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Playcentre good for parents, children - research

Playcentre good for parents as well as their children – new research

The benefits to communities from having play centres go well beyond the years in which children and their parents are involved, new research has found.

Play centres help adults reach their full potential both as parents and members of communities by increasing their skills and confidence, and awareness and understanding of other families from a range of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

Results of a two-year project carried out by a team of researchers from the College of Education were announced at Palmerston North’s Park Road Playcentre recently.

Commissioned by the national Playcentre Federation, the project aimed to determine the extent to which adults who participate in play centres contribute to so-called “social capital”, or benefits to the community.

Play centres, unlike kindergartens and child care centres, rely almost entirely on parents to operate rather than paid teachers. Of the 519 play centres, 31 per cent do not use paid supervisors at all.

Project Director Dr Kimberley Powell says the findings were emphatic. “Playcentre has a personal impact on adults who participate and allows them to perpetuate resources in their local community by contributing their special talents and ideas,” Dr Powell says.

“It appears to shape their identities as parents, but it also gives them the opportunity to explore new experiences such as learning about play, participating in children’s learning, and being an active contributor in an organisation that depends on collaboration and idea-sharing. “If we regard social capital as resources – social, cultural and economic – and that participation creates further networks and access to resources as parents and as adults, then play centres definitely do contribute.” The research involved four play centre case studies, two each in Manawatu and Otago, and a national survey of all play centres.

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