kindergarten (“friluftsbarnehage”) at Voksenkollen this morning. Left at 8:30am, 35 minute train ride to Voksenkollen. Kindergarten is across the road from train station. Trains leave Oslo every 15 minutes.
Departure time will be very important if I want to make it back in time and not stress Alana out. Tour train to Voss leaves at 10:30am. I wonder what the alternative is. I hope we don’t have to find out!
Already the train is filling with preschool children (and I can’t spot their parents/carers). Everyone is keeping an eye out for them but it is very unusual.
I wonder if they are headed to voksenkollen? They seem well equipped, most with boots, all with bags and jackets.
As we have got further out of town, adults have reduced in number. More children are getting on at every stop and being handed to what appears to be carers. Is this the train pick up service? No sign in.
(End of note-taking: I struck up conversation with a carer and then found the nature kindergarten and spoke with the director, Roni Storli for about an hour)
“Wow, what an opportunity and experience. Firstly on the train! Four different groups collecting children for kindergarten.
Welcomed into a kindergarten with many men. 60:40 ration men:women carers. Had to laugh at myself being called a ‘pioneer’ for men in childcare in Australia when there are so many men working in Norwegian childcare! (Note: 2% of Australian childcare workers are male, 20% of Norwegian childcare workers are male!)
Roni spending time with me showing me his centre and program. Tours, learning outcomes and documentation, parent newsletters.
Just the concepts and photos! Key concept is that the parents (and country) value being outdoors. That is the difference.”
(Note: I made it back to the station and Alana JUST in time!)

These experiences were amazing and deeply inspiring. We had already visited a lot of the playgrounds and areas for children in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway (and later Sweden). I read all the English notes and resources I was given and spoke about my experience and visions for childcare with Alana for the following 7 hour train ride (sorry babe!). The only thing that impressed me more than the nature preschools in Scandinavia was the breath-taking beauty of Norway’s countryside. The fjord tour was awesome and I am glad we travelled halfway around the world to be there!

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References

Tony Kee. 2012. Journal notes

Links

Mia Mia Early learning Centre. http://www.miamia.mq.edu.au/index.htm

Bringing Children (and Services) Back to Nature in Early Childhood; My experience.

07.04.11 Thursday 025

Tony blog post #7- 8.04.13

Natural environments and sustainability in early childhood has become a very popular and passionate topic for people in my profession. It has links back to the early 70’s when people began to give greater notice to protecting the environment and sustainable living. We have come a long way in the past 40 years. I wonder how many people out there have been inspired to bring children back to nature. I certainly don’t think it is a new trend but I do think it is a popular trend at the moment. This is the topic of this post.

Note: With some time on my hands today I am going to add a few new posts to catch up to Alana’s baby countdown!

Most children are drawn to the outdoors. There is fresh air, room to move, things to see, chase, climb and collect! I remember a study that highlighted that involved adults drawing their favourite memories of early childhood. A large number of these pictures included trees, water and no adults!

There is a huge body of research regarding children and nature (See this link to ‘Study Nature, Not Books’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_study). My biggest influences recently include people like Tim Gill, Steve Biddulph, Claire Warden, Sue Palmer and Richard Louv. If you don’t know who they are I encourage you to do a little research of your own and find out (but I have also added some links to their pages in the references section below!). I love hearing stories about children getting back to nature and enjoying the great outdoors. In Australia our attitude of accountability and following regulations has been great at setting good standards of care and safe practice but educators have often felt trapped or ‘unsafe’ to explore nature and natural risk taking activities. I have a huge list of friends and childcare centres that have been affected by local council and state regulations that have resulted in children missing out on opportunities to play outdoors (“because they are being sunsmart- ie. inside play between 11am and 3pm”), have access to animals (“because they are unhygienic”), climb trees (“because children might fall”) or even have swings or monkey bars! Please share this post if you agree! And add your experiences in the comments below!

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Do I think it’s important to be sunsmart? Yes. Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Does this mean we have to be ‘inside’ for four hours at preschool each day? No.

Do I think animals are unhygienic? Yes. Do I think children can get hurt falling out of trees? Yes. Does this mean we need to avoid both and eliminate the trees and animals from our centres, playgrounds and backyards? NO!

There is evidence to suggest that soft fall play areas create more harm than good. If you want to see a ‘safe’ playground. Check out any of the former ABC childcare centres in Australia. They met ALL the regulations but were they good for children?? I’ll let you answer for yourselves.

My parents have been a huge influence on my life and we have shared many of the same experiences. We have nearly always lived near the beach. The beach must be the most sustainable natural outdoor playspace available to children in the world! Agree? My parents have a bush block (dad’s hangliding mountain!) near Beechwood, NSW where we go walking, fishing, camping, swimming, etc. My family often discuss and reminisce some of the amazing outdoor experiences we have had in our lives including camping trips, bush walks and my great grandmother’s garden. Nana Coulton’s garden in Wonthaggi was a treasure trove for all of us as children (including dad!) In fact dad often quotes nan’s garden as one of his major influencers in his current role as childcare service playspace designer. My parents experience in childcare has been that children learn through doing and were inspired to create their own ‘children’s gardens’. They have created some of the most amazing children’s service playspaces I have seen and I know many people who are inspired by their work. In 2011 their renovation of an entire former-ABC Learning outdoor playspace was published in Every Child magazine (“Creating outdoor play and learning environments: A case study”. Prof. Margaret Sims. Vol 17, No 4, 2011).

I did my own study on their playspace during my university study. Go straight to the final page to see the amazing transformation that took place outside! From barren to beautiful! TGs Childcare Armidale Workstudy

So I think some Australian childcare services and educators are moving in the right direction (towards nature). Last year a group of children at my after school and vacation care program were involved in a process of ‘getting back to nature’. It started through bug hunts and using some natural materials in our room (making craft and bird feeders, etc) but grew into ‘nature walks’ through our school setting and eventually resulted in the creation of a ‘bush village’ in a relatively small area of covered bushland. This was a great experience for our group and I am glad that my service and the children and families that were involved in the process. Sadly our ‘bush village’ was bulldozed last year to create an area for new classrooms!) I have seen some awesome examples of schools using natural materials at Primary schools in Australia but there are equally a lot of examples of schools banning things like running and cartwheels in the playgrounds. Westgarth Preschool in Victoria is an outdoor preschool (check out its link here: http://www.wgkg.vic.edu.au/bush-kinder) But we have some way yet to go to see the nature preschools of Scandinavia. If you have not heard about them please check them out online. There are articles, websites and youtube has some great videos to inspire you! (Nature preschool Norway, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIi1WkFhGvc )

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Please see Part 2 of this story, coming soon!

References

Tim Gill. 2009. “No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society”. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, London.
Claire Warden. 2010. “Nature Kindergartens”. Mindstretchers Ltd, Scotland.
Sue Palmer. 2007. “Toxic Childhood: How the modern world is damaging our children and what we can do about it.”Orion House, London.

Links

Tim Gill. http://rethinkingchildhood.com/
Steve Biddulph. http://www.stevebiddulph.com/Site_1/Home.html
Claire Warden. http://www.claire-warden.com/
Sue Palmer. http://www.suepalmer.co.uk/
Richard Louv. http://blog.childrenandnature.org/
Westgarth Bush Kinder. http://www.wgkg.vic.edu.au/bush-kinder