A Playcentre journey, all the way from Japan

A Playcentre journey, all the way from Japan

She came to meet new people and learn about Playcentre. She left with the aspiration of starting her own centre. In Japan

When Japanese student Honoka (23) visited New Zealand as part of her studies, she was excited about volunteering at a Playcentre and experiencing what it is all about. She had heard about Playcentre; but, coming from a country where most parents work full-time, the concept was novel, even challenging. For Honoka it was intriguing.

The families at North Beach Playcentre extended a warm welcome. As Sarah Vickers explains, our families were ‘all for it!’ Honoka spent one week at Playcentre, having spent her first week in New Zealand at a preschool. 

Sarah explains that Honoka had a lovely unobtrusive way of getting alongside the kids. ‘She was invited into the play many times – the children loved her!’ Clearly the tamariki at North Beach know all about making friends with grown-ups; over the course of the week, they had developed strong connections with their ‘gentle, softly-spoken’ guest.

Honoka loved learning about the benefits of Playcentre for children and their families. As Sarah explains, she conversed with parents about the children’s profile books and stories, and she participated in session evaluations, sharing her observations.

Of all the observations Honoka offered, one really stood out. ‘At preschool the children were happy, happy then maybe fight, then sad and alone, taking long time to come back to play. At Playcentre the children were happy, happy then maybe fight/hurt, then sad and go to find parent, then happy happy back to play.’

Honoka noticed the resourcefulness and the resilience of children at Playcentre as they sought support from parents when upset and were able to bounce back quickly after a cuddle. Her words also capture something essential about Playcentre: the strength and breadth of relationships between children and adults.

Five years ago, when she was at Parklands Playcentre, Sarah met another Japanese student who had come to study the New Zealand model. ‘It is a privilege to meet these young women, and to share what Playcentre is all about’.

In recent years Japan has been inspired by the New Zealand model, recognising the benefits for families and communities. The country now has ten Playcentres.

On completing her studies, Honoka hopes to start up another one. She is aware, of course, that it could be challenging to convince Japanese families of the invaluable benefits, given that most parents work full-time. But she’s determined to try.

Honoka’s appreciation certainly serves to remind us how lucky we are to have Playcentre, a place for people to come together and an opportunity to play and grow – and not just for the kids! 

By Kate Barber

Pictured: Kids and parents from North Beach Playcentre enjoy playing in the sand together

A Playcentre journey, all the way from Japan

Posted: Thursday 14 April 2016