Playcentre has been in New Zealand for over 80 years. It was set up after WW11 as a way for families with young children to come together and support each other in their communities. Playcentre is for children from 0-6 years old. There are 480 Playcentres around the country. It is a community collective that uses a consensus decision making process so everyone has an equal voice! It works as a parent-run co-operative so parents volunteer their time to be educators on sessions and to do the jobs needed to keep the centres running. It is not for profit and promotes a free play, child-led learning through play philosophy. Playcentre kids are allowed to get messy, play in mud and nature and experience and explore the world without adults prescribing what is the ‘right’ way.
It is a great way to stay involved in the education of your child in their early years and really enjoy this special time. Playcentre kids develop excellent critical thinking skills, become super creative and explore working theories about the world through hands on real play experiences. Parents attend with children every week and children when ready can have independent sessions as well.
Children choose what they want to do a in resource rich environment and the parents role is to extend their passion and learning. There is free parent education relating to child development and the learning through play philosophy. Playcentres ask for a small koha. At my centre, for example we only donate $30 a term if we can afford to. Playcentre is not just about an early childhood educational experience where childrens own passions guide their learning, it is also about whanau, community and buildings friendships and connections that can last a lifetime.
Personally I have worked hard to be part of it (yes, it does take some commitment) but the benefits easily outweigh the work I have put in. Having my kids fully engaged in an environment with adults I know well and trust and where they can experiment, explore and discover the world themselves has been invaluable. They absolutely loved it. Playcentre has also been special for me too. My own skills in effective communication, facilitating groups and knowledge around the learning theories that I want my children to be exposed to has been amazing. Working as part of a true collective where everyone comes together for the benefit of our whanau and also our wider community has been a powerful experience. It is inspiring and shows that beautiful solutions already exist in Aotearoa!
– Heather Lyall-Carolan
Contact Heather: firstname.lastname@example.org