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Going the extra mile

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For most toddler group leaders life is busy – sometimes too busy. But although that is true, I am constantly surprised by the dedication and acts of service of so many of the Playtimers that I meet – leaders who actively look for creative ways to support the parents and carers attending their groups.

We all know, of course, how important it is to give parents and carers a warm welcome, but it’s good to remind ourselves about this. The way we greet and respond to someone as they walk through the door has a huge impact on them. For a mum who has just had to negotiate any number of hoops to get to the session with her baby, who is dealing with difficult issues at home, or who is simply feeling low or under the weather, a loving, friendly welcome will make a world of a difference.

Most groups will have already thought carefully about the kind of welcome they give, but why not talk with your team about other things you could you do that would really go the extra mile in caring for and supporting your parents. Here are a few ideas that you may like to consider:

  • Assign a ‘buddy’ – set up a system in your group where a new parent is given a buddy. The buddy can make sure that they feel included, introduce them to other parents, and be there for a friendly chat, to give encouragement or be a shoulder to cry on.
  • Meals on wheels – when a new baby is born, offer to provide meals for the family for the first week to allow them to really focus on the baby, recover from the birth and not have the worry of thinking ‘What’s for tea?’ Check beforehand that this would be welcome and that their friends or family are not already helping, then put together a rota of volunteers who will cook and deliver the meals.
  • Washing rota – again for families with a new born, a nice suggestion is to offer to do the washing and ironing for the family a couple times a week for a month.
  • Food shopping – getting to the shops to feed the family may be quite a problem, and an offer to get shopping or take them to the local supermarket twice a week can be a real help, especially if they haven’t the use of a car.
  • Send some flowers and a card as a gift from the toddler group to celebrate the new arrival.
  • Once the baby is a few weeks old, offer to babysit so that mum and dad can have some quality time together. If mum is breastfeeding, this may not, of course, be practical, but the offer may still be gratefully received.
  • If there are older siblings, an offer to take them on an afternoon park visit or other outing can be a huge help to a mum or dad who has been up all night with a wakeful baby.

As well as being willing to give our support when there’s a new baby in the family, we can also offer our help on other occasions – for example, when a parent or child is ill or in hospital. It may not always be easy or possible, but if we can do it, going the extra mile for those in our parent and toddler group is well worth the effort.