That place behind the fence which you drive past and wonder “What happens there?”.

That thing that you’ve heard about and wondered “Is that for me and my child?”.

Is it a playgroup? Is it a daycare? A kindy? Well… no, it’s not any of those.

For anyone reading from overseas (and, anyone brand new to Playcentre in NZ), it is a model of early childhood care that is unique in NZ.

It is unique in that it is run by parents; promoting parents as first teachers, learning alongside their children, following their children’s interest and extending their children’s learning through play.

Over the last few months, I have been asked a few questions about Playcentre. Mainly about what it involves, what age of children is it good for, what’s the adult education like etc.

Seeing as it’s Playcentre Awareness Week this week, it seemed a great time to blog about it.


Here’s how the Playcentre journey has looked for us:

I first enquired at our local Playcentre in 2014. Our eldest son was 14 months and I was pregnant with our number two son. But, at that particular time, I didn’t really feel like it was the right place for us.

Playcentre requires a certain amount of commitment, because of the fact that it’s run by parents. Which means that you attend the monthly meetings, do a certain level of parent education, and parent-help on some sessions.

Let me stress what I have now come to realise:

all of these things are actually what make Playcentre GREAT.

But at that particular time in my parenting journey I wasn’t able to embrace it. So I kept on with our playgroups and music groups where I could turn up with no commitments, and not have to tidy up or even think about anything else!

Fast forward two years to early 2016.

I had been a stay at home mum for three years. I was beginning to get a bit more interested in learning more about child development. I was learning more and becoming more passionate about the value of child-led play. I was a little bit bored with music group and playgroup (just being honest). I wanted to be extended a bit more.

So we re-visited Playcentre.

And it has been one of the MOST fulfilling things that I’ve done on my parenting journey.

For me, as a Mum who LOVES learning, the Playcentre education has been the clincher. It’s the thing that really reinforced to me that Playcentre is the best place for parents of young children.

I’ve always thought that ECE teachers have a bit of a head start on this parenting gig, right? I mean, they know about kids. It’s their thing. The rest of us are just kind of catching up and trying our best as we go.

SO here’s the thing; as I’ve gone through Playcentre Education, lightbulbs have gone off.

The education that’s offered is NZQA Approved Early Childhood Education. It’s not hard – it’s Level 4 (Diploma level).

You learn about positive guidance, positive communication, child led learning, ways children learn, cultural aspects of playcentre, and BEST of all you learn about PLAY;  the value the free play can have for children, how they learn through play, ways to extend their play, how to document their play.

I was SO excited and fuelled to learn all of this. It was building on a bit of the knowledge I already had as an occupational therapist, but going into it on a much deeper level.

I felt like I was gaining tools for parenting.

Tools that I could apply outside of Playcentre. Because you automatically find yourself applying what you’ve learnt to your every day parenting practice. Ways that you can enhance your kids’ learning in all aspects of their life.

It has helped me be a better parent.

Here’s the thing: I see lots online these days about how “the art of play” is getting lost. I see parents asking in different facebook groups about how to engage their children in play, about how to “get their children to play with the toys they have”, I read articles about how the demise of free play is leading children to become less creative, I even see online courses being offered to parents on the topic of play.

And all of these concerns are valid. And there are many many reasons for them, which I won’t go into here.

But New Zealand parents – PLAYCENTRE can be part of the answer. You have a unique opportunity just down the road at your local centre. 


I feel like I have SO MUCH more to add to this post. I could go on and on about the reasons why Playcentre is magnificent. But it really has to be experienced first hand. 

Here’s just a few more things that come up when people ask me about Playcentre:

1. It’s not just for full time stay at home mums. There are parents who work part time and attend playcentre with their children on one of their days off.

2. We also have Dads who come to playcentre too. The more Dads, the merrier!

3. You don’t *have* to stay on session with your child all the time, once they get to a certain age you can do drop offs. For example, we attend two mornings/week, so one morning I can drop off (if I choose to) and the other morning I’m “on duty”. Requirements depend on each individual centre.

4. Tamariki (children) can attend from age 0 – 6. So we have babies, toddlers, and older children on session together. It’s really nice. There are so many benefits for the older children to be mixed in with the babies.

5. The fee structure varies per centre.

So – give it a go! Just drop in one day, see how your wee one likes it. It may or may not be for you at this stage. Let me know how you go 🙂

x Rach.

Find out more:

Find a Playcentre near you

Playcentre Education – note that the structure has changed this year as we settle into a new way of structuring it.

The History of Playcentre in NZ my favourite line: while Playcentres were products of their times and local community, they were from the start a site for women’s empowerment and feminist thought (Woodhams, 2010).

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