Tag Archives: earlychildhood

Organically Connected

Bec Carey

Becoming connected with nature is more than just spending time outdoors,  climbing trees and rolling through the mud. Although, that is a great first step not to mention loads of fun! Connection to nature can go deeper. It can spread all the way into your house, at your kitchen table, onto your shopping lists and into your rubbish bins. It takes time to evolve wholeheartedly as it slowly becomes part of who you are, not just something you do.

By taking that first step to reconnect, you begin to appreciate the natural world. It is from here that your connection can become more, it can go deeper, grow beyond and, you can make a difference.

 How can we make a difference and promote a deeper organic connection to nature?

  • Start a plan of action to share nature with others, get them outdoors too. Invite them for bush walks, go on a picnic, even google earth your local community to find hidden pockets of nature.
  • Research what’s happening in your local community, attend local events, join a Bush Care group, or  a Community Environment Network Group.
  • If you’re not feeling very social that’s ok, you can still make a difference in your own home by making a few changes to your routine. Reflect on your day to day habits and embed sustainability into your household, the perfect place to explore sustainable practice.

Do your current habits portray how much you really appreciate and care for the world we live in? The world that we share with others and the future generations to come. As far as I know NASA has not discovered a spare Earth hidden in a cupboard in a galaxy far far away, so we need to protect and preserve the one we have or tomorrow will never come.

As we drove down our street the other day, my 6 year old daughter asked me why the red rubbish bins on our street were smaller than the yellow recycling ones. Being the Early Childhood Teacher that I am, rather than providing a direct answer, I prompted her to think critically about her query to see what she could come up with.

Her thoughts:

“Maybe it’s because people have to recycle more and don’t have too much rubbish because it’s rubbish and you can’t recycle it. Like we recycle everything and we don’t buy stuff like packages. Our stuff goes in the recycling and sometimes I use it to make stuff too, like for art. And Mummy we do the compost too so our family only needs a little red bin, so that’s good.”   

I had to chuckle at her next comment as we continued to drive down the street….

“Mummy, look everyone’s red bins are really full. I think they have too much stuff”

I felt proud of her analogy and prouder to tell her that our family only fills up half of the red bin each week (I only discovered this last week when I went to bring my bin in only to discover the garbage collectors were apparently on strike) This realisation was comforting as we  mindfully buy minimum packaging, recycle, reuse and compost too, so it was nice to see the positive impact our household has on minimising landfill. I watched as her face unfolded from serious to a smirk as she exclaimed, “We are good at rubbish, aren’t we!” 

Well I am not sure ‘being good at rubbish’ earns you any sort of credit, but it certainly got me thinking. I reflected on my own values, practices and growth and noted how overtime I have changed, emerged and adjusted my skills, practices and outlook on life. I feel more connected to the natural world. I feel like I am making a difference, and if anything it feels empowering to notice the change within myself and the effect you can have on others, especially your own children or children in your care.

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Click here for more fun comics!

A few years ago, overwhelmed and frustrated by mass production, I began a mission to try and buy mainly from local businesses. My new journey led me to discover local organic produce, simple whole food ingredients and quality handmade items from markets. I also became a bit of an army general when it came to reducing waste and reusing in our household, just ask my partner he loves my smelly compost pile.

 

Admittedly I began this journey due to health reasons (I’m Coeliac and my own children become crazy, monstrous versions of themselves when they eat sugar laden, preservative food). With self-research, I built on my knowledge of healthy cooking and sustainable practices. I have always been a bit of a self proclaimed ‘health nut’ but with a few tweaks and new ideas, I managed to simplify, think ahead and plan effectively. Naturally my whole family are part of the journey, although not always willing participants to share their load in taking out the compost, they are always ready to share the values and learn about the purpose behind my actions. Values and actions that they will in turn be able to share with others throughout their life. Little Eco Footprints  is a great blog to follow for sustainable ideas and how to live better with less. It is a journey I am still on, learning new ideas and building on practices every day. Did you know it’s so easy to make your own cleaning sprays, completely chemical free, environmentally friendly and they smell delicious!

Along with my #foodie overhaul, my new journey grew organically and led me out of the kitchen and into every other room of my house. I watched as my children’s belongings grew overtime with gifts. Although we are so grateful for those that gift to our children, possessions quickly  overtook the storage space we had. I knew there had to be a better way, a more ethical, sustainable and thoughtful practice to explore. I tried, ‘One gift per child’ strategy, ‘Local & Handmade Christmases’, ‘Donating to others in need’, ‘Experiences not objects’  and even a, ‘No toys please’ rule. While some of these approaches were more successful than others, each of my moments of advocacy planted the seed of awareness, they made people think. As we know, it is awareness that we need to create the change that we desire. As a family we aim to be more sustainable in our own gift giving, even gift wrapping. Did you know fabric squares, newspaper comics and who gives a crap  toilet paper packaging make excellent sustainable gift wrap?

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FUN!

 Whether it’s reconnecting with neighbours to share garden produce, buying from local businesses to support your own community, visiting markets to purchase handmade gifts and delicious homemade goodies or becoming the Christmas Grinch and requesting one present per child from others, you can be a part of the change. You can be part of something bigger, connecting people not only to each other but supporting them to make sustainable choices and reducing the impact we have on our environment and wonderful world.

Our children are living in the world we, as adults have created for them. Many are over stimulated, under nourished and disconnected to the impact we have on the natural world. As human beings, we are a part of the natural world, so lets really become a part of it. Get active and involved, get children involved!  Let them become responsible for nurturing and caring for produce gardens, teach them to cook from scratch, role model recycling, reusing and reducing waste. Become mindful of your actions and practice. Our actions and guidance now will influence the children not only of today but the children of tomorrow too.

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Source: Google images

If you are keen to jump aboard local businesses and are on the Central Coast, these are some of the local suppliers that I use. The best thing about them? (apart from their delicious produce of course), is that they ALL do home delivery! See, convenience  doesn’t have to come in a pre-packaged, sugar laden, excess salt, preservative packed treat! #winning

Organic produce:

https://nurtured-earth.com.au/

Organic butcher:

http://www.coastwidemeats.com.au/index.html

Local markets:

http://www.localmarketguide.com.au/735-markets-on-the-central-coast#.V1jOH5F96M8

Pure Deliciousness:

https://lovingearth.net/our-products.html

Toilet paper, tissues & paper towel (also available through Nurtured Earth)

https://au.whogivesacrap.org/

Other ideas to create change in your own home…

  • Start a compost
  • Grow your own herbs or vegetables
  • Use a keep cup for your take-away coffees
  • Pack a waste free lunchbox for school
  • Bake your own delicious treats
  • Reuse jars, containers and bottles
  • Participate in Plastic Free July
  • Be creative with left overs!

Remember any change no matter how small will make a difference. Together we’ve got this, tomorrow will be safe. Don’t forget to share your journey with us too.

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far…

Bec Carey

When my 11 year old daughter Tyger-May was given the task to write a speech on a topic of her choice, she announced that she knew exactly what she was going to talk about… Nature Play of course! Children really are influenced by the world that surrounds them, their home, their parents, their friends and their experiences.

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 With Tyger’s permission I have shared her speech below, it was too amazing to not share with the world. She was thrilled to have a special post on the blog and i am sure it wont be her last. It seems indeed that the apple doesn’t fall far when it comes to a love of nature, dancing in the rain and advocating for rights and a better way of life.

 Nature or  Devices – By Tyger-May

Have you ever thought of going out and exploring instead of sitting down on your devices? What are devices? Devices are Tv’s, xboxes, play-stations, ipads, iphones, ipods…….ieverythings! Well I certainly have thought about it, I always go out and build cubbies, carve sticks and go for a wander through the bush…not laze around on my devices all day!

My family loves going 4WDing, we see heaps of kangaroos, spiders and mostly dancing worms (you’re probably thinking what are dancing worms) Well there are such things, I’ll explain later.

My family also love going motorbike riding. When we go out bush my younger brother and sister always go for a swim in the giant muddy puddles pretending they’re finding crocodiles. Now that’s what I’m talking about, fun!

We also go for lots of bush walks, such as in the Watagans. It is so beautiful but really steep towards the end. The waterfall is AWESOME. We climb on the rocks and explore everywhere. Not on our devices! I believe that what I do, exploring nature, is much more fun that sitting down on a device playing games all day. Playing with nature is ten times more fun (in my opinion).

Even if you want to go on your devices, you should still play with nature more……

Like I said, you can build cubbies, tepees, and even climb heaps high in the trees if you really want too (yes, you might be afraid of heights but i am too). I still do climb trees, just not heaps high.

Now if you don’t want to play with nature you can always find other things to do like drawing, colouring, hand ball or read a book and more! Just don’t get too comfy with your devices, otherwise you wont get off them (trust me).

Why don’t we have a day not going on devices. What do you think? Most of you are probably thinking NO!! But I am thinking the opposite, YES!!

Did you know that my backyard is bush, with bush turkeys wandering around  and heaps of lizards, spiders and snakes?! I found out that we had snakes because a few weeks ago I saw a kookaburra catch a baby green tree snake in its beak one afternoon.

So do you love nature or not? Or prefer devices? Or are they equal? I don’t think they are equal NO WAY. I definitely love nature and not so much devices, so i’ll go with Option 1- Nature.

So I wonder when I am going 4WDing next because I might see some kangaroos, snakes and maybe dancing worms….otherwise known as LEECHES!

 I just love the honesty within her work. She has the ability to express her own opinion and ideas but additionally offers options and diversity in her suggestions. There is something for everyone out there, you just have to get outdoors and find it! Just don’t forget to pack the salt, you’ll need it for those pesky dancing worms.

Magical Worlds

Bec Carey

Magical Worlds

A picture says a thousand words,

A child’s mind thinks many more.

It dreams, imagines and creates,

Magical worlds to explore.

The earth provides many spaces,

waiting to be discovered.

Deep in rain forests,  through the trees,

Over mountains, under leaves.

You have to know where to go,

How to be and how to see.

Clear your mind, let everything go,

Venture on, oh so slow.

Creeping forward, eyes wide open,

Senses ignited with imagination. 

Stop. Pause and look beneath,

Magical worlds lay at your feet.

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Make every day magical

Raw & Unearthed Play

Raw & Unearthed play is real and authentic. Deep within something moves, shifts and unearths. Imagination is unleashed. A deep connection is made and the world slows down creating time to just be.

 The Raw & Unearthed Child is born. 

 

Thank you to Joey Corner Photography for capturing these beautiful moments.

 

 

 

 

 

Sit down & Shut up

Bec Carey

Excuse me while I gather my thoughts and pick my brains up off the floor, they have just exploded with mixed emotion of anger, shock and complete disbelief. I can not believe some Educators are still stuck in practice where children are expected to sit down, shut up and be present at mandatory group times developed by and for educators convenience. What benefits does this practice promote- apart from the obvious time it allows for educators to pack away everything out of children’s reach to make their end of day duties easier. No play = no mess, right? How do these said Educators force children to sit for extended periods of time? Feed them biscuits? Read them continuous stories? Physically pull them back into place? My heart bleeds at the thought. My head screams NO! Physically my whole body would become mute at the shock of utter disbelief. My brain will definitely explode.

I have worked in Early Childhood for over 10 years. I know too well the pressures it creates. The constant juggle between keeping on top of the abundance of work, daily chores such as cleaning and meeting the high level of expectations from families, colleagues and business owners. But I would never dream of forcing a child to sit on the ground at my feet while I read endless stories from a comfortable spot on the lounge so my colleague can clean up. Story time for me looks and feels a lot different…. It usually begins with a child requesting me to read them a book or to tell them a ‘magic story’, a known specialty of mine. We find a comfortable place to sit together, a lounge, floor cushions or under a tree. At times, after the story has begun, more children may curiously join in if they wish. There’s no mandatory crossed legs, no superior teacher above the children’s height, looking down and forcing children to listen. Actually there is usually body parts everywhere, entangled in an wonderful mess of comfort and belonging. Children come and go as they please and if they chose to sit upside down, back the front or lie down, they can. Others like to listen from a distance, multitasking as they paint, draw and play. It’s fun, it’s relaxing and it works. Books hold a very special place in my heart. I love them. So naturally story time for me is such an important time to promote an enjoyable atmosphere. I was so excited the first time I saw my 5 year old daughter smell the pages of a book, “ahh I just love the smell of books” she cooed dreamily.

I am completely dumbfounded as to how educators to this day could turn such a natural instinct into a forced expectation and experience. It’s 2016 people! Research and time has allowed us to evolve our practice for the benefit of the children.  We’re moving on and up, please don’t be the one left behind. If someone pulled your arms down and demanded you sit, how would you feel?  How can children find strength to assert their feelings and rights if they aren’t given opportunity to have a voice in the first place? Is this practice shaped from an outdated image of the child, incapable, inferior and helpless? Is it that these Educators forget that children have rights? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a universal agreed non-negotiable standard for the rights of children. Along with  a right to shelter, education, health and more, it states children have a right to play (Article 31). So, why do some think it’s ok to take away this right? The UNCRC doesn’t say, “children have a right to play as long as it’s not messy and inconvenient for educators” Perhaps these educators have closed minds, they’ve done it the same way for years or perhaps they aren’t mindful of their own practice.

   

Mindfulness allows you to subconsciously stop and be aware of your actions, words and practice. It will provide you with time to critically reflect on yourself before you critically direct children.  Educators need to ask themselves ‘why’ they are giving direction to a child, especially if it’s taking away a child’s free choice. Better still, they need to stop directing  and start connecting. Relationships form a strong foundation to understand someone, to see the world through a child’s eyes. To be mindful you need to channel your own sense of being. You need to be comfortable in your practice with children, no matter how big the mess becomes. You need to understand children’s rights, including their right to play. The sooner you realise that play is messy, the sooner you will find inner peace.

 The perfect place to read

For more information on the UNCRC, Early Childhood Australia has provided links on their website to the original document as well as providing links in various language options. There is even a simplified version, for those who like it clear and concise.

 Early Childhood Australia- http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/learning-hub/educator-resources/childrens-rights/

UNCRC Original document in full- http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/crc.pdf

This post is a tribute to Bev Bos, a true advocate for play and children’s rights who sadly passed away this week. 

Milk Clouds

Bec Carey 

Clouds are those fluffy, magical things that float carelessly in the sky, they follow you in your car and change form into unicorns, dragons and the faces of people who have gone but aren’t forgotten. A child once told me they were made out of milk. A pure explanation from a pure mind. I could see the resemblance as I gazed wondrously up into the blue and sunny sky, but I thought to myself not all clouds resemble milkiness, not all clouds are created equally or serve the same purpose. Storm clouds, are dark, aggressive and black. What are they made of through a child’s pure eyes? I wonder if it was a different day back then, would I have still been laying down on the grass with a group of children gazing up into dark gloomy endless skies. In all honesty probably not.  Would I lay in a field gazing up at dark storm clouds today? I most definitely would! You see, I’ve changed. I have allowed myself to evolve and grow. As my hunger for new knowledge and research has grown, my practice has become filled with reason and I have become filled with joy, energy and motivation.

As an educator continuity of learning for yourself is a valuable quality to your professional self.  These days the moment you finish your degree it changes and a day from graduation your qualifications  are already outdated. While it wont stop you from obtaining a job within the industry, it may limit your on-going practice.  If you don’t continue self study and research beyond the walls of your university lectures, you will fast become stuck in a rut, repeating the same same each year. We are a profession, not a bunch of whiny babysitters who want more pay. Stand up, (wo)man up and teach yourself to become a strong voice for the early childhood industry. As an industry we are evolving too. There is a change coming, the clouds are moving and changing shape. It’s the calm before the storm and after the storm, the milk clouds will return and rain over us as we prance through the open fields with flowers in our hair. I am a dreamer, what can I say.

In all seriousness, there really is a change coming. I can feel it. I know it, and while there may not be milk rain and unicorns, there will be play and lots of it deeply embedded into kindergarten classrooms.  I recently was invited to a Department of Education networking meeting in my local community. Within a room full of Assistant principals, Kindergarten teachers and Primary school coordinators, I was the only Early childhood teacher. I have built a strong relationship with my local Kindergarten Assistant Principal and she had invited me along. I was unsure what to expect but oozing with excitement at the opportunity that lay before me. During the meeting I was able to share aspects of practice within the Early Childhood Industry. Questions were asked about holistic approaches, learning through play and intentional teaching. The air was thick with their desire to know more, to build on their own knowledge and unpack new ideas. Prior to the meeting I had a Kindergarten teacher spend a day with me to gain hands on experience of a true play environment- of course she left skipping and dancing out the door, filled with excitement and new ideas. She had allowed her mind to be opened and new ideas flowed freely in. I know we all face barriers, fears and challenges. I also know transitions take time. I’m not expecting this teacher to throw all her structured lesson plans out the window (not just yet anyway!), but I hope to see fresh ideas within her class room when I visit in the next few weeks.  Allowing your mind to be open to new ideas, thoughts and practice you have already taken the first step. It is the second step, advocating for the change which is the tricky one. It can be unstable. But, like everything else, persistence is the key.

It has been my dream to really connect with schools to advocate for change and actively work together. Breaking down the barriers and really seeing the change before my eyes. Play in kindergarten classrooms is not impossible.  Teachers have already begun reaching out and connecting with Early Childhood Educators. Viewing us as professionals has been the first step for them, a big one at that!  Sharing knowledge, working together and continuous visits to each others learning environment will lead to amazing things! Kindergartners may even be allowed to use authentic play tools! – you should have seen their faces when I told them I have allowed children to cut with real saws, build their own campfire and even cook on it. Jaws literally dropped to the floor. “You let them play with fire and have tools we don’t even let them run”, they exclaimed picking their chins up off the floor.

The shock factor of this conversation led to a really interesting reflective conversation about risk taking and utilising outdoor spaces. We discussed how Early Childhood Educators view children as capable, resourceful and we trust them to understand their intrinsic motivation in regards to risks. Alternatively,  schools have so many rules and structures that children lose their independence and ability to continue to build on the skills we work so hard to promote. Within our meeting they shared their desire to utilise the grass areas and trees they can see from their classroom windows. When I asked why they don’t…….why can’t you read a book or do some writing under a tree?…they first looked at me dumbfounded and then realisation spread across their faces. It really is that simple. The desire for change appeared to be there, but it seems fear has taken over. It’s up to us to give them a little push. The gap between early childhood and kindergartens is just too big. That cloud has become big dark and heavy. It’s bursting with a downward push of academic expectations from a competitive society. It’s Kindergarten, not university! Why is everyone is a rush for their child to walk, read, spell and count? Outcomes haven’t changed, but the expectations have gone higher.  It seems now school teachers are feeling the pressure on the eastern front.

That cloud is getting far too  heavy, we need to lift it up. Children need space to breathe, play and be. We, early childhood educators and parents need to stand strong and continue to make our voices heard. Connect with your local schools, build reciprocal relationships and advocate for the children’s rights. Leap out of your comfort zone, because that is where the magic happens. When the heavy cloud is lifted and I promise you it will, come and dance with me underneath the milk clouds and experience the feeling of purity and free.

This is where the Mermaids Live. 

 

Bec Carey

Over the Christmas break I went camping with my family. During our trip,  I  spent time thinking about why so many people change their practice on holidays compared to their ‘real life’. Everyone seems friendlier, happy and connected, “sure kids you can go hang out at the tent with the people you just met, we are on holidays why not?!” While my family and I are avid adventurers in our day to day life and anyone that follows me personally on social media knows this already, I yearn to understand why to some a holiday means to completely change everything they do. I have previously discussed my view on the modern day parent of convenient choices, ipads are easier than tantrums right? If you missed it, you can read more about it here. My question today is, Why is it when people leave the safe and security of their homes, they relax their attitudes and unknowingly allow children more freedom and opportunities to engage in uninterrupted play? Perhaps it is because the pressures of working the 9-5 clock aren’t there. It may be because they are relaxed physically and therefore less stressed or it could be because they are outdoors, engaged with nature and those happy feel good endorphins are jet skiing through their veins. I like to believe it is a good combination of all of the above. This theory leads me to wonder, why can’t we hold onto this feeling. Why can’t our holiday vibes become our ‘real life?’

As I observed fellow campers chat and meet their neighbours, myself included.  I reflected on today’s fast paced society and how people live in neighborhoods without ever talking to the people they live so close to. Perhaps the smallness of tents and caravans force occupants to be outdoors and therefore interacting with others. It takes me back to the theory Richard Louv talks about in his book, ‘Last Child in the Woods’ where he discusses the change in history with houses now bigger, there is no need to seek space outdoors. Camping takes us back to basics, in an authentic way. Finally a solution to first world problems…. Knock down your houses people, replace it with a tent! But in all seriousness, why can’t this relaxed attitude and uncomplicated life become the norm? While I know not all people are in to camping, it’s just not their thing and work naturally consumes a hefty chunk of our day. It’s the nature connection,  a basic instinct we are depriving ourselves of with our giant houses, car rides and long work hours that is the problem. Sadly the children of today are merely collateral damage of our actions, unintentionally of course. Their future is in our hands, it’s up to us as educators and parents to provide them with time and space to play outdoors. We need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other and nature. Louv additionally developed the term, ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’, a term used to describe the undeniable problem of today. If you haven’t read his book yet, I strongly recommend you do.

During our time away the children discovered a path that lead down the headland to a secluded rock heaven. This space quickly became known as ‘Our Secret Place’. Hours were spent sitting, exploring, discovering and hypothesizing. It became a place to build on their ideas, test out risky play and to just be. I observed as they worked together, supported each other, shared, argued and developed solutions. Eventually my role lessened as I took a step back and allowed time for them to independently explore. With my full trust they even began to go there together alone, racing back with stories to tell. There was an unspoken respect for the area, the secret place, it created sheer excitement and the thrill of new discoveries. On the first day, they discovered one fish carcass while the following day more had appeared.  Lakyn, simultaneously fascinated and grossed out by the sight couldn’t look away but was reluctant to touch them. Harper took on the responsibility and made the decision to return them to the water.  With her imagination fully unleashed and wild, she held the dead fish at arms length towards her brother and announced, “This is where the mermaids live, maybe they left them here.”