Our aim at Choklits Child Care is to nurture and educate children to help shape them into kind, happy, empathetic and confident individuals. Events such as ANZAC Day, which are significant in the community, hold a special place in our hearts not only for the people they represent but also for the learning opportunities they provide. As children begin to notice and ask questions about these significant moments we begin to weave these events throughout our program to create a strong basis for learning and foster a sense of belonging and understanding in the children.
This year we would like to share with you how ANZAC Day was incorporated into the program for our three to four-year-olds by pre-kindergarten lead educator Dee.
Our learning about ANZAC Day began the week earlier, where we discussed the activities we would engage in the next week and read a book about ANZAC Day. Introducing a concept in this way prior to the event builds a strong foundation for future learning by developing familiarity with new ideas.
Initially, the children’s understanding of ANZAC Day was very broad, with some children having an idea of poppies and perhaps that they were linked to ANZAC Day, and others having cooked or eaten Anzac biscuits before but not knowing what the day was about.
ANZAC day commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealander soldiers at Gallipoli in World War I. Obviously, war is a very confronting and devastating subject, so it is necessary to soften the horrific nature of this event when discussing it with children. Thus, for our learning, we focused on the themes of appreciation, gratefulness and understanding of sacrifice through two main activities; making Anzac biscuits and creating poppy collages.
Making Anzac Biscuits
To begin with, Dee led a conversation about how the soldiers who were fighting for the country had to be away from their families, which is a level that children can relate to, understand and empathise with to develop emotional understanding. Dee asked the children to imagine if they went away from their family to an unfamiliar country to encourage them to think about how they would feel in that situation. They recognised emotions such as sadness, loneliness, fear and worry.
While we were baking the biscuits, we spoke about the story behind them. Anzac biscuits were made in a way that could travel well without breaking down, so they could be made in Australia and sent to the soldiers who were away at war.
We discussed how the biscuit was a small piece of home in an unfamiliar place, and was a way for families back home to send a gesture of love and well wishes to their loved ones. This led to conversations about how the biscuit would be comforting to a tired, hungry solider, and the children articulated they would feel happy and loved if they were far away from home and someone sent them a biscuit.
This emotional understanding of the significance of ANZAC biscuits was the key idea of the activity, and we were really proud of how well the children were able to empathise with something so far outside of their lived experience.
Making the Anzac biscuits was also a great opportunity to practice skills such as following instructions through following the recipe and working on controlled motor skills when mixing the dough and rolling it into balls to be baked.
When introducing a significant event like ANZAC Day, constant conversations and reinforcement of the key themes are vital. Afterwards, while we were eating the delicious Anzac biscuits, we took moment to appreciate the freedoms we have today, such as being able to play at the park, being able to go to kindy and learn and being able to enjoy Australia the way it is today because of the actions and sacrifices of the soldiers and their families.
Making Poppy Collages
To set up this activity, Dee explored why poppies are significant in understanding and acknowledging events like ANZAC Day. For children, symbols like poppies make learning rich and meaningful, and plant the seeds for future learning when revisit the idea on November for Remembrance Day.
At Choklits Child Care, we love arts and crafts, and this activity was particularly special because it allowed the children to develop their coordination skills and understanding of the connection between poppies and ANZAC Day.
Similarly to how the children’s understanding of the poppy is at a symbolic level right now, their collages were also symbolic of poppies. They were given red fabric squares to represent the soft poppy petals and green shiny foil to represent leaves. This was a great activity for exploring the sensory differences of the materials visually, tactilely and auditorily. Then the children used glue and paint brushes to paste the different materials to their paper and added black paint splotches to symbolise the centres of the poppies.
ANZAC Day is such a multi-layered conversation, so during this activity we talked about understanding different life experiences. We tried to represent who soldiers are in the children’s minds, and that they are Australians, which led to a discussion about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and how they faced unfairness and bias, both at war and on their return home.
Currently, we are in the process of planting poppies in our garden to watch them sprout and grow, so this activity is really a snapshot in the long journey to creating rich and meaning learning experiences and connections.
Our Learning from ANZAC Day 2021
Overall, the big takeaway we sought to achieve is that today we are very fortunate.
We aimed to foster a sense of appreciation, understanding and gratefulness for what we have, which in the big picture, helps encourage children to become empathetic and mindful learners who are connected to themselves, their community and their country’s history.