Some of us may have watched the TV show ‘Old People’s Home for 4 year olds’ and now the one with teenagers, and felt moved by the relationships built between the oldies and the youngies. The same is happening in our Playgroups. The ‘senior’ helpers at our 4 Playgroups make our Playgroups very special and unique and the reason why many mums are still coming with their 2nd child after starting in Playgroup with their tiny first babies.
Being a listening ear and having a place to come and enjoy the company of other parents and grandparents as well as our helpers is an absolute ‘Godsend’ for many of them.
The Maternal Health Nurses are now referring mums who are in need of community and care to us at MUC because we are seen as a safe and caring space for these families.
Our ‘senior’ helpers if they would write something of their experience of Playgroup. Libby, Marion, Joan, Jill, Carol, Gail and Yvonne have responded with the beautiful words below. Enjoy reading them. These helpers, with their wisdom and pastoral care are what makes it possible and most enjoyable to be coordinating the Playgroups.
One of the significant joys in being involved with Playgroup is relationship enrichment. I experience this in the abounding exuberance of ‘little people’.
It is sheer delight witnessing a full-steam rush into the play space by the ‘tried and tested ones’ who have secured confidence and the impishness of tackling the known and unknown under their belts. For those less sure, gentle reception awaits them.
There’s always something new to explore; a creativity that challenges and arouses silent determinations of, “I’ll have a go!” Children come with great expectations and are never disappointed. Here is a place that is safe, intriguing, stimulating and where play is achievable and satisfying. A space where efforts are rewarded and affirmed.
Little people enthral us ‘oldies’ with their spontaneity, their honesty, their curiosity and full-blown energy reserves. Our breath is simply blown away as passions fly from blocks, to play doh, to riding cars outside, to donning dress-ups, to creating hand-made cards, to aligning trains, tunnels and bridges. Painting is exciting; keeping a step ahead of the slosh of colour, the swirl of a brush, the rush of adrenalin as a ‘Monet’ emerges.
As children get to know us, reward is great. Smiles of recognition warm our hearts, invitations to participate in their serious and all-absorbing play, a privilege.
Story time quietens, curious interest with things of nature captivates and enlivens. Children love the anticipation, the wonder of questions, the thrill of adventure.
Observing interactions between 2’s and younger is joyful. Sometimes their play is ‘parallel play’. Mostly it’s solitary but with others not far away. Occasionally unwelcome boundaries are traversed but invariably wonder and awe at another’s creative play is evident and seriously contemplated. Often copied or tried with courage. Physical and mental skills have free-range to grow at Playgroup.
In addition to being ‘pumped’ with the life innocence and free-flowing joy of children there are the mums and sometimes dads with whom we build relationships. For these often weary, sometimes isolated parents, playgroup is respite; it’s solace, it’s warm interest and encouragement. For here, common concerns are shared, ideas are stimulated and stories of day-to day interest and night-time sleeplessness are unravelled.
Community and family-type solidarity between Mums is an important feature and function of Playgroup.
For ‘Covid Mums’ social isolation has been a hurdle and handling new babies, now toddlers has been a steep learning curve. Playgroup has helped inspire confidence and the gaining of new skills.
For helpers alongside parents we listen. We support, encourage, affirm and laugh together. We help clean up and put away but far more than this, we offer ourselves as tentative conduits of care, so aware that we have done the hard yards; “we have been there.” Our response is humbling in our understanding.
Playgroup regenerates the ‘older person’. It’s refreshing and life-giving; we offer ourselves ‘and a little child shall lead them’.
I enjoy attending playgroup as a helper, to encourage the children to learn more about their world.Such as watching the plants grow, hearing them ask “what is that” or asking to hold their hands whilst they climb equipment, paint their hands or serve pretend dinner.
As a senior I find the sessions very rewarding and just as much fun as the children! Conversations with the parents and other grandparents is pretty good too.
What a joy it is to walk into the playgroup space on a Friday morning!!! Sunny, airy, colourful and such a welcoming environment for the children and carers. It is wonderful to watch the children’s faces as they enter this happy space. I love the smiles, hand holding and the looks they give me as they start to play. It is always such an uplifting, positive experience as I chat to carers and children. Sometimes tears flow when the children have to leave.
I love the music component as this gives us all a time to dance, sing and have fun together. Our playgroups have developed a great opportunity for us to connect with our local community.
I want to give something back to the community. It is great to see the children learn and develop their personalities, skills and interests. I enjoy talking to the mums, dads and grandparents. I learn new things from others.
A tiny hand offers me a toy car, maybe a smile accompanies it, other small people enthusiastically plant seeds, then swamp them with water… their favourite part of the exercise.
A little shopkeeper (Thankyou, Peter Whincup), fills my basket with goodies, having scanned them and a pretend VISA card (no cash needed here).
Fascinated faces as children stroke a genuine stuffed platypus, beats a picture any day… it is a treasure from Wendy Austin’s zoologist father.
A four year old asks Chris to ring the storytime bell as she and her four-year-old friend have a puppet show to perform for everyone.
A normally boisterous boy sits with an about to crawl baby, and pats him gently, talking to him softly, and is rewarded with a big smile.
I notice a toddler, rarely still, check out the violas he has helped plant… after the holidays snow peas will be harvested.
Playgroup is another universe for four hours a week… the concerns of our (ageing) lives disappear for the leaders/helpers as we enter the world of little children and PLAY!
It offers a chance to speak and relate to inspiring carers of all ages, and hear a fresh perspective on life. It’s a privilege to observe the growth and development of littlies…three new babies will join us in December and February, hopefully, unlike their siblings, into a Covid-free community.
It is thought that children born during Covid have learned to recognise masked people by their voices and eyes/eyebrow expressions.
What a gift it is to be acknowledged by a little child?
I am a Mum, Nanna and an older Australian. I really enjoy coming to Playgroup as the children are delightful, the mums and carers wonderful, and I really enjoy conversation with them all. I am learning each week how families tick which makes me feel younger and happy when I am in the wonderful playspace. I also enjoy the company of my fellow volunteers.
I have enjoyed helping at Playgroup for many years starting back at Andersons Creek Rd church. It is wonderful to see the children grow and change and to meet their carers and get to know them all. Playgroup is a happy time for me each week and it’s my way of doing my bit in my church community.