Standard 2.1 Health – Case study 2
Each child’s health and physical activity is supported and promoted.
This long day care service is situated in a regional city. There is considerable variation in the social and economic circumstances of families living in the city. This includes families who may be experiencing disadvantage, as well as families from a range of diverse cultural backgrounds.
The service is committed to the objectives and guiding principles of the National Quality Framework, which inform their service philosophy and overarching vision to ensure all children have the best possible start in life. They strive to achieve this vision through their commitment to continuous quality improvement and ongoing professional learning, both within the service and the broader community. The service provides professional learning opportunities for educators based on interests and needs identified within the community and families attending the service. For example, when the service noticed a trend of families coming forward with concerns regarding their children’s fine motor development, the service arranged a workshop through a local occupational therapist.
The service is well connected to the local education and care sector and schools through their participation in bi-monthly community network meetings. Discussions at these meetings typically focus on current and emerging issues specific to the priorities and needs of children and families in the local community. Current research and guidance, theoretical perspectives and other available data sources are reviewed and used as sources for discussion and reflection at the meetings.
At a recent network meeting, the group reviewed the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data specific to their local community. They noticed a trend in the AEDC data over the past six years showing that the percentage of children who were experiencing vulnerability or at potential risk was increasing. Children’s physical health and wellbeing were highlighted as particular vulnerabilities. The service representatives at the meeting shared with others that this data was consistent with educators’ observations in the service, as well as with families’ increasing concerns and queries about how they could promote their child’s physical development at home.
The group agreed to work together as part of a coordinated approach to respond to this data. This included, as a first step, identifying key stakeholders in the community that might assist them in their efforts, for example people, businesses or organisations with expertise in the area of health and wellbeing. Guest speakers were invited to the next network meeting to share information with the group on a range of topics. These included physical activity, yoga, healthy eating, connecting with nature and mindfulness.
Following the networking meeting, those who had attended shared key ideas with the team over a series of staff meetings. These ideas were considered along with feedback from families through a recent survey, where the service asked families what was important to them in promoting their child’s health and wellbeing. The survey also asked families what types of activities they would like to see happening more in the service, whether they needed ideas for what they could do at home, and what support they would like from the service to promote children’s health and physical activity.
Feedback from children, collected through ongoing conversations over several weeks, was also shared and discussed with the service team. Frequent and ongoing consultation with children is interwoven through most aspects of the service’s practice, upholding their commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this instance, educators talked to children about what physical activities they enjoyed at the service and at home and what additional things they would like to do that weren’t currently available to them. Educators transcribed children’s ideas and reported these ideas back to them to check that they had understood them correctly.
After considering the information gathered from the networking meeting and the feedback from children and families, educators engaged in lively discussion and debate about their current practice in relation to children’s health and physical activity. An important part of this discussion was a review of whether practices that were working well were supported by underpinning intentions and their purpose and rationale. Educators also reflected on what hadn’t been working well and discussed opportunities for improvements in light of the new information that had been gathered.
For example, in reflecting on what was working well, educators commented on the success of a past project undertaken with children to create a dedicated space in the playroom where children could retreat for rest or relaxation. This was planned to support children who may be feeling overwhelmed or stressed as well as providing a space to have time away from other children. The children were integral to making decisions about what items should be included in the space, such as quiet music, pillows and mood lights. They were also involved in selecting these items. Observations of children accessing this space and feedback from families about their children’s commentary about the new quiet area, supported the educators’ assessment.
There was also agreement amongst educators of the value of regular visits to the botanic gardens in supporting children’s health and wellbeing, a view that was shared by children and families. This project began at the suggestion of one of the parents, who was a horticulturalist at the gardens and had been researching the impact of nature on wellbeing. Some families also commented favourably on the fruit and water stations that were available in the children’s rooms, so that they had free access to food and drink throughout the day without needing to ask adults for permission or help.
Educators also used the feedback to reflect on new ideas and possibilities that they hadn’t considered previously, to think about what they might need to start doing or do differently. For example, some families felt the service’s menu could do with a revamp. They felt that menus could offer more variety, including offering meals that better reflect the diverse cultures, beliefs and lifestyles represented at the service. Other families indicated that they were keen to receive tips from the service on how to extend their own repertoire of tasty, nutritious and affordable family meals.
Feedback from the children included that they wanted to spend more time outside playing with their friends. Some educators found this feedback surprising, as the service has embedded a free flow indoor and outdoor approach for all age groups. Following some deep reflection and discussion, educators recognised that perhaps there were times when children hadn’t been able to be outside due to an emphasis on specifically planned indoor experiences. They all agreed that more care should be taken to plan experiences that could be delivered indoors or outdoors.
Some of the educators who had attended a recent workshop were keen to share what they had learned about how physical activity can support the educational program and practice. Other educators expressed interest in extending their own skills and gaining new ideas for setting up physical activities for children of varying age groups and abilities. Some other educators identified that they wanted to become more confident when talking with children about how their bodies worked and the importance of physical activities for health and wellbeing.
The main ideas and themes emerging from these discussions were captured in the staff meeting minutes, with a summary included on the news-board in the foyer area and in the next service newsletter. The service representatives also shared their reflections and planned actions at the following network meeting so that other services could hear about their deliberations and so that if there were mutual interests and priorities, opportunities were provided for working collaboratively.
After further consultation with children, families and educators, the service teamed up with another local service to apply for a grant from a local fitness and wellness business to engage a personal trainer to develop a physical exercise program and a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating program for both services. Goals included in the grant application were to help staff enhance their skills and confidence in providing a greater range of physical activities for the children. This included a focus on aerobic activity and activities to increase balance and coordination. Other goals were to refresh the current menus at each service and deliver a series of menu planning and cooking workshops for families and educators.
After successfully receiving the grant, the service engaged a personal trainer and nutritionist who were located within their area. The personal trainer, who had previous experience working with children, worked in collaboration with educators to talk with the children about how their bodies worked, ask questions about what physical activities they enjoyed and were good at, as well as anything they would like to learn more about. Together they planned and introduced a range of games and physical activities. At the children’s request, these were undertaken as a local excursion on the oval next to the service, where they enjoyed the freedom of moving in the large open space.
The nutritionist worked with the cook to review the menu, taking into account menu planning guidelines and feedback from families and children. Families were asked to share menu ideas from their cultural backgrounds as well as to offer suggestions that they know their child enjoys at home. Individual children’s dietary needs and preferences were also considered. The nutritionist also met with a small group of children to further capture their ideas for the service menu. Cooking workshops were conducted by the nutritionist and were popular with both families and educators. Recipes were made available that could be used with children, at home and in the service.
As the project developed the service kept in close contact with the other service that had received a grant, to share ideas and discuss progress. The service team was excited to share their experience with the network group at subsequent meetings. They were also keen to hear what other services had been doing.
The service team documented their experiences as the project evolved, using photos, children’s artwork, transcripts of conversations with children and families, and staff reflections. These were shared with families in various ways, including a display in the foyer, the service’s communication app and pedagogical documentation throughout the playrooms.
The director allocated time in staff meetings to discuss the various projects being undertaken in the different rooms, to share and celebrate stories of success and identify solutions to any challenges as they arose. These conversations also included a focus on the service’s supervision, risk assessment and injury management procedures in relation to the implementation of the physical activity program.
* To create a print friendly version of this case study, please click ‘print’ in the red menu bar.