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The serious business of messing around

Ever hidden vegies in your kids’ meatballs? At Craftercise, children learn while mucking around.


“The more we can engage children's senses, the more we're going to build the pathways between the brain and the rest of the body,” says Dr Amanda Telford. “The most neurons we'll ever have are at about 18 months’ old so the more we can stimulate that brain, the greater its potential development which impacts everything we do physically, mentally, socially, emotionally.”


Craftercise’s focus, deeply informed by academic research, is on sensory-based learning in young children and aims to enhance the lifelong development of their participants.


Dr Telford (PhD in children’s physical activity & sedentary behaviour) and Aleisha Dakin founded the company in 2015 using their backgrounds in teaching and learning and research as a base for the development of the program.


The program takes children on a “sensory adventure” using a combination of physical activity, art and craft and messy play to engage the senses and enhance neural development in children aged between six months to six years. 

The kids aren’t the only ones on a learning curve though.


The combination of Aleisha and Amanda’s award winning experience - Aleisha as an academic and physical education teacher and Amanda’s teaching, writing and research background - meant the pair were well equipped to create and run the classes but they were challenged by the administration aspects of running and growing a business.


“Starting off is okay but once it started growing you don't think about how much admin and business stuff you're going to have to do,” says Aleisha. “We did expand quite quickly so it's non-stop, 24/7. It's always on your mind.”


For every activity offered in the program, evidence-based research is used to inform the design and implementation of each learning experience. “The children are not thinking they're learning but via stealth we're embedding learning opportunities in every single activity we do,” explains Amanda.


What started off as six families in a community hall has rapidly grown to a program with 10 staff and hundreds of families. And Amanda and Aleisha are still in touch with the original six families.


“The joy of sharing the journey of people's lives and seeing their families grow and the ups and downs they go through, that's a really amazing part of the journey for us,” says Amanda.  “This place has an inclusive feel - we actually do care about the people that come here it's not about just the money or anything like that. It's about the people.”


Aleisha says the quality of the program is a great source of pride.


“It's really hard on us both mentally and physically [but] if we just put the basics in, I don't think we'd be happy with ourselves knowing we haven't done the best that we can do,” she says.


“We're so proud of what we've created and we have so many fantastic families that come through here. Just to see the smile on the kid's faces says it all.”


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