A 5.6 hectare nature childcare centre where children are encouraged to build mud slides, climb trees and explore the freshwater creek is set to open its doors in Paeroa.
Tamariki Station Ainslee Centre's opening is positive news amid the Covid-19 financial recovery and owner Erin Staples is eager to welcome little learners after delays on final inspections due to lockdown.
"It'll be fantastic when we get some of the community enjoying this space," Erin says. "For the last one and a half years nobody but contractors have enjoyed it."
On rolling hills beside an historic home on Ainslee Rd, the custom designed centre caters for 40 children aged 2 to 5 and a separate baby centre with sleeping room and playing area for another 20 infants to 2-year-olds.
Erin owns another Tamariki Station childcare centre in Paeroa and the Education Review Office said teachers are highly responsive to the personalised care needs of infants and toddlers. Children are empowered to develop as capable, confident explorers and learners.
At the new centre in Ainslee Rd, nappies and food are all supplied and wooden toys, dress-ups and miniature trucks are lined up ready to go.
Outside, a fenced play area stocked with 'real' tools like hammers and nails leads to acres of countryside.
Erin says children will build resilience, confidence, respect for nature and learn how to keep themselves safe.
To allow children to explore 5.6 hectares. The 497sq m centre operates under policies more like a public playground and parents must sign a form upon enrolling their child which identifies hazards and allows children to explore as though participating on an excursion.
A detailed health and safety policy is in place and staff will build relationships with the children to understand group dynamics.
Muddy boots are not only acceptable, they'll be encouraged.
"Mudslides on the hills, beautiful trees, freshwater creek, we own a paddock next door and might set up a soccer field. There will a lot of loose parts for them to create, like an obstacle course and climbing frame," says Erin.
A whistle system will call children in emergency.
Managers Gaylene Kelly and Jackie Williams are relishing the opportunity to teach this way.
"You will find that in a lot of childcare centres the carpark is bigger than the playground and centre, especially when you look on Google Maps at cities," says Jackie.
"Here there's a hilly playground for lots of tumbling. We're hoping we'll be out here every day."
The prospect of boisterous 4-year-old boys in their care is no problem.
"They can kick a ball - keeping it low - and we've got enough health and safety policies and procedures to keep them safe. Our biggest discussion was 'what brand gumboots are we going to get?'."