Mud kitchens and more: 6 things that have changed in childcare since I attended.

Only About Children
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Every generation likes to point out that kids ‘these days’ don’t know how good they have it, which when it comes to childcare, couldn’t be truer.

I was in childcare during the 1980s in the UK while my mum worked part time. I remember the basics of feeling safe and cared for, but childcare in 2020 is absolutely next level.

My two boys have either been through or are currently in childcare. Not only have they been safe and cared for, but they have been nurtured, educated and inspired.

My memories of the ’80s version might be hazy, but their memories of great educators and experiences are fresh. And from what I remember, a lot has changed.

Here’s what I’ve noticed since my days on the monkey bars.

1. More mess is best.

Back in 1980s it felt like we were hermetically sealed inside a playroom with all the colourful plastics.

Yes, our clothes were clean at the end of the day, but I love how in 2020, childcare is so much messier.

Literal dirt, mud, mess and paint is no longer something to avoid: now it is embraced and celebrated to help kids learn through play and encourage their development and confidence.

The idea of ‘letting kids be kids’ is at the heart of any good play-based learning. For example, at Only About Children (Oac) early learning and childcare, their Oac Grow curriculum allows for messy play because it’s proven to develop physical, cognitive, social and problem-solving skills that help with lifelong learning, all while being fun.

Kids cook mud pies outdoors in the mud kitchen, vroom diggers across actual piles of dirt and splatter paint across the room during art class. They have an absolute ball while doing it too.

I quickly learnt to only send my boys in old clothes and have a plentiful supply of OMO in the laundry. A small price to pay when I see their happy little dirt-encrusted faces at the end of the day.

2. Sustainability is top of the agenda.

Whether it’s planting herbs to use in lunchtime salads, learning about recycling or responsible water use; childcare in 2020 focusses on sustainable living and the environment.

Oac’s curriculum takes this very seriously. From recycling items for loose parts play to planting community gardens to raising funds for koalas affected by the bushfires, the consciousness of the environment is high.

I’ve also noticed some of their campuses taking part in beach clean events to get rid of rubbish on the sand of beaches like Manly and Coogee. I didn’t have a clue who cleaned up my mess, let alone an understanding of pollution until I was in high school. I love that childcare today helps us parents to raise the next generation to understand the importance of looking after the planet better than us ’80s kids ever did.

3. Diary apps and updates.

Back in the 1980s the only official evidence I attended childcare was a mountain of my paintings, which proved I would never earn my living as an artist.


Now, us parents get daily updates and photos from apps that we can coo over and show everyone, just how clever and cute our kids are!

The reporting and feedback on our kids’ childcare experience is amazing and helpful. I knew early on we needed to focus on my eldest son’s gross motor skills and being able to see professional reports on how he was improving at childcare was brilliantly reassuring.

4. Diversity of interests, diversity of cultures.

Did you learn another language at childcare? A musical instrument? I sure didn’t. I learnt how to pick my nose when bored and that the reading corner was a cosy place for a quick nap.

These days the little ones have all the luck – imagine starting out at five years old with a knowledge of basic Spanish language? How this might inform and inspire you to keep learning about other cultures and languages as you grow up.

The educators at Oac know how to inspire young minds at this critical stage of life and development. Their play-based curriculum means that there is always something fun to learn and do, from learning basic Spanish phrases to playing percussion instruments.

They also ensure that kids develop a respect the unique cultures of our First Nations People, through music, storytelling, art and games.

5. Dietitian-designed meals.

Kids these days are spoilt for choice – not only do they get well-balanced freshly prepared meals and snacks, they are varied, seasonal, healthy and delicious.

At Oac, kids have their meals expertly planned by Accredited Dietitians to encompass unique dietary requirements and support nutritional needs. Not only that, but every meal and snack is prepared fresh daily by in-house cooks to include plenty of fruit and vegetables to give them energy to grow and thrive.

Back in the early 1980s, I remember mostly eating a lot of scooped mashed potato and custard. Possibly there was the odd serve of tinned peaches, which makes me sound positively ancient.

6. Being active isn’t just running around.

I’d spend hours running amok as a kid, and newsflash, kids still do that. And it’s good for their fine motor skills, of course.

But at centres like Oac, programs like Oac Active take this up a notch. The Oac Active program is designed by a qualified Sports Science Physiologist and implemented by Oac Educators in-campus daily to give kids different ways to tap the benefits of physical activity.

For example, you might find nursery children catching bubbles, toddlers learning yoga poses and pre-schoolers unleashing their inner Ninja Warrior through an obstacle course. It’s not always about being the fastest or best – active play is more about enjoyment and trying than it was when I was younger.

And that’s something all of our kids can take into their lives as little humans in school.

What’s something you’ve noticed about childcare today that’s different to when you attended?

Feature image: OAC Surry Hills.

Only About Children

Only About Children is more than childcare. Our holistic early learning program is specifically designed to encourage each child to reach their full potential, with dedicated facilities and programs for Nursery, Toddler and Preschool/Kindergarten children. In each of our campuses, everything your child needs is inclusive within our daily fee. Such as dietitian designed meals, nappies, formula, allied health support, dedicated music, language and active programs.