Every day, children are cared for at many different facilities - public school, nursery school, daycare or in their own homes.
One such place that is helping to nurture the next generation is the Swan River Day Care Centre (SRDCC).
Each one of the early childhood educators (ECE) are dedicated to their jobs and really see their tasks as rewarding.
“I find it so rewarding to get involved in the children’s lives,” said P4 educator Keira Fullerton. “We get to learn about who they are and see them grow.
“Their excitement for new activities really makes this job a lot of fun, and I enjoy planning things for them to do.”
The SRDCC has many rooms, each geared towards the different ages of children. This means the educators can adapt their activities and tasks to the developmental stages of the children, and can take their interests to create units.
“Our days usually follow a similar schedule,” said P2 educator Sidny Ross.
“We start with some free play, followed by snack, and then planned activities. We like to go outside to play, followed by circle time, which involves stories or singing before lunch.
“After lunch, we have nap time, and another circle time, followed by more play time.”
P2 educator Rheanne Zwiers added that while the children are playing, they are also learning.
“They are figuring out how to interact with each other, how to share, how to count, or what their colours are,” she said. “They may be building with blocks, but developing fine motor skills and large motor skills at the same time.”
P4 educator Kirsty Buhler noted that the SRDCC follows what is known as the ‘emergent curriculum’.
“We watch the children play and see what their interests are, and then we create units based on that,” she said. “In our classroom, we just finished a unit on Valentine’s Day, and now, we’re in the middle of a circus unit.
“The children are so excited about all of the animals, the acrobats and clowns.
“In this unit, we’ve planned games and activities that help the children learn things, but it’s all through play,” continued Buhler. “So, they are having fun but learning different life skills at the same time. These skills will help them as they move on to the school system, but also in the rest of their lives.”
“The different activities are crafts, songs, stories, dress-up, and other activities, but they’re developing fine motor skills, physical skills and learning new concepts, but they don’t even realize it.”
Many of the ECEs commented that this was what they really loved to do.
“I’ve been here for 10 years already, and I love coming back to work everyday,” said P3 educator Crysty Reeves. “Seeing the children reach their next milestone is so rewarding.”
Even though the job of an ECE is extremely rewarding, the staff do recognize that there are challenges.
“It’s challenging to meet the needs of 16 individual children in the same room,” said Buhler. “Some children want to do one activity, while others want to do something else. Some children may need a nap, but others don’t, so trying to find that balance to meet all of their needs can be tricky.”
Infant educator Wanda Richard noted that the changing numbers in her room can make the days very different.
“Some days we have four infants and it’s much quieter, but other days, there are eight little ones, and the day is much busier,” she said.
Reeves added that time management can sometimes be a factor.
“With so many children, if someone needs more one-on-one attention, or needs help in the washroom, it can delay an activity like going outside,” she said. “Taking care of eight children is tough, and most parents don’t have that many children anymore, so it’s a different perspective than at home.”
While most of the ECEs at the SRDCC are with the children all day, Co-Directors Jordan Genaille and Roxanne McCullough oversee the administrative side of the SRDCC.
“Our day is busy with scheduling children and staff, phoning parents, hiring and orienting new staff, billing, payroll, fundraising, and even just answering questions from around the centre,” said McCullough.
Both administrators noted that some of the challenges of their job include finding balance in meeting the needs of the families, staff and curriculum.
“We try to accommodate everyone and (the needs they may have),” said Genaille. “We also have to balance that with keeping our staff happy.”
McCullough added that the learning philosophy of the SRDCC was also sometimes a challenge.
“One thing we work to overcome is the perceptions about our ‘Learning through Play’ philosophy,” she said. “Everyone has different ideas about how children learn, and just because we don’t sit at a table and write out the ABC’s, there’s the idea that we’re not teaching as much as we could be.
“We see it as teaching social skills, like how to react to someone taking your toy, or how to share.
“We’re also working on things like colour and shapes through activities,” McCullough continued. “Children learn about red and circles if they have an apple for snack. Having a background in early childhood education helps us connect play and learning for the children.”
Although Genaille and McCullough’s primary responsibility is managing the office, they noted that the most rewarding part of their job was still the children, as well as the staff they work with.
“We love what we do, and we try to do our best for these children, and our community,” Genaille said.
“The children and the staff, the families, they all make our job worthwhile.”
Through all the ups and downs of working with children, and the challenges that come with the job, one theme emerges from the many ECEs at the SRDCC.
“The children are what keeps me motivated to come back (to work everyday),” said Buhler. “I love seeing them, and I get so much joy out of being with them.
“Sure, the work is challenging, but it’s so much fun to see them learn and grow each and every day.”
Reeves echoed the same sentiment.
“We take care of these children and work with them for eight hours a day (or more),” she concluded. “They become a part of you, and when they leave, whether to the next classroom or on to school, you’re sad to see them go.
“When you see these children later on, you remember when you had them in your room, and you realize you had a part in shaping who they are.”