Dreams do come true at Journey…
Messy Play Saturday at Journey Early Learning Riverhills
It’s Saturday morning at 8:30am in Riverhills, Brisbane. The neighbourhood appears a bit sleepy; people seem to be taking it easy here. The weather appears pleasant today, the first time since Messy Play Saturday came into being. That is why everything has already been set up outside today. In total, there are more than ten stations for families. When Team Talk @ Journey arrives, everything is already ready, and the team of volunteering educators sits comfortably on stones arranged in a circle outside immersed in conversation. Also, something special for the group: to have time to talk. It seems a bit like the calm before the storm; 23 children and their parents have registered for today.
“At Journey, dreams come true… at least some of them.” Sue and Kerryn stand together and laugh heartily. Both, of course, in Journey uniforms – which Sue has paired with the most awesome colourful socks imaginable.
They say Sue dreamed of providing Messy Play for the families on Saturdays. Kerryn was on board with the idea; the two hit the ground running, and the families enthusiastically accepted the offer. Unfortunately, this was the second part of Sue’s dream, and Chris Hemsworth has not yet turned up. A pity. But maybe next time. But the joy of the children immediately makes you forget the harsh disappointment. And it is great. At 9 o’clock sharp, the first families come streaming through the gate into the garden, radiant with joy.
It is always a big hello, perhaps comparable to a small family party. It fills up quickly, and the children explore the numerous lovingly constructed play possibilities with their parents.
Colours, shapes, textures. There is so much to discover.
Colourful ice cubes, spinning tops that paint bright lines, a rainbow-coloured mass in which there are all kinds of things to discover or rather to feel, a small tent with all sorts of lights and a mirrored wall, a moonscape with cotton wool, glitter, coffee beans (the smell is lovely), astronauts and rockets, filled and unfilled balloons that have to be dipped in paint to make a big piece of art, glitter modelling clay with lots of coloured crystals and cool glass decoration stones. Zip lock bags filled with shampoo and lots of glitter with lots of little objects to push back and forth, some homemade snow globes, foam rockets that can be shot through the air… it’s a feast for our little explorers and their families for the senses.
Teresa and her daughter Lilly are also there. They enjoy being able to come here once a month. And there is a sentence that we will hear more often that day. It is so nice not to have to clean up at the end.
Sue tells us that these Saturdays are better than any parent’s evening. Theoretically, teaching the benefits of sensory play differs entirely from the families experiencing the children’s interest and joy in exploring. The coming year is, therefore, already wholly planned.
It is immediately apparent that this project is close to Sue’s heart. It is her passion. When you see what has been created here, everyone can be justifiably proud.
Because the families, who otherwise often only rush past each other when dropping them off and picking them up, have time to talk to each other, to get in touch, you can almost watch how a community is created that will last beyond the time the children spend together at Journey.
Emily, we find at the balloons. She’s on Maternity Leave right now; her little daughter is just five months old, and her older one is already at the centre. But somehow, she is never entirely away, so it is a matter of habit of course for her to slip into her uniform and help out this Saturday. The little boy at her side appreciates her support.
Lachie is 2.5 years old, and his mother, Alex, came along this morning. Messy Play, she says, is not something she would offer at home. These Saturdays help her get more out of her time with her son. She works full time, leaving only the evenings, and here you can dive in without any pre or post-processing, i.e. cleaning up and cleaning up.
Immersion is Lachie’s cue. He’s up to his elbows in slippery slime, beaming all over his face and saying, “It’s cold!” He’s right, and all the googly eyes in the slime to be found make it that much better to wallow here. With a “bibibibibibooo”, Lachie sings goodbye to the next table, not without first taking Alex by the hand to show her the way. His mum and dad join Lucas. While another father has taken a seat under a tree and quickly checks his work emails and maybe the “Besides,” says Alli, “the ideas are so simple and so clever. It’s a real source of inspiration for us at home every time.”
What you see are many relaxed and happy faces.
As time goes by, the children get dirty, and then the parents. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone, and it somehow unites people. And besides, there are washing machines.
The hustle and bustle are busy but much quieter than one would think. By far the loudest are the birds in the giant tree in the garden, who seem to be going all out today with their concert. Maybe they want to impress; maybe it’s their comment on the foam rockets flying by.
At the rocket ramp, you get the impression that some of the fathers are almost more enthusiastic than their children. In any case, you can say that there is something for everyone. And that’s how it should be.
We meet the second Emily in front of the small tent where many children have gathered to play than you would think would fit in. It seems to be fun. You can hear loud giggles coming from the tent. Emily loves children, she says. She can be found in the Nursery room during the week or at TAFE, where she is still studying part-time, and the children seem to love her.
Bonnie has been with Journey for over six years. You can also find her in the Nursery. She enjoys making contact with her parents. In everyday life, this is often more difficult. Her concern is to show support to the families with this offer. Like many of Journey’s educators, she is one who likes to go the extra mile. Not a mile by any means, but Bonnie doesn’t let our little friends go home without a little snack and starts towards the kitchen to carry out bowls of fresh fruit.
Suddenly it is 11 o’clock.
We look at the clock and are surprised. The time flew by. When you think about it, everything that makes up Journey comes together here, Communication, Connection and Consideration. It is lovely to see everyone enjoying this warm and welcoming atmosphere
Some parents have coffee mugs in their hands and have formed small groups. The children, meanwhile, are getting even quieter. The plan for the rest of the morning seems similar for most families: a bath for the children, lunch and nap for the exhausted little explorers.
What a great morning!
Honestly, with these great children and families, not to mention our educators, who needs Chris Hemsworth?
What is there left to say in the end? Kerryn sums it up for everyone: “Thanks for coming to play.” And then it’s time for the families to leave, happy and tired. Cleaning up together is quicker than expected. Maybe the families should give Messy Play a chance at home too? Either way, it will not be the last Messy Play Saturday at Journey Riverhills. Everyone is already looking forward to seeing them again.
Find out what your local Journey Centre has to offer.
How messy play helps child development: https://bit.ly/3SeUurz
Ideas for messy play: