When you live in Sydney, the last thing you expect is for your children to be able to attend a child care centre on a quiet country lane, with 5 acres of space to play on, farm animals and a neighbouring horse.
But that’s exactly what the children at McGraths Hill Learning Centre can enjoy at their centre - a taste of the countryside within easy commuting distance to Sydney’s CBD.
Toddle spoke with Stephanie Nehme, the Centre Director from McGraths Hill Learning Centre in Sydney’s north-west to find out more about the centre, how it’s grown over the past 11 years, and what it’s like working with two of your sisters.
Do you consider yourself a rural centre, despite being in Sydney?
‘We consider ourselves as a rural centre providing children with the opportunity to connect with their natural environment,’ says Stephanie.
‘The outdoor playground is a large grassed natural play space including a bark area, sandpit, African log hut, trees for climbing, bike track and a rocky area.’
What do you think the first things parents and children notice when they come for a tour?
‘As soon as families walk through our door, they fall in love with our large natural outdoor playground,’ explains Stephanie.
‘The children are always so happy to have their own space and connect with nature. All our families love the new upgrade of the centre, which provides state of the art facilities.
We also have cows, sheep, alpacas, goats and chickens on the property.’
Why do you think it’s so beneficial to have all that space for the children?
‘We value play-based learning and we view our environment as our third teacher,’ explains Stephanie.
‘The children are provided with the opportunity to play freely without being restrained in a small space or a timeframe of outdoor play. We believe in providing children with a sense of agency by giving them the choice of playing indoors or outdoors.
The children have the opportunity to play freely between both spaces allowing them to make their own choices. Providing children with large slots of uninterrupted play allows the children to deeply immerse themselves in activities that interest them.’
What do you think are the benefits for the children of having access to the animals?
‘Animals have long been embraced by educators as a valuable resource in supporting and enriching children’s learning and development,’ shares Stephanie.
‘We believe teaching children about empathy, relationships, the environment and nature are just some of the benefits children receive by caring for animals.
Children feel a sense of responsibility when caring for the animals, ensuring they’re safe and fed. Allowing children to care for animals instils respect for living things and an awareness of the needs of others.’
‘Providing children with natural, open-ended resources allows them to lead their own play and use their imagination.’
Who do you run the centre with?
‘I’m the director of the centre working 5 days a week,’ explains Stephanie. ‘I have the assistance of my sister Joanne who works 4 days a week. Joanne and I are Early Childhood Teachers with a 4 year degree from Macquarie University.
My younger sister Chelsea is the room leader in the nursery and is currently finishing her university degree.
It’s great working alongside my sisters as we all pour our heart into the business ensuring we provide the highest quality care and education to the children in our care. The centre is a big happy family!’
What makes your educators stand out?
‘All the educators know the families by first name basis and have amazing relationships with them all,’ shares Stephanie. ‘You can’t have a strong relationship with children without understanding their family dynamic and having a strong relationship with the children’s parents.
Teaching children is in partnership with their families, so ensuring our relationships are strong with the families is crucial in building a strong, secure and trusting relationship between educators and children.’
What are some of the children’s favourite things to do?
‘The children form strong friendships with peers that attend school on the same day,’ shares Stephanie. ‘Seeing their faces light up when they see their friends walk through the door, greeting them with a big hug or high five is beautiful to witness.
The children love playing in our large sandpit as they use their imagination in creating sculptures, sandcastles, rivers and lots of cooking.’
What do you think parents love about your centre?
‘I think the families love that the centre is family owned and operated by the ‘Three Sisters’. Knowing their needs are always looked after and that we are flexible makes a world of difference to a busy working parent,’ says Stephanie.
Want to find out more? You can read more about McGraths Hill Learning Centre here - view their centre video, see photos, read reviews, book a tour, or find out more about the programs they offer. If you need child care for your little one, simply type your postcode in the search box at the top of the page.
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