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A week of open days at playcentre

Across New Zealand and here in Wairarapa, playcentres are opening their doors this week for their annual open days.

Playcentres offer an early childhood education service with a difference, in that they are run by parents rather than professional staff.

There are 420 playcentres nationwide, and three in our region – in Martinborough at 38 Venice St, Carterton on Belvedere Rd next to Howard Booth Park, and Masterton at 165 Renall St.

The Times-Age spoke to Caroline Watson, president of Masterton’s Westside Playcentre, as it prepared for its open days, which she said are a great chance for people to discover how playcentre differs from other preschool early education options.

“We are inviting people in the community with small children to come along and experience what we have got to offer,” Watson said.

“It’s free of charge, and we have lots of activities set up for kids like arts and crafts, Play-Doh, and painting, and we have the playground of course.

“The playcentre caters for kids between the ages of zero and six.”

According to Watson, the Masterton branch has enjoyed a healthy increase in its roll in recent years.

When she started, the centre was open for three days a week, but this has increased to five days a week due to demand.

“We operate from nine till noon, Monday to Thursday, with a 10 until one session on Friday for kids under two.

“While we have spaces, we are now full on Thursdays.

Playcentres operate differently to kindergartens as they involve the parents staying and acting as the teachers for their children.

Playcentre also offers a free NZQA accredited adult education programme to develop parenting skills and understanding of how children learn and develop.

“We need a number of parents to have this qualification in order to operate; it’s a ratio,” Watson said.

“If you are doing a couple of hours a week, the course might take about five months, but it depends. There are different courses you can do about early childhood education.”

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