Finding Your Way When You’re New to Playcentre

Finding Your Way When You’re New to Playcentre

For parents, starting at Playcentre can be a bit like beginning a new job. There are new faces, routines, responsibilities, and a way of doing things that takes some time to get used to. 

For most, it very quickly becomes worth the effort. Once you settle in - knowing where to find the rags, learning everybody’s names, making connections - and your child discovers the wonders of Playcentre play, there is no place like it. This is one family’s story towards finding their place at Playcentre.

Fale’ofa Stockwell and her son, Corbett, have been attending Landsdowne Terrace Playcentre for a term. Initially, when I spoke to Fale’ofa about writing this article, she hesitated because she was finding Playcentre a bit difficult despite feeling warmly welcomed. I reassured her that her honest reflection was exactly what I wanted. I felt it was important that we all be reminded of what it’s like to be a new Playcentre parent. I also wished to give new parents a better understanding of what to expect when they enrol at Playcentre, while at the same time acknowledging that each child, parent, centre, and experience is a little different.

Fale’ofa first heard about Playcentre from a parent at Christchurch City Libraries’ ‘Babytimes’ when Corbett was six months old. Fale’ofa hadn’t realised that she lived so close to a centre, and admits that she didn’t initially know the difference between a Playcentre, preschool and kindy. After some investigating, however, Fale’ofa decided to put Corbett on the waiting list for Landsdowne Terrace. She also signed up for ‘BabiesCanPlay’ at Somerfield Playcentre. “‘BabiesCanPlay’ introduced me to Playcentre’s philosophy,” she says. “We had a Playcentre President come and visit and also a mum, so we could have a chat and ask questions.”

At the beginning of term 3 this year Fale’ofa began attending Landsdowne Terrace for one day a week. Corbett was twenty months old at the time and still attending ‘BabiesCanPlay.’ Fale’ofa admits that joining Playcentre was “overwhelming at first ... I think the overwhelming part is due to Corbett being under two and needing a bit of supervision, so he's not tipping over all the confetti containers, smearing someone else's painting, or falling off the slide ladder.”

Of course, Playcentre isn’t just about supervising your child; there are other things to get your head around. “The roles and responsibilities, those are part of the overwhelming things,” Fale’ofa says. “I’m not used to duties or parent help. I’m very happy to do it, but it's all new and so a bit daunting. I guess it’s a bit like a new job, you kind of feel in the deep end. There are always plenty of people willing to answer your questions and help, though, which is great.”

To enable her to better understand everything that goes on at Playcentre, Fale’ofa also commenced Course 1. She admits that she rushed to complete it, and starting Course 2 before the course structure changes in 2018 only added to her busyness. Fale’ofa is loving the free courses, however, and the opportunities they provide to learn about Playcentre and child development. She found reading Pennie Brownlee’s ‘Magic Places’ as part of Course 1 “fascinating” and has really enjoyed visiting other Playcentres, like Russley and Rolleston, as part of Course 2.

Putting the steep learning curve aside, Fale’ofa speaks enthusiastically about the many wonderful things that Playcentre has already offered her. For her son, Fale’ofa really appreciates the “whole variety of experiences” that Corbett has enjoyed on session. Corbett is “leading the way,” she glows. She loves the sense of “empowerment” that Playcentre provides for children. Fale’ofa hopes that Playcentre will provide her and Corbett with long lasting friendships, and she’s looking forward to attending Playcentre camps in the near future.

Fale’ofa loves the camaraderie of meeting “other normal mums” at Playcentre. “Everybody’s relaxed and friendly, and there’s no pressure to look a certain way,” she says. “There’s kind of a ‘big sister’ vibe about the more experienced mums,” she continues, “and it is nice to learn by their example.” Fale’ofa has been particularly impressed by the mums she’s seen handling tricky situations with children, getting the children to think of solutions themselves. She hopes to be “parenting that well one day.”

Fale’ofa’s advice for potential Playcentre parents is simple. “I think that they should know they have three free visits and feel free to use them all,” she points out. “I would let them know that the Playcentre courses are excellent too. Oh, and centre members should wear their nametags! They were so helpful to get to know everybody’s names.”

I hope that Fale’ofa’s experiences provide some insight into what to expect if you’re new to Playcentre or if you’re thinking about joining. I hope, too, that they remind established members what it’s like to begin at Playcentre so that we can continue to provide valuable support for our newest members. Contact your local centre if you’re thinking about beginning Playcentre, and don’t forget to make the most of your three free visits!

Posted: Tuesday 24 October 2017