Our Connect Early services and supports are for children from birth to five years and their caregivers. These include supported playgroups, support at home and support to connect with other services in the community, including early childhood education and care, family support, early intervention and disability services as well as transition to primary school.
We all know that being with young children can be joyful and fulfilling and it can be challenging and peppered with anxieties. The first 2000 days of children’s lives are the most important period for their brain growth and is a critical time for physical, cognitive, social and emotional health. What happens in the first 2,000 days has been shown to have an impact throughout life. Our team of skilled and caring professionals have worked with families with young children for many years and are here to support you and your family as you navigate the early stages of your little one’s life.
BestStart offers a helping hand to families who don’t know where to turn when they have concerns about their child’s development and are unsure of the next step.
Our experienced staff have over 30 years in Early Childhood Intervention and can help you to set out a plan of action, assist with making referrals, completing forms, getting on waitlists, suggesting activities that support you and your child, accessing the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention Pathway and generally checking in on you to support the steps along that pathway.
BestStart offers immediate short term support to assist you to connect to services you need, provide information and support your confidence along the way.
Please contact our Head office on 4758 9966 to find out more.
Connect and Nurture (CAN)
We recognise the challenges of caring for children birth to 3 years and know that support in the home can often make the world of difference during this period of a family’s life.
CAN offers a home-visiting service for a period of 6 months for families with children aged birth to 3 years who live in the Blue Mountains and Penrith LGA. Our volunteers are trained and matched with families, to provide support to families in their homes. This support could be:
- undertaking light duties around your home,
- engaging with siblings,
- sharing a cuppa and an encouraging word with a parent or a carer,
- Or mix of all of the above.
Support is provided for 2 hours per week for up to 6 months. Parents/carers stay with the volunteer at the home and its often this relationship that makes all the difference for a parent/carers’ wellbeing. Families and volunteers alike have expressed how rewarding it is for them both to be part of this program and feel connected to each other and the community.
CAN can also put families in touch with a dedicated Family Support Worker for immediate support and/or referral to a rich network of support services in our community.
We are always looking for volunteers to ensure we can provide support to as many families as possible. Perhaps you know of someone who would like to volunteer for Connect and Nurture?
Contact us on 02 4759 1462 and ask for the CAN program.
Our Dads playgroup is at Heatherbrae at Lawson on a Saturday morning 10am -12pm and is loved by many Dads and their children.
We have experienced male group facilitators who ensure the smooth running of this program each week.
There is space to play, read a story, do some art and craft, talk and enjoy a coffee while connecting with other Dads. We know it’s important for dads to chat with other Dads about being a father/carer and a partner or just the chance to talk about everyday things.
If you would like to come along to Dad’s playgroup, please drop in or contact us on 02 4759 1462.
Heatherbrae is a warm and inviting place for parents and carers to come with their young children to play, to connect with other families, to talk and to be heard. There is a warm cuppa, something to eat, and a free and safe environment for you and children at Heatherbrae.
We offer a drop-in service from 9.30am – 3pm Monday to Thursday, 9.30am – 1:00 pm on Fridays.
Our facilitators are there to offer you support, provide early childhood education information and resources and to engage with children in playful activities.
There are toys and resources to borrow, information on Connect’s range of services as well as information on other community services.
We partner with other services to facilitate specific groups for our community, for example, First time Parents and Carers Kin and Co. We have a Child and Family Health Nurse attend weekly on a Wednesday to connect with our families of young children.
Come in and say hello or contact us on 02 4759 1462
MyTime - MyTime is time for you…
MyTime is for all parents and carers of children under the age of 18 who need a higher level of care than other children. This might be because of disability, chronic medical condition, or other additional needs including developmental delay. MyTime members come from different backgrounds and their children have different abilities and needs.
Being a parent and carer is an important job. It’s easy to get caught up in looking after your child’s needs but looking after yourself is important too. MyTime is a place where you can unwind and share ideas and experiences with others who understand whilst children are safely engaged with a dedicated play facilitator.
Connect is proud to facilitate the only MyTime group on the Blue Mountains.
Connect@Mytime meet regularly during school terms and enjoy a coffee, cake and a chat. We will have guest speakers or activities – whatever the parent group feel they need.
We meet at the Bungarabee Family Centre in Connect’s ELP space on a Wednesday at 10am-12pm during school terms. This program is free to attend.
MyTime is funded by the Parent Research Centre and delivered through Playgroups NSW and Connect is grateful for the ongoing financial support provided to ensure this vital program continues.
For more information about MyTime groups see the website here. Contact Connect Head Office on 02 4758 9966.
Play and Chat Groups
Connect have faciliated Play and Chat Playgroups across the mountains for over 15 years. They are a regular part of family life for many families in our community. A place for parents and carers to meet with friends, where children can meet and play and learn new skills, where community information is shared and morning tea is available.
Led by experienced Playgroup Facilitators, the Play and Chat groups are held in local schools which also helps families and children become familiar with the school grounds and activities. We partner with Gateway Family Services to deliver to some of our groups and fun activities are always on offer.
The groups meet weekly across the week and across the region. All families and children of all abilities are welcome.
Come and join us at:
• Katoomba North Public – Monday and Tuesday mornings
• Katoomba Public – Thursday mornings
• Winmalee OOSH (Pinaroo) – Wednesday mornings
• Penrith South Public – Tuesday mornings
• Kingswood Park Public – Thursday mornings
Please contact our Head office on 02 4758 9966 to find out more about times for each group.
Start Strong Pathways Programs
The Start Strong Pathways program offers early childhood educational experiences for young children prior to enrolment to an early childhood centre. The program strengthens the engagement of children within these services, and helps promote the importance of early childhood education to families. This funding is provided by the NSW Department of Education.
Why is Early Childhood Education so important:
When children participate in structured, play-based learning before they start school, they build key social, emotional and cognitive skills necessary to support lifelong learning. Research has shown that all children benefit from attending Early Childhood Education before starting school. This is particularly so for children experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage as it provides the opportunity for extra supports to be put in place before children are in the school setting.
Connect facilitates different programs under this funding to support these outcomes.
The Early Learning Program (ELP)
Our Early Learning Program is a small group program for children aged birth to 3 years who are not yet attending an Early Childhood Education Setting- this may be a preschool or long day care centre.
We understand there are many challenges they may have prevented a family from accessing formal Early Childhood Education.
These can include
- difficulty accessing places
- lack of transport
- families not feeling confident to access Early Childhood Education.
Experienced Early Childhood Educators support each child and their family through a play-based program that aligns with the Early Years Learning Framework and child development theory that will help them transition to an Early Childhood Education Setting. Our facilitators consider each child’s individual strengths, interests and needs and this is included in the program. Parents and carers are also supported to learn more about child development, early childhood education and gain support from each other as their child transitions to Early Childhood Education.
We offer this program on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 2 hours and family and siblings are welcomed. This is a free program and is delivered at the Bungarabee Family Centre in Connect’s ELP space. Assistance with transport can be arranged.
Please contact our Head office on 02 4758 9966 to find out more.
Transition to school program
Connect provide transition to school programs from early education into kindergarten for children and families in the Lithgow, Blue Mountains, Penrith, Hawkesbury and Western Sydney areas. The bespoke programs assist children and their families to have a positive start to school by offering supported playgroups facilitated by early childhood teacher/s and held in primary schools during terms 3 and/or 4. Children not accessing other prior-to-school services have priority of attendance.
Children and their families have the opportunity to experience the school environment gradually before starting Kindergarten. They may also be introduced to community agencies that provide them with information or services to help their child / family with any issues that might act as a barrier to successful transition to school. A positive start to school is one of the critical components of a childs’ lifelong learning.
Please call our Head Office on 02 4758 9966 or head to our website https://www.transitiontoschool.net/ to find out more about our Transition to school sessions.
Little Possums is a Play/Expressive Art therapy and mentoring program for Aboriginal children located within two schools in Western Sydney. We provide culturally sensitive support through mentoring, advocacy and play/expressive therapy through both our Expressive Therapist and Aboriginal Mentor. Our aim is to build a strong sense of identity, heal emotions and behaviours from trauma, loss and grief as well as enhancing a joyful participation in all aspects of school, community life and relationships. Play and art is the universal language of children and through this children are able to explore their worries and fears at their own safe pace and depth.
Please contact our Head office on 02 4758 9966 to find out more.
Kidzone is a play based after-school program for 5-12 year olds focusing on their social and emotional wellbeing. It is an opportunity to engage with each other, explore and identify feelings from big to small as well as learning how to navigate social situations with each other. Play is a big focus of the program as our team work with children to support regulation, share stories and explore creatively. We work alongside the parents and school holistically offering support where and if needed.
Please contact our Head office on 02 47589966 to find out more.
“Without Heatherbrae, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped… I really struggled with a little baby and a boisterous 3-year-old.”
Parent - Heatherbrae