By Sabrina Rogers-Anderson
When I was offered a job in Melbourne a few weeks ago, I decided to take my three-year-old twins on a reconnaissance mission to the beautiful city. I wanted to scope out a couple of neighbourhoods we might like to live in and visit a few child care and early education centres for the girls.
I’d been told that The Learning Sanctuary Brighton had brand-new, state-of-the-art facilities with the latest early learning resources, but we all know that the most important factor in choosing a centre is how you feel the first time you walk through the doors. So, I’d booked a “stay and play” at the centre. Estelle and Georgina would play with the educators while I stayed in the parents’ room and caught up on emails. If they weren’t settling in or they needed me, I’d be right there.
As we got ready to head to the centre that morning, I was feeling pretty blah. We’d flown in late from the Sunshine Coast the day before and I hadn’t been able to get the girls to sleep until 9.30pm due to their excitement. They’d slept terribly and woken up clingy and irritable. Sigh. I wasn’t feeling confident about being able to leave them with strangers in a new environment. I wanted to call and cancel, but I knew I should go through with it.
The second I entered the bright and ultra-modern foyer of the centre, my worries started to dissipate. As I looked around, I half-expected someone to hand me a bathrobe and a cup of herbal tea. Had I walked into a day spa by mistake?! This place was incredible! I realised I was in the right place when the centre manager, Ashlee, greeted us warmly.
Although there weren’t any robes or fluffy slippers, the in-house chef immediately offered me a steaming cup of coffee and a freshly baked muffin from the open-plan kitchen. Yes, please! I could feel myself relaxing even more.
After filling out the enrolment forms with Ashlee, we made our way to the room the girls would spend the day in. Georgina and Estelle were beside themselves with excitement as they ran around cuddling dolls and banging the keys on the mini piano… and we were still just in the entrance area to the rooms!
Let the fun begin…
When the girls entered their room, their eyes widened with amazement as they took in the vast array of toys and activities that were available for their playing pleasure. I was so impressed by the quality of the resources – from natural open-ended toys that inspire imaginative play to the latest interactive learning technology designed to teach literacy and numeracy in a fun way, my girls had the best of everything at their fingertips.
They threw down their backpacks and got straight into it. Estelle made me pretend coffee and toast in the play kitchen while Georgie gave the timber train set a workout. As I chatted to the lovely educators, the girls completely ignored me. Mum who?!
I looked around the room and noticed that every play space had been carefully thought-out and set up to maximise children’s enjoyment and learning. As I watched Estelle stack blocks in the construction area and Georgie flip through books in the cosy reading corner, I was astonished at how quickly they were settling into this amazing new place. They were having so much fun that they didn’t even realise their little minds were growing and developing with every new play-based activity they engaged in!
When it was time for me to go downstairs, I told them I was going to have a coffee and I’d be back later. They were so engrossed in playing with Bee-Bots – floor robots shaped like bees that teach literacy, numeracy and science skills – that they just said, “Bye, Mum” without looking up. It helped that their warm and nurturing educators had already formed a solid bond with them.
While the girls played, I stayed… and received a five-star treatment!
Now that the girls were all settled in, it was time for the “stay” portion of the stay and play. Ashlee welcomed me into the parents’ room that included a comfortable workspace and free Wifi. She told me I was welcome to stay all day and that the team would give me regular updates on the girls’ wellbeing and progress.
I set up my laptop and breathed a sigh of relief as I took care of some overdue administrative tasks. It was so nice to be able to get some work done secure in the knowledge that I was mere seconds away from my girls if they needed me.
I’d only been working for what felt like a short time when Mario, chef extraordinaire, appeared in the doorway. He was holding a mouth-watering plate of salmon, ricotta and quinoa bites with a side of roast potatoes for lunch. Yum!
After lunch, one of the educators took me on a tour of the centre. My mind boggled. There were beautiful timber toys and high-quality art supplies as far as the eye could see. Every area was set up to engage children and inspire their imaginations.
The nursery rooms were peaceful havens of soft furnishings and fascinating sensory activities. The toddler rooms offered an incredible range of creative pursuits and early learning resources to enhance children’s development. And the kindergarten rooms were equipped with the latest technology, including SMART Board Interactive Whiteboards and Primo Cubetto Coding Blocks, to teach children literacy and numeracy skills and prepare them for school.
And don’t get me started on the outdoor areas. Spacious, natural, surrounded by greenery and filled with adventure… I felt a sense of calm wash over me as I stood there taking it all in. The architecturally designed Red Treehouse that juts out from the second floor of the centre is simply stunning and one of the children’s favourite spots. I loved this place so much that I never wanted to leave.
Neither did my girls. They had such an amazing day that I had to tear them away at the end of it and they spent the next few days asking me if they could go back. I didn’t end up taking the job in Melbourne, so it wasn’t to be. But The Learning Sanctuary Brighton still appears to us all in our dreams.
Learn more about The Learning Sanctuary Brighton by visiting our website here or contact our Family Support Specialist team on 1800 413 868.