Symbols for life’s transitions, autumn leaves make for an incredible variety of ordinary fun!
The families at Southbridge Playcentre recognise the importance of supporting transitions, for children and parents; and they have a longstanding tradition of connecting with the local primary school. As Coordinator Nikki Wellby explains, ‘we aim to connect with the school each term – supporting that transition to school, and growing the relationships we have with the families is very important’.
Recently, they met up with the children from the New Entrants class down at the churchyard. ‘We had no set plans for the morning’, says Nikki – as she emphasises how ordinary and also organic the morning was. ‘The children just played together in the leaves! We took the parachute and the five-year-olds loved that, but many of the kids just loved raking!’
Playcentre Treasurer, Tracey Chynoweth, adds that ‘the kids spent 20 minutes raking all the leaves into a huge mound’. And this sparked an idea for play… ‘Richard, one of our Dads filled a trailer with leaves from the churchyard and brought them to Playcentre for Thursday’s session.’
On Thursday and the following Monday, ‘we did all the ordinary things we do – but with the leaves’, says Nikki. ‘We ran a challenge course and we piled them up at the bottom of the mound so kids could leap into them.’
Losing themselves in the moment, the kids also enjoyed ‘losing’ things – like Alyssa’s special teddy bear. ‘She kept “losing” him on purpose!’ says Tracey.
‘We got panicky when we couldn’t find him’, adds Nikki. Although not as panicky as Nikki was when she thought she’d lost her keys in the amorphous heap!
All this play transpired out of a meeting between the kids at primary school and their Playcentre friends, in a churchyard strewn with the crinkling remains of a glorious autumn.
But what is it that made the leaves so special? (The key hidden at the bottom of the heap, if you like). As Nikki puts it, ‘it was the way the leaves transformed a familiar area into a magical arena.
And how all the kids got involved: the babies and toddlers loved exploring the leaves, and they were captivated watching the antics of the older children.’
At Southbridge Playcentre, a lot of thought goes into promoting the connecting with the local school. ‘For our children, it makes the transition to school that much easier: they are moving into a familiar environment and they already know the kids and their families’, says Nikki.
Symbols for life’s transitions, autumn leaves offer a rather poignant reminder of the preciousness of the years when our kids are little. And, with that, they present an irresistible invitation to embrace the moment and get involved: to rake them, cart them and pile them high, and then – with your kids – leap in!
When asked about what happened to the leaves, Tracey laughs. ‘The wind came and blew them down the street and all over town.’ What an apposite image: little leaves flitting and flapping in the breeze, reaching into the corners of the community and making a glorious mess!