Supporting toddler group leaders
A national conference to support and equip toddler group leaders is taking place at the end of the month, writes Helen Lock
In the UK there are up to 27,000 parent and toddler groups which are predominantly, but not always, run by churches. These are a lifeline for families and provide a vital ministry in building and supporting families, whether of faith or no faith, within communities. On many occasions parents or carers will step through the door of a toddler group feeling isolated and alone, distraught, exhausted, vulnerable and in need of friendship and a support network. These groups welcome mums, dads, grandparents, and children up to pre-school age, and when groups provide a friendly, warm welcome they find that families will return on many occasions.
Parent and toddler groups come in all shapes and sizes, with a host of varied activities such as storytelling, songs, crafts, cooking, sensory play, free play and prayers, along with the much-needed tea, coffee and cake. Through providing these activities, parents are given a safe environment to be able to share their feelings, make new friends, and get the support and friendship they need, whilst the child’s development and social skills increase through all the varied activities and playing with their peers. Fifty-two per cent of children in England access some form of parent and toddler group via churches.
Many toddler groups have seen parents less stressed as a result of attending, and an increase in involvement as they see the value for not just themselves but their children too. Parents can also develop long-lasting friendships from attending.
Many groups also provide extracurricular activities such as parenting courses, social evenings and events within the Church calendar like Christmas, Easter and Harvest, allowing families and carers the opportunity to be a part of a church.
Toddler groups are generally run by hard-working volunteers from the local church who invest so much time and effort in providing the very best for families in their community, and they do this because of their selfless love, concern and desire to bring families together.
The Playtime project at Care for the Family supports and resources toddler group leaders throughout the UK. This involves providing newsletters during the year which include toddler group stories and articles to give to families that attend, and resourcing groups through events, crafts, stories and social media.
Playtime also hosts a yearly national conference in different parts of the UK, which is a day full of plenaries, numerous workshops, exhibitors, and much more. Over 500 delegates attend each year, and leave feeling empowered, supported and enthused for the year ahead. Many have commented that this event is the highlight of their year!
Helen Lock is the Playtime co-ordinator