On the first, thankfully warm, day of autumn six Playcentres from across the city opted to do a little offsite exploring together. Avonhead Playcentre had put out an invitation to join them at Cave Rock, Sumner for their regular ‘Wild Wednesday’ explorer session. Always keen for an outdoor adventure, Elliott and I tagged along.
We arrived at the beach around 9.30am with a bunch of other Playcentre families before we located Kirsty from Avonhead, who coordinates the explorer sessions. She greeted us warmly, introducing us to her children, Poppy and Bentley.
Unfortunately Elliott’s not a fan of gritty sand, whether sandpits or beaches, so he was reluctant to step off the concrete he clung to. Luckily Kirsty’s son, Bentley, took us under his wing and soon Elliott was off.
Once we’d set out our picnic blanket, Elliott pleaded to be carried over to the rock wall where Bentley and some other children were playing. He was fascinated by their imaginary play and their impressive climbing ability. He enthusiastically mimicked their talk as he played along, at this stage a safe distance from any pesky sand. Bentley made a delicious cake out of driftwood in his makeshift kitchen before offering us a slice. It’s so awesome when children are the ones inviting adults to engage in their play.
Later, Kirsty asked us to join her and her children down by the water. Bentley led the way, creating a winding track in the sand with a large piece of driftwood. Typically Elliott protested but persisted bravely across the sand. The shallow water was warm and welcoming. With only a little encouragement Elliott crouched in it, happily dragging a stick through the goopy wet sand beneath the surface. Motivated by the buzz of the children around him, Elliott had finally relaxed and began to enjoy himself. Bentley kept a watchful eye on us, perched nearby on his piece of driftwood like a vigilant seagull.
Around us there were children toting boogie boards, buckets and precious crab pincers. Parents were busy supporting, discussing, encouraging and catching up with each other as their children clambered up the rocks or into the rockpools. How lovely it was for the extended Canterbury Playcentre whanau to be out and about together enjoying a shared experience.
After Elliott tasted some seawater and a handful of sand, we ventured back to the safety of our picnic blanket for some not-so-salty snacks. The nearby rock wall, that had earlier been a house, had become a boat. By now more families had arrived. The sun was out and the beach was abuzz with the sounds of children playing.
Venturing behind the rock wall, we came across a shower with an oversized button to get the water going. Elliott’s easy to engage when there’s a button involved so we pushed it and pushed it again until the water flowed. To my surprise he plunged under. When some very sandy children appeared with their parents, families from Prebbleton Playcentre, Elliott was curious. With help, the children pushed the big shiny button, rinsed off the sand, and wandered back to the beach to get even sandier.
After drying off we went into the cave, our voices rising to sing “we’re going on a bear hunt”. Elliott was enthralled. He loved the boom of his voice in the big cavernous space. We explored all of the entrances and even met a dog whose back legs were supported by wheels. Meanwhile Bentley was busy using two sticks as his own giant crab pincers, racing rapidly around opening and closing his claws.
Later I drove home thankful for the adventure we had shared, and for the warm welcome the Playcentre families had given us. I felt thrilled that we had managed to sustain a beach outing for so long; it was a first for my sand-averse son. I also felt thankful to Bentley and his mum, two awesome explorers who became role models for us both.
Posted: Saturday 4 March 2017