From drab to fab: the childcare’s new backyard

The Port Pirie Childcare Centre has had a recent upgrade, with their backyard being completely transformed to provide an environmental learning space for all age groups. 

The previous backyard was filled with softfall, a material made out of recycled tyres, yet the centre found that it was worn and becoming unsafe. 

Centre director, Kate Kassapis said that in order to keep the backyard in adherence to lead safe practices and National Quality Standards, they decided to change their softfall material to barkchips. 

“We need to adhere to lead safe practices so everyday, Nyrstar would come and hose down the outdoor environment, which then helps with the wear and tear on the softfall. It was so worn down and cracked, it was really unsafe.”

The centre worked with Environmental Health and TLAP to be able to provide a lead safe backyard that meets all the regulations. 

“We have replaced the softfall with bark chips and more garden beds. We previously had one tree, we want to keep to the nature focus. It is all about natural elements and a natural environment.”

The backyard upgrade was a two year planning process as the centre was unable to access funding and grants. 

Rotary Club of Port Pirie contributed $1600 towards the shade structures over the sandpits, yet the centre had to fund the $47,850 project themselves. 

There is a strong educational focus within the backyard with centre educators wanting to spark the natural curiosity of a child. 

IMAGE SUPPLIED: What centre looked like previously

IMAGE SUPPLIED: What centre looked like previously

“The kids have loved it. It is really satisfying as educators to sit back and let the kids play. There are so many elements to the environment, it really does change the whole dynamic”, Kate said. 

“Where our under twos are, we have relocated the sandpit and added all those natural features like plants and rocks. Trying to spark the curiosity in the children to offer different sensory experiences.”

“We have bush cubbies, different plants like rosemary and lavender to spark different senses, we have planter boxes, where we planted different herbs.”

IMAGE SUPPLIED: The backyard after the renovations.

IMAGE SUPPLIED: The backyard after the renovations.

“The parents have absolutely loved it as well. It is a complete transformation. It has been really positive feedback from all around.”

The centre was transformed in a month and Kate was very grateful to have the help of Port Pirie West Primary School and the Children’s centre. 

“We have been really lucky to have support from the school and the children’s centre.”

“During the upgrades we had to relocate to help minimise the dust lead levels, the school very graciously allowed us to use the playgrounds during that time”

IMAGE SUPPLIED: The backyard after the renovations.

IMAGE SUPPLIED: The backyard after the renovations.

The centre is onto implementing bigger and better things with wanting to create music walls out of recyclable materials and get some chickens for the chicken coop. 

“We are just excited now to keep moving forward, to keep adding and building onto the environment.”