When Wild Wednesdays roll around, the families at Avonhead Playcentre head outdoors for a morning of boundless exploration.

From orienteering at The Groynes, to clambering over rocks at Cave Rock, to leaping waves at Waimairi Beach, the eleven little explorers – and their parents – have been having a wild time. If Tawhirimatea is up to mischief, they simply tug on their gumboots and zip up their jackets.

On arrival, there isn’t a predetermined route. As Kirsty explains, ‘we put aside any adult agenda we might have – what we want the children to achieve’. It’s the children who lead the way. Often the trail takes unexpected turns. After all, children’s curiosity doesn’t stay on the ‘beaten track’.

Kirsty recalls their recent trip to the Styx Mill Reserve where the party got a little lost… That morning the children hauled themselves up hills, tugging at grass for support; they collected harakeke seeds and spotted spider egg sacks hanging from plants; they met people out walking their dogs and listened to an impromptu dog-safety talk. Kirsty laughs about their ‘getting lost’ experience, quick to point out that there was much to be found.

In anticipation of such discoveries, the children are equipped with their treasure bags. Then on Thursdays they take their taonga back to Playcentre. The children recount memorable moments – the treasures reinforcing their memories and bringing their stories alive for the other children.

The plan is to create an area in the playground where children can amass their treasures – a tangible reminder of their adventures and a rich resource for further play.

Geared towards extending the 3-6 year olds, the sessions are open to all. For Kirsty, ‘it’s important that the little ones get to explore as much as the older children’. For a baby the sensory stimulation that these sessions and settings provide is incredible – squeezing lumps of mud and fiddling with strands of grass is indeed ‘a wild time’ when you’re one!

Whatever their age, Kirsty is certain on one point: ‘they all love having the freedom to explore’. The sessions certainly shed sunlight on what constitutes taonga and what a wild time feels like when you’re little. The treasures and experiences on offer here aren’t colourful and plastic; they don’t involve staring at screens; and, best of all, they’re free.

On Wild Wednesdays, being free is what it’s all about!

By Kate Barber