Waverley Community Skills 4 Kids Café

Planting the seeds

Cafes are known to be a good place to socialise – to meet with members of your community and have a chat. But what do you do when this is no longer an option? For one community project in Waverley – the Waverley Community Skills 4 Kids Café – this question required some thinking outside of the box or, instead, thinking inside the “cook box”.

The Waverley Community Skills 4 Kids Café, funded through a grant from the AEDC, was created to bring together members of the Waverley community to support the development of its young people. By providing community members of all ages with the tools and confidence to share skills with children about healthy food, physical activity, arts and story-telling – all in a café-style environment – Waverley’s children would, in turn, see improvements in language development and physical health and wellbeing.

The new physical distancing requirements of the Covid-19 era meant that the organisation behind the Skills 4 Kids Café, the Northern Early Years Group (NEYG) together with the project team from the school, had to find new ways to support children in the Waverley community. From here, the idea of “cooking boxes” came to life. These bundles of food, including pantry basics purchased through the grant, fresh produce (from Waverley Primary School’s community garden and Second Bite), and recipes provide families with the supplies needed to cook together at home, and have been delivered to local families with Early Years children for the past few weeks. This initiative built upon and extended a valued program already operating in the school, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program, which supports children’s learning through their involvement in the growing and preparation of food. Northern Early Years Group member, Sherridan Emery explained that the project team kept a focus on the outcomes of the project when faced with the decision of how to respond to the new conditions brought about by coronavirus.

“We had intentions of developing a series of skills cafes which would bring community members together to share and develop skills. When this was no longer an option for the foreseeable future, NEYG worked with the project team at the school to flexibly adapt the activities of the project while maintaining a focus on the outcomes of the grant which are young children’s physical health and wellbeing and their language development,” commented Sherridan. “Initially the school project team decided that it would be valuable for resource bags to be sent home to children, so part of the AEDC grant was used provide learning resources such as games, books and craft materials to school students. The cooking boxes were a school holiday initiative for young children and their families that followed on from there.”

The Waverley Skills Café Project team also celebrates the initiative of project officer Danielle Watkins independently taking on the creation of a Waverley Community Co-Op and Facebook page. Danielle and her family have created a community food and resource sharing site on their nature strip, which the AEDC grant has been able to support. The Co-Op Facebook Page now acts as a platform for families involved in the Skills Café initiatives to share stories and images of how they are using the provided resources.

A further initiative of the Skills Café Project will be the installation of Street Libraries in the suburb with some newly purchased books for children in the Early Years as well as the provision of native understory shrubs planted at Waverley Primary School.

The AEDC provides a reliable, national picture of child development.  It is a population measure of how children are developing at the time they commence their first year of full-time school. Data is collected every three years, with the fifth collection set to occur in 2021. The AEDC Tasmanian Grants of 2019 were awarded to ten successful recipients, including the Northern Early Years Group, with the aim of improving outcomes for vulnerable children in Tasmania from birth to five years of age.