Cattanach awarded Reaching Out, the community project of Hawick Congregational Community church £12,000 over two years, to develop their Toddler group.
In 2013, the Big Lottery Children and Families Fund gave a grant to assist in moving from a volunteer led group to piloting the role of two sessional workers, to support and involve the parents but to provide stability and additional activities.
Subsequent funding from Cattanach has enabled us to continue this development, looking specifically at outcomes which have benefited the children and babies through play. This project is really important for a town like ours, where it is too time consuming and expensive for parents to travel to Edinburgh or Glasgow. It has given us the ability to provide regular fun through messy play and games with live music, rhyme, drama and art, which would otherwise not be available to our families.
What do we do?
Parents asked if they could have a programme of events, which included specific
activities to promote healthy eating, animal fun day with masks and activities, circus games music, and races. We had key events ranging from a Christmas party, summer activities, summer garden picnic, Halloween party, art workshops and live puppet shows.
Messy play for all ages has been especially popular including finger painting, painting on large surface, chalks, playdough, glue, sand and water which is not something many parents are comfortable about doing at home, particularly if they have no prior play experience and limited space. Most of the creative play uses re-cycled materials so cost is not a concern. We were keen to involve the new and small babies, to benefit from activities based on feeling, touching, song and rhyme, promoting healthy cognitive and emotional development from birth.
Mindful of the low economy in Hawick, a pre Christmas jumble sale provided a good selection of toys, baby and children’s clothes at affordable prices.
Being part of our wider project, Reaching Out, means families can also access our knitting group for hand knitted baby garments and cot blankets. This year our knitting group taught a 16 year old Mum-to-be how to knit. Toddlers can also participte other activities, for example our inter generational tea dance which was a huge success.
What has this achieved?
We have engaged with over 50 parents and carers and their children over two years.
We wanted to increase social interaction, to improve children’s sense of security, the result of which would be a smoother transition for them into nursery/pre-school and school settings. At the end of our first summer, this outcome was achieved with the children being more confident and able to integrate well into early school and nursery.
We also wanted to encourage more vulnerable families to have a raised awareness of play, to help promote their toddlers levels of friendship, physical skills and ability to learn. Those with little experience of play began to enjoy simple activities, singing and music with traditional singing rhymes, guitar and accordian.
Because our Workers offer dedicated attention to the children and their parents, without the need for a volunteer rota, the parents are free to engage in play with their children and bond with them. Children have dedicated ‘playtime’ with their parents in a safe relaxed environment, with staff on hand to support. Parents have reported greater interaction and an increased understanding of the significance of play, alongside a decrease in their own isolation and loneliness. Friendships are growing all the time.