BUSHkids Annual Report 2019-20

TOPIC SECTION ANNUAL REPORT 2019–2020 30 PLAYGROUPS AND STORYTIME VIRTUALITY Playgroups Playgroups are informal gatherings for parents and children to play together in a safe environment, with opportunities for children’s development via exploration and play. As well, they are an informal support network for parents and a safe place to seek parenting support from BUSHkids facilitators. Playgroups’ true value cannot fully translate to the virtual world but, during COVID-19, we demonstrated that much can be achieved. The easiest to transfer was the Mother Goose Playgroup – a parent-child session of singing, finger play and storytime, so CPSS staff warmed up vocal cords and jumped straight in! Playgroup routines involving some gross motor virtual activities (such as animal walks, or ‘go find something … yellow’) were evolved. Some beautiful mindfulness activities were incorporated along with stories and songs. Craft activities were presented so playgroup families could work together. These were often completed by the children long before each session and became a virtual ‘show-and-tell’. Agnes Water EIF Megan took children outside, including nature (and her pony!) into the sessions. Pets later also joined in virtually. Virtual Playgroups per week during COVID-19 restrictions included: Stanthorpe (4), Warwick (2), Agnes Water region (3) and Kingaroy region (2). These proved so popular and worthwhile, many have been retained even as the pandemic constraints were eased. Note: for privacy reasons, all parenting support was offered outside the ZOOM playgroups. Virtual Storytime Books and stories play an important role in helping children not only develop literacy but also social and emotional skills to navigate life, and an opportunity to escape into the world of make-believe. During the COVID-19 restrictions, many were unable to attend playgroups, childcare, kindergarten or their local library storytime. Opportunities became available in the virtual world to provide these early years experiences for children and to support parents to navigate the pandemic for the first time. While social distancing was important, connectedness is vital for the wellbeing of children and their parents. Virtual Storytime uses the principles of emergent literacy (as learnt through Read and Grow) to present a fun and engaging ZOOM session for children and their parents. Each session lasts about 30 minutes and includes: 1. Welcome time , often with a fun song and greetings. 2. Nursery rhymes, finger play, or songs targeted around a book’s theme. 3. A review of ‘whole body listening.’ 4. Story read (using four core language and literacy Read and Grow strategies). 5. Extension activity : fun and engaging at no cost to the family – pretending to be one of the characters, act out the story, treasure hunt for something that was in the story, and so on. 6. Suggestions that family could do afterwards. 7. Goodbye routine – song or activity. Equipment needs are very simple: a computer or tablet with ZOOM downloaded, the inbuilt or a clip-on camera – and of course the book! Any BUSHkids staff member (including non-clinicians) was able to be a Virtual Storytime presenter after they completed three hours Read and Grow training and conducted a brief Virtual Storytime training session. Our Virtual Storytimes were well attended across the state, from Mount Isa and Agnes Water to Warwick and Stanthorpe, and some have continued past the lockdown period. Families enthusiastically embraced the concept, as did many early childhood education facilitators who were missing BUSHkids’ local early years programs. Children engaged in the suggested (some very messy!) activities with great gusto. Feedback from parents and childcare centres was very positive, as it provided a place for connectedness and fun during a difficult time: “Happy with services provided during this time, very well organised. My son looks forward to his Read and Grow sessions and has adjusted to them being online. It has helped to keep some normality and routine for us during these times.” “A quality service has been provided in a time of need.” Virtuality “Thank you, BUSHKIDs for the support in the pandemic.”

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