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NZ Playcentre: Sixty Years Of Making A Difference

Sixty Years of Making a Difference

The New Zealand Playcentre Federation is celebrating its diamond jubilee in 2008 - and doing its bit to ensure that generations more children can enjoy our natural environment for the next 60 years.

As well as being the 60th anniversary of the Playcentre Federation, 2008 is the International Year of Planet Earth. Playcentre is focusing on how young children and their families can help preserve the planet.

Local centres are being encouraged to plan activities like composting food waste and collecting rubbish from beaches, while explaining to the children why we need to care for our environment.

The Playcentre focus in on Small steps to effect change - the small steps that individuals, and even young children, can make, add up to a lot of benefit for the planet when all put together. In a supportive community, children learn how their actions make a difference in protecting the earth we share, and parents can learn ideas they can implement in their homes and centres to become a bit more sustainable.

"Hopefully some of these ideas, like recycling and composting, with become a habit for both the children and their parents," said Federation President, Marion Pilkington.

"Today parenting is at least as important a skill as it was 60 years ago. But it is one that is often undervalued in society and parents get little training for it."

However, one organisation - Playcentre - stands for the value of drawing parents into communities to develop and learn from one another. Playcentre believes in families learning and playing together.

In 2007 Playcentre had over 15,000 enrolled children aged under 5 years in nearly 500 centres nationwide. Playcentre Education, a branch of the Federation, provided free early childhood education courses to over 4000 parents through its NZQA approved Diploma.


Background Information:

What is Playcentre?

Playcentre runs half-day early education sessions for mixed-age groups of children from birth to school age. Playcentre is a uniquely New Zealand phenomenon and is run by families for families, with most teaching and management roles provided by trained, volunteer parents.

Playcentre originated more than 60 years ago when a group of mothers gathered in Karori to create a space where they could supporting one another as parents, provide a space for play for their children and learn new skills. Their ideas quickly spread to communities around the country.

Play activities include a wide range of outdoor and indoor activities including: playdough, jigsaw puzzles, carpentry tables with real tools, sandpits and climbing equipment, books, musical instruments, dancing and dress-ups.

Parent teams guide and talk with small groups of children, and join in their play, helping them make the most of the learning opportunities.

Through learning in a supportive play environment, children develop the curiosity and courage to try new things and the motivation to extend themselves.

Every Playcentre parent is offered free training that will give them the skills and confidence for working with children. This training is includes ideas on play, how to deal with challenging child behaviour, and understanding how children learn.

Courses also cover group skills, cultural issues, Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) and basic Maori language.

Parents also provide each other with valuable role models of different skills while working alongside each other on session. Parents report they feel more confident in their abilities and able to make an on-going contribution to their children's learning into their school years.

For more information on Playcentre visit

What is Playcentre Awareness Week?

Every two years Playcentre runs a Playcentre Awareness campaign with a national week in March. In 2008, Playcentre Awareness Week runs from 14-20 March.

The aim of this week is to raise the national profile of Playcentre, providing an opportunity for parents to make an informed choice about early childhood education. It also provides an opportunity for individual Playcentres to raise funds and have fun.

In 2008 the overlying theme of Playcentre Awareness Week is promoting environmental awareness, both in the Playcentres and in our homes. The theme is "Small steps to effect change."

The Playcentre Federation will be running a national poster and handout campaign during Playcentre Awareness Week. Some media advertising will also be coordinated nationally.

Centres are encouraged to think of things like their gardens (things edible to either people or native wildlife), composts, worm farms, touch, feel and smell gardens, making use of the recycling systems provided by local government. Other ideas include exploring recycling and creating renewable resources, for example paper.

Centres are also encouraged to be out in their communities, for example, taking time out to do beach/park/public space clean ups, and even encouraging the public to join in. In all these activities, parents talk to the children about how if everyone takes some small steps to care for the environment, it really will lead to change.


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