What began as a local initiative in Lower Hutt in 2003 has rapidly grown in to a successful nationwide programme supporting first-time parents and their babies with parenting education, practical help and the chance share their experiences with one another.

SPACE (Supporting Parents Alongside Children’s Education) programmes take place in a group setting. The idea behind SPACE is about connecting parents and linking them with others in their local communities.  Sessions are held weekly and provide the opportunity to meet and get to know other new parents and their babies, discussions on relevant child development and parenting topics, play sessions that support infants learning and development and music, books and rhymes for babies.

SPACE has blossomed since it started with programmes now being delivered by 33 partner organisations in a variety of settings from early childhood centres to church halls.  The Tindall Foundation is proud to have supported SPACE with over $530,000 in donations since 2008.

Waikato Playcentre Association has led the charge in the development and successful running of a solely SPACE centre situated in St Andrews, Hamilton.  SPACE Waikato started their first SPACE group in July 2009 with 15 babies and their parents.  Now, only four years later, they are running over 20 programmes in four centres, with the St Andrews SPACE Playcentre running 10 sessions per week alone.  This equates to 300 parents and their babies having the opportunity to benefit from SPACE.resizedimage450600-SPACE-mum-and-tot

The true impact of having a dedicated SPACE centre is that it has created a hub of activity and support for parents.   “I love coming to St Andrews Playcentre each week. It’s great to get out of the house and hang out with other mums and babies. We are having so much fun at SPACE”, says Julie (St Andrews SPACE Playcentre parent).

The benefits have also flowed onto the support available to the facilitators that work at St Andrews.  With a mainly voluntary wider support team, SPACE Waikato currently employs 20 Facilitators, and a coordinator, Catherine Polglase, to manage their programmes.

This management and support to facilitators is key as Catherine explains, “The team prides itself on providing quality support and systems to enable our facilitators to do a great job of delivering the SPACE programme and establishing great relationships with their parents.”

SPACE is currently in the early stages of working with three organisations (based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch), who are exploring how a SPACE centre could work for them and their communities. SPACE would love to hear from organisations who may be interested in this model.

SPACE NZ Trust is the governing body of the SPACE programme and was formed in 2010 with the support of the Tindall Foundation funding.    For more information contact:theteam@space.org.nz