In Homage to our Playgroup

When my girls were two I was invited along to a playgroup by another twin mum. I wasn’t convinced about going as it was a trek across town from where I lived and we’d already been to a variety of similar settings, where the children played/rampaged around and the parents watched-on/were distracted on their phones or chatted.

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As it turned out I am eternally grateful to my friend for the recommendation of this particular playgroup. It helped me and my girls through the toddler years and is now helping me and the small boy through his. From my very first session I knew this was different from the run-of-the-mill weekday fill-a -morning-slot we were used to.

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The playgroup is run by a volunteer who has been organising the session for many years, off her own back. It’s a  non-profit group held in a church hall and welcomes children and their carers from all walks of life. The group supports parents, grandparents and other carers to enjoy playing with their children in fun and interesting ways. It is community minded and pegs children’s and parent’s needs equally and squarely at the front of its thinking. It has a caring vibe, one by which parents watch out for each other and their children. It cares for the carer and allows a safe, fun space for children to play in. It is linked to the church, in a relaxed way. Children play cooperatively with others and parents help them do this. The group is supported by additional volunteers from the community (pulled together by the group’s organiser) who all help to set-up, tidy away and make the refreshments.

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The Small Boy enjoying the ‘playhouse’ set up as an office

Every week the same winning playgroup structure is followed; open play for an hour, tidy up time, snack, story and singing. The toys are all well looked after and clean, the jigsaws always have all their pieces, the PlayDoh is homemade, the sandpit is regularly topped-up, the pens have their lids, there is always painting in differing guises, each week a different theme for the home corner (hat shop, office, grocers, cafe) and a separate (really well planned) craft activity every week.

Today, for example, activities were themed around Mother’s Day. There were cards to make and decorate, in the shape of tea-pots (each pre-cut before the morning started). Lavender bags to create with all the little extras, ready laid out in bowls, to finish off the personalised homemade gift. A chocolate treat for each mother (or carer) with a hand attached note reminding us what a ‘great job we were doing’ and a spot prize for a ‘super mum’ picked at random. Around the hall were posters with mothers day signs reinforcing messages about what positive parenting looked like and how well as mothers (and carers) we support our children. I came away feeling valued, appreciated and cared for. Something that doesn’t often happen when you’re a SAHM. The small boy came away happy and fulfilled, as usual post Playgroup, having had mummy’s undivided attention (apart from the odd chat around the craft table!) and having been involved in stimulating, age appropriate play and activities. It really is a playgroup that goes the extra mile, run by someone who goes that extra mile.

 

If this were a branded business I’m sure someone would put a huge profit margin on the session, and it would be a highly successful winning formula! I  believe that a lot of private nursery settings could learn a lot from this playgroup!

Just some of the brilliantly creative things we’ve made recently at Playgroup that adorn our home. (On school training days the girls are invited back and love a good craft activity)

I’m so grateful and proud that in today’s society groups like this still exist, they are rare to find. It’s a privilege to be able to attend such a lovely setting. Volunteers such as the one who runs this amazing playgroup are truly the people who make a difference in so many ways to so many parent’s and children’s lives. Being a mum today is hard, and finding someone out there who values that and supports you to do that is like gold dust. I remember Jo Brand’s quote back in September last year when she was asked which living person she most admired and why, she answered: “All women who slog their guts out every day, quietly getting on with bringing up their families.” I’d like to add to that it’s those people who value and support those women (and men) who’d get my vote.

Thank you Playgroup for making me a better parent.

I hope you’re fortunate enough to have somewhere like this to go to in your week, it’s the little things that matter most!

*Family Spot Playgroup is held at St Andrew’s Church Hall, Starbeck, Harrogate on Monday and Thursday mornings 10-11.30am. £2 per week,  and not surprisingly there is usually a waiting list 😉

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