Centre uses separate flour for play

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 12:28 27/08/2012
Aoife-May Crosby
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ

HAVING FUN: Aoife-May Crosby, 2, left, and Max Newcombe-Maule enjoy using playdough at Cherry’s Early Learning Centre in Beckenham. Some centres no longer use playdough because it is considered culturally insensitive to use food for play.

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Playdough controversial amongst Maori

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A Christchurch early-learning centre has found a solution to the debate over whether playing with food is culturally insensitive.

Some New Zealand playcentres have stopped the use of food, including playdough, because it is deemed "bad tikanga", or bad practice.

News that centres are restricting playdough has sparked heated debate on press.co.nz.

Some readers said the view that playdough was not OK was not that of all Maori. More said the idea of not using playdough was ''ridiculous'', while others suggested creative alternatives.

Playdough, seen to have value as a learning tool as it is tactile and sensory-oriented, is still widely used at mainstream and culture-specific early-learning centres throughout New Zealand.

Te Waka Huruhurumanu ki Otautahi Early Learning Centre, based at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, budgets seperately for flour for food and flour for play.

Centre kaihautu Rachel Hoskins said the debate over playdough came up ''reasonably consistently''.

It was particularly good for children born prematurely and was soothing for those who were shy. It was also easy for parents to make at home, Hoskins said.

Hoskins said restricting food as a play tool showed respect for it as a scarce resource.

There were ''many'' tactile experiences available for children, including sawdust and clay.

''All tikanga is based on common sense,'' she said.

''We'd never get the flour for the playdough out of the kitchen. We'd get it out of the art cupboard,'' she said.

Education Ministry acting senior manager Marlene Clarkson said it was up to each early-childhood service to determine whether to use food for art activities, depending on their philosophies and practices.

''An early-childhood service may wish to consult with parents, whanau and the community if they are drafting a policy regarding the use of food for activities to determine whether there are any cultural considerations which may apply,'' she said.

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