Designing Spaces to Grow
As published in The West Australian, Tuesday 10th November 2020.
What do you think of when you imagine a children’s play area? At Keiki Early Learning, the physical environment is part of the curriculum, rather than just a background. Every space is carefully thought out to provide the ideal environment for children to learn, develop and thrive.
The small family-owned group of childcare services were first established by sisters Sam and Angela in Mindarie in 2003, and now encompass seven Early Learning and Outside School Hours Care services in Perth’s Northern suburbs. Their natural play spaces are carefully designed to not only look amazing, but also capture a child’s imagination and lead to further learning and developmental opportunities. In a Keiki play space, you’ll find bridges built into the landscape, wooden cubby and play structures, water pumps leading into sandpits, mud kitchens, sensory paths, stepping-stone logs, recycled materials, sensory boards and musical instruments. It is an expansive outdoor space for exploration and adventure.
Keiki’s gardens are a throwback to days gone by, where children spent hours playing in big backyards amongst mature trees, collecting treasures from nature, and jumping in mud puddles. “My vision has always been to emulate backyard environments with intentional learning opportunities weaved throughout” says owner, Sam Morrell. “Children are encouraged to help by tending to the gardens, learning about the environment and sustainable practices. They are also invited to play, eat and even sleep outdoors, enjoying fresh air and learning through nature.”
Every child has direct access to the outdoors and a free-flow, progressive routine is implemented as part of the daily program. Children are encouraged to make their own choices in self-directed play and educators are trained to observe, invite, and stir curiosity through further learning experiences based on their individual interests. “We follow the Reggio Emilia approach to learning, and for Keiki this means giving unhurried time and space so children can learn, explore and revisit investigations at their own pace’’, says Sam. “Everything in our indoor and outdoor environment is designed to spark imagination and curiosity, help develop fine and gross motor skills and encourage adventurous active play. Children are provided with endless opportunities for open-ended play to suit a range of different abilities and interests.’’
The result is an environment where children are truly engaged, stimulated and develop a love of learning about the world through their own playful exploration.