Interview

Behind-the-scenes with ABC Kids Listen

Earlier this year, the ABC announced the launch of ABC Kids Listen – a new digital radio station for children in the first five years. As well as drawing on the ABC’s vast library of music and stories, the ABC made clear that the new station would be linked with the Early Years Learning Framework.

With the digital station now well established, The Framework discussed the background of the idea with the Manager of ABC Kids Listen Stephanie Carrick.

The Framework: Where did the idea for ABC Kids Listen come from?

Stephanie Carrick: The ABC wanted to provide more options for families and children in the audio space, and given ABC KIDS is one of the biggest publisher of children’s music and stories it seemed like a really good base to build upon – we found there was enough music and content to sustain a full time digital radio station and a mobile app that has all our programming on demand, in addition to the original content we are making for podcasting.

All our programs are 100% child led with no adult content, but we program this in a calm and happy way that is mindful of parents and carers as we know audio for young children is a shared listening experience. Original material is focused on children learning about the world around them and to help spark conversation with their adults and carers, such as our News Time bulletins made especially for pre-schoolers.

In effect we wanted to create something to help contribute to children being, belonging, and becoming.

Why was it important for you to connect content to the Early Years Learning Framework?

A key pillar of the ABC’s charter is to educate and we wanted to ensure what we were creating was best practice. The EYLF gave us the groundwork for how to achieve this. Music and storytelling is such a key part of childhood development, and so many of the components of the EYLF aligned with our plans for new content, it seemed natural to be guided by it. The great thing about play based learning is you can also have a lot of fun while doing it!

We consulted with Dr Peter Whiteman who was a co-author of the EYLF, and trialled our service with the early education centres at Macquarie University, including the Mia Mia Child and Family Study centre.

We have specific programs that focus on particular areas of development, for instance ‘Sing Along’ provides an opportunity for children to sing songs and chant rhymes and play with words and sounds,  whereas ‘Shake and Move’ focuses on music to encourage physical activity combining gross and fine motor movement.

How do you hope that educators and teachers will use the station?

There are two main ways to access the service, via Digital Radio (DAB+) which is programmed based on a typical day of a pre-schooler, and via our free mobile app which has all our radio programs and podcasts on-demand to listen to anytime.

Of course there is so much variance in schedules of young children in different rooms that on-demand programs can offer the best targeted experience (through plugging the phone into a stereo or using blue tooth speakers).

As well as singing and dancing, we have ‘Story Time’ and programs specifically designed for quiet time and sleep.  We also have a daily Acknowledgement of Country, developed with Reconciliation Australia, played at noon. Our STEM podcast ‘Imagine This’ answers tricky questions about the natural world posed by young children (such as Why do stars twinkle?) that can be used to scaffold on play based learning.

Do you think that the station can have a role in improving community and parent understanding of early education?

This a definitely an aim of ABC KIDS listen.  Parents are their child’s first teachers and we see our service as helping to bridge the gap between child care and home by giving them content options that align with the key principles of early education.

While our audio service is for children, our website contains an early learning section that explain key concepts to parents (such as sensory play), as well as providing art and craft activities.

All our original content is reviewed by an early education consultant. We are also partnering with other key organisations who are focused on education, such as the Families and Creative Learning Team at the Sydney Opera House, who we worked with on our ‘Classic Kids’ music education podcast.  We hope this shared understanding in the community helps families to recognise the invaluable contribution early education plays in their daily life.

Thank you to Stephanie Carrick for her time in speaking with The Framework. ABC Kids Listen can be found on the ABC website at abc.net.au/kidslisten.

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