Jen Van Praag operates Mid Hartley Family Day Care from her rural property. Her approach is gentle and nurturing, allowing the children in her service to explore through play, at their own pace. Jen spoke to us about why she loves operating a Blue Mountains Family Day Care service:


How long have you been long an educator in Family Day Care?


Over 12 years now. When I had my first child I wanted to stay at home with her so I decided to start Family Day Care. I absolutely loved it and the bonds that my children had with the children I looked after was amazing. So I just kept running from there.


I now have three children who have all grown up with family day care.


Now they’re all at school, I could branch out into other work, but I just love it too much.




What do you love about being a Blue Mountains Family Day Care educator?


I love working with little kids and the relationships you can have with a small group. The bonds they can form in such a small service is important. I’ve worked in long day care off and on over the years in short stints and it’s great, and you do have bonds with the kids, but it’s not as close and you really get to know the families in this environment.



What are the advantages of Family Day Care?


Those connections you have in a small environment and even the connections the children have with each other. They form these close friendships and outside of care, there are a lot of friendships made from here.




What’s your philosophy around early childhood education?


I believe children learn through play. I believe in giving them lots of opportunities to explore and discover with little direction, allowing them to become their own little self.


Of course there’s time for teacher–directed play but there needs to be a balance.

I hope to nurture and build on each child's confidence, self-esteem and social skills.

Every child will blossom in different areas and they all learn at their own pace.



You live in an amazing place with lots of space, do you spend a lot of time outdoors?


Yes, outdoors is a big thing here. If it’s nice weather we’re out there. They learn from a natural outdoor space, about a sense of responsibility when feeding the chickens and the alpacas and watering plants and that becomes part of the daily routine. They learn about sustainability and the environment too when we recycle where possible and compost our scraps.



What do the children love about Family Day Care?


A lot of the families comment that they love that we have the animals and the outdoor space. We can go for wanders down the paddock and they love the openness of it.


And because we have the space separate from the house we have a lot of freedom. We’ll paint and play with slime and make lots of mess and I don’t have to worry about it being in the house. And because it’s a smaller space, I can always see where they are.



What do you love about working with children?


Watching them grow, seeing their development, and what they can do from one week to the next. Also, watching the delight on their face when you create an experience for them and they’re just totally stoked with it, like the other day putting a pot of brown playdough with water and ingredients and leaving it to see what they’ll do. The delight on their faces when they asked if they could put the playdough in the water and make mud, then seeing those little faces light up when they make this mud.


So yes, giving them these experiences, providing things for them that they might not do in a different environment.


If you are interested in becoming an educator with Blue Mountains Family Day Care, or would like to find a place for your child in the service, please email us at or call 4780 5652