Separation anxiety

Image sourced from

Image sourced from

It’s that time of year when children are beginning new adventures… starting school, child care or preschool and there are mixed emotions. There’s excitement as a result of the social and learning opportunities that are ahead for each child, however parents and educators may be feeling anxiety due to the transition process and settling in that is about to occur.

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is the common and normal fear that children have of being away from their parents or carers.

What does it look like?

In early childhood, crying, tantrums, or clinginess are healthy reactions to separation, but anxiety can greatly vary from child to child. Not every child will find being away from their parents or carers upsetting, and not every child will respond in the same way. When children are upset, they can express this in a number of different ways:  

  • Some may be visibly upset, and will cry or call out.

  • Some may have physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea or tummy aches.

  • Some may appear nervous, restless, clingy, or quiet and withdrawn.

What can educators do to help a child?

  • Create a daily routine with photos of what is coming next, eg. wash hands, then morning tea or lunch then rest.

  • Before a transition occurs, talk with the child and explain what is going to happen next.

  • Spend time with the family and their child on arrival. If you are not already aware from their enrolment forms, ask questions about likes, dislikes, allergies or medical conditions.

  • If you are aware of what a child likes, set up a learning experience to cater for this interest.

  • Provide comforting cuddles and speak softly to the child about their feelings

What can parents do to help their child?

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Image sourced from

  • Go on a tour before beginning, maybe have morning or afternoon tea there, help your child to become more familiar with their new environment.
  • Go shopping together for a special lunch box, hat, water bottle and bag, get excited!

  • On the first day, pack something from home, whether it be a family photo or favourite toy. This familiar object will help a child feel safe and secure in their new environment.

  • Prepare your child by talking about fun things that they will do during the day. What do they have to look forward to? Talk about their teachers and who will be in their room that day.

  • Build a regular routine around drop-off and pick-up so your child feels secure and is able to predict when you will come back. Share a 'high five' or a special goodbye hug as a regular goodbye routine. Settle your child in an enjoyable activity before you leave.

  • Say goodbye to your child briefly – don’t drag it out.

  • Give your child a pick up time, not 3:00pm, rather “after rest time”

  • Children pick up on cues from adults, if you seem worried, this may influence their behaviour. Stay calm and happy whilst saying goodbye to your child, you’re welcome to cry in the car on your way home or to work.

  • When you pick up your child, spend extra time with them to reconnect again. Talk with your child about their day and what they enjoyed. You might be able to look through a daily book or slideshow of photos if in an early childhood setting.

Image sourced from

Image sourced from

For goodness sake, DON’T…

  • Sneak out whilst your child is playing, always say goodbye briefly and explain when you will be back.

  • Hang around and prolong the goodbye, making it harder for you, your child and the educators

  • Be later than you said you would be on pickup


There are so many exciting times ahead this year! I hope these tips help educators, parents and children transition smoothly into their new environments.

Sarah Cameron

Children's Book Review - Orange Pear Apple Bear


Title: Orange Pear Apple Bear

Author: Emily Gravett

Suitable Age Group: 2 1/2 - 5 years

ISBN: 1416939997

Date Released: 2006

Binding: Paperback, hardcover or board book

Pages: 32

Summary: The back cover explains “Deliciously simple, perfectly fun”. That literally says it all. Emily is a very talented writer and illustrator, who offers quirks and humour in her stories to entertain young minds.

The story is made up of four words (orange, pear, apple, bear) arranged in a variety of  ways to convey different meanings. This book has the most beautiful watercolour sketches, cleverly helping to convey the meanings and for giving the bear his own personality. Together, they create a fun and charming story that will especially appeal to those of us who enjoy the complexities of sentence structure and language, exploring how punctuation and sequence create meaning. Or, you could just read this book to see how cute the bear is.

Emily Gravett has created a collection of books which would make perfect gifts for your children, or nieces and nephews. Her books include Wolves, Monkey and Me, Blue Chameleon and Dogs, just to name a few. Enjoy!

Rating: 4 / 5



After a crazy US election, let's find out who Our Education Ministers are...


Our Education Ministers - Our voices in the Australian Government

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Taking Action. Getting Results.

That’s the tagline of our Education Minister Simon Birmingham so that’s promising.

Let’s find out a bit more about our friend Simon…

  • He has served as a Liberal Party Senator for South Australia since May 2007

  • Appointed Minister for Education and Training in September 2015

  • Prior to this, Simon served as the Assistant Education Minister for education for nearly a year before stepping up into this role.

  • Senator Birmingham is keen to see the full childcare package implemented, however acknowledges the challenges ahead due to a tightening budget, according to Sydney Morning Herald.

  • Appreciates and supports Australian wine (Director, Winemakers' Federation of Australia 2002-07)

  • From Adelaide, a proud, but sometimes frustrated, Adelaide Crows fan.

  • Simon can be contacted on


On the contrary, Labor has broken up their Education minister duties, with Kate Ellis specifically taking on the portfolio of Shadow minister for Early Childhood Education and Development.

Let’s find out a bit more about our friend Kate…

  • From Adelaide, Federal Member for Adelaide

  • Entered politics in 2004

  • The youngest person ever to become an Australian government minister

  • In 2010, Kate became the Minister for Employment Participation and Early Childhood and she's worked hard to deliver many key Labor reforms, in particular the increased funding to improve childcare affordability for Australian families.


Children's Book Review - Pig the Pug


Title: Pig the Pug

Author: Aaron Blabey

Suitable Age Group: 3 - 5 years

ISBN: 9781743624777

Date Released: 1st July 2014

Binding: Hardback

Pages: 24


This is one of those books that you find yourself smirking as you read through it. There is humour for both adults and children, there is cleverly written text and amazing illustrations which inject maximum personality into the characters. It is a book that is a lot of fun to read during group times, as you will be pausing for laughter or children's comments as they follow along.

Meet the two characters, Trevor and Pig, who live together. Pig is a pug, he is rude, greedy and mean. Now, Trevor is a polite, friendly sausage dog. Pig has so many amazing toys and he doesn’t want to share. Poor Trevor. However, one day, although Trevor does warn Pig, Pig piles up all his toys, and then something unexpected happens...

Once you have finished this book, you will want another excuse to read it, I know I did.

For more entertaining Pig adventures, follow him in Pig the Fibber and Pig the Winner. There is also a Christmas story that has recently been released, Pig the Elf. I can’t wait to read that one!

Rating: 5 / 5


What is a POLYGLOT?


What is a POLYGLOT?

The Polyglots is a series of apps available through Itunes to help children begin to learn languages. The Polyglots is part of a program funded by the Australian Government’s  Department of Education and Training, and is managed by Education Services Australia. Our Education Minister Simon Birmingham has said to the ABC News, “If there's a sign that we can inspire interest at a younger level, then that's something to really work upon”. 

The Polyglots apps have been custom developed for language learning on mobile tablet devices. The apps provide children the opportunity to develop recognition of the different sounds and concepts of another language through play-based learning. Children are introduced to words, sentences and songs in the language and through age appropriate experiences and practices in the language. The language activities in each of the apps are aligned to the learning outcomes in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), a key component of the Australian Government’s National Quality Framework for early childhood education and care.

Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA)

There has been a significant drop since the 1960’s in the number of Year 12 students choosing to study a second language, so since 2014, the Australian government has been putting money towards a program called Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) in a hope to increase language learning in Australia. The aim of the ELLA program is for children to recognise the different sounds and concepts of a language other than English through the introduction of words, sentences and songs in age-appropriate scenarios and practices. A total of 35 applications were developed for the ELLA trial, consisting of seven unique applications for each of the five offered languages. These languages include Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Indonesian and French. Our Education Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia has seen a marked decline in the study of Indonesian over recent years. But so far, the most popular language when using the app has been Indonesian.

What's in the Apps?

The apps have been designed to consider the needs, interests and capabilities of four-year-olds to five-year olds. The apps provide opportunities for children to learn through interaction with a rich variety of experiences.  The apps encourage collaboration, between peers and with educators as co-learners. The ELLA program includes a suite of materials, including apps for educators and families, resource material and educator support networks, developed through the ELLA trial to support the effective delivery of early language learning in preschool services.

Is learning a second language really that amazing?

Research shows that learning languages develops children’s overall literacy, strengthening literacy-related capabilities that are transferable across learning areas. It also provides children with a head start towards language study at school. This program will enable children to become more comfortable with different languages early in life so that they stay engaged during their later years.

Show me the money...

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the trial has been operating across 41 different preschools. The Government has announced that $5.9 million will be provided over two years from 2016-17 to make the ELLA programme nationally available to all preschools from 2017. From 2017, the programme will be delivered on an opt-in “bring your own device” basis, and will include a grant component to assist up to 1,000 preschools from low socio-economic areas throughout Australia purchase devices ($500 per service) so they can participate in the programme. Updates will be posted on this website, so keep an eye out if you're interested.

Count me in!!!

The Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) program is returning in 2017! If your service would like to take part next year, applications will be opening soon. More information will be available here, shortly, about how to apply. In the meantime, you can register your interest by emailing Education Services at


Children's Book Review - George goes swimming


Title: George goes swimming

Author: Nicola Smee

Suitable Age Group: 1 - 4 year olds

ISBN: 9781408335574

Date Released: 14 / 04 / 2015

Binding: Paperback

Pages: 20

Summary: George begins the book with “I’d like to be able to swim like my fish.” Off to the pool George goes so that he can learn to swim. George’s Mum is there alongside George and continues to reassure him in the water, giving him helpful tips “Mum says I won’t swallow the water if I keep my mouth closed.” So George persists and continues to practise his swimming until… (no spoiler alert here, you’ll just have to read the book yourself!) Let's just say, George has a little fan club clapping for him at the end of the book.

As the warmer weather approaches, and swimming lessons begin, this book is a brilliant way to build water confidence in young children. This book is easy for most children to relate to as it explores the steps George takes to overcome his fear of water in a way that is enjoyable to read. The writing is simple and easy for adults to read with children. The pages offer an opportunity for children to share their swimming experiences with their peers. The illustrations are fantastic, the characters have very expressive faces. The author uses speech bubbles to give George and his mother a voice, which adds depth to their character as well as helping to add to the plot.

This is part of a series by Nicola Smee, follow George on all of his adventures, including doctor visits, getting dressed and going on a plane.

Rating: 5 / 5


Preschool for 3 year olds - “Two years are better than one” report


A huge thank you to all the educators and researchers who have contributed to a report from The Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, which was released earlier this week. Hopefully the report gains support in the media so this important issue is talked about and policies are changed and actioned.

What’s in the report?

It includes evidence in relation to curriculum and pedagogy, and discusses elements of a quality preschool program. The report states “It is time for Australia to pursue a national commitment to ensuring all 3 year olds have access to high-quality early education by offering a second year of preschool”.

What is currently happening

Australia currently has a national preschool program for all children (around four years old) in the year before school – a significant reform that started in 2008 and now provides 15 hours of preschool, delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher.

What needs to happen

It is now time to extend this to three-year-old children, so that all children can access two years of preschool. Early childhood peak bodies, experts and advocates have been calling for an expansion of Universal Access to 3 year olds in their submissions to the Productivity Commission and in pre-budget submissions to state, territory and federal governments.

Challenges to face

For nearly two thirds of Australian 3 year olds, participation in early education and care is the norm. However, only a small proportion of 3 year olds are enrolled in a program led by an early childhood teacher and the children most likely to miss out are the ones who will benefit most. There is no national policy or funding to support access to a preschool program for all 3 year olds. In establishing a second year of preschool, the challenge is to:

  • Make sure all three-year-olds receive the right amount of sufficiently high quality preschool that will have a sustained impact on their development.

  • Ensure the children currently missing out because of financial or other barriers have the opportunity to participate.

Nearly a quarter of Australian children start school without the foundations they need to take advantage of learning opportunities at school. And our school systems are struggling to help them catch up.

Report author Stacey Fox stressed she was not saying pre-school education should be compulsory for three-year-olds but the evidence showed that 15 hours attendance a week from the age of three made a big difference. “The research shows that two years of pre-school provides all children with an extra dose of developmental enrichment,” she said.

Learning through play

Dr Fox says ‘“preschool programs are as much about helping children learn to get along with others, to be creative and collaborative problem solvers, and to understand and talk about their emotions as they are about supporting the foundations of literacy, numeracy and science. Skilled educators use teaching strategies that are appropriate for the age of the child. They extend children’s thinking, encourage them to ask questions, engage them in conversations about things that excite them, and integrate learning into play and exploration.”

The co-authors say research shows learning – including for social and emotional skills – is often sequential where foundational skills and knowledge are mastered before moving on, therefore it wouldn’t be effective to just implement a preschool program for four-year-olds a year earlier. They note the curious nature of three-year-olds means hands-on, active learning approaches work best and we need to think about a child’s learning as a continuum from ‘emerging’ to ‘mastery’, providing scaffolding along the way.

“Three year olds are eager to try and master new skills, such as how to climb up the stairs of the slide, how to propel themselves on a swing, how to paint, draw, or to build with blocks. Mastery learning requires opportunities to practise things again and again, with the support and encouragement of others. This suggests that constantly changing the experiences that are provided is not in children’s best interests. Three year olds will want to revisit activities or experiences over and over and, while the adults may be “bored”, the children will find them interesting because they want to master the learning or skill that is involved.”

Transition to school

Samantha Page from Early Childhood Australia agreed with the recommendation to extend preschool access. "Children who go to a quality preschool are much more likely to make a successful transition into school," she said. "We know that we have nearly a quarter of children starting school at a disadvantage to their peers, that means they're coming into school behind where their peers are and it's fairly difficult for those children to catch up. In fact most of them don't and we can correct that by investing more in the preschool years."

Our Education minister...

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said he welcomed the discussion about extending preschool. "I've been speaking publicly about extending preschool to three year olds for nearly a year. It's a complex issue in terms of what settings it should be delivered in and for what hours as well as how it is funded," he said. "Nonetheless we are looking at international models and will engage with state leaders who have a prime responsibility in the delivery and funding of any preschool expansion."

Senator Birmingham said the Government's focus now was trying to pass the savings needed to pay for the planned overhaul of the child care and early education system.

Recommendations from the report

The report recommends Federal and State governments investigate national implementation of a three-year-old program. It says that would bring Australia into line with most developed countries which provide two years of pre-school. Dr Fox said other OECD countries had extended preschool and educational outcomes had improved. "We've looked across the international research literature. We've spoken to preschool teachers and child development experts in Australia and there's an overwhelming consensus that two years of preschool gives children the best start," Dr Fox said. "All of the evidence shows that two years of high-quality preschool is one of the best ways to amplify children's learning and development."

Final thoughts

The Conversation sums up this issue perfectly, “we have achieved near-universal enrolment in preschool for four year olds in the past five years. We can do the same thing for three year olds”.

For those of you who are settled in, here’s some further reading...



Sick of listening to the Wiggles album on repeat? Here's a fun alternative...

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KINDERLING is a family-friendly kids online and digital radio station for children and their grown-ups. KINDERLING Kids radio is the first of its kind in Australia and follows a family friendly schedule.

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Who is involved?

Lorna Clarkson, music director of Kinderling explains "The way we program the music through the day it is all about energy," explains Clarkson. "When the kids are up and getting out of the house, the energy is super up; when we are trying to get them to sleep in the evening, then it goes right down and tries to calm everything when they might be going feral before bedtime."

What will I hear?

Kinderling Managing Director Evan Kaldor said, “From the Wiggles to The White Stripes, Vegetable Plot to Village People, Danny Kaye to Daft Punk and Justine Clarke to Johnny Cash, Kinderling Kids Radio is redefining music for kids. We are creating shared moments for the music lover in the child, and the child in the music lover".

Radio vs Screen time

Kinderling Kids Radio is a parent’s companion to their day with kids. Through this relationship, we can facilitate a trusted connection between family-friendly brands and a community of parents. Kinderling Kids Radio highlights the relevance of radio as an alternative form of entertainment to screen time, and one that can spark imagination in kids and conversation amongst parents.

There is also a website and a newsletter you can sign up to if you want to keep updated on this amazing initiative.

* In no way are Pencil receiving any benefits out of introducing you to Kinderling, we just wanted to share this cool discovery with you and hope you enjoy!


Implications of Hearing Loss in Early Childhood


Impact of hearing loss on brain development
Babies’ brains develop rapidly in the first months and years of life, as they experience the world through all their senses. The baby’s brain must be exposed to meaningful sounds consistently in order for these auditory neural pathways in the brain to develop. If a baby does not hear sounds well, or is only exposed to just a little bit of sound or speech during his/her early years of life, a permanent, reassignment of the child’s auditory brain cells occurs.
However, babies with hearing loss that is identified in the first weeks of life and who begin hearing optimally through amplification by 2-3 months (no later than 6 months) have a good chance of being able to develop the neural connections in their auditory brain pathways that are necessary to lay the foundation for spoken language development. This is especially true if they are provided with enhanced listening experiences.

All areas of development
To develop spoken language, children must be able to hear speech clearly and also to hear themselves mimic the sounds. But not only language development is dependent on a child’s ability to hear. Their listening skills also influence a broader range of development, such as their ability to interact socially and to build friendships, as well as to develop the cognitive skills needed for reading and writing.

Early Intervention
The most important time for a child to learn language is in the first 3 years of life. In fact, children begin learning speech and language in the first 6 months of life. Research suggests that children with hearing loss who get help early develop better language skills than those who don’t. Early intervention is important for helping children with hearing loss reach their full potential in all areas of development and learning, particularly language and communication. Spoken or signed language is the basis for communication and literacy. These are key areas for a child’s interaction with their family and the wider community.
Early intervention can come in many forms, including fitting a child with hearing aids as is the case in the video, or a cochlear implant; providing parents, with support and information; and providing education programs and training to assist each child with language development.

In the classroom
The cochlear implant has changed the ways that children with significant hearing loss are educated. Although impressive in their accomplishments and challenges they have overcome in life already, these children still require support when entering a classroom environment to ensure their success. From the perspective of their functional communication, children with
 cochlear implants should be supported by educators with similar supports provided to children with moderate or severe levels of hearing loss. This support includes the introduction of additional technologies and educators who are trained in working with hearing impaired children.

Talk, talk, talk...
Keep in mind that hearing children in the pre-verbal stage get feedback from an adult when they look at things, like a running commentary. It is important to have a joint focus, letting the child explore and control their environment, but you can also facilitate language development by sitting with the child and talking about what they are doing. As an adult working with a hearing impaired child, try and respond as often as possible, and try to follow the child’s focus (as you would with a hearing baby or young child). Keep bringing the child’s attention to sounds that you can hear.

Simple tips to make the child’s life easier
Once the operation is over for the child, and the cochlear implant is working, there will be several years work by all those involved with the child to facilitate listening, speech, and language development.

Important things to remember when communicating with a child with an implant in the learning environment or home:
- face the child when communicating
- talk clearly so they can see your lip patterns
- and when needed, use gesture, sign or visuals to help understanding

Where to from here?
Discovering that a child has a hearing loss can be a time of adjustment for the child and their family. It’s also a time for action, as research has shown there is a small window when early intervention can make a significant difference in the long term. As we all know, the early years are critical to a young child’s development, so beginning intervention as soon as possible after diagnosis of a hearing loss minimises the delay in a child’s development.