That’s the advice given by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), which oversees quality at all childcare centres in Australia, and few children anywhere benefit from this more than those at Goodstart Penfield.
The centre is situated on 4ha of land, which is unique among childcare centres and allows them to provide a home for sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and a turkey.
“Our animals are a huge part of our curriculum and the children are outside every day watching them, caring for them, collecting eggs and feeding,” centre director Annette Denton said.
“Having the animals at the centre provides so many benefits and allows children to observe and interact outside and then come back into the centre where we can expand on what they’ve seen through stories, play or research.”
The centre has this year welcomed two sets of twin lambs, which have been greeted with much love and excitement by the children.
“The children have been able to watch one of these births, which is a fascinating experience for them.
“They asked a few questions about what was happening and it gives us the opportunity to talk to them about lifecycles as they observe birth, growth and even the sadness when one of our animals passes away.
“These are valuable learning experiences and are something children don’t get in most childcare and kindy environments.”
The bond and relationships children form with animals is also beneficial, helping them to build a sense of empathy and respect and, in many cases, providing a calming influence as children settle into the day.
“Children settling in the presence of animals is something we observe all the time.
“They get so engaged in watching or interacting with an animal and it can be a very positive start to the day or an effective way to transition from an unsettled moment.
“There is so much to be learned by caring for animals, with endless opportunities to teach children about our relationship with animals and the care and respect they deserve.
“It provides children with real and meaningful connection with the environment and the world around them.”