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Remember when you were young and spent your days outdoors, playing in the sandpit, digging in the garden, feeding farm animals and splashing around in a make-shift water park? While those activities aren’t daily occurrences for many children today, they are at the Smithfield Village Early Learning Centre.

The innovative and one-of-a-kind Cairns’ early learning centre is designed to give young children the opportunity to experience and learn from the great outdoors while, at the same time, grow in an innovative environment led by passionate, caring educators.

Opened in 2014 by John Wall, who has built over 400 childcare centres in Australia, the centre has become a huge hit with parents and children. So much so, that all 126 placements are full, and the waiting list keeps growing.

“I believe kids want their ‘wildhoods’ back,” John said. “They want to play for real and want to get dirty. They haven’t learned how to entertain themselves, but are so used to being entertained, whether it’s on screen or in a program. Their imagination suffers, and they miss out on one of the simple joys of life – just regular play.”

The centre’s outdoor environment is unique to Cairns in many ways. It has four sand pits, two large bike tracks, a waterpark, a large grassy area for children to run around in, a Barnyard, which is home to goats, chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, reptiles and a wide range of bird species. There’s even a Garden World where children learn how to plant, tend to, and eat a variety of herbs and vegetables.

The children also delight in meals that are cooked daily by five-star culinary chefs who provide a mixture of gourmet and home-style cooking.


“It’s about your child being excited to go to day care.”


“Our head chef has also implemented a Mini Master Chef Program every day,” centre director Kim Dunbar said. “He teaches children about the ingredients in food and shows them that good food doesn’t come out of packages.”

The centre’s indoor learning areas are equipped with state-of-the-art resources for all development stages of children and includes furniture such as tables, chairs and book shelves made from natural materials, not plastic.

Having 20 years’ experience in the industry has given John the insight to understand what children, mums and dads want in a childcare centre.

“It’s about the child being excited to go to day care,” he said. “The centres we are building and developing are unique, managing and understanding a balance between education, care, play and ‘wildhood’. This is the type of environment I would wish all children to be part of.”


Smithfield Village Early Learning
Corner of O’Brien Road and Smithfield Village Drive
Ph: 4057 8479

Bluewater Village Early Learning Centre
1 Maritime Way, Bluewater Estate, Trinity Park
Ph: 4229 9007