A CHILDCARE centre with a difference, in which youngsters are encouraged to play outside as much as they like, was officially opened last week in Rathoe.
Hail, rain or shine, the children in Rathoe Community Childcare Centre can decide themselves whether they want to splash around in muddy puddles, bask in the sunshine or relax inside with a good book.
“It’s fantastic, we absolutely love it!” said Sinéad Donnelly, the driving force behind the project.
Sineád’s background is in surveying but she switched careers after completing a higher diploma in early-childhood education. She became interested in different forms of learning for young children and was particularity attracted to the model that encourages kids to explore their outdoor surroundings.
“The environment and our curriculum are designed using research from countries such as Finland, Italy and New Zealand and the Irish Aistear and Siolta framework,” explained Sinéad.
“The children learn about a variety of things such as growing plants and bio-diversity; they form friendships and develop resilience as well as perseverance and confidence,” she added.
The centre was completed last year but it was only officially opened last week, when all residents of Rathoe village were invited along. Chairperson Angela O’Sullivan addressed the crowd, while Carol Duffy from Early Childhood Ireland and Áine Gahan from Carlow County Childcare Committee also attended.
One of the strengths of the centre is that it’s particularly suited to children with special needs.
“Our environment is especially helpful for children with special needs because the outdoors are full of natural materials, which help with their sensory needs,” said Sinéad.
The centre offers pre-school and after-school services and a limited amount of places is still available. It will also act as a hub for educational training and skills for the village of Rathoe because, from September, they will provide community training in such areas as manual handling, photography, guitar classes and many more courses.
To find out more about the centre, log onto the website www.rathoecommunitychildcare.com or check out their Facebook page.