Moving to bigger things at five
New play-based kits are helping families give young children a smoother ride when starting school.
Lisa Heinze has been at the helm of the 3Bs playgroups since their inception. She has developed transition-to-school kits as part of the organisations five-year celebrations.
“Each kit has an information sheet with several activities which see parents and carers play alongside their children,” said Lisa.
“While the activities may seem simple – like making a chef’s hat – they are actually cleverly designed; fun while developing the fine motor skills children need before they head into school.”
Like the five-year-old kids preparing for big school, five-year-old 3Bs is going through a transition of its own, making its own new normal in the face of COVID-19.
During the pandemic, Lisa said they’d been using virtual playgroups and adding activities and competitions on the Eurobodalla Children’s Services Facebook page. She says physical playgroups will restart only when health and education authorities deem it safe.
Lisa said it was the ideal time to push ahead with a style of nature-based learning called forest school.
“So many kids these days have high levels of anxiety – nature changes that,” said Lisa.
“We can take a nature walk where we’ll sit for a few minutes and ask, what does nature sound like? Then, what does nature feel like? Look like? Smell like? This connection reduces anxiety and promotes wellbeing.”
Lisa had tested out forest school last year, taking some kids out to Broulee Island – they came home saying they’d had “the funnest day in their entire life.”
“At first parents feel safer coming to our outdoor bush activities. Now we’ve got mums meeting up to take their kids on adventures themselves; it’s free, it’s accessible and it’s a lovely way to be with your child.”
Forest school is quite a step from where 3Bs started five years ago.
“I was hired, given a van, and asked to deliver seven playgroups across the shire. I had to resource them, staff them and talk to the community about locations,” said Lisa.
“Playgroups works differently to kindy start programs. At playgroups, the parents are alongside, supporting their child and providing familiarity in the new school environment. The feedback I get is that children are more at ease as they transition to school.”
3Bs playgroups have a fixed routine – with an hour of free play and an hour of structured play.
“It doesn’t matter which 3Bs group in the shire to visit, that format is the same. It’s this structured environment that gets children prepared for the structure of school,” said Lisa
“While mostly outdoors, we include different areas of the school – the library, the hall, a classroom – getting them confident in the physical spaces.”
Funded by the Department of Social Services, 3Bs playgroups are for children ages 0-5 and held at various locations across the shire; schools, halls and parks. The playgroups are free and delivered by professional educators.
For more information, visit https://www.esc.nsw.gov.au/council-services/community-services/childrens-services/3Bs-Playgroups or email Eurobodalla Council’s playgroups coordinator Lisa Heinze at email@example.com
To stay up to date with events and activities by Eurobodalla Children’s Services, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/EurobodallaChildrensServices/.
Above: Ruby and Belinda with a 3Bs activity kit.