When a former Red Hill playgroup closed, Papakura Community Trust stepped into the breach by establishing a new group for parents, caregivers and their children.
Papakura Community Trust (PCT) runs two enterprises in Red Hill: Little Sunbeams Christian Early Childcare Centre and Redhill Community Centre.
For many years Plunket hired a room at the Redhill Community Centre to run a playgroup there. However, the group closed in December 2020. That’s when two PCT volunteers came up with plans for a new group, in response to parents’ requests.
“There are increasing numbers of young families moving into the Red Hill area,” says one of the volunteers, Luisa Lyth. “One of the purposes of Papakura Community Trust is to provide community support and development opportunities for families. We had the space, the equipment and the expertise, so it was a no-brainer for us to start our own playgroup really.”
Luisa is an early childhood veteran, with 27 years’ experience including day care, kindergarten, and 15 years as head teacher with Little Sunbeams. Fellow volunteer Ruth Boswell has been a mainly music leader for 15 years, plus has experience as a parent helper in play group when her children were young and work at a college crèche.
“There are so many benefits to being involved in a playgroup,” says Ruth. “These include social connection for both parents/caregivers and children, and stimulation and learning for the children. It’s a safe and caring environment where children are encouraged to explore new things while also having fun. Play is such an important part of children’s development. It’s a great place for children to learn social skills too, as they engage with other children and adults. This is especially important if they are a first or only child.”
The playgroup at Redhill Community Centre runs each Monday from 9am to 12pm.* The format has a combination of free play and a group activity, which is ‘mat time’ with a story and music. A gold coin donation is requested for each session, and parents/caregivers are asked to bring morning tea for their children. Redhill Community Centre provides tea and coffee.
“The playgroup model is intended to encourage family interaction and to build strong parent-child bonds through play,” says Luisa. “For this reason, adults are required to stay for the session and interact with the children, although occasional exceptions may be made for some parents under huge stress. Although we are based in the Red Hill community, families from other parts of Papakura or visitors from outside the area are most welcome to come too.”
*The playgroup and Redhill Community Centre are closed at the time of writing due to Auckland’s Covid alert level 3. Check out our Facebook page for updates on re-opening details.