A messy playgroup in the park has come out on top as the Community Event of the Year.
The announcement was made at the Katherine Town Council Australia Day awards ceremony last weekend, and accepted by Mandy Tootell on behalf of the Katherine Isolated Children’s Service (KICS).
“I was proud to accept the award on behalf of KICS for our Playgroup in the Park, but it was a joint effort. Community events are only successful when the community joins in,” coordinator of KICS Mandy Tootell said.
“I know we do great work because the kids always come back to cover themselves in slime and the parents just love bringing them out for the day,” she said.
Having worked for the not-for-profit organisation for nine years, Ms Tootell said Playgroup in the Park was developed in 2017 to fill a void in the bare school holidays.
“Before 2018 there was really no school holiday program,” she said.
“We have a lot of good ideas since we have been running play groups for 30 years.
“We had a lot of parents asking for a wet and messy afternoon because it takes a lot to set up and clean up.”
After applying for funding from the NT Government, KCIS had their first Katherine play group in January 2018.
And following its success, organised three more.
“With each event we were getting about 200 kids plus their parents and the aim was to really establish and maintain family relationships as well as build relationships between families, carers and service providers,” Ms Tootell said.
Months of planning on top of usual business was involved in getting the event off the ground.
“The activities were based so that children were self motivated to get involved without help from parents,” she said.
“We wanted to make them enticing for a range of children, for instance there was dry rice for kids who don’t like getting messy, and pipes for water measurement formed a physics activity.
“There was enough to keep the children engaged in small groups while stimulating their senses.
“The playdough station was really good – maybe the most popular – as it had both tactile and olfactory factors.”
KCIS is a playgroup organisation which caters to 25 Indigenous communities and 26 pastoral stations and small townships.
Field teams pack a trailer with play based learning resources and travel an area of 760,000 square kilometres across the Top End to deliver playgroups for children who are socially or geographically isolated.
After the success of the 2018 playgroups, KCIS is in the midst of organising the next event, which is expected to happen in April.
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