We’re chatting to Bec Valentine, whose nature-based daycare is clearly run with lashings of love, a whole lot of passion, and endless influences from mother nature! Read on!
Q – Before you opened your family daycare you’d previously been a teacher. What inspired you to make the change to early childhood education?
A – It was when my little girl Reeva was born that drew me to the Early Years. Having so much time off work with her to play, experiment, observe and just ‘be’ in the world were some of the best days of my life. The days would sometimes be crowded with thoughts such as, ‘I should probably go back to work soon’, and it scared me, to be honest. Teaching was an amazing experience, but I found it all too consuming. There were many nights where I barely slept because I was busy preparing for the next day; I never felt like I could switch off. This was fine when I didn’t have Reeva, but with her it scared me because I knew I would have to sacrifice either time with Reeva or time planning for a classroom of children who also needed me.
So, I looked into other options… I found a teacher bridging diploma and commenced study! Family day care has been THE MOST AMAZING SOLUTION to all of my worries. I get to be home with my little girl every day, I get to teach her every day, and I get to work with a small group of children every day… playing, experimenting, observing, and just being! I haven’t looked back.
Q – Can you describe a standout moment of joy you’ve had as an Educator?
A – We have recently explored emotions and my little ones love naming feelings of characters in stories and telling me how they feel. The other day, while the girls were playing in the backyard (with one of those crawl-through pop-up tunnels), I could hear what sounded like arguing. I turned to see two little toddlers yelling at each other. Nothing physical was going on, so I just observed for a while to try figure out what they were saying. Turns out they were taking it in turns to yell ‘Happy Snake’ (because the tunnel has a smiley face at the top and is long like a snake). They were yelling it in high pitch then low pitch tones and were laughing at each other. Every time that pops into my mind, I find myself giggle and smile. It’s the little things each day that bring me so much joy… and there are so many cute moments like this!
Q – You’ve said that your family daycare is inspired by nature, which is evident in many of the activities you do with the children in your care. Could you share some of the nature-inspired activities you’ve done that really stood out?
A – I find nature so interesting! And I think children are the same. Leaf skeletons, green ant nests, ochre, spider webs, the insides of flowers, seeds, bees… you can sit with a child with these things and just observe without talking. Nature allows you to spend time together appreciating and taking it all in. I am inspired by nature because of this.
A standout activity for me would be our snail week where we caught two snails, fed them, and watched them slowly slide to freedom after seeing what fruits they liked to eat. We often see snails in the garden now and the toddlers here always stop and squat to watch them moving – especially their eyes (they were all a bit obsessed with the long eyes).
Another amazing experience was finding a chrysalis in our garden and watching a butterfly emerge. It began to emerge one morning when all of my little ones were just arriving. Reeva and I were so excited, yelling for them to come quickly! We got to see the whole process unfold, and even read picture books about what was happening while it was happening. It was a really cool thing to experience, even for me. We’re always looking for butterflies and flapping our arms while running around on windy days pretending to be them now.
One super easy activity I always come back to (because the children love it) is just Play-Doh and nature bits! I am lucky to have families who collect things for me on their beach and nature walks, so we have a great selection of natural loose parts at the moment for the children to enjoy. They love filling the holes of gumnuts with Play-Doh and then digging it out again with a little stick.
Q – Now that you’ve been running your service for a while, what are the benefits – as you see them – of being a family daycare educator?
- Your baby: It’s your business – and it could be as great or as bad as you want it to be. You’re in control so make it amazing!
- Your actual baby: If you have kids of your own, you can be with them every day to catch special milestones and watch them grow before your very eyes.
- Trust: These days, not many businesses allow autonomy or trust people to do well without a bit of micromanaging. If you love what you do, you will do well.
- Community: Lots of people told me before I started that it can get lonely. They said you’re on your own and don’t get to talk to many adults during the day. But I’ve found the opposite. I’ve met so many likeminded educators who have helped me along the way my families have become my friends, and I can organise play dates with other local family day care operators! This working community that I find myself in has been the best I’ve ever experienced.
- No commute: Start and finish at home – how good!
- Relationships with the children: I’ve seen them sad, seen them angry, built them up, encouraged them to be caring, confident, empathetic, and brave. I’ve watched their little personalities and capabilities bloom. They honestly all feel like my own children.
Q – How does Kinderloop support your journey as an educator?
A – Kinderloop makes my paperwork and communicating with families so much easier.
I currently have a planning diary which I would fill out daily with my wekly plan, safety checklists, nappy changes, sleep checks, learning stories, observations and daily photo board. I would often spend my quiet time (when the children are sleeping) filling this all out and preparing it for my families to view, but no one did. By the end of the day, everyone just wants to get home and be with their loved ones. I get it.
A friend mentioned Kinderloop and since using it I find that I complete this part of my day in half the time that it took me previously – and it all gets sent to my families instantly! I love Kinderloop!
Q – What is your favourite feature (or features) in Kinderloop? And is there a feature that you’d like to see incorporated into Kinderloop?
A – I like how my daily feed can be sent to groups, not everyone, so only families booked in on a Monday will be sent my Monday alerts. I also like how you can modify the ‘daily activities’ to suit what you want to share, such as how much morning tea and lunch was eaten, how many nappy changes, sleep and wake times, and any additional comments. It’s just so easy – a click of a button and, done!
My current diary has scattered observations (explained and linked to learning outcomes) throughout the year to make sure that every learning outcome is covered. I do really like this part of my old diary because you know that by the end of the year you have not missed anything. As a new Early Years Educator this does make me feel like I am on top of things. I wonder if Kinderloop could somehow incorporate this or show gaps from our selected learning outcomes. For example, what we are observing/focusing on most of the time and what we may be missing.
My current diary has scattered observations (explained and linked to learning outcomes) throughout the year to make sure that every learning outcome is covered. I do really like this part of my diary because it allows you to ensure that, by the end of the year, you have not missed anything. As a new Early Years Educator, this does make me feel like I am on top of things. I wonder if Kinderloop could somehow incorporate a feature/function that allows you to keep track of or show gaps from our selected learning outcomes. For example, it could allow me to monitor what learning outcomes are being focused on the most as well what areas may be missing or requiring more attention.
Note from Kinderloop…. Oh hey Bec, we have a tagging feature that can help. Check out the video on our Kinderloop Vimeo channel to guide you!
Q – Do you have a favourite child-friendly recipe you might be willing to share with us?
A – I’m not the best cook, but my little ones love to cook! Our favourite things to cook/make are banana bread, fruity icy poles, and pastries.
I always have pastry in my freezer.
- Carefully remove a sheet
- Have the children paint it with butter – clean hands or cooking brush
- Spread some vegemite – clean hands or cooking brush
- Sprinkle with cheese
- Roll and cut. Bake.
- TA DA! Vegemite scrolls – yum!
I also used to add a vegetable mix when Reeva went through a no vegetable phase. They were a hit and it’s always nice to know your little one is getting the nutrients they need.
Thanks so much Bec! We think attending Inner Bloom FDC would be incredibly nurturing! Your passion is evident!