About our founders

About Toni and Robin Christie, the founders of Childspace

Toni Christie M.Ed.

Toni is the Director of Childspace Early Childhood Institute, holding a master’s degree in education.

Originally qualified as a nanny, Toni’s experiences in education range from running a community parenting programme for single mothers to advisory roles with the Ministry of Education and tertiary training providers. She oversees the Childspace Institute’s professional development programmes, is an author of books and articles, and is editor of The Space magazine.

Toni’s extensive management and leadership experience in the early childhood profession have seen her work alongside community education services across Aotearoa and Australia.

Toni is also a marriage celebrant, a Justice of the Peace, a Certified Zentangle Trainer, and a ukulele fanatic.

Robin Christie

Robin, with both an early childhood education and fine arts background, leads the Childspace Workshop, a dedicated early childhood environment hub set in rural Ōhāriu Valley.

The Childspace Workshop team is responsible for the design and maintenance of the Childspace learning environments, as well as supplying custom-built equipment and furnishings to ECE services across the country.

Robin is passionate about creativity in the early years, positive risk-taking play for all ages, and bringing more good men into early childhood education.

Our history

Together, Toni and Robin are driven to provide the very best early childhood experiences for young children and their families across Aotearoa and beyond. They feel extremely privileged to work alongside dedicated and talented teachers, children, and families in all areas of early childhood education. Whether this involves teaching ukulele, dressing up as irreverent aged persons and eccentric scientists (Sugar Mamma and Dr. Bob), leading community playground builds, or advocating for children’s rights at a political level, Toni and Robin love what they do.

They are currently living happily ever after on ten acres of regenerating native bush, surrounded by assorted animals and their two beautiful children.

June 1991
June 1991

A nanny and an artist

Toni and Robin meet at Canterbury University. Having qualified as a nanny, Toni is now studying education and Robin is attending Ilam School of Fine Arts.

They fall in love, move in together, and forget to go to lectures enough.

1993
1993

Research

Toni founds the ‘Family Faciltator’ programme, an in-home service educating young single parents in parenting and life skills.

She also completes her Diploma in Early Childhood Education.

September 1993
September 1993

Working from home

Scraping together their student loans, Toni and Robin buy an old home in Shirley, Christchurch.

They knock out most of the walls, paint the rest of them in crazy murals, and create a space they feel will afford young children the respect they deserve.

Two small rooms are their bedroom, ‘lounge’, office and staff room.

February 14th 1994
February 14th 1994

Childspace is born!

Childspace opens with four children in attendance and Toni and Robin as the only teachers.

A truly homely space!

1995
1995

Infancy

As time goes on, more children and teachers join the Childspace whānau, and Toni and Robin move into their own home.

Their old rooms become a welcoming infants’ space.

1996
1996

Put a ring on it

The happy couple can finally afford to become the ‘happy couple’, get married, and move to Wellington to be closer to Toni’s family and start their own family.

1997
1997

Two centres and a baby

The need for quality early childhood education (ECE) services in Wellington is enormous.

While teaching full time, Toni and Robin open Childspace Karori ECE centre and Childspace Wilton ECE centre.

They also have time to have their first child, Max. What a year!

1999
1999

A third centre

To meet the growing waiting list of families, Childspace Northland ECE centre is established.

2000
2000

Another baby

Childspace Ngaio Infants and Toddlers ECE centre opens in the heritage-listed Tarikaka Settlement in Ngaio.

Just to show how much they believe in infant care and education, Toni and Robin have another child of their own, Tui Lou, to start the ball rolling there.

2001
2001

What about the house next door?

The house directly next door to Childspace Ngaio comes up for sale, providing a homely, welcoming space for older children (Ngaio 2-5s) and the perfect link for a full birth-to-school care and education experience.

2002
2002

The workshop and workshops

The Childspace Workshop is created to meet the needs of other ECE services who have been asking Robin to design and build equipment and playscapes. It operates out of a double garage at their home.

Childspace’s first-ever professional development is delivered, a North Island tour by Toni and Robin teaching educators how to build their own whiteboards and display pinboards.

2003
2003

The birth of the Childspace Institute

The Childspace Early Childhood Institute is founded, delivering professional learning and development, advising and supporting other ECE services, and creating practical resources for early childhood practitioners. The Institute also advocates for the rights of young children and ECE educators on political and policy issues.

Toni and Robin continue to develop and present professional development throughout Aotearoa/NZ. They present at their first international conference, the World Forum on Early Education and Care, in Acapulco, Mexico. Their sessions are on playscape design and storytelling.

Toni completes her upgrade to a Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Early Childhood.

2004
2004

A publication and a children’s band

Wildspace (a band of teachers and parents) release their first self-titled album.  It is launched at the children’s Christmas party in December.

Childspaces:  A design sourcebook for early childhood is published.  This is the first of many future publications and is launched at the ECC conference.

2005
2005

Conference and The Space magazine

The first Childspace national ECE conference, ‘Education for Peace’, is held in Wellington, with over 300 participants. This event sets the template for the hands-on, practical nature of Childspace conferences, as well as the emphasis on after-hours networking.

Toni and Robin attend the ‘Institute for Child Care Design’ at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Spring 2005 brings the first edition of the ‘Space’ magazine, a full-colour quarterly publication aimed at teachers and parents of our youngest citizens.  Published and distributed by the Childspace Early Childhood Institute.

2006
2006

Sharing design ideas

Building on the experiences of setting up ECE centres, combined with knowledge gained at Harvard University, Robin presents the first Childspace ECE Environment Design Institute.

This course, held over four days and covering every aspect of ECE design, is the first of its kind in Aotearoa.

2007
2007

All good things

Childspace Institute shifts to current site of Helston Road in Johnsonville, Wellington. The official opening in March 2008 includes the burial of a time capsule.

Childspace develops, publishes and distributes its first catalogue of educational resources.

Childspaces 2: Another design sourcebook for early childhood was launched very successfully at the EC Convention in September.

2008
2008

Innovation recognised

Childspace Ngaio early childhood education centre is granted research funding through the government’s Centres of Innovation (COI) fund to carry out action research into their peaceful primary caregiving as curriculum approach. 

The first Childspace ‘You can Ukulele’ workshop is held in Rotorua. Over one thousand ECE teachers have learned the joy of strumming the uke with Toni and Robin since then, and the number keeps growing!

2009
2009

Yeah Baby!

The first ever Yeah Baby! – Childspace Infant and Toddler Specialist Conference, is hosted in April at the  Brentwood Hotel in Wellington.

The Childspace Workshop opens its custom-built workspace in Ōhāriu Valley, Wellington.

Working with the Ministry of Social Development and Save the Children NZ, Childspace runs parenting workshops, including specialist fathering courses held at the Childspace Workshop. Parenting and child development knowledge is imparted in an informal way, while creating a massive mosaic and large building blocks for the Wellington Women’s Refuge.

2010
2010

A sustainable vision

Regeneration of native bush on ten acres of bare farmland begins in Ōhāriu Valley, the first step in creating a child-friendly forest for all of the Childspace whānau.

2011
2011

Respect

Respect: A Practitioner’s guide to calm and nurturing infant care and education is published.  This book is the practical application of Toni’s master’s thesis which is completed in the same year.

It goes on to sell over ten thousand copies and becomes the text for most undergrad courses of study in ECE throughout NZ.

2012
2012

One vision

The side-by-side Childspace ECE Ngaio centres combine their Ministry of Education licenses to become one centre. This enables a smoother transition from space to space for both children and families.

2013
2013

A Fullbright scholar

Toni is awarded a Fullbright scholarship to disseminate her research on infants and toddlers throughout various states in the USA.

2014
2014

Strengthening early learning

The Childspace EC Institute partners with the Ministry of Education to support ECE centres through their Strengthening Early Learning Opportunities (SELO) programme.

This support includes governance, environment design, curriculum development, and documentation of learning.

2015
2015

Justice and Peace

Toni becomes a Justice of the Peace.

2016
2016

Leading with heart and soul

Leading with heart and soul is authored by Toni and published by the Childspace institute to assist leaders in early childhood with a values-based approach to managing and supervising teams of teachers in early childhood settings.

Toni and Robin become registered Zentangle trainers and begin delivering Zentangle classes for teachers’ wellbeing and creativity.  These structured drawing patterns are also admired and used with older children in early childhood services.

2017
2017

Rituals

Rituals: making the everyday extraordinary in ECE is authored by Toni and Memory Lyon.

The book is intended to guide teachers and parents in slowing down and being fully present for the precious moments in their young children’s lives.

2018
2018

Design, build, play

Design, build, play is authored by Robin and published by the Childspace institute.

The purpose of this publication is to empower learning communities to create positive change in their physical environments in early childhood education.

2018
2018

A retail space

‘All Good Things’, the resource shop for educators, opens at the Childspace EC Institute in Johnsonville, Wellington.

2019
2019

Continuity of care

Childspace Ngaio is awarded a research grant through the government’s Teacher Led Innovation Fund (TLIF) to further study their innovative practices of continuity of care.

Today
Today

Today

The Childspace organisation consists of 4 beautiful early childhood centres in converted suburban homes, a dedicated workshop, an Institute supporting the many aspects of ECE in Aotearoa, and a ‘home office’ administration wing.

We are privileged to play an important role in the lives of over a hundred families in our community through the Childspace centres, and make a positive impact on countless more through the work of the Institute and workshop.

Our team of over seventy men and women includes teachers, kai creators, accountants, gardeners, landscapers, cabinetmakers, cleaners, a graphic designer and a principal. Toni and Robin Christie work full-time right across the organisation, and are even more passionate and idealistic than when they began!

Every single person in the whānau has one aim – to improve the lives of young children across Childspace and throughout Aotearoa. 

The future
The future

The future

Childspace is a constantly evolving organisation, and is always striving to be at the forefront of research-based educational best practice.

We continue to connect children with nature, to aid families in raising resilient and confident children, and to bring more good men into ECE. We are excited to be part of the world-leading early childhood system here in Aotearoa, and look forward to adding to our shared knowledge through our continuing research projects.

We love what we do!

Toni and Robin Christie early childhood education

Toni and Robin Christie are partners in life, love, and learning. Together, Toni and Robin are driven to provide the very best early childhood experiences for young children and their families across Aotearoa and beyond. They feel extremely privileged to work alongside dedicated and talented teachers, children and families who teach them so much every day. Whether this involves teaching ukulele, dressing up as irreverent aged persons and eccentric scientists (Sugar Mamma and Dr. Bob), leading community playground builds, or advocating for children’s rights at a political level, Toni and Robin love what they do.

They are currently living happily ever after on ten acres of regenerating native bush, surrounded by assorted animals and their two beautiful children.

Always working to

Help children grow