Otautau Playcentre’s success story

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Otautau Playcentre president Shelley Cox (left) and educator Michelle Stamp have some fun at the playdough table with Alexis and Zoey (both 3).

ABOUT a year ago, the committee behind-the-scenes at Otautau Playcentre decided to take a gamble.

President Shelley Cox consulted with the centre and a valued life member and they decided to increase their service from two days a week to four.

“We decided if we didn’t make any changes, then things were going to go down pretty fast,” Ms Cox said.

“It was a bit of a gamble… at the start we decided to put it on a 12-month trial.”

Educator Michelle Stamp said the initiative gathered momentum really fast. The roll had been growing all year, with an average of about 17 children for each session, she said.

“It goes up and down because we’re a farming community, but everyone steps up and helps out.”

It also had other positive outcomes.

“Now I’m here four days a week it’s great, I’ve got a great relationship with the children and it’s easier to extend the learning.”

Having the service available in the community was also positive for parents, especially with the changing needs of families and working mums, they said.

Ms Cox said while they still needed parent-help, they also had drop-off options for children aged over 2

Parent Nathalie Sterkens said it was really helpful to be able to drop off her daughter Alexis for one morning a week, giving her an opportunity to get other things done and bond one-on-one with her 6-month-old baby.

The playcentre community will celebrate its successful year with a Gala Day on Saturday, November 17, from 10am to 2.30pm.

Entry is free, and they had extended the invitation throughout the region, Ms Cox said.

Activities would include face-painting, wacky hair, raffles, stalls, a cardboard maze and pony rides for under-5s.

Ms Stamp said it was a good opportunity to show people what they did at the centre.

She said they were also having a revamp, with a garden project under way including a recently installed tunnel house thanks to funding from Fonterra, and they also had help from Lions Club members.

She said the garden project helped to teach the children about sustainability and growing their own food.

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