A number of Kidsfirst Kindergartens have playgroup or ‘Whānau Time’ services for children aged younger than three. Centres open up their doors once a week to anyone in the neighbourhood who may want to bring along children to have a play and make the most of being in a kindergarten.
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All teachers involved in playgroup have spoken about the benefits of this interaction with younger children and whānau.
Two Kidsfirst Kindergartens in Kaiapoi have been quietly paving the way for new children and helping to welcome families who may not know about Kidsfirst, through their weekly sessions of Whānau Time. These have gone from strength to strength since they were initiated in Term Two, 2014.
“We felt that we could show families all the great things kindergarten has to offer by having them come and join us for a short while every Tuesday morning. The young ones have the opportunity to stay and play alongside the older children and our older children love helping the younger ones – a great example of tuakana and teina,” says Head Teacher at Kidsfirst Vickery Street, Barbara Forrester.
ABOVE: Jase and Hazel at Kidsfirst Vickery Street.
Jill Chatterton, Head Teacher at Kidsfirst Kaiapoi North, says Whānau Time has been a wonderful way to transition children into kindergarten.
“There is a lot of emphasis on transitioning into school, but less so at the beginning of the kindergarten journey. Whānau Time is a better way to welcome families to come into an integrated programme, mixing with all our children on the roll.”
ABOVE: Louise Gibson with her children at Kidsfirst Kaiapoi North - from left, Bianca (2), Savannah (1) and Kilarney (5 months).
“Our older children get the opportunity to further develop leadership skills and to take on the responsibility of caring for toddlers. It has been great for us to experience the networking that has happened between our parents too. Friendships have been forged between parents and children alike.”
ABOVE: Francesca, a regular at Kidsfirst Kaiapoi North's Whānau Time, makes friends with current attendee, Jaxon.
Tuesday morning playgroup at Kidsfirst Hillmorton has been operating for over a year. Parents and children come along, free to explore and join in the activities as they choose.
“It is very relaxed and informal. We see the playgroup as a wonderful way of sharing what we offer here at Hillmorton with the wider community in our area and for some families, our playgroup is an introduction to Kidsfirst Kindergartens,” says Head Teacher Margaret McCormick.
ABOVE: Kidsfirst Hillmorton's playgroup.
“Mums and Dads come, we have welcomed younger siblings of kindergarten children, contact was made with those families on the waiting list and some families just pop along having heard about the playgroup from friends, or having seen our playgroup publicity notices.”
Kidsfirst Beckenham has been offering playgroup on Wednesday afternoons for about the last 30 years. The kindergarten is still operating with traditional sessions in a day model, where the younger children can attend three afternoons a week and move to five morning sessions. This allows for the parent-led playgroup where everyone is welcome.
The teachers are present if parents wish to discuss anything and get enrolment information. This playgroup makes for an ideal introduction to the kindergarten environment and is valued by the community as a relaxed way to network with other families and the teachers.
Kidsfirst Lyttelton has started a playgroup this year. This comes as Plunket lost their building in the earthquakes and the Playcentre Playgroup has since struggled to find an adequate place to meet.
Head Teacher Cathy Wall says, “As a community service, we thought we could give those families a permanent place to meet. We really hope that everyone feels a part of the Kidsfirst family in Lyttelton straight away.”
The benefits of playgroup:
From Kidsfirst Hillmorton's Head Teacher, Margaret McCormick.
Looking for a playgroup near you?
Contact any one of these Kidsfirst Kindergartens, or call Birmingham Drive for more information on 03 338 1303.
KIDSFIRST KINDERGARTENS ARE A NOT FOR PROFIT ASSOCIATION THAT HAS DEVELOPED AND MAINTAINED KINDERGARTENS IN CHRISTCHURCH, CANTERBURY AND ON THE WEST COAST FOR OVER 100 YEARS - AS THE PLACE LOCAL KIDS COME TO LEARN, PLAY AND HAVE FUN.