Kindergarten children couldn’t wait to cut the ribbon when Mill Park Heights Childcare Centre officially opened its new outdoor learning space and play area last week.
The 1137-square-metre space was gutted and relandscaped to include a garden of Indigenous plants, new sand pits, a play kitchen, drawing and art equipment and climbing equipment, built from predominantly recycled or sustainably sourced natural materials.
The centre is operated by Y Whittlesea, a branch of the YMCA, which jointly funded the $255,000 project with a $160,000 State Government Building Blocks Grant.
The design was a collaborative effort between staff, parents and students, aged six months to five years old.
Although the children tried their best with paper scissors they had made, the ribbon was officially cut by Y Whittlesea chief executive Michele Rowse and Member for Mill Park Lily D’Ambrosio, who called the design ‘mind-blowing’.
“I’m really, really inspired to know they played an important role in actually helping to design this, because it’s about them being able to get the most out of this for their own learning,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“Spaces like this are very, very precious, as we learnt last year when all of us were locked away and unable to get out into the open, so I think we’re all much more appreciative, and even more so for young kids because their minds are like sponges and the opportunity for them to learn so much in an outdoor setting is something that will serve them very well in their own development.”
Ms Rowse said the possibilities for the space were never-ending.
“It is only limited by ours and of course the children’s imaginations,” she said.
“The design seeks to create and outdoor environment that promotes health, physiologically and physically.”
Ms D’Ambrosio said with the government’s rollout of more subsided three-year-old kindergarten hours in 2022, and with the area’s rapid growth, education and play spaces were vital to the City of Whittlesea.
“This is part of a bigger investment,” she said.
“With a growing population, especially in this region of the north of Melbourne with families growing and three-year-old kinder being rolled out here next year, we’re needing more and more facilities and spaces for young kinds to learn and socialise, and even for parents to be able to get out into the space too and understand how they learn in an outdoor setting.”
More information about the centre is available online at childrensprograms.whittlesea.ymca.org.au/early-learning/.