In the age of ‘plastic fantastic’ and easily disposable items, Pachamama goes against the grain of what parents would normally find in the playgrounds of typical childcare centres where children are wrapped in cotton wool and safely buckled into a small plastic swing on a little stand under a brightly coloured shade sail.
Pachamama’s home-away-from-home mantra includes a strong connection to nature that aims to influence the best possible outcomes for all our children and their families.
Our purposefully-designed playgrounds have a nature-based theme with a focus on repurposing natural and man-made items. Our children are encouraged to take considered risks under the watchful eyes of trained and dedicated educators.
One of my favourite spaces of Pachamama is its enormous tyre swing. Whilst some centres may have a vertical tyre hung on a rope close to the ground under a small tree, I believe Pachamama’s tyre swing is noteworthy in both form and function.
Towering across the top boundary of our Pachamama Activity Centre is a massive 25m tall Pride of Bolivia. Its 30m canopy provides an abundance of natural shade for children. A thick gauged stainless steel chain is secured at one end to a large branch 15m off the ground. The other end hangs 12m down to a 2m long three-pronged support connected to a vertically-orientated tyre with U-bolts.
A ride on this unique tyre swing offers children the perfect mixture of comfort, danger, and fear laced with exhilarating freedom. It builds a rhythm of its own for sitting passengers as it is pushed far and wide by other children and educators alike. It is the source of much laughter, conversations and teamwork.
The children never tire of the tyre swing! But occasionally neighbours do tire of the fun squealing, which is understandable and something that needs active guidance and management.
The ground underneath is sloped adding another element of daring fun. The children feel higher than they actually are when swinging over the lower land giving a feeling of danger, thrill and accomplishment.
There is a lot to be said for tyre swings hung horizontally. They are arguably safer and children can sit fully in the tyre and easily hold one of the chains in the three-pronged support. This is a great benefit for our younger children because they can confidently explore and engage with our physical environment while joining in play and leisure activities.
Under the canopy of the Pride of Bolivia tree, the tyre swing is shaded. This provides our children with added time to play and socialize in nature with their friends, even during the warmer months.
Regardless of whether it is our junior or senior children (or the educators for that matter), we all agree that twisting chain and then letting it go is a blast! We hold on tight as the chain unwinds creating a sense of vertigo that comes with fast spinning.
Our children learn that a tyre ride can be pretty exciting. They add to the thrill by reaching for high branches as if they were after a prized possession. They experiment with positions, standing or sitting or sometimes lying supine on the ring.
Our tyre swing also teaches that limits matter, too, as they watch to make sure the swing doesn’t end up hitting the tree if they are on it or another person if they are pushing it They have fun, but they learn to take care at the same time!
The tyre swing also allows educators to spend time interacting and conversing with children one-on-one. We listen and respond sensitively as we stand calmly pushing them. The children feel freedom to express their thoughts, ideas and needs after a particularly hard day at school or during tumultuous times at home.
Using a rope for support, the children can climb up the Pride of Bolivia to a fork in the trunk around 4m off the ground. They report watching over children swinging and contemplate their thoughts on their journey of growth in life.
They come down when they have had enough quiet time and rejoin their friends for more “tyring play.”