Beaconsfield Kindergarten, located in Cardinia, has been recognised by the Victorian Government for completing all Health Priority Areas in the Healthy Early Childhood Services Achievement Program.
The kindergarten, which educates about 225 children, has long been dedicated to promoting a healthy environment for children, staff and families. In a bid to consolidate and improve its health and wellbeing efforts the kindergarten joined the Achievement Program in 2012.
Since then, it has met best-practice targets for all seven of the program’s health areas including Healthy Eating and Oral Health, Physical Activity, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Sun Protection, Safe Environments, and Smoking, Alcohol and Other Drugs.
By focusing on these areas, the kindergarten has been able to implement new and exciting initiatives to help children, staff and families establish healthier habits, which has been welcomed by the whole kindergarten community.
“When I pick my daughter up it’s not just her and her friends’ smiles that I see but those of the educators as well. And whenever she’s been involved in a new activity or outing, she can’t wait to share her new discoveries with me,” a kindergarten parent said.
Children have been engaged in a number of healthy eating experiences including cooking demonstrations, growing produce in the vegetable garden and hot house, looking after the worm farm and visiting the local supermarket. To keep active and improve spatial awareness, children participate in daily structured play including obstacle courses and circuits tailored for all abilities and excursions to the local park to promote nature-based play such as running races, exploring or team sports such as cricket and soccer.
In addition, to support mental health and wellbeing, mindfulness has been another key focus. A memorable incursion was Kids Roar, where children learnt about protective behaviours and feelings of safety. One activity, ‘Mr Snappy Crocodile’, saw children press the crocodile tooth and wait to see if it snapped. This helped them become aware of what their body does when they’re scared, with some children reporting their heart rate increased, they felt hot or had jelly legs. The kindergarten also participated in the Clothesline project, which saw white t-shirts hung at the front of the kinder to raise awareness of family violence.
Other initiatives have included practising sun smart behaviours between September and April with children applying their own sunscreen and putting on their hats before going outside, along with opportunities to take part in dental checks and eye tests when local health providers visit the kindergarten.
However, healthy changes have not been limited to the children, with staff also having benefited from a health and wellbeing policy. Activities stemming from this include a wellbeing day (which has become an annual highlight), the establishment of an employee assistance program, regular staff social events, and ongoing information sessions for families, which aim to share trusted tools and resources for important health topics such as positive parenting, sleeping, active play and healthy eating.
Education leaders, Jenny Presutto and Sharon Hancock, said the Achievement Program has strengthened the kindergarten’s commitment to meaningful engagement with children, families, educators and the local community.
“We’ve had so many positive outcomes including the children’s optimistic attitudes towards healthy foods and drinking water, healthier lunchboxes with parents more focused on healthy eating, strengthened connections to local community programs and a happier overall kindergarten culture,” Ms Presutto and Ms Hancock said.
All the great work was undertaken with support from Monash Health’s local health promoter Belinda Hogg who is a passionate expert in implementing healthy changes and says it’s a real joy of the job.
"Beaconsfield Kindergarten has shown ongoing dedication to the Achievement Program, establishing health and wellbeing practices at both its sites. Having several staff engaged in the process has helped it to successfully embed all aspects of the Achievement Program into the service culture. The changes implemented from working through the health priority areas show its commitment and passion to support the service community," Ms Hogg said.
The kindergarten remains committed to keeping health and wellbeing a priority will continue to draw on the Achievement Program’s health and wellbeing resources and support.