A World to Explore

A World to Explore

From the hazelnut nursery to the farm, the river to the sea, the kids at Leithfield Playcentre have been exploring the world around them. And they have their sights set on a rather lofty adventure.

Leithfield is a small village some 40 minutes north of Christchurch with farms and orchards, rivers and the beach, mountains and forests close by. Starting by visiting the special properties of Playcentre families, the kids have been exploring the local environment and getting to know their turangawaewae.

The morning up at Michelle and Dave’s apple orchard and hazelnut nursery was a productive one: with some dads on hand to help hoist children up to reach the higher branches and several ladders also in operation, ‘we filled a dozen or so buckets with fruit’, says Kyla’s mum, Amber.

Up at Fiona and Craig’s farm in Omihi, ‘the children loved exploring the wonderful gardens, the sloping paddocks and every corner of the amazing house’, says Mason’s mum, and Playcentre President, Becks. ‘We always come together for picnics when we are out and about, and on this day we had a special visitor – the resident rooster named Jeremy!’

‘We try to let the kids explore and discover at their own pace, following their own curiosity’, adds Becks. ‘For our kids, that picnic midway through the journey is very important – it brings everyone back together.’

In Term 1 the children went exploring down the Kowai River track – a conservative loop which started at the Playcentre and culminated with a picnic of sausages cooked on the camp cooker and a moreish bacon and egg pie.

The occasion prompted a more ambitious venture. As Becks says, ‘we all wanted to get to the sea!’ So last week a dozen kids, with their parents in tow, took off down the Kowai River track towards Leithfield Beach – a walk that is over two kilometres on the way there and even further (seemingly) on the return. Like the gait of toddlers, progress was not steady: there was much to check out en route, and uneven and muddy ground for tripping and slipping.

On the way to the sea, the children took turns riding Billy’s bike. Some kids ran ahead with grown-ups and hid behind trees to boo out at others. Meanwhile the littlest ones bobbed up and down in backpacks, enjoying the new perspective and pace that this mode of transport afforded them.

‘At the beach the kids rode on a giant log “elephant” that had a driftwood trunk, which they had “nailed” on’, says Becks. ‘They found a hut, where Billy parked his bike; they met a pony – also out for some exercise; they found charcoal on a burnt log and collected pieces to take home; and we all collected seaweed to take back to Playcentre for the garden.’

And during all this activity, at least one little one nodded off to the undulating murmurs of the tide.

As Billy’s Mum and session Coordinator, Juliette, reflects, ‘when we go on adventurous walks with our Playcentre children, it gives them opportunities to challenge themselves, while exploring and discovering our local natural environment with their friends’.

So where to next? Becks explains that some of the parents and children have set their sights on the next adventure. ‘One morning Kay [Edie’s and Mabel’s grandma and session Coordinator] arrived with a “surprise to show us!” She led us all over to the churchyard next door and pointed to the top of Mount Grey. The kids were so excited, jumping up and down as they noticed a sprinkling of snow on their mountain.’

When Mount Grey, also known as Maungatere – 'the floating mountain' or 'the mountain that moves' – turns white with snow, maybe it’ll be the kids at Leithfield Playcentre who’ll be on the move.

Of course this excursion will be weather dependent. ‘We need it to snow first', says Becks.

A World to Explore

Posted: Monday 13 June 2016