Watch, Wait and Wonder DownUnder

Universal and Community-Based Approaches




This organisation  is an esteemed part of New Zealand’s early childhood education culture. From the beginning [1941], the philosophy has been child-led play, promoting this and supporting parents with observing and facilitating this approach.

Their publication “Take another Look, Tirohia Ano – A guide to observing children” [Pat Penrose, 2nd Edition, 1998] talks about the understandings derived from “Watching, Discovering and Learning.”

“As we see and hear more, our sensitivity to children increases and we can enjoy each other more” [pg. 11]

“The things that we learn from observing can encourage us to stop and think first, to watch before acting and discover our children’s needs more accurately” [pg. 13]

Playcentre –

Playcentre is an internationally recognised early childhood organisation with 489 Playcentres affiliated to the New Zealand Playcentre Federation and 8 Playcentres in Japan. It began in 1941 primarily as a support service to women left raising children alone due to partners being away with the Second World War.

Playcentres are run as parent cooperatives, offering a safe and secure learning environment for children from birth to 6 years; emphasising child initiated play and the importance of whanau/families as first and most important educators of their children. Parents are offered free NZQA recognised training which covers child development, play and learning, parenting skills, planning and delivering early childhood education programmes, group and facilitation skills and management skills.


Parent Training in Watch, Wait and Wonder Approach – Mirek Lojkasek [1994]


Dr Lojkasek developed a Watch, Wait, Wonder programme for parents to practice in the home, outlining the principles of the approach and how parents could set up the space and when they might consider using this approach with their child. He updated his programme in 2009.

He has run workshops for parents and can be contacted at

New South Wales, Australia 

Dr Michael Zilibowitz,  developed a package for parents supporting them with child-led play [2010]. He also utilises the instructions developed by Johnson, Dowling and Wesner [1980, 1982].  The information is delivered over 1-3 sessions and parents can keep their own records about using child-led play and noticing what happens for their child, themselves and the relationship.

There has been one evaluation of this adaptation with families whose children ranged from 12 months to 5 years. 73 parents attended a parent education evening’, completed questionnaires [Parenting Stress Index – PSI] and these questionnaires were repeated 4-6 weeks later [Time 2]. Almost all the parents participating were female, married [85% time one], in their 30’s and 80% had a tertiary/TAFE qualification. 18% of the parents at the first meeting had scores above 90% on the PSI. Follow-ups showed reductions across domains of the PSI and in the overall score. However, only 39 [53%] parents completed the data at Time 2 making these findings difficult to interpret.

This adaptation/package supporting parents with child-led play in the home needs further research.