A monster playgroup if ever there was one! I visited Stay ‘n’ Play playgroup a couple weeks ago with my daughter prior to her operation. This group is held on Tuesday mornings at 09.45 – 11.15 at Cairns Road Baptist Church on Cairns Road, Westbury Park. It is £2 per session.
I phoned in the morning to check it would be okay to drop by with my daughter as I wasn’t sure if there was a waiting list. I was told there was no waiting list and that we were very welcome to come along. When we arrived the volunteer at the door was expecting me and was very warm and welcoming.
Photo courtesy of John Rees
When I queued up to sign in the register, pay and collect my cup of essential mid-morning coffee, another volunteer greeted me warmly and explained how Stay ‘n’ Play works. There is LOTS to do for toddlers at this playgroup and it is well-organised.
There were several tables lined up together for hand printing with paints, another craft table for sticking, a table for jigsaw puzzles and other tables with various toys. There was a book corner, a section with animal figures for smaller children and a corner just for mums with small babies which was secured off from the rest of the playgroup. There was a play area, complete with a play house, tunnels, climbing frames and slides which my daughter loved. She also enjoyed looking at the babies in the baby corner, pointing to them, saying ‘Babba! Babba!’:-)
At one point during the session, the volunteers open the doors so that children can play outdoors in the safe, enclosed play area, which makes it different from other groups.
The last part of the session involved all sitting down for singing and a story. There is a strong religious element to this section and the story and almost all the songs were religious. Obviously this is fine if you are okay with religion but some mums may be put off by this. The lady leading the singing and story section wore a microphone which gives you an idea just how large this playgroup is!
This is a very busy, noisy, full-on playgroup, and it could be a bit overwhelming for some mums and kids. I also think that if you had an older, more active child, it might be quite easy to lose sight of him/her due to it being so big and busy. However, it is secure with a little gate in the entrance hall, outside the main room, to keep toddlers with escapist tendencies safely contained.
I found it quite hard having a toddler who who was still crawling at this playgroup. I needed to really supervise and look after my daughter in the play area as she was younger than a lot of the kids. A lot of the time she just wanted to crawl around and it was just not safe for her to do due to the older children. She was also too young to really participate in the arts and crafts section. However, she was obviously too old for the baby section. Maybe this group may be better suited for young babies or older toddlers?
I have to say that no-one really spoke to me at this playgroup, other than the volunteers. It seemed like most of the other mums there were in little groups and seemed to know others there. However, it being such a large playgroup helped make me feel less self-conscious about being on my own and not knowing anyone else.
I think that it could be quite hard at Stay ‘n’ Play to make friends with other mums as it is so large. However, if you were on your own with a small baby in the baby section, it might be easier to get to know others. I think it might be better to visit Stay ‘n’ Play with a friend otherwise it could be a lonely experience. However, this is a well-organised playgroup with friendly volunteers and plenty of activities for children.
Have you visited Stay ‘n’ Play playgroup? What were your experiences of it?
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I adore stay and play and it is one group I am happy going to without friends/knowing people as there is so much to do to entertain toddlers that you are so busy playing wth water/helping with jigsaws/painting that there is only limited time to chat to people anyway. The women who run the group are wonderful and they are happy to look after your (non mobile) baby in the baby corner while you play with your toddler – this was my only hour or quality time with my 18m old daughter when my son was born and I will forever be grateful! I would strongly recommend this group to anyone with a walking toddler who isn't too shy as it is very big and noisy but persist and it is definitely worth it – I would agree that it isn't ideal for crawlers so just hold out for those first steps.