Haere mai! Welcome to Mairtown Kindergarten's blog.

Nau Mai Haere mai. Welcome to Mairtown Kindergarten's blog.

21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Celebrating our playpod

At kindergarten one of the busiest places would be outside at our playpod area.  It has now been over two years since our playpod was introduced and it is still very popular amongst our children.  When I reflect about the playpod, the first thought that comes to mind is how our children appear to be happy, joyful and engaged with their play.

For those who are unsure, our playpod is full of loose parts, including; cable reels, ropes, bungees, stakes, wooden boxes, cones, tarpaulins and wooden cookies.  These all have endless learning opportunities, for example; problem solving, divergent and creative thinking, taking risks, negotiation, cooperation, social interactions and use their imagination.

“When children interact with loose parts, they enter a world of “what if” that promotes the type of thinking that leads to problem solving and theoretical reasoning.  Loose parts enhance children’s ability to think imaginatively and see solutions, and they bring a sense of adventure and excitement to children’s play” (Daly and Beloglovsky, 2015).

I know for some teachers the indoor environment is viewed as the place where all the learning happens, whereas at Mairtown our outdoor environment is as crucial as the indoors.  We don’t view the outdoors as just a place to run and climb, it is another highly valued learning place where children can fully immerse themselves in dramatic play.  As I think about the playpod I feel that there has been a sizeable increase of dramatic play outdoors.

The thing I love about the playpod is all the creative thinking and dramatic play that emerges from the use of loose parts, for example the cable reels are often used for wheels to make a bus to go on an adventure to Kiwi North, or with the addition of a long piece of hose it is now a fire truck off to the rescue, or a piece of bark can be used in so many ways like, used as a chainsaw to chop firewood or used as a phone or even a remote for the television which is actually an old sink.  The opportunities are endless and I love how the children’s play develops and evolves over time on different days and with interactions with other friends as they share their ideas and work collaboratively.

“Loose parts encourage dramatic and symbolic play, indoors and out.  These materials offer children the chance to embody the worlds of their imaginations and create complex stories and scripts assisted by props.  Loose parts offer children opportunities to understand their past experiences and to engage in realistic, complex representations of their daily lives.”  (Daly and Beloglovsky, 2015)


As an early childhood teacher I know well how children love to transport items. This is the added bonus of the playpod equipment, with it being so movable, it all depends on the child’s imagination to where they construct or move to.  Recently there has been a lot of interest amongst our children in firewood and chainsaws, this interest is able to be incorporated into their play through using the large wooden cookies, a trolley, bungees and large pieces of bark as the chainsaws. 

It is wonderful to watch them full heartedly engage in their play by lifting loads of wood into the trolley which is carefully tied down with the bungees and moved to another area.  Another time I remember observing lots of playpod equipment being moved to a place behind our large boulder.  There I could see a large construction happening, I was informed that the road out to the beach has big rock cliffs and there are big rocks at the beach so the motor home needed to be next to the rocks.

“When children move objects, they learn about weight.  They compare and contrast the size and weight of an object and they estimate what type of container they need to move the item.  When children transport, they can determine the accessibility of the items they want to move.  They learn the concepts of more and less and enough or not enough.” (Daly and Beloglovsky, 2015)

When our children are involved in their play at the playpod it often becomes a very social place where they join in helping to construct or simply join in the play.  In the winter months we have a weekly fire which we use to cook with our children.  This is very popular amongst our children and is often reflected through them building a pretend fire made out of wood and fallen cabbage tree leaves, with the wooden cookies used as seats around the outside of the pretend fire, singing songs together and pretending to cook.  These moments are such social times that support our children’s sense of belonging, their inclusiveness, and their willingness to take risks.

Providing loose parts significantly enhances inclusion for all children and helps improve children’s relationships and self-confidence.  Play with loose parts increases children’s collaboration, negotiation skills, risk taking, conflict resolution, communication and problem solving.  (Armitage, 2009)

There are many benefits for children’s learning and development when they play with loose parts and the best thing is that most items in our playpod are free or cost very little.  I totally agree with research conducted by the Brainwave Trust Aotearoa where they state “Children do not need expensive toys.  Rather they need everyday opportunities to be imaginative and creative and to solve problems.”  This is so true and I can’t wait to see where the playpod play will develop next.

Ngā mihi, Susie

Monday, 17 October 2016

Pom and his chainsaw: authentic and real experiences at kindergarten

Early this year I wrote about how we discovered one of our logs had started to rot and the interest that this spiked for our children (click here to see this blog post). After a good few months of the children exploring what the rotten log had to offer we made the call to have it removed from kindergarten. We were very lucky that one of Donna’s good friends Pom offered to help us out by chopping it up and removing all the wood.

When Pom arrived with all his chainsaw gear some of the children got very excited. The teachers asked the children to stay behind a make-shift barricade. The children wore ear-muffs and safety goggles and they sat there eagerly awaiting. Alex in particular was very excited as chainsaws are a true passion of his. When he found out we were having a chainsaw coming to kindergarten on this day he asked his Dad if he could bring his toy Stihl chainsaw in. 

Also when other children noticed Pom and his chainsaw there was lots of talk about how they had experienced chain sawing in their world outside of kindergarten and what they knew about it. 

Being able to make a connection between these two contexts is very good for the children’s sense of belonging and socio-cultural development. Hedges and Cooper (2014) state that, “Teachers who partner with families can develop the capacity to recognise and utilise children’s family and cultural knowledge in educational settings to connect and enhance children’s learning.”

It blew me away how many children were joining us at this experience as I did think that the loud noise of the chainsaw would be a little off putting. Nearly all the children came along to see what was going on.

While Pom was chopping up the log he found some Huhu grabs and brought them over to the children. Some of the children straight away wanted to hold and look closely at them. 

We talked about what they were and how some people like to eat these grubs and that apparently taste like peanut butter! Everyone thought this was quite profound. 

This captured the interest for some children for a big part of the morning. They showed a lot of respect towards the grubs, returning them to the right places when they had finished observing them and role modelling some wonderful behaviour for their friends who were a little apprehensive about holding the grubs for themselves.

“Just as you are immersed in a natural world of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures, early childhood environments should reflect the wonders of nature which surround us. As children interact with nature, they deepen their understanding and appreciation of their places and roles as the future caretakers of the planet.”

(Jessica Deviney)

The wood cutting took quite some time but the children were captivated by the fact that there was a man in our kindergarten during their play time using real machines to get this job done. This was such a great, real and authentic experience for the children to be a part of. They really enjoyed watching from a distance as Pom cut up the wood and once it was all chopped they happily and eagerly helped load the wood onto the back of the ute. Pom was blown away with how the children confidently picked up or rolled large chunks of wood to his ute.

Having experiences like this is great for children developing meaningful ideas and knowledge about their world. 

“Children understand and remember concepts best when they learn from direct personal experience.”  (Joseph Cornell)

The children spent the whole morning being involved in this event, from observing Pom skilfully cut up the log, engaging in many discussions with their teachers and peers about their knowledge and ideas about what was happening, to being hands on by physically helping remove all the wood from the kindergarten on to the ute. 

The children were very engaged and I felt like this was a very rich learning experience for them due to its holistic nature. Miller (2000) acknowledges that, “The art of holistic education lies in its responsiveness to the diverse learning styles and needs of evolving human beings.”

What I loved the most about this experience was that the children at our kindergarten were able to be a part of it. The logs are an integral part of our play space outside and I feel that we would be doing the children an injustice if we were to have the rotten log removed while they weren’t there. This is their place and I think that it is important to have the children involved in these genuine experiences that have such a big impact on their space. So much joy, interest, curiosity and meaningful learning was created.

Thank you so much to Pom for donating his time and skills to help Mairtown Kindergarten out. We really appreciated his support and also thank you to Donna for organising this. We now have a new space in our playground to plan for and think about which is exciting.

Ngā mihi nui,
Zair Taylor