Being a Playcentre Dad

Being a Playcentre Dad

Traditionally dads have made up a minority of parents on session. Oxford Playcentre dad and centre Co-president, Salvo, is one of many fathers actively changing this. His enthusiasm for Playcentre is boundless, and he’s keen to see more dads get involved.

Salvo is a stay at home father of two. He describe himself as “an extremely proud dad of my 3-year-old daughter, Agata. Just 8 months ago we also became super-extremely-proud fathers to C. He’s now 2 years old. I can hardly remember my life prior to becoming a dad, a stay at home father, and a spouse.” 

Salvo’s home is a vibrant and busy one. “We like to consider ourselves an international enterprise. I’m Italian and Australian, my partner is Puerto Rican and Swiss. Agata is 1/8 Maori and kiwi, our boy is European and kiwi. In our household we speak Italian and Spanish, seldom English, and my children are Italian-Spanish bilingual. We share our time - and patience - with two cats, two parakeets, a rabbit, three ducks, four hens, and three guinea hens. Our home is a really busy place.”

When Salvo moved from Auckland to Canterbury just two and a half years ago, a friend encouraged him to join the local Playcentre. At the time he knew nothing about Playcentre. Since then his life as a parent and beyond has been strongly shaped by the “gentle, welcoming and warm-hearted friendly community” he found there. “Having been the son of migrants, and an expat for the majority of my working life, frequenting our Playcentre gave me a sense of belonging, an extra set of sisters and brothers, another reason to stop and take a breath.”

For Salvo, being able to watch your children learn and grow is one of the great pleasures of being on session. “Being a Playcentre dad comes with a lot of awesomeness. I get to watch my children being social and independent, I get to participate in their play, I get to witness their learning. Most importantly, I can, without any inhibition, extend my family life and adventures within the physical and emotional spaces of Playcentre. I get the chance to wake up the kid in me and let it free! Dancing and pretending to be a butterfly, go on a bug hunt, paint dinosaur tracks, believe in the magic of fairy tales! Who wouldn’t want to do it?”

As we all know, Playcentre is much more than a place for your children to play. It is a family, with all the varied and wondrous experiences that that word connotes. “My children and I formed extraordinary relationships within our Playcentre community”, Salvo explains. “We all take care of each other and this, consequently, extends outside the boundaries of Playcentre life, finding its way right into our family lives.” 

Salvo quickly threw himself into the life of his centre. He began by “volunteering as the unofficial Wednesday cake baker.” Then he became Oxford’s librarian and social media specialist. More recently he became Co-president, a role that he describes with enthusiasm. “Being a Co-president is simply fantastic. I get to share this journey with a great friend who has the same enthusiasm and love for Playcentre. We are informed and inform - communication is vital, and this especially includes listening. We motivate when necessary, we work as a team, we recognise everyone’s contribution and participation. We collaborate, giving voice and opportunities to our team members.”

Salvo’s also currently completing Course Two, something he feels has brought fresh insights to his parenting. “As a Playcentre dad I feel empowered to individuate my children’s learning, emotional and social development.”

When I ask if there are any challenges to being a Playcentre father, he is frank. “As a dad, like any other stay at home parent/carer, there are moments when I need to take a break, drink a strong long black coffee, and lay back a little.” Playcentre is, of course, the perfect place to find people who understand this. “I’m happy to say that I can have that moment at Playcentre too, where my support system is in full alert. It feels great to be supported, to be acknowledged.”

Salvo wholeheartedly recommends becoming involved in Playcentre as a dad. “Yes! Please come forward”, he says. Any concerns about fitting in with a room full of mothers were quickly allayed. “Playcentre mums are a fun bunch. I can understand dads being a bit apprehensive about entering a room full of mums and their kids - I used to be one of them - but my advice would be a cake and a step at a time.”

While Salvo remains in the minority as a Playcentre father, he is quick to acknowledge that he’s far from the only one involved. “I am not the only Playcentre dad at Oxford’s Playcentre”, he says. “Throughout the seasons we’ve had several dads coming in and out. I would also like to thank all the working dads of our Playcentre: those that leave work early to load wood chips, those that work hard to paint and build our Christmas float every year, those that set up our sail shades in spring and pull them back down in autumn. There is an army of us Playcentre dads, really,” he concludes.

Having dads actively involved in our community can only strengthen it. Whether they can contribute cakes, participate in working bees, visit when they can, attend regularly, or take on formal roles within the centre, please encourage the dads you know to become part of Playcentre.

Thank you, Salvo, for being such a great example of what dads can contribute to Playcentre.

Frances Martin


Posted: Thursday 1 June 2017