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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A very balanced and fair review! It took me back to the days where I used to sit at our local toddler group not long after I moved here and didn't know anyone at all. I was so worried no one would talk to me that the air of desperation probably put people off. I was there for 20 minutes on that first day before anyone even locked eyes with me and was just about to give up and go when somone dumped a 6 month old baby down next to mine and said, 'Nice to meet you, I'm Siobhan'. I could have kissed her! We're still close friends nearly 5 years on. I think these groups can all have a very different feel to each other, as you've eloquently said, and once you find one that suits you, you stick with it. Another well written and interesting post, well done Hilary xx
Thank you for the lovely comment, Tasha. 'Balanced' was exactly what I was aiming for! It is scary walking into a new playgroup, especially when all the mums seem to know each other. xx
Just come across your blog. Interesting reading! I went to Piglets when I first got to Bristol about 6 years ago. After going 4 weeks in a row I gave up. Everyone was chatting in little groups and even though I tried to get talking to other mums, nothing went beyond brief smalltalk. I have never felt so lonely in my life! Being in a room full of people and feeling lonely is awful.After I'd been living here for a couple of years I ventured to Piglets again, this time I knew quite a few people I'd met at antenatal group etc. The experience was totally different and I continued to go until my youngest started school last September. But I always remembered how lonely I had felt there and really tried to speak to 'new' people. The problem is that it's so busy that it's difficult to spot new faces.
Hi, glad you came across my blog 🙂 Thank you for commenting. I have spoken to quite a few people since writing this post about finding Piglets unfriendly. I was lucky when I went as knew people there but I think I would have found it quite hard if I hadn't. And there is nothing worse than being on your own but yet surrounded by other people. I do think the volunteers of playgroups make a big difference to how mums feel and interact. There is one playgroup I go to, where on the first session back after the holidays, all the mums must wear a name label for the benefit of new mums and the volunteers make a point of introducing new mums to others; makes such a difference.
I found the same thing as anonymous above, and although now I love it there as I've been going for about 3 years with various children, I do remember feeling disheartened and like an outsider for a long time. It was when a friend gained a place that it changed for me.
I also think it changed when a group of women who clearly all knew each other from antenatal group, stopped coming as their kids were off to pre-school/school. The dynamic changed dramatically after that and it was easier to chat to people.
I think it's worth perservering as it is a fab playgroup and my kids love it there.
It does actually have a craft table BTW, it's only 1 table but they have a different activity each week and it is tucked up away from the little ones near where the kiddies have their juice and biscuits.
The door is always locked at the top to prevent children escaping (they are very hot on making sure it is kept locked!) and the gate is not very clear if you don't know it's there, but again it's for safety. There is a bell on the door to get in, but I always bang on the window.
I think you are absolutely right about the group being fairly static and that's why it's hard for newcomers, you see that same people week in, week out.
But put yourself in the position of being on the inside and you have a very safe place to go where everyone knows your kid/s and vice versa and will scoop them up if they bump their head and knows exactly who to bring them to, will stop them from bashing another kid with the train set, will watch your toddler whilst you take a baby for a bum change. Will grab you a cuppa if you are feeding etc etc.
It actually allows you a bit of freedom to socialise with other mums that you know or are getting to know. I think it's because of the social side for the mums that make it such a popular playgroup and the waiting list so long.
Thank you Misty for commenting:-) A couple days ago had an email offering me a place at Piglets and I had only just been thinking that I must reply. I have decided to accept the place!
The morning that I have been offered is one when a lot of different friends of mine go, so I'm sure myself and my daughter will enjoy it.
Yes, I agree, it must feel a really safe haven when you know everyone that goes there and can completely relax like that.
Glad to hear that there is a craft table, too, my daughter is proving very different from her brother and loves arty crafty activities!
I look forward to starting there!
where do I find the contact details of little piglets?
Hi, the phone number for Piglets is Kay Tel. 9241187.