A Small and Mighty Playcentre

A Small and Mighty Playcentre

Dunsandel is a tiny farming town on the Canterbury Plains, just south of the Selwyn River. Because the local population is so small, sustaining the Playcentre takes a lot of effort. But that didn’t stop Dunsandel from putting in a stunning 17km leg in the recent Greatest Game of Tag. Katharine, the secretary at Dunsandel Playcentre, describes some of her experiences belonging to such a small centre.

Dunsandel Playcentre opened in the 1960s, thanks to the “hard graft of a few local mums”, Katharine says. In its heyday it ran three sessions a week. Now, there is only one. The centre is open for play on Mondays between 9am and 12pm. However, throughout term two the Canterbury Playcentre Association is supporting the centre to run a second session each week, one that is free to attend.

Ours is a really “cool wee centre”, Katharine enthuses. “We are located on Irvines Road in Dunsandel, right across the road from the primary school. We have a wonderful relationship with them. Our tamariki visit there from when they turn 4 and a half, every other Monday for half an hour in the new entrants class, which is wonderful.”

For Dunsandel’s leg of the recent Greatest Game of Tag they welcomed neighbours, Hororata Playcentre. “The start of our centre's leg of the game of tag was great. We met the folks from Hororata Playcentre with rousing music from our littlies, hot sausages and hot chocolate to warm them up, and homemade choc chip cookies for all. It was truly atrocious cold, rainy weather, and they were quite pleased to be finished.”

The size of the centre meant that everybody needed to join in. “We divvied up our route to Southbridge. We split the 17km into four roughly equal legs, and each family took a leg. We left it up to each family to decide how to tackle it. Everyone wanted to participate. Even though we are small, we are mighty!”

“For the first leg from our centre, the mum of one family ran it and a dad from another kept her company. It was s*** weather so her two girls and husband were the cheer squad in their vehicle. The next leg was our leg and I ran it with my two school-aged kids on their bikes. My husband was on his bike with my son in the toddler seat. The next leg another family biked together, using my husband’s bike. The final leg another mum and son biked while her husband drove their baby and 3 year old. We all met up on the outskirts of Southbridge and walked down to Southbridge Playcentre together.”

“We arrived to great fanfare at Southbridge Playcentre, with heaps of families there welcoming us with hot coffee and tea and home baking galore. The most delicious plum cake was a standout! It was a treat to get a little look around their centre and to meet some families before they headed off to Leeston.”

 For Katharine the highlight of the event was the “truly 100 percent participation from all families, including dads. It's wonderful when they get to join in”, she continues.

“The feeling of accomplishment verbalised by my kids” was also memorable. “When we were driving home and I said, ‘see this is where we finished our leg, and you can see way down there where we started’, they realised how far they had biked. They were so amazed at what a big thing they'd done, never mind in the absolute bucketing freezing rain.”

Hearing about Dunsandel Playcentre, it’s impossible not to admire the small communities that ensure that Playcentre remains an option many local families. If you’re lucky enough to live in a small town, be sure to visit to see if Playcentre’s the right fit for your family.

And you can learn more about Dunsandel Playcentre at their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/DunsandelPlaycentre/.

Frances Martin

Posted: Friday 30 June 2017