teaching kids at Mother Duck

A Fresh Approach to Structures in Early Childhood Education

How Mother Duck Childcare is nurturing more confident children

Early childhood is a time of increasing independence. It’s when children begin to investigate the world on their own and discover how to express themselves. 

But with the hurried pace of modern life, children often find themselves working to an adult schedule. With less time in the day, they can miss opportunities to play, experience and experiment on their own. And without this self-guided exploration, children can struggle to develop skills that help them become independent, autonomous and resilient.

Which is why at Mother Duck Childcare, we’re transforming the way we deliver childcare. We’ve taken time to question and reflect on how we view children, what they need, and what we can do to help them truly flourish. 

Breaking away from the rigid routine

For years, childcare centres have focused on creating routine and predictability for children. Days are structured with set times for play, washing hands, lunch and snacks, nap time, and going to the toilet or changing nappies. 

The common belief is that routine helps children understand their environment and know what’s coming next. This routine is set and regulated by adults. But recent research has shown that children can actually feel stressed and anxious trying to keep up. 

To maintain a strict routine, children are often rushed around in large groups. They may be told to stop an activity before they’ve finished, to go to the toilet when they don’t feel the urge, or play with something or someone they don’t like. They may be told to eat lunch when they’re not hungry or go to sleep when they’re not tired.

While children need to feel safe and secure, they also need space to explore, learn and grow in confidence. When we expect children to follow a strict routine, we can actually stop them from experiencing the moment and developing the ability to self-regulate, an essential life skill for the changeable, fast-paced twenty-first century. 

Encouraging independence and autonomy

Supporting children to be in the here and now goes beyond just experiencing the joys of childhood. Being able to safely explore their environment at their own pace helps them shape their identity and significance in the world. 

It builds their autonomy. With autonomy, children begin to understand the choices they have control over and how their actions influence outcomes. They start to learn the safe and appropriate boundaries for their behaviour.

Becoming autonomous is an important skill that supports children through their entire life. It forms the foundation for how your child plays and interacts with friends, how they learn, and how they contribute and interact with the world around them. 

With autonomy, your child can:

  • feel in control of their abilities
  • build their self-esteem and self-confidence
  • learn how to problem-solve and create new ideas and solutions
  • self-regulate their behaviour
  • accept responsibility for their actions
  • respect the opinions of others
  • develop a genuine interest in learning and engaging with their environment. 

And beyond this, fostering a sense of autonomy gives children the confidence to later pursue and shape their own ideas and plans.

Nurturing strong and independent children

Children are curious, active learners. With the right amount of freedom, independence and support, your child will learn from their actions, mistakes and successes.

At Mother Duck Childcare, we promote an unhurried approach and a stress-free environment that is less ruled by the clock. Slowing down is a purposeful act to support children in developing important life skills. 

We pride ourselves on creating a haven where children feel safe, secure and supported but also valued as competent, unique and intelligent individuals.

Together with our community, we’re driving changes that help children build the skills they need to flourish. Here are some of the latest changes we’re reflecting on and refining:

1. Promoting the rights of children

We promote the rights of children, including their right to privacy and their right to have a say on matters that affect them. 

2.  Slowing things down

Removing the rush from the day supports each child’s developing ability to self-regulate and communicate their needs. For example, we encourage more time for each meal so that if children are engaged in play, they can come to the meal table when their body tells them they’re hungry.

3. Encouraging children to be autonomous

We encourage children to make their own choices around play times, meal times, and sleep and rest times. Children can choose to play inside or outside, and choose the siblings and friends they want to play with. We look for cues that a child is tired or hungry, help them identify their need for themselves, and support them in making a choice that meets this need. 

4.  Including children in everyday rituals 

We work together with children on real and important tasks to support autonomy, self-confidence and a strong sense of belonging. Children can help set the meal table, wash up dishes, make their beds and put their belongings away. 

5.  Supporting mixed-aged play

We encourage children to play and learn alongside children of a variety of ages. Older children step into a ‘teacher’ role and can role model behaviour. Younger children provide older children with opportunities to show empathy, care and respect. 

6.  Reflecting on how and what we document 

We love documenting the amazing moments of your child’s day. But over time, documentation became complex and time-consuming, taking us away from meeting the needs of each child. 

We currently focus on being more present with the children and observing their thoughts and ideas as they play.


Encouraging autonomy in early childhood education is essential to a child’s growth. By embracing a child’s sense of self and encouraging their involvement, we not only support children in the here and now, but in becoming adults who will positively impact the world around them. 

Quality Childcare at 11 Centres in The Greater Brisbane Region

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