3 essential children’s stories for early childhood years

Some books and fables stay with you for the rest of your life (even if you hear them as a young child).

These are stories to capture the imagination, or tales that share knowledge, values and ideas.

Why is it so important for children to hear these stories? Well, it’s not so much about the lesson of each story.

It’s rather what the story does to each individual child, ultimately helping the child create a greater sense of awe and wonder about his and her world, while also equipping the child with the building blocks of their language.

Some of these stories are captured in the Milkwood Learning Programme – our Early Childhood Development Programme curriculum created for children up to 4 years old.

On World Children’s Book Day, our Flower Valley Early Childhood Development team choose their three favourites from the programme (stories with an environmental touch). And explain why these fables simply haven’t aged.


You’ll know this story: The Tortoise, who has been ridiculed by the Hare for being too slow, finally challenges the Hare to a race. When the race starts, the Hare leaves the poor Tortoise behind. But while the Hare takes a nap during the race, the Tortoise sneaks past, and – to the Hare’s anger and surprise – wins the race.

This is one of Aesop’s Fables – a storyteller (and slave) who is believed to have lived in ancient Greece (born in 620 BC).

What could the story teach you? Well, that depends on your interpretation. But whether it encourages perseverance, ingenuity, doggedness or less haste (on the part of the Tortoise), or teaches against idleness, bullying or too much haste (on the part of the Hare), this story has captured children’s hearts for centuries.


Also known as The Giant Turnip, this is a Russian fable by Alexei Tolstoy. Today there are many different versions of the story – with different teachings.

The story: A farmer and his family try to pull out a giant turnip, but to no avail. They bring in support, in the form of the dog, the cat, a hen and a duck to help. But still the turnip remains rooted in the ground. Finally, a small mouse lends his support – and they manage to pull the turnip out. When they feast on the turnip, those who refused to help (like the fox) are not invited.

What could the story teach you? Not many stories capture the importance of eating your vegetables. The fable also teaches that your size does not dictate your significance. And it captures the importance of being a team player.


This story, by Eric Carle, has captured the imagination of children since 1969. That’s not only for the story; but as much the beautiful and original graphics (which won numerous prizes).

The story: The Hungry Caterpillar tells of a young caterpillar that eats his way through many meals – from apples to a lollipop. Finally, the now rather fat caterpillar spins a cocoon, and two weeks later emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

What could the story teach you? Young children are introduced to the days of the week, different food types, and of course, the life cycle of the butterfly. In fact, the book has been classified as one of the greatest childhood classics of all time.

Some storytelling tips:

  • While it’s good for children to be exposed to stories in different languages, the majority of stories should be read to a child in their mother tongue. This helps to entrench the building blocks of their mother tongue language first. 
  • It’s also important for stories to be repeated to children, as they digest a story each time they hear it and develop a deeper meaning.
  • There’s no right or wrong way for a child to interpret a story. The child may take something from a story that the adult may not recognise.

And get your children to engage with a story by asking lots of who, what, why and where questions. Again, there is no correct or incorrect answer, it just depends on how the child has processed the story.

How to inspire children? Start with the teacher…

How can adults connect with a child? As adults, we must first understand ourselves – our desires, wishes and our fears. 

That’s the essence of the Flower Valley Early Childhood Development Teacher’s Retreats. They provide a nurturing space for teachers to grow and better understand themselves.

The ECD team, led by Coordinator Gabbi Cook Jonker, hosted such a retreat in September. It was held at Wortelgat.

Here practitioners from early childhood development centres in the Overstrand (that form part of our ECD Programme) came together, to enter on a journey of self exploration, from nature walks, to art activities and yoga.

The Creative Skills Factory facilitated the retreat – and have compiled a wonderful blog capturing their experiences at the retreat.

Milkwood Nurture Teacher and Field worker retreats – The inner world of the Early Childhood Professional

Article by Gabrielle Jonker.

Rudolf Steiner said: “you will not be good teachers if you focus only on what you do and not upon who you are”.

The Flower Valley Early Childhood Development Programme believes that the inner work of a teacher, teaching assistant and field worker is fundamental to good quality Early Childhood Development. As part of our work, we are constantly reflecting and growing in our understanding of how to support the growth of ECD professionals as individuals, in order to strengthen their work with young children.


At present, one of our methods to facilitate this, is through our Milkwood Nurture Teachers Retreats.

These retreats take place in a natural setting away from regular day to day life. Here, teachers are honoured, recognised, and given a safe place to explore their inner worlds in a peaceful environment through planned nurturing activities.


Some of the highlights from our June 2018 retreat:

The women arrived at Fynbos Retreat in the beautiful mountains between Stanford and Gansbaai. The retreat started with laughing yoga hosted by a local expert, Lindy Greyling. This type of yoga involved a lot of laughing, allowing the body to secrete feel-good hormones and provided a special time of bonding. It was ended with a morning meditation next to the dam.

Later that day the ladies each got a chance to make their own vision board – a tool used to help clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on a specific life goal. A vision board can help guide or represent whatever you wish to be, do or have in your life. The women found this activity very enriching and it was an excellent place to further grow in the understanding of oneself and each other.

Lindy also provided the group with one-on-one Somachord sessions. A Somachord is an instrument that looks like a wooden bed. Strings are attached to the underside that are all tuned to a specific frequency. Receiving the therapy, one lies on the bed while the instrument is played, allowing for healing sound vibrations to work in one’s heart, body and mind. The feedback from this was exceptional, all participants found this to be an enriching and transforming experience with one participant saying: “I cannot put it into words, so relaxing”.

During the retreat, there was exploration in building a deeper understanding of the power of stories. The women discussed how the stories we tell ourselves and our children regulate our souls, and transform, heal and educate the psyche.

“Stories as healing medicine” will continue to be a theme of our retreats.

The group shared wonderful moments of song sharing as everyone sang together in different mother tongues. Lastly, each person took time to do a personality test and a follow up discussion, which contributed to the team spirit and the on-going collaborative work.


Deepening connections, opening doors and letting go

The retreat gave participants time to be quiet and feel the wonder of nature. Both the venue and the activities allowed for quiet solitary and group time in the fynbos and forest ecosystems. As the retreat fell over the winter solstice, the group celebrated by making fires and each teacher writing one thing that they would like to let go of and one thing they would like to bring into their lives. Each teacher, with a deep breath, released their papers into the blazing flames.

These Milkwood Nurture retreats started in 2017. The feedback the ECD programme has received is excellent, we have seen individuals open up and grow in a powerful way. For anyone that is interested in finding out more about this area of our programme, please contact Gabrielle Jonker at gabbi@flowervalley.co.za.

How to #EndPlasticPollution this Earth Day? Ask our kindergarten children

End plastic pollution – what a massive and daunting task. For years we have become used to grabbing plastic bags at the supermarket till and storing our food in colourful Tupperware.


But where has this led us? Where is the plastic going after we have used it?

Earth Day’s theme is #EndPlasticPollution and it’s very evident why. Our landscapes, our oceans and even our homes are being poisoned and polluted by plastic in a dangerous and rapid way. The human race’s way of living has become so detrimental to the natural world – one wonders if people can change the way they live?

So that’s where Early Childhood Development stepped in – and why Flower Valley has chosen to be part of children’s upbringing and growth.

Because the children attending our four supported ECD Kindergarten centres across the Overstrand are the future leaders, the future ambassadors who will help protect our natural world. And our impact today can have a ripple effect into their tomorrow, hopefully helping in the fight to beat plastic pollution.


What we got up to:

Dolfyntjies centre in Pearly Beach informal settlement, Eluxolweni, had a recycling arts and crafts day. They used materials such as bottle tops, old egg boxes and plastic bags to create posters of Dolphins. This gave Joemarie, the Dolfyntjies Principal, the chance to explain the importance of our marine ecosystems and why we should do our part to re-use and recycle our plastic.

The children each received plastic bottles which they enjoyed filling with soil and planted peas – now looking to the future and what they can do to help restore and protect our Earth.


But Earth Day should be celebrated each day:

Earth Day is vital for raising awareness and changing the way we as humans think – taking it forward into our everyday lives.

That is why our ECD team and practitioners have made a promise: a promise to make material shopping bags at the next Milkwood Workshop to give to the whole Flower Valley team. This in turn may not make the biggest difference today, but each small action can make a big difference for tomorrow.


Working with partners to reach 22 ECD centres

Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme

Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme

Our Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme is now reaching 22 centres, stretching from Buffeljagsbaai to Stanford.

We’re working closely with the Western Cape Department of Social Development in supporting these early childhood centres to meet departmental standards.

The Children’s Act requires all ECD facilities to be registered with the Department, enabling a form of quality control in terms of health and safety, management, governance and the learning programme.


Flower Valley works with stakeholders connected to these 22 centres to compile a portfolio of evidence for registration and re-registration.

With regular monitoring of progress, we report to the Department, and where necessary work with stakeholders to address barriers.

Training and knowledge sharing on various aspects of early childhood development is done with management committees, centre staff and parents.

Children’s play and imagination, a loving relationship with caring adults, good management and governance and safe, stimulating environments are some of the elements that support good quality ECD.


As the ECD team, we work in appropriate ways to help balance these elements. This can sometimes be challenging. But working together, we can contribute to a better environment for these young children.

Thank you to our valuable partners for your part in this process.


A small reward for selfless practitioners

Milkwood Learning Workshop

As 2017 draws to a close, the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme hosted a Milkwood Learning Workshop for ECD practitioners, governing body members and field workers at Fynbos Retreat, a joint venture between Flower Valley and Grootbos. This workshop focused on nurturing and acknowledging the wonderful, selfless work that these women undertake with young children in the Overstrand region.

Activities such as painting and nature walks helped everyone to relax, trust and draw out their creativity.  These activities also highlighted the importance of self-acceptance and team work.

When it comes to self-expression and unlocking creativity, it is about the process and trusting in oneself. The practitioners experienced this through free-painting, sculptural form, land art, creative thought and time for silence in the forest.



The first five years of a child’s life are extremely important and the experiences and environment of the child in this time will have far-reaching effects in years to come. Videos and presentations at the workshop showed the ECD practitioners just how valuable their work is and how their positive inputs are having life-changing impacts on the lives of young children.

The practitioners also shared some of the barriers that they experience in their teaching practice and the team discussed ways to address these obstacles.

Flower Valley’s Kieran Whitley – who is also a reflexologist – treated all the practitioners to a rejuvenating foot massage.

The weather was chilly, but a fire, pizza and great companionship at the beautiful Fynbos Retreat made for a rewarding and insightful workshop for the women.


18 years on: Building on our Early Childhood foundation

Early Childhood Development programme

By Gabrielle Cook-Jonker, ECD Programme Manager

Since September 1998 the ECD programme has served the children, families and teachers of the Overstrand with great commitment, passion and skills. The programme has grown tremendously in these 18 years.

The arrival of spring bought not only a burst of flowers but also five beautiful, committed, passionate and skilled people to our ECD team. We work together to improve the quality of life through the service we deliver daily to young children, their caregivers, parents and teachers.

We can now build on the solid foundation of work, partnerships and relationships that have developed over the past 18 years.


So meet our four new team members:

Cath Price

Cath joined the ECD team in July. She has a Library Science degree, a diploma in Environmental Education and a MA in Fine Arts. Her experience as a librarian, environmental educator, research assistant, nature guide and in running her own business adds great value to our programme.

Her understanding of the interconnected nature of the health of families, children and the environment and her excellent sense of humour and dedication are some of her many special qualities.

She joins us in an administrative, management and governance role where she supports and coaches centre management committees, and manages and administers the ECD programme.

Kieran Whitley

Kieran joined the team in September as our Home Based Co-ordinator and Support Teacher. Her initial contact with Flower Valley was as a volunteer where her loving and caring spirit shone brightly.

Kieran has a Social Work degree and experience in special needs and community work with an environmental slant. She brings with her experience as a massage therapist, a love for gardening, walking in the mountains and horse riding. Her open-hearted nature and educational background unfolds in her love for serving vulnerable children.

Elizabeth Naude

Elizabeth also joined us in September and is one of those people who you know will find a solution in a difficult situation. She is pragmatic, efficient, kind, grounded and confident. Elizabeth has a degree in Foundation Phase education and an Honours Degree in Inclusive Education and is our Registration and Learning Programme Coordinator.

She brings to the team teaching and ECD project management experience and has a passion for empowering women personally and professionally in a teaching and learning environment. She also has a great understanding of the value of play in early childhood and skills in addressing barriers to learning.

Natasha De Wet

Natasha is an angel. A wife of a farmer and a mother of three boys, she lives just outside Baardskeerdersbos and is our Home Based Field Worker. The compassion, care and attention that she brings to vulnerable families is an inspiration.

She goes way beyond the call of duty and in her time working at Flower Valley has already had a life-changing impact on the families of the Baardskeerdersbos area. She is currently completing her level 1 qualification in ECD and will continue her educational journey in ECD.

A final word from me:

From me Gabrielle, the ECD Programme Manager, I extend my gratitude to these four women and to the donors that believe and invest in the service we deliver. Every day children’s lives are better due to the love and commitment of women such as Cath, Kieran, Elizabeth and Natasha. Every day the power of play and care changes the lives of children and families.

We still have a long way to go and the challenges are great, but with such an inspired team and with the love and beauty of the children and families that we work with, we feel confident about the road ahead.

ECD programme is looking for a registration support field worker

Early Childhood Development Programme

Flower Valley Conservation Trust (FVCT) is a registered Public Benefit Organisation, based on Flower Valley Farm, outside Gansbaai in the Overstrand. The Trust runs an Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme – working in the Gansbaai area of the Overstrand region with five ECD centres and a home-based programme.


ECD registration support field worker

Job purpose

To support the ECD Programme in coordinating and supporting the registration of ECD partial care facilities in the Gansbaai and Stanford area.


Job functions

  1. To support registered and unregistered ECD sites on the road to registration and re-registration;
  2. Support and monitoring of implementation plans;
  3. Management and organisation of logistics for training and capacity building;
  4. Site visits and monitoring;
  5. Auditing, reporting and filing;
  6. Registration project documents and schedule management

Minimum qualifications & experience:

  • Excellent administration and management skills
  • Problem solving, creative thinking and team work skills
  • Efficiency and co-ordination skills
  • Good communication and people skills (minimum of English and Afrikaans, Xhosa a benefit)
  • Understanding of community development dynamics and processes
  • Experience in project management or supervision
  • Experience in the Early Childhood Development, Education or Community development sectors
  • MS word computer skills including excel
  • Drivers licence and own transport
  • Own lap top or computer (not essential but preferable)
  • Must be based in or around Gansbaai


A market-related salary will be negotiated, dependent on qualifications and experience, for each position.

Deadline: Friday 1 September 2017

Please send your CV, a cover letter, and two contactable references to cath@flowervalley.co.za or fax 028 388 0442. For more information, contact 028 388 0713 during office hours.


A journey of self-discovery

Women’s Day seemed the perfect time for the women of our Early Childhood Development Programme to come together at Fynbos Retreat, to attend the Milkwood Workshop.

The workshop connected the 16 practitioners and programme team working toward quality delivery of ECD services to five centres that Flower Valley Conservation Trust supports.


Over the two days, the practitioners looked at ways in which young children learn, and how teachers can continue reaching them. The time together was spent making valuable connections as a team of professionals that deliver an essential service to young children and families.

The women also spoke of the importance of self-discovery as a mentor. They were encouraged to self-reflect and ask themselves critical questions during the forest walk and feedback sessions. And to express themselves artistically through clay and weaving art.


Taking a look at autism

Social worker, Kieran Whitley, also presented a talk on autism. She has focused her studies on children with special needs. Kieran explained how best work with children with autism, what techniques work best in high pressure situations and how activities like brain-gym can be used to benefit children’s development.

The women enjoyed getting to know each other during their stay at Fynbos Retreat. Nicole Arends, Principal at Seesterretjies Centre, noted how all the practitioners share a common goal: caring for the children in the Overstrand. She said this opportunity gave her a chance to share her knowledge and stories, while learning even more.


The Early Childhood Development Programme focuses on creating a holistic development environment for young children and their primary caregivers and educators, while weaving the green thread throughout their education. This can only be done when reflection takes place, and planning happens for the future.

We are looking forward to the next workshop later this year.


Meet our new Early Childhood Development support

Cath Price

Cath Price

There’s a new face representing Flower Valley’s Early Childhood Development Programme. Cath Price has joined the programme team, as the Governance and Administrative support.

Cath made the move from Cape Town to the Overberg to help provide vital educational support and care to families in our region.

She completed a Bachelors in Library Science and her MA in Fine Arts at UCT, and a Diploma in Environmental Education at Rhodes University.


“Healthy children support a healthy environment”

Subsequent to that, she worked as an environmental education and research assistant on Anysberg Nature Reserve in the Little Karoo, and as a nature guide in the Cederberg. Cath has also undertaken administrative roles in Grahamstown, working at the Cape Provincial Library Services and Rhodes University.

She says, “I believe that children should live in environments that foster their development and self-growth in healthy and positive ways. That is every person’s right on a personal level. And healthy children and families also support a healthy environment.”


Connecting with government and communities

You may well see Cath around the Overstrand area, as her main areas of responsibility are to offer administrative and governance support and guidance to the fieldworkers of the home-based care programme, and to practitioners of the five centres. This will include liaising with municipalities, government departments, the Gansbaai community and social workers.

Cath’s favourite quote is “live and let live” and she hopes to support the growth and development of the ECD programme, to reach even more children and families in the Gansbaai area.