On a Friday in September 2013 five leaders from the Preston Toddlers group and the Bump and Baby Club set off on the 7-hour journey to Tonbridge for our first Playtime Conference. Our well-established toddler group was undergoing a change of staff and had set up a wonderful new additional group for expectant and new mums. We knew we needed inspiration and ideas. We were not disappointed.
We can recommend the bargain overnight stay at a local travel lodge – with swimming pool. It really helped us to bond as a team and get to know each other better. On Saturday morning we arrived fresh at the conference as we only had a few miles to travel. Registration was warm and efficient and then we stepped into the Playtime world where people like us, from all over the UK, were ready to learn and share.
The day flew by as so much was packed into the time. Other church toddler groups shared their stories and told us what they did to keep relevant. We attended seminars that stretched us – especially the one about reaching out to vulnerable families – and we had a laugh doing some craft. We all tried to go to different talks and get round the well-stocked and interesting exhibition. Our return journey was full of ideas of what would work in our groups and the encouragement we had received from individual conversations as well as the main speakers.
After we returned, we took time out to review what we did and how it was received by parents, grandparents and carers. Then we involved some of them in that review and began using their craft, music and friendship skills in our sessions. It has made us more connected and caring with our community, and has led us to be more supportive of struggling, vulnerable families. Just little things have made a difference: for example, changes in the layout so that everyone can chat more easily to one another, providing gluten-free play dough for a coeliac child and providing a special beanbag for a 3-year-old with arthritis. We have a Dads and Toddlers group that now meets more often – every half-term, and we have parenting groups for different aged children.
Fast forward to 2015 and we have booked to attend the Playtime conference again – and this time it’s in our locality! For various reasons, we couldn’t attend last year’s conference but are delighted to be able to be able to go to Manchester this year. We’re looking forward to receiving more inspiration and ideas which will lead us to update what we do in our groups and hopefully serve our community more effectively. Thank you Playtime!
Val Higginbotham from Preston
Click here for more information or book tickets onto this year’s Playtime Conference.