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Programs for children

Quality programs in early education and care services, such as long day care or preschool, are developed to support and guide children in all areas of their learning and development, in ways that take into account each child’s interests, strengths, experiences, culture and needs.

How are programs planned?

Planning a program for children is a process in which staff design experiences and activities aimed at developing and extending each child’s thinking, skills, interests and abilities. While all services are required to plan for children, the way this is done will look different in each service. The program will be a written plan that is based on documented records of observations and interactions with children and/or on written profiles of children’s needs, interests and abilities.

Staff will plan for children through a constant process of thinking clearly about what experiences are being provided for children and why. Parents can ask to see the program for their child to help them understand the ways educators plan to build upon their child’s previous experiences, interests and successes.

What should a program look like?

There is no set way a program must look. However, all programs should involve planning for all areas of children’s learning and development, including their:

  • physical skills (large and small muscles)
  • language and literacy skills
  • personal and interpersonal skills
  • creativity and skills in expressive arts
  • problem solving, thinking and mathematical abilities

The activities and experiences to build these understandings and skills will look different, depending upon the age or the developmental level of the child. Some typical examples of the ways that children of different ages may be planned for include:

+ Babies

Many experiences for babies are planned around routines such as meal and nappy change times, sleep and settling routines. These plans will be very individualised, and usually focused on one to one interactions between the baby and the educator.

When planning for babies, staff and families need to work together to understand what is seen as being important in assisting their child to settle happily into the service while developing their skills. Other experiences involve music, talking, singing and reading to babies, building their foundation skills for literacy. Movement activities such as rolling and practising standing will also help their physical development.

+ Toddlers

Planning for toddlers generally has a strong focus on supporting them to develop their language, independence and social skills. Planned experiences will often focus on supporting toddlers to engage in play experiences where they can practice and develop their skills in this area.

Planned experiences could include one-on-one and small groups, and be flexible enough to allow children to engage in each experience in a way that best suits their interests and abilities. Staff will act as guides and role models, helping children to negotiate with others and to express their emotions appropriately

+ Preschool age

Programs for preschool age children build on foundational skills and focus on the further development of knowledge and skills around reading, writing, science and mathematics. This knowledge and skills are developed through programs that are planned, play based and focused on children’s interests.

There can be a mix of individual, small and larger group activities planned and children are encouraged to make choices about the experiences which they participate in. Staff will not only learn about children by observing them and talking with their families; they will also get to know children well through their everyday conversations with them.

+ School age children

The programs that are planned for  school age children need to recognise and be responsive to the fact that children are already attending a formal school program. Staff ensure that planned experiences cater for children’s extracurricular recreational and social activities, as well as give them time to relax before and after the school day and during school holidays.

Children are encouraged to participate in decision making about the experiences that are planned. While all areas of children’s development are catered for, there is often an emphasis on recreation, leisure and the further development of social and life skills.

How can families find out about the service’s program?

The best way for families to find out about the program planned for their child is to speak with staff in the service.

Some useful questions that families can ask include:

  • What activities and experiences are provided for children in the service?
  • Are these written down, and if so, can families see these plans?
  • How is the daily program displayed for families?
  • How do staff in the service decide what activities, materials and experiences are provided for children?
  • How do staff find out whether children are benefiting from and enjoying the program being provided?
  • How can families be involved in planning and evaluating programs for children?

Many services will explain the way they structure programs to families during the enrolment and/ or orientation process. Other services may share this information with families at a later stage, to avoid overwhelming them with too much information at the start. However, all families have the right to ask staff about the program that is planned for their child, and information should also be shared with families about their child’s learning, development, achievements and any issues that may be identified.

How can families be involved in planning the program for their child?

A good program will incorporate information from families about their child’s interests and experiences outside of the service.

Some of the ways that services may seek this information include:

  • Daily conversations with families at the start and/or end of the day.
  • Formal meetings with families.
  • Communication books that are used for families and staff to exchange information about the child at home and at the service (these are more commonly used for babies and younger children).
  • Daily diaries or spaces on the program documentation where families can write their ideas, suggestions and information about their child’s interests and experiences.
Female educator and two children playing with wooden blocks

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