CONNECTING FAMILIES: New restrictions on who can attend child care has reduced numbers at a Gatton centre, but staff are determined to help the children socialise and stay connected. Photo: iStock
CONNECTING FAMILIES: New restrictions on who can attend child care has reduced numbers at a Gatton centre, but staff are determined to help the children socialise and stay connected. Photo: iStock

Child care takes new approaches to keep kids connected

NUMBERS at a Gatton childcare centre have taken another hit following the Federal Government's new rulings.

Staff at the Lockyer Valley Early Education Centre had initially hoped the government's offer of free child care for essential workers would bring more children to the centre, but now the opposite is happening.

Under the latest Department of Education rulings, services are required to "prioritise care to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and children with existing enrolments. The new rules enable services, where they have capacity, to take others outside these priority groups."

"Two weeks ago we were asking people to please come back because we're trying to keep the service going for families that need it, but as of today we can only have the kids where both parents are working," centre director Tiani Strickland said.

"If one parent is home, the kids need to stay home with their families. We were averaging about 17 a week but we've dropped a bit now."

READ MORE: Staff hope free childcare offer will boost centre numbers

She said the decision hadn't sat well with some parents, but the centre was dedicated to adhering to the new legal limitations.

"Some parents are upset they can't bring their children in, but the rules are the rules unfortunately. We don't want anyone to get in trouble," Ms Strickland said.

The centre will be moving to take up new approaches such as online learning areas and Zoom meetings to bring together the children who are missing out and get their families more involved.

"Parents at home can log in with their children so they feel a bit more involved in what's going on and talk with their teacher," Ms Strickland said.

"We've got our new playground opening, we're going to be doing that online so everyone can see what a wonderful job all the workmen did."

She said the children in particular would benefit from the new medium.

"The kids can see their friends and get that interaction and social contact so they're not feeling completely isolated," she said.

"It's good for the children who do get that separation anxiety when they are dropped off. We can keep that contact up so that when things do get back to normal it hopefully won't be as hard when they come back to child care."

Although the future is far from certain, Ms Strickland said the centre was already looking forward to other new activities to keep the children engaged and help them connect with other members of the community.

"Before all of this happened we were going to start doing aged care visits at the local centre and we started organising that, but all this happened," she said.

"I want to actually start a program where the kids can write letters and introduce themselves to all the people there, so that when this crisis is over they'll feel like they know each other. We can do online meetings with them as well.

"I think the elderly have been left out in a way, they don't understand, so I'd really like to reach out to those folks as well."


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