When a holiday programme is school

I really like the holiday programme I’m involved in. It’s how I think school should work… we have but three rules.

  1. Respect yourself and others.
  2. Respect our environment and equipment
  3. Respect play

Aka the playcentre ‘rules’ which cover everything from going to the loo, keeping warm, staying inside the cones (boundary), saws, games, not being able to tell what’s Important to some one else…. basically everything. The kids range in age from 5 to 11.

Helena likes the holiday programme it is the most school like thing she does (lots of kids, home time, drink bottles etc) and it’s all lunch time.

This is what they do:





Swings, zip lines, playgrounds






Climbing in the bush, doing physical challenges

Weird machines

Lots of weapons made of bamboo, bows, arrows, swords, num chucks.. yet no-one gets hurt.

Boats, water


And every day (bar one) fire..

There are two portions of the day sitting on the mat. At the beginning of the day just to go over the rules and their wide ranging influence, which now that there are many children who’ve been before the kids can basically run themselves. I try to keep it short. There is often a kid who wants to do a round of names but as I make this optional it may end up just them and I left. We also sit on the mat at lunchish time when we (I can usually find a kid to do this) say a karakia kai, I remind kids to wash their hands, to eat if they haven’t already and the adults count the kids. The rest of the day is theirs…. What I do is look for kids who may be at a loss, know no one, need something, any areas of disquiet or tension and I fetch stuff. The only shouting/argument was on the last day and it was my darling and her friend who she’s known since they were babies and the child of the woman I work with who was also on duty that day. It is awesome watching kids play. The walk and talk players, the full on body movers, the can’t sit stillers, the watchers, wannabe leaders, the solo players all mixed in together.

So how does Helena cope considering that there are stranger kids… it seems that having me, usually one person she knows, and lots of space and choice makes it ok. She does find time to play by herself, and she watches. What about “mat time”? She has the kind of confidence shown by the kids who know me and/or the programme well, calling out… being the one to answer as many questions as possible. And toileting? Well she just doesn’t go ALL day, though towards the end of the second week she was, but I have to go with her. This time there was no Tom so though I saw her talk to the other adults she was not hanging off them. This time Helena started wanting the other kids to know I was her mum, usually she’d just try to be invisible/not different, or maybe before she was ambivalent. Her tiger (current favourite soft toy) got to come too.

I wish this was school for most kids most of the time. I see cooperation, communication, ideas building on ideas, siblings, role models, leaders, working togther on real challenges, friendships, lots of physical challenges, fine motor skills being used practically, major gross motor skills, trust exersizes, limit learning, making do, making it up,  kids learning new skills from other kids, kids looking after their bodies, people supporting each other, kids doing mediation, kids playing by themselves…. and that’s what my kid is learning. Excellent.

I do not hear kids telling tales (though sometimes there is one with less negotiation skills), fights, destruction (except for bamboo which is a noxious weed), bullying….

Unless we are inside, then it’s all just a bit pants, but what’s a little rain.

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