Kakapo Creek Children's Garden, Mairangi Bay - Centre Spotlight

Kakapo Creek Children's Garden is an amazing centre that has just recently opened in Mairangi Bay. The Centre manager Leanne Tong answered some of our questions to paint a fuller picture of what life is like and what is special about Kakapo Creek

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Logan WhitelawAugust 01, 2022

Kakapo Creek Children's Garden, Mairangi Bay - Centre Spotlight

Kakapo Creek Children's Garden is a beautiful centre on the North Shore of Auckland in Mairangi Bay. Their tagline is a "Boutique, attachment-rich, nature filled early childhood care and education". Licensed for 80 children, the centre is open all day from 7:30am to 5:30pm and provides care for under 2's and over 2's. In this blog post we had centre manager Leanne Tong, tell us about the special things that Kakapo Creek Children's Garden has to offer.

The outside playground area of the circular Kakapo Creek building

What's your all-time favourite children's book?

My all time favourite children's book is Mick Inkpen's “The Blue Balloon”. Children universally love the nonsense and anticipation of what is going to happen next in this book. It's a book that has lift up and pull out sections that children love to explore. I've had it in my resource box to use with children since it was first published way back in 1989.

What's your favourite type of play?

My favourite type of play is play that extends children's thinking and reasoning skills - things such as loose parts play or storytelling using props. Children are such wonderful storytellers and they make up some very complex and interesting stories when provided with the right materials to inspire them. Loose parts play has a similar impact as children can use materials in so many different ways - there is no right way and every child will use the materials differently.

When children work together in this area of play, the play they establish is complex, and involves so many different skills. They need to negotiate, plan, construct, imagine and talk so their social, emotional and cognitive skills are all extended and enhanced. I've been working with preschool children since I was about 14. I have always enjoyed being with young children and watching them grow and learn new things. I love their enthusiasm and wonder for the things around them. Children are so inspired by the simple things in life and they are so emotionally moved by natural beauty.

Child playing with water at Kakapo Creek Childrens garden

Tell us your story about how you got into the early learning sector?

I began my career in early childhood after I began my own family. Initially, I was working as a foster parent for what was then Department of Social Welfare, now Oranga Tamariki. While my four children were young I worked for Barbados Family Daycare and cared for preschool children at home. Once my youngest went to school I began working for Kindercare Learning Centres as a relief teacher and this developed into a permanent full time role.

I began my training while working for Kindercare and worked 4 days per week and attended teachers college on the fifth day each week. Over the next period of years I upgraded my Teaching Certificate to a Diploma of Teaching and then eventually a Bachelor of Teaching ECE. I've held positions in early childhood now for a very long time, initially as a teacher, then as a Manager, Area Manager, Centre Owner and now as a Centre Manager at Kakapo Creek Children's Garden.

Interior of Kakapo Creek with a wooden table opening out in a green central playarea

What is one thing that parents could do to encourage childrens learning at home?

Parents are children's first and most important teachers. Parents teach children so much without even realising that they are doing so. My passion is literacy, so I feel very strongly that it is imperative for parents to spend time every day reading with children and enjoying books together. This helps build a strong connection between the parent and the child which is central to their ability to achieve to their full potential. It also provides an opportunity for children to grow to love learning, exploring and researching, using their imaginations and developing their language too.

What is your favourite rainy-day activity for under 5's?

At Kakapo Creek Children's Garden we have a strong ethos of enjoying the outdoors, irrespective of the weather. We love to play outside when it rains, to feel the rain on our skin and to jump in puddles. Our children have the opportunity to play in the mud and explore regardless of the weather. All they need is a warm jacket, hat and some sturdy gumboots. Lots of things make our centre special, our amazingly talented, responsive and caring teachers, our beautiful environment, the opportunity to explore the farm each week, and the beautiful bush.

Child playing in a yellow rain jacket

What is it about your centre that makes it special?

Children and teachers work in a bespoke building that is quite unique. It is light, warm and aesthetically beautiful. It is made even more beautiful by the wonderful setting that it sits in, with lot of mature trees, a creek and the beautiful bird song that we enjoy throughout the day. We are just a hop, skip and jump from beautiful Mairangi Bay Beach and local playgrounds which are places that children love to visit.

Child feeding a sheep outdoors

What is the centre philosophy?

Our philosophy - Nga Hau E Wha (The Four Winds). Traditional societies place high value on creating a sense of community, especially when it comes to providing their children with a safe place to grow and mature - they intuitively know and understand it takes a village to grow a child. The isolation tendency of the western culture's “You” and “Me” becomes vastly enriched by “We and “Us”.

Kakapo Creek is a meeting place for Nga Hau E Wha where connection naturally occurs. The four winds gather people from North, South, East and West, a diverse group of people who become We and Us in our Kakapo Creek kāinga because it's in a village where children thrive best. Wind is a symbol of abundant life for our kāinga and that's why each of our four rooms are named Te Hau Raki (North), Te Hau Tonga (South), Te Hau Rāwhiti (East) and Te Hau-a-uru (West). From this connected world of the four life infused winds our children find a place to belong, be loved, be known, be significant.

The kāinga whenua of acceptance, playfulness, empathy, and curiosity creates a place of learning, education, celebration, understanding and meaning where a child can thrive and become their very best in their connected world. Our Kāinga places high importance on the natural world as a place of wisdom and rest. The trees, flowers, the fantails and kereru and tai, as well as our creek's eels and ducks are a vital part of Kakapo Creek's village and we respect that the four winds have brought them to us so the we can take care of them also. Nga Hau E Wha: Kakapo Creek exists to be a kāinga of delight for those the four winds brings to us.

Jungle gym at Kakapo Creek children's garden

Next steps

Thanks Leanne for taking the time to tell us about your beautiful centre, if you would like to visit Kakapo Creek Children's Garden then just click the link and click book a visit.

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