A special place to play

Issue: Volume 95, Number 9

Posted: 23 May 2016
Reference #: 1H9d29

Play Café is an innovative group that was recently set up to help support families who have children with special needs. Education Gazette talks to its founders about the kaupapa of the group.

A desire to create a place where parents of children can get together in a child friendly setting is the spark behind Play Café, a special group that meets in Whangarei on Friday mornings.

The Play Café was initiated by Jenny Davis and Angie Moselen, both registered early intervention teachers in special education, who felt there was a need for a place where parents could meet up with other parents who “get it”.

Jenny works for Te Ora Hou Northland and manages He Kakano, a purpose-built childcare centre that supports the teen parent school in Whangarei. Angie works for the Ministry of
Education as an early intervention teacher.

“We are both passionate about supporting children with special needs in our community, as well as their parents and whānau,” says Jenny.

“We decided that a practical way to do this was to provide a facility where whānau can come along and have the opportunity to meet with other parents. This has enabled opportunities for families to build support networks with one another in a child-centred, play-based, family-focused environment.”

Jenny and Angie wanted to provide an environment where networks could be established and maintained with other specialist support staff providing advice and guidance.

“At Play Café we have an open door policy for community support services to visit their clients. This provides a ‘one stop shop’ venue for parents and whānau,” says Angie.

“We also wanted to create an environment where we could encourage parents to engage in meaningful play with their child in a supportive environment.”

Play and learn

At Play Café each parent or caregiver under the guidance of the He Kakano and Special Education team is responsible for the child or children they bring, and siblings are also welcome to attend. Sessions are designed for preschool children, from babies to six-year-olds.

Jenny and Angie encourage parents to relax over a cup of coffee, chat with others, and play and learn alongside their children. Each can share the joys and challenges they face.

“This also provides a great opportunity for us to model interactions and strategies that may assist the child’s learning and development,” says Angie.

Central to Play Café philosophy is providing an environment where children are able to develop the skills they need to move into other settings, such as mainstream early learning services, school, or the home environment.

“The sessions are very much about free play,” says Jenny.

Jenny and Angie create a sensory and tactile rich environment both indoors and out.

“We use a range of resources to enhance children’s learning and development and focus on their strengths and interests.”

Welcoming growth

Angie and Jenny believe Play Café has a significant point of difference from other early childhood learning services in Northland.

They would like to be able to cater for all the families who are interested in attending Play Café.

“We can see huge potential and need for this service to substantially grow in our community, based on the volume of interest from the families wanting to access our unique model of support and practice,” says Jenny.

“Our challenge is finding further funding and a suitable sustainable child friendly venue with the dream of setting up our own early childhood service. Our vision is to be able to continue to meet and support children with special needs and their families in our wider community."

“This is a service we would love to offer to all parents and whānau who have a child with additional needs.”

Parent voices

“Play Café is a safe place where I can be myself.”

”It’s a stress-free zone where I get to enjoy the company of my child and am able to communicate with other parents in a fun-filled environment.”

“These ladies are amazing – absolute gems! They are so passionate about their vision, dreams and goals, and are driven by such beautiful hearts. I feel this is a valuable asset to our community.”

“I enjoy being with other parents, and sharing my ideas with them.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 5:41 PM, 23 May 2016

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