Friday, 18 May 2012


by Sam Ashdown


Playcentres are organic creatures, families and children come and go, adding, adjusting, enhancing and improving the centre, its energy and its rhythm. As our children grow the centre grows with them. Through peaks of activity when the roll is so high we wonder how we can adequately meet everyone's needs, to the troughs when the roll is so low we wonder how we can stay in existence, with everyone doing a little, the wonderful entity that is Playcentre prevails.


At Warrington our hardworking and graciously giving adult members have been slowly but surely chipping away at the list of jobs we have had to get done in preparation for re-licensing by the Ministry of Education in August this year. We have replaced our gates which were entirely too easy to climb over and escape from; our thanks to Mark Horsefield for his time fitting these for us. We then set about replacing our ancient swing set which required a whole new soft fall area and two new standard compliant frames, and then a selection of interchangeable swinging attachments fabricated and fitted by AJ Grants. A wonderfully well supported working bee before the Easter break saw our old tyre retaining barrier around our outdoor play equipment renovated and raised in height, ready to take the 20 cubic metres of play-grade bark chippings we will have distributed by the time this goes to press, to bring this area up to ministry standards. Phew!


Then just for fun we have renovated the sad little piece of wasteland that was behind our building into a "Wild Things" garden area. This project began over a year ago and involved a certain amount of earth moving, a drainage coil and a weekend with a compacter to create a path. Once these hard landscaping jobs were out of the way the fun began, planting out native trees and shrubs, creating a den and filling the area with multi-sensory outdoor accessories. This particular project has been a joy to watch evolve and to me epitomises the sense of shared ownership we enjoy through playcentre. Over the weeks members have quietly brought along something new, a new plant, some shells to decorate the fence or just their time to weed and take care, and while no one person has taken control or responsibility for the area it has become a beautiful addition to our centre's environment, which will continue to mature and grow for future generations of families.


 All of these projects have involved a fair amount of work but of course a fair amount of funding also, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the following organisations for their support through grants: Foodstuffs and the Honda Tree Fund provided the funds to develop the Wild Things area. Then to: Bendigo Valley, the Lion Foundation, Pub Charity, Oceana Gold, the Otago Community Trust, Dunedin Casino Charitable Trust, and Alexander Macmillan, thank you. All of these organisations have contributed to our playground upgrade. These funding opportunities have enabled us to keep Warrington Playcentre moving forward and we are entirely grateful that they are there to be drawn from. We are extraordinarily lucky to have a parent member who has thrown herself into administering and co-ordinating the applications and accountability for these grants; she has our heartfelt gratitude for her tenacity and skill. For myself, a self-confessed "form-a-phobe", I am a little in awe of people who can do this.


So, renovations and projects aside, we continue to provide two sessions a week. On Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9.15am – 12.15pm our doors are open and the place is alive with chatter, laughter and stealth learning through play. Since January we have seen three of our children move on to join Room 3 at Warrington School, with three more on regular visits before joining their buddies full time by June. It is always a bitter-sweet moment saying goodbye as children leave us for school. Their personalities, skills and talents are much missed, but it is offset by the joy of seeing children who are secure in their ability to manage themselves away from home, confident and trusting of the adults who care for and educate them, with some strong friendships in place, move on with excitement into the next phase of their learning and growth.


As a centre we enjoyed running a treasure map game at the Waitati A&P Society Show, and we are practising hard for the Warrington Matariki celebration where we have been invited to join in the musical programme which follows the parade. We always have a great time when we get out and about. Most recently we have explored Evansdale Glen, picnicking, floating and racing sticks in the river and playing hide and seek. We also had a wonderful autumn walk through the Truby King Reserve at Seacliff, picking blackberries and learning how to play conkers.

Following a joint training opportunity earlier this year our Otago Playcentre Advisor, Allen Somerville, who supports several centres in our immediate area from Waitati to Maheno, has instigated the opportunity for members of all these centres to meet as a "cluster group". As small rural centres we share similar challenges with keeping our centres alive and thriving and I find the idea of sharing our problems and successes a really exciting prospect. Long live Playcentres.

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