A couple of weeks ago, I visited Piglets Carers and Toddler Group with my little girl. Piglets is a popular toddler group, with a long waiting list, held at St Michael’s Church on Gloucester Road, Bishopston on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 09.45 – 11.15. The cost per child is £2. I visited because I’d like to have a toddler group I can take my daughter on a Wednesday.
I have a friend who brings her two children to the Wednesday session so I arranged to meet her there. If you have read previous blog posts, you will know that I don’t always find it easy venturing into new baby and toddler groups on my own for the first time. I had been warned by a couple other local mums that Piglets can be a bit cliquey so I was a little nervous about visiting Piglets.
My nerves weren’t helped by the fact that I was running really late that morning. Running down Gloucester Road with the buggy to a playgroup, late again, seems to be a common theme in my life these days! I wasn’t relishing the prospect of walking into a crowded room full of mums, late and on my own.
The fact that I could not find the entrance to Piglets didn’t help my feelings of stress at being late. The building I had thought Piglets was held in was locked and when I did work out which building it was in, I couldn’t work out how to get through the gate! I had just gone back out onto Gloucester Road when I noticed another mum gliding unhindered through a gate I had missed and in through a door I had thought was locked so I followed her.
On entering, I parked the buggy and scanned the room to find my friend. I could not see her, however, luckily I did see a mum that I knew from a book club I have just started going to. Feeling relieved, I went over to talk to her. Soon after, I caught sight of my friend and several other people I knew so I relaxed.
Piglets is actually held in the church rather than church hall but it is a good space for a playgroup. The toys are all well-organised into different sections and there were plenty toys to satisfy babies and toddlers alike. They have a good toy ‘kitchen’ which my daughter loved. There are no craft activities or painting at this group. This is not a criticism, however, simply an observation. Piglets gives an immediate impression of being well-organised, structured and quite calm for a toddler group!
Drinks and biscuits were served at the top of the room, just up a few wide steps. A large plastic sheet was put down for the children to sit on to take their snacks. The parents and carers then sit around this sheet on chairs. Quite a few of the babies and children gravitated towards the steps, my daughter included, but luckily the steps are wide and shallow so safe for them to crawl around on.
At the end of the session, all gather round for songs and a story with musical instruments. The songs and story time part of Piglets was longer than those of other playgroups which I liked. Shame my daughter was NOT interested in either the singing nor instruments and instead refused to leave the toy kitchen. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the effort the volunteers put into this last part of the piglets session.
Both myself and my daughter enjoyed our Piglets trial and I put my daughter’s name down on the waiting list at the end of the session. However, a friend of mine also had a trial session at Piglets last week on a Tuesday session but didn’t have as good an experience as mine:
“I met one mum who I know vaguely from another group who told me that after years of attending, no-one really talks to her and sadly this was true for me, too. I understand that people make their friends at these groups and it can feel like a bit of an effort to make conversation with someone new but ultimately no matter how polished or confident or together a mother may present herself, nobody knows what’s really going on for her.”
‘So, overall for me, although Piglets is a good space, has a good structure and clean toys, just one friendly ‘hello’ from someone would have swayed me, so for now I’ll be sticking with my drop-in elsewhere.’
I was sorry for my friend when she told me about her Piglets experience. I was lucky to know other mums in the session I attended and had a good time. But I wonder how my experience of Piglets would have been if I hadn’t known people there and whether it would have been similar to my friend’s?
To be honest, I think it would have seemed a bit cliquey to me as an outsider. I do think it is a good toddler group but one which you might need to persist and keep going to before you might make friends with other people who go there.
There is a VERY long waiting list for a place at Piglets. The friend quoted above had her children’s names down on the list for almost a year. Maybe this could be part of the problem of the ‘cliquiness’? Maybe because there is such a slow turnover for newcomers starting at Piglets, it makes the group more static? Maybe then the group gets to know each other so well that a newcomer really does feel an outsider for a while.
But Piglets still seemed a well-organised, structured and calm toddler group and the volunteers were professional. It was good to have friends at our first session so I immediately had people to talk to so it was an easier experience than my friend’s. I look forward to when a place becomes available so we can start going regularly.
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