Come on down to Sippy Downs

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  Published on Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Come on down to Sippy Downs

Library Home  >  Profiles & Interviews
  Published on Tuesday, 13 April 2021

If you were asked to imagine the perfect early education centre to work in, what would make your top five must-haves? A location with great weather year-round? An environment where shoes are optional and natural play is part of the everyday? A celebrated chef creating delicious meals in-house? What about a menagerie of animals to share your gourmet lunch and play in the on-site water park with?

If you said yes to all of the above, it’s time to head to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and seek out vacancies at the Sippy Downs Early Learning Centre. Oh, did I mention it has a super cute name too?

This new full-service early learning centre, catering to children aged six weeks to five years, opened on January 8, 2021 to much excitement from the local community. Seven weeks later, Sippy Downs Early Learning is showing through 10 new families each week, and within a few weeks will be at capacity.

There are seven classrooms in total; the nursery room for babies, the toddler room, two junior kindy rooms, two for senior kindy and then the kindergarten room. Educator to child ratio is quite high as well, with one staff member to four children in the nursery, one to three in the toddler and junior kindy rooms, through to approximately one to seven in the senior kindy and kindergarten rooms.    

The centre is the brainchild of the family behind Evans Long, the Queensland development company responsible for revitalising The Wharf Mooloolaba - a seaside dining and shopping precinct on the Sunshine Coast - and Matt Evans says the family is very excited about this new addition.

They saw a need in the community for an early learning centre that catered to a more natural form of play and learning for young children, and so developed Sippy Downs to meet that need.

So, what sets it apart from other early learning centres in the area? Well, the animals for starters. Ranger Renee Dehaas works full-time alongside the centre’s teaching staff to care for a range of animals living on-site.

They have two young goats, as well as chickens, lizards, parrots and frogs, all of which the children are encouraged to interact with, help care for, and learn all about.

According to Centre Director Talisha Long, the breed of goat was chosen specifically as they can begin to produce milk from about 12 months old. The children will be shown how to milk the goats, how to process the milk in the kitchens and turn it into edible goods to be served in the centre.

While the cute, fuzzy animals and dedicated chef are sure to be big draw cards for parents and children alike, it’s possible that the most appealing thing about this place is the creation of a freer and more natural experience for all who attend.

Children will be “free to choose how they play, explore their surroundings and discover their ‘wildhood’,” according to the centre’s marketing campaign.

It’s a place where “shoes are optional” but getting dirty isn’t, it’s just a part of the experience.

A sustainable vegetable garden, which the children can help plant, tend, harvest and consume, will help to stock the on-site commercial kitchen. Children can interact with the kitchen staff, who encourage them to be hands-on with meal making.

Celebrated local chef Tony Kelly is in charge of the centre’s kitchens, as well as the adjoining community cafe, Miss May, which will also make use of the produce grown by the centre’s children.

A custom-built sandpit and water park are just a few more examples of how the children who attend Sippy Downs will be enabled to engage in nature play.

Children play with natural sensory stimulators including mud, plants and ice: “Helping to support scientific thinking which involves inquiry, experimentation, researching and investigating encourages the children to use their senses to discover new aspects of play,” centre staff wrote on their Facebook page in early March, explaining one of the fundamental beliefs and practices of Sippy Downs Early Learning Centre - learning by getting grubby.

This ethos will be further supported when the four-and-a-half acres of undeveloped land adjoining the centre, also owned by Evans Long, is turned into a forest school for the children to learn and play in.

Forest schools, a Danish concept designed to get children away from screens and out into nature, teach students about the surrounding environment and encourage them to play in a more natural way, by climbing trees, searching for tadpoles, and learning outdoor skills such as hot to tie knots, raft building and wildlife identification.

The Sippy Downs forest school will be up and running later this year.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 12 April 2021