Tootgarook service outlines significant changes after joining Achievement Program
Capel Sounds Educational Child Care Centre and Kindergarten located in the Melbourne suburb of Tootgarook on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula believes that the early years play an important role in growing healthy, happy children.
Director Wendy Stoffels, who has responsibility for a large staff team who care for over 150 children on any given day, is dedicated to giving all children a healthy start, and this was the motivation behind joining the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services Achievement Program in 2017, to build on health and wellbeing work already happening within the service.
“The free initiative, underpinned by evidence, was a great way to strengthen our health and wellbeing efforts. It gave us focus and direction,” Mrs Stoffels said.
Since joining, the service, with support from Peninsula Health, has achieved Victorian Government recognition for all six health areas in the program – healthy eating and oral health, physical activity and movement, mental health and wellbeing, sun protection, safe environments, and tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
The healthy changes
Highlights of the many healthy changes made to the service’s policies and practices, culture and physical environment, include:
- Children growing, harvesting and caring for their vegetable gardens.
- Cooking demonstrations, using the fresh produce from the garden.
- An on-site chef to prepare nutritious meals for the children.
- Annual visits from the local dentist and dietitian to teach children about healthy eating and caring for their teeth. The kindergarten also provides toothbrushes and encourages children to brush their teeth after lunch each day.
- Extending the Out and About program to offer fun active activities such as walking excursions to the beach or wetlands, physical activity challenges, bike and scooter riding, and uninterrupted play on the playground with equipment to suit children of all abilities.
- Daily yoga, dance or meditation sessions.
- Loose parts play, which gives children a diverse range of materials such as pipes, tyres, wooden planks and pots to encourage imaginative play. Loose parts play also promotes teamwork and collaboration.
- Yarning circles to give children the chance to reflect on their emotions and improve their listening skills, helping to promote positive mental wellbeing.
- A kindness jar to encourage children to perform kind acts. They are given a stone to put in the jar, once the jar is full, the class takes part in a fun activity.
- Kindness curriculum in the kinder, which supports positive language and positive role modelling.
- A classroom puppet friend called ‘Persistent Pete’, which teaches children how to be resilient and demonstrate patience throughout the day.
- Employing a designated health and wellbeing officer who supports children, educators, staff and families in all areas covered in the Achievement Program as well as leading our Health and Wellbeing team which consists of educators, management and parents. The officer also produces a quarterly Health and Wellbeing Newsletter which is distributed to the whole service community.
The above activities along with new policies and other healthy opportunities have increased the whole service community’s health awareness. The healthier environment and culture have led to shifts in behaviours, such as:
- More children riding or walking to kindergarten with their parents.
- Healthy conversations happening at home, such as eating well and being sun smart.
- Staff, families and children are having more relaxed and open conversations about their mental health and wellbeing.
- Children’s social awareness and relationship skills have improved.
- Increased enthusiasm and interest in activities which support healthy lifestyles.
The service is excited to continue their success by starting the Achievement Program’s Climate and Health pathway, which will enhance its existing health and wellbeing efforts.
To join the free Achievement Program, or for more information, visit the website, here.