I had a lovely chat with Kelly Murray the other day, about the Babies and Toddlers group(s) in the Allen Valleys.
- MONDAYS: Catton Village Hall 10-11:30ish £1.50 contribution per family
- TUESDAYS: Whitfield Village Hall ?times and contribution?
- WEDNESDAYS: Allendale Fire Station 9:30-11:30/12ish . £1.00 contribution per family
- THURSDAYS: no meetings
- FRIDAYS: Allendale Fire Station 9:30-11:30/12ish. £1.00 contribution per family
The Health Visitor attends on the last Wednesday of the month for weighing / chat / dealing with any problems / drop-in centre.
The different facilities each have different histories, which are reflected in the contributions asked (only asked; being there is more important than any fee, Kelly says). For example, the contribution at Catton Village Hall pays for the room hire, while the Fire Station rooms were jointly built with Sure Start and so there’s no hire fee for the Babies & Toddlers Group. The Allendale contribution is only for insurance purposes. Sometimes Sure Start personnel come along to the Allendale sessions and sometimes also there’s messy play with custard and slime and sand and water/bubbles. !Fun!
The Babies & Toddlers group have a Facebook page, which is a closed group (apply to the admins for admission).
Kelly tells me she moved north to live in Allendale with her husband, who is local, but she’s just a little bit worried about keeping the group going as her own kids are growing up and out of the B&T age. She loves Sensory Rooms for babies (special lights, soft furnishings, and fibre optics of wonder), and hopes to get one set up in the smaller room at the Fire Station. Kelly says that the feeling of being enveloped, embraced by the group is very strong, and mum, dads, grandparents, carers, whoever is taking care of the babies and toddlers is very welcome to come and make friends. The group can be a life-line for new parents, but volunteers are always appreciated, and are necessary to keep the organisation going.
Even if you just need to get out of the house, and have a cup of tea in the kitchen with friends and people going through the same child-care issues, the group can be a godsend, a kind of normalising of life. And, Kelly emphasises, time isn’t a crucial thing — attendees don’t have to worry about promptness!
I asked her how the babies themselves find it, interacting with other babies. Kelly remarked that it can be daunting for them, sometimes, but everybody pitches in like friendly aunts and uncles, as it were, to help teach the babies and toddlers their social skills, how to be nice and share. The age limit is supposed to be from babies up to toddlers of maybe 3+ years old; by 4 years of age the child will want to be going to Playgroup, one imagines. But differentiation between different ages (non-walking babies are so different to toddlers!) can take incredible patience!
There might be only two or three families at any one session, or up to six or nine too . . . there seems to be a core group, but new families are always welcome. Kelly notes, just to finish up our little chat, that if families come by car to the Fire Station, please could they park down the back/side of the Fire Station by the trees, and when they get into the room, please help keep shoes and clothes out of the way, just in case there’s a fire call. When they do answer the call, it’s amazing how fast they mobilise! The Firefighters, Kelly says, are so much appreciated by the group, which probably owes them a bottle of milk or two!
And I can just imagine the excitement amongst the toddlers, as the big pump screams out of the station, with all its firefighting crew to the ready!