November 20th is World Children’s Day. On this day in 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, declaring all children’s fundamental right to health, education, equality, welfare, leisure, and freedom of expression. These basic values were also important considerations in the creation of the SWAROVSKI OPTIK Wichtelwald. The company’s childcare facility opened in 2008 and the premises were then expanded in 2012 following an overwhelmingly positive response and great demand. The three groups in the Wichtelwald provide care for children between the ages of one and six. The kindergarten and nursery therefore offer insights into nature and individual support for children in these first formative years.
With the provision of childcare and learning for all preschool kids in a central location on the company’s premises in Absam, Tyrol, SWAROVSKI OPTIK is helping its employees balance working commitments and family life. Flexible arrival and collection times and high-quality regional meals served directly in the Wichtelwald make life easier for working moms and dads at SWAROVSKI OPTIK. Around 40 children enjoy daily adventures tailored to their developmental stage in the nursery or kindergarten while their parents are at work. Trained educationalists and highly qualified carers provide tailored support for children in these first, formative years. Or as one mother very aptly summed up: “The Wichtelwald feels like a family for me. I’ve known everyone there for years, they’re my colleagues. I hand my child over to someone I trust, and I know my daughter feels happy there.”
The concepts, equipment, and staff in all care areas meet the highest educational standards. Particular emphasis is placed on treating the children with respect and appreciation. Learning processes are mainly initiated by the children themselves and their individual abilities are nurtured accordingly. The most successful approach is through open learning, with no set activities for the children and a focus on individual creativity.
According to the Danish family and education expert Jasper Juul, for the carers in the Wichtelwald, education means first and foremost:
In addition to large indoor activity rooms and a garden, the Wichtelwald also has its own area of woodland. Reflecting SWAROVSKI OPTIK’s core philosophy of “See the unseen,” this helps to awaken children’s curiosity and fascination for the untouched natural world, often forgotten when we become adults. Children practice respect toward other people, as well as living creatures, and our environment – in all weathers and in fun scenarios. Just like in the outdoor activities, the focus for the play equipment and structures in the group rooms is on discovery with all senses.
The care provided in the Wichtelwald is always guided by children’s individual needs and capabilities. The aim is also to provide support on the journey to becoming independent adults. Kids move up from nursery to kindergarten at around three years of age, depending on individual development. Just like the initial enrolment, the transition takes place in stages over a relatively long period of time. Likewise, in their last year of kindergarten, preschool kids are prepared for this next chapter with special tasks designed to foster motor, social, emotional, and cognitive skills.
“I enjoy spending time in the Wichtelwald because I went to nursery there too. I can do crafts and play with my friends. I like going for walks with my friends. And I’m really good in clay!” – Florentina
“I think the toys here are great, I particularly like playing with my friends. The gym and play den are really cool!” - Bella
“It’s great that there’s good food because I’m a meat lover. I like that you can do so many nice crafts here. As well as the amazing garden and big forest.” - Leopold
“The coolest thing for me is the gym, and I like the food too, especially the salad from our own vegetable garden. I really like the garden because you can race around it in the cars.” - Leo
“I enjoy playing and painting here. The activity room is my favorite place and I like having meals with the kindergarten kids.” - Leni