What can we learn from Playcentre?

Relax! Let go! Trust!

One thing that impressed me the most about the Playcentre concept is the trust in each other. Trust in children and their parents, parents’ trust in their children, trust between parents.

This is empowered by the appreciation of the Playcentre Association.

Parents and children are accepted as they are. It strengthens their roles as parents, strengthens their role as children. It takes away pressure from children and parents. They can be who they want to be.

To enable something like that you need a lot of courage and trust. Trust to stand up against criticism. Trust in their parenting role. I have the impression that Playcentre parents have the courage to go against the general flow. Let their children do what they want to do, let them experiment, let them explore without pushing too much.

The focus is not that the child can already read and write when enrolling for school and has already passed its second ballet exam. They seem to be unimpressed by the current pressure that children learn a foreign language at an early age or should participate in a half marathon.

 They are relaxed and let go. They trust in the natural development of their children and trust especially in their abilities as a parent – to be there when they are needed, to guide them when they are asked.

In Germany and Canada I have often experienced that parents are quite stressed and sometimes even compete with each other. German and canadian parents – like all parents – want only the best for their children, they want to support and sometimes overlook that they overwhelm their children.

Should children nowadays still go to a sports team after school? Shouldn’t team sports more integrated into the school?

When I walk through the streets, after 4pm I hardly see children playing on the streets or in the woods. I see children playing on the street in mostly disadvantaged areas and although some would argue that this group is excluded from services, I think to myself, “You have it good, you can play outside, be free, be creative”.

More sense of community!

For parents, it is increasingly difficult to find a parent community in an anonymous society between increased mobility, career and needs. It is extremely important for our wellbeing to have the feeling to be part of a community and to be connected to like-minded people. It gives us a sense of security and confidence.

Especially parents who move to another city (or another country) and thus who move away from their family rely on a new support network in the new location that they first need to rebuild.

This may be the neighborhood, the sports club, the playgroup for toddlers, parent’s initiatives of the nearby daycare or school.

Or within a Playcentre …

Playcentre a place where an extended family is created, a network of friends and peers you can refer to.

Would an approach like Playcentre be accepted? If not, what alternatives would be there?

How about a combination of Playcentre and a regular daycare? Would it be possible that regular daycares open their doors every afternoon (or maybe even the morning for a couple of hours?) so that parents can participate in the daycare routine, to give them the opportunity to spend time with their children in the daycare?

For this purpose, there are already various ideas such as parental initiatives (Germany) where parents have the opportunity to visit their kid in the daycare for 1-1.5 hours. There are also Parent Participation Preschools (Canada) in which parents help out once or twice a month for a day and participate in team meetings to learn more about Early Childhood Education.

But is there a sense of community created in which parents spend time with other parents and their children and share experiences?

Biculturality und integration

Integration and inclusion are THE slogans of our time. We try to integrate everything and everyone, try to include. In particular, the question of integrating different cultures and traditions is an ongoing issue which no one can escape from.

Because of the refugee movement in Germany leads to the question of how refugees can be integrated. There are many theses. And I’m wondering how First Nations are really integrated in the practice of Early Childhood Education.

Because what is written on paper (curriculum) is not always consistent with the practice.

It is more important than ever that we are aware of who lives in our society in order to assess which cultures and traditions should be more acquainted and be tidied with myths.

But where should we start? For me the answer is very clear: Start with our children!

To me, the aspirations of the Playcentre Association for the integration of Maori has a role model function.

I would like to point out again an excerpt from the interview with Veronica Pitt how they implement the integration of Maori at the level of children

 “We make sure that every centre has traditional costumes that children can dress up in and sing songs. We put up signs around the centre and encourage parents to use Maori language and respect Maori culture”

As well as on the level of professionals

“At a national level in our Trustee Board, we have three elected from Maori and three from non-Maori.  We make our national decisions together in a 2 House model. (…) Then the agreement from each house goes to a negotiation space between the houses and a final decision is agreed for the organisation as a whole. We are trying to model the partnership between both cultures on that level.”

We, the adults, are role models, we need to provide the environment in which they grow up. It begins with education and what we exemplify. Children learn by imitation, they learn what we exemplify.

We, the adults and the educational professionals, are the ones to create the conditions for successful integration.

The New Zealand Early Childhood Education Curriculum has the name “Te Whariki”, a Maori word and it means

“a woven mat to stand on for all” – a common ground on which EVERYONE will find their place.




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