Turning over a new leaf for mental health

Monday 5 March, 2018

Child at Rowan View Preschool 

Rowan View Preschool’s creative approach to wellbeing has changed the way kids and families talk about mental health in their preschool.  

This Wendouree kindergarten is located in an area where families and children are often dealing with increased stress as a result of  high needs and low-incomes.

This meant that when they came to work on the Mental Health and Wellbeing area for the Achievement Program, they knew there was a lot of room to grow.

As they worked through the best-practice benchmarks outlined in the program, staff and educators were encouraged to model healthy emotional behavior, have discussions with children about emotions, and talk about how to pick themselves up when things weren’t going their way.

The preschool also crafted two unique spaces that helped children reflect and regulate their emotions and get away from the stimulation of a busy kindergarten room. The first was a cubby constructed out of bread crates, and based on its success, the centre created a collaborative project to build a relaxation tree.

Educational Leader, Janelle Bassett, noticed that the children caught on very quickly that each of these spaces could be used for quiet reflection and time to calm down.   

“We have a lot of families that don’t have good sleeping routines” Janelle said “so [children] will come in really tired and angry, and they’ll go straight to the crate. They’re self-regulating their values and moods.”

This approach to helping children self-regulate is a great fit for the Achievement Program’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Benchmarks, which emphasise supporting children’s mental health and helping them develop resilience. 

Janelle also noticed that the spaces gave children the opportunity for empathy and recognising when other children might be needing space.

“They can see when someone goes in there when they’re sad and the children pick up on that and say ‘I don’t think he’s feeling well today’”.

Families at the centre quickly adopted this unique method of calming their children and will happily tell educators and staff that their children are ‘in the tree’ this morning.

One of the key focuses of the Achievement Program is family engagement, so staff at the centre were excited to find that the focus on mental health and wellbeing has helped to inspire stronger relationships with families as well, with more communication happening when there are issues at home that may be affecting the children in their care.

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