“It's not structured like a school program,” he explains. “It’s very free-flowing and the kids have a lot of autonomy. The parents are a big part of the program as well, they'll come and hang out with the other parents on our family days.” The Cubbies program is focused on being child-led and play-based, as it’s through play that children can discover their own interests, abilities and limitations.
Lately what’s sparked the imaginations of the children, and the budget consciousness of the adults has been the fruit and vegetable garden grown within the playground grounds.
A place to learn and grow
There’s an abundance of food grown here, from tomatoes and potatoes (which the kids prefer) to chilies and Chinese broccoli (for the parents). From seed to harvest, children are encouraged to get involved with all aspects.
“I always ask what they want to grow,” says Oliver. “A lot of the mums come in for specific herbs like mint or other veggies they cook with regularly. They feel comfortable to just come in and take what they need.”
Also growing in the garden are vegetables the families may not be too familiar with, like broad beans or kale. “They think it’s a funny tasting lettuce,” laughs Oliver.
To help the families acquaint themselves with new foods, Cubbies joined with Save the Children’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program and ran cooking classes with Cultivating Community to show kids how they could use some of the fresh produce to create healthy meals. Over three weeks, 30 children used sweet potatoes, zucchinis, beetroot and more to make a three-course meal.
A place of safety
This year, Oliver and his team are keen to continue to provide a place for the community to gather safely as we move through the pandemic. “We hope we can just get back to normality. Everybody has learnt recently you miss the things that you take for granted. So our goal is to just bring back that stability to the community. To keep providing for them a space that they can come to a couple of times a week and enjoy the safe outdoor space with all its opportunities for play, which they missed out on during lockdown.”
“We would love to run a regular school holiday program for the kids as well,” says Oliver. “We’re so thankful for funding from our supporters and partners, but we’d love to see a more sustainable ongoing partnership so we can give the kids even more activities during the holidays that they can learn from and take home to their families too.”