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More nature play, say the play experts, children

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Children from Wellington Playcentres had their voice included in feedback given to Wellington City Council on their new draft Play Spaces Policy. The experts in play - Playcentre children and adults - have plenty of experience of what makes a great outdoor play space. Chris Montgomerie, Outdoor Upgrade Project Manager for Wellington Playcentre Association, spoke to Council in February 2017 and emphasised that children of all ages should be able to interact with nature as much as possible while playing.

Playcentre families are encouraged by the Council’s extension of the policy to create a network of play spaces. "They aren’t just thinking of playgrounds and have emphasised nature play. This sits very well with the Playcentre philosophy that recognises children learn through play and the best play experiences are open-ended, which sparks imagination," says Montgomerie.

"We were pleased to be able to support the WCC’s Draft Policy at the recent oral submissions, but did make a plea to look at the planting around play areas when undertaking the regular review and replacement of play areas. In our experience, the two elements can’t be done by different departments as each will enhance the other." added Montgomerie.

The importance of nature play is something that Wellington Playcentres have been thinking about closely in the past year. The Wellington Playcentre Association has undertaken to review, redesign and redevelop all of the play spaces in its 19 Playcentres throughout the region to include more natural sensory play and make use of sustainable, natural materials and native planting where possible. Children and parents at Playcentre have collaborated on new designs. The final two Playcentres are about to have major construction work completed this month.

The Wellington Playcentre Association provided funding for the outdoor play space designs and some of the installation work to be done at 19 early childhood centres. The final stage is to complete specified planting - an essential element to round off the major landscaping work and provide new sensory and nature play. However funding the final planting is a struggle for some Playcentres.

"The Playcentres who have been able to complete the planting specified - a core part of the design - they have really seen the benefits of sensory nature play on their sessions," observed Montgomerie. "It would be great if we could see all our Playcentres complete their planting!"

"A huge amount of volunteer effort is being contributed by parents and whānau in each of our centres to make these upgrades a reality" says Lorna Ingram, Operations Manager at Wellington Playcentre Association. "We are now reaching out to the wider Playcentre community to help us with the finishing touches."

The Wellington Playcentre Association has a Givealittle fundraising page for it’s final fundraising push to raise ‘$50k by May’. This would ensure the final planting can be completed for all Wellington Playcentres.

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