In Their Element

In Their Element

Following the example of their peers from Avonhead, the families at Prebbleton Playcentre are committed to getting out and about every Wednesday, regardless of the weather.

Whilst the term is plotted out on paper, with a new destination each week, the real plotting, planning and playing is left to the kids. ‘Whatever the location, there is no set itinerary’, explains Coordinator Stephanie Broomhall: ‘our tamariki always lead the way’.

There is one child in particular who has taken a lead role on such adventures. In fact, as Stephanie explains, it was the adventurous spirit and physical prowess of Jimmy (4 ½) that prompted the parents to seek out new environments and opportunities to explore for all the kids.

As Jimmy’s mum, Cathy Nott, explains, ‘Jimmy loves running and climbing. He just needs to run and climb! From the age of three he could get over a six foot fence pretty easily.’

And since Jimmy was bent on climbing fences and exploring the world beyond, the families decided to follow his impulse and take Playcentre into the outdoors – for play unbound by fences, and undiminished by rain.

Tawhirimatea tested the mettle of the group on their first outing, to Prebbleton Nature Park. Assailed by wind and rain, ‘the kids were so busy playing on a huge mound of bark, they weren’t bothered at all’, says Stephanie. ‘It was only the adults who got cold.’

‘The rain is great, but not every time’, says Stephanie. ‘The sunshine allows the babies to get down and explore as well’.

The 16 children range in age from five months to nearly five years. But, while she worried about how this would work in terms of allowing all the children to explore at their own pace, in their own direction, Stephanie says, ‘it just works'.

'We have noticed a massive increase in group play – involving children of different ages’, says Stephanie. ‘Our tamariki look after each other. We all do.’ The sessions are also fertile ground for imaginative play, she says, since ‘there are no toys getting in the way’.

‘Jimmy is in his element in nature’, shares Cathy – ‘he is always coming up with new ideas, and strategising and problem solving’.

On a recent outing, he was determined to catch a bird – but not by conventional methods. ‘We cut some branches with a pocket knife for a fake nest’, recalls Stephanie. ‘Jimmy went away and collected some small stones – which were “eggs".'

‘He wanted to use the nest with eggs as bait – and trick the bird into flying down’, explains Cathy. 

‘Jimmy gets to be a leader on sessions’, says Stephanie, ‘and he really enriches the other children’s play’.

Inspired by the interests of a particular child, the outdoor sessions have opened up new possibilities for all the children. With trees instead of fences, bark mounds instead of slides, sticks instead of toys, Jimmy is not the only one in his element. ‘They kids just love it’, says Stephanie.

Before adding that it is her ‘favourite part of the week’, too!

In Their Element

Posted: Saturday 5 November 2016