While Helensville has several early childhood centre options, it pays to remember that one option is a local playcentre with a good pedigree; it has been running for around 50 years and continues to receive the tick of approval from the Education Review Office (ERO).
It’s also good to know that participating parents and caregivers have recently refurbished Helensville Playcentre. The indoor play area has been opened out and is now a much more flexible space, there’s a dress-up room and a Wendy house where children can enjoy their role play, the area where mums can look after their babies while still being part of the activity has been improved and the book collection has been brought up-to-date. Outside, the jungle gym, bridge, swings and sandpit are really popular in summer and there’s a firehose for kids who love their water play. Importantly, the building and outdoors area are fully fenced.
In line with the philosophy of Playcentre New Zealand Helensville’s chapter is parent-run and child-centred. “It’s a really good place for stay-at-home mums,” says Funding Officer Kirsty Fraser, who has a son enrolled. “The children learn through their play and as a parent it’s great being able to watch as they develop and form relationships. Mums and other caregivers can play to their strengths in encouraging children to extend their activities.”
Parents and caregivers have the option of undertaking parenting and early childhood education courses organised through Te Akoranga Playcentre Association, which represents 11 Playcentres in West and North-west Auckland. The Space course, for example, which runs when there are enough enrolments, is designed to help first time mothers. Playcentre mum Andrea Sugar, who has taken the Space course, says, “Space offers a safe and involving learning environment, with tutors or Playcentre mum mentors there to reassure you you’re doing a fantastic job. My eldest child still has a close relationship with other ‘Space kids’ and their parents are still my sounding board.”
Along with the centre’s good resources the child-development focus means that a portfolio is collated for each child. This includes descriptions of play activities and photographs taken to capture significant moments.
In addition to on-site activities the centre has a schedule of field trips – this year’s outings so far have included visiting the Easter Show and a very popular trip to Westpac Helicopters.
Whole family social events like dinners and BBQs are popular and last summer a
touch rugby team took to the field. “We won one game by default,” says Kirsty.
Secretary Robyn Wards, who has two children at the centre, is very positive about the benefits of membership. “Because it’s community run, everything you put in you’ll get out. The awesome thing about Playcentre is the tight-knit community we’ve formed. I started my daughter there at eight weeks. It was great being around other people and my son wasn’t missing out by having to stay home.”
The centre is open from 9am – 12pm on Mondays and Thursdays and the cost is $30 per term for a family.
The families who make up this friendly community of parents, caregivers and children welcome newcomers and would love locals looking for a great pre-school to call in to 7 Stewart Street and check it out. Helensville Playcentre can be found at http://www.teakoranga.org.nz/helensville/and on Facebook.