Playcentre is early childhood education that promotes and encourages parents to be the first educators.  Read our Playcentre article for more info.

What is Playcentre?

Playcentre is an Early Childhood Education Service which is unique to New Zealand. It is a service that promotes and encourages parents to be the first educators of their children. Playcentre believes that an early childhood education service run co-operatively by families provides a positive early childhood education experience for children.

Because Playcentre is a parent run co-operative it relies heavily on parental input, participation and support.

Playcentre believes strongly in:

  • Learning through play.
  • Family involvement – based on the importance of parents as educators of their own children.
  • Viewing children as people who are strong and capable, and who are competent of making their own choices about how and where to play (child-initiated play).

There are more than 500 Playcentres throughout New Zealand. Each centre is linked to a regional association which belongs to the national New Zealand Playcentre Federation. There are 33 Playcentre Associations spread across NZ.

How does Playcentre work?

Because Playcentre is a co-operative, the parents, care givers and whanau of those who attend are directly responsible for all the requirements of running the centre. This includes the education and care of the children.

Playcentre has a special licensing agreement with the Ministry of Education which enables them to run sessions with adults who hold Playcentre specific qualifications. This is one of the major ways in which Playcentre and kindergarten (kindy) differ. A kindy must be run by teachers who hold a Diploma of Teaching (ECE).

Because parents, care givers and whanau are responsible for the teaching at Playcentre it is Playcentre policy to provide training to these adults.

This training is offered to all adults of enrolled children and covers areas such as child development, play and learning, parenting skills, planning and delivering early childhood education programmes, group and facilitation skills and management skills. Courses are offered in a flexible manner that acknowledges family commitments and obligations, and includes both formal and informal education opportunities.

At what age can my child attend Playcentre?

Playcentre caters for children from birth to school age so that parents with multiple children can attend as a family. In addition, Playcentre believes that mixed-age sessions offer excellent learning opportunities for all age groups.

Do I have to spend each session with my child?

The short answer to this question is yes. However parental requirements differ from region to region. In some areas, parents are expected to attend all or most sessions with their children, whilst in other areas, parents might attend once or twice a term. For a better idea of the requirements in your area contact your local Playcentre.

In families where both parents work, and a nanny is employed, the nanny may bring the child to Playcentre. It is still important that the parents have some involvement in the Playcentre – perhaps attending child evaluation meetings, where the strengths and interests of the children are shared and discussed so that the sessions are interesting for the children.

You need to keep in mind that Playcentre is not a childcare service that offers a drop-off service. Having said this, it is understood that parents need ‘time-out’ from their children, and most centres find a way to co-operate in order to do this to some extent.

There will come a point at which you are able to leave your child at Playcentre now and then. At what age this occurs depends on the area you live in and your local centre. It also depends on how well settled your child/ren are at Playcentre. Some Playcentres run special sessions for the “big kids” who are four, where parents are not permitted to stay; the purpose of these sessions is to get your child used to being left, ready for school.

What is expected of me as a Playcentre parent?

As a Playcentre parent there are certain things expected of you. These are:

Attending sessions

Responsibility for this varies throughout the country. In some areas, parents are expected to attend all or most sessions with their children, whilst in other areas, parents might attend once or twice a term. During sessions, parents may be expected to play with their own children and those of others, and perhaps to be involved in some administration.

Participation in Playcentre education

Parents are strongly encouraged to make use of the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge by attending the workshops and courses which are provided free. How many and how often is a personal choice.

Attendance at business and education planning meetings

These meetings are essential for the running of the co-operative. This may require one or two meetings a term and are frequently held in the evening.

Office holders

To run a centre, there is a required list of office holders. These include a president or co-ordinator, secretary, treasurer, education officer, equipment officer, etc. The centre requires people to carry out the tasks of each office. Training and support are offered for all tasks or roles a parent might take up in their centre or association.

Working bees

To help build new equipment or maintain the existing infrastructure, working bees are common – this usually requires the skills of the whole family.

You can play a larger part in Playcentre if you choose. There are other roles that need to be filled by someone and your help would be appreciated! These are:

  • involvement at association level as an office holder.
  • attendance at association-level events as a centre representative
  • facilitating meetings – for your own centre, or other centres
  • facilitating adult learning – running workshops, or courses
  • involvement at national level

When does Playcentre run?

Each Playcentre sets the times for its own sessions. Children can attend up to five sessions a week. Sessions may be scheduled for mornings, afternoons, or a mixture of both.

Sessions run during Primary School Terms and these terms are worked roughly around these dates:

Term 1 End of January until mid-April

Term 2 Late-April until the beginning of July

Term 3 Mid-July until late-September

Term 4 Mid-October until mid-December

You can find information about exact dates for the school terms on the Ministry of Education website by clicking here.

What does Playcentre cost?

Each individual Playcentre sets their own fees/donations according to their community. Costs vary between $0 – $5.00 per session, giving a cost per 10-week term of up to $50.00.

How is Playcentre different from Kindy?

There are both similarities and differences between Playcentre and Kindergarten. In some areas in the country there are few differences but in others the two vary greatly.

Generally there are differences in:

The age range of children

Playcentre caters for children from birth to school age while kindy typically runs different session times for 3 – 4 year olds and 4 – 5 year olds.

Who teaches the children

Parents, care givers and whanau hold Playcentre-specific qualifications and are responsible for teaching children at Playcentre while at kindy teachers must hold a Diploma of Teaching (ECE).

Adult to children ratios

At Playcentre there is generally a one adult to 5 children ratio and in some places the ratio is one adult to 3 children. At kindys the ratios are 1 teacher to 15 children, plus parent help.

Playcentre offers free Parent Education (including an NZQA recognised programme) to all participating parents, which is not offered at a kindy.

It is difficult to make sweeping generalisations about Playcentre across the country as each region operates slightly differently. Whether the adults in the session include the parents of the children depends on the region; for example in the north, parents are expected to stay at sessions, but in the south, the children are more likely to be dropped off (which is similar to the kindy model of education). Having said this, parents of kindy children are also allowed to stay in sessions if they would like to.

What will my child learn at Playcentre?

Children who attend Playcentre are taught a variety of general knowledge and social skills in order to prepare them for school, including the following:

  • the ability to play, to have fun, to be engaged in the world around them
  • social and communication skills with other children and especially with adults
  • self-help skills such as asking for directions, feeding themselves etc
  • group skills – working with other children (and adults)
  • the ability to concentrate on something and to be absorbed
  • the ability to be fascinated in the world around them
  • a sense of belonging in their families and in the local community
  • the ability to express themselves creatively
  • the ability to choose for themselves an activity, what they want to do.
  • increasing independence at their own rate
  • respect for others, and that they are respected in turn
  • foundations to reading, mathematics through play and learning opportunities offered to them

Helpful Playcentre Website

This is the website for the New Zealand Playcentre Federation, where you will find more information about Playcentre as well as contact details for national and local groups.

Child’s Birthday gift? Find a great selection of popular Books & Authors.

Age: 0  1  2  3  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 Years Old


5 1 vote
Article Rating

Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

Notify of

1 Comment
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

wow… so I looked and I found!! now… I will just have a read and compare your two korero because I believe that playcentre was an initiative set up following the exact same principles of TKR. hmmmm can you enlighten me on anything otherwise…..

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x