When I became a mum for the first time, one of the first baby and toddler groups I went to was Chatterbox Playgroup. I went every Thursday until eighteen months ago, by which time my daughter had been born. After that I found it a bit too difficult with two children so small.
So when I revisited Chatterbox today, it was almost like visiting for the first time. I was curious to see whether Chatterbox was still, indeed, a playgroup worth visiting.
Chatterbox is held in the Church Hall of Horfield Baptist Church, Bishopston, which you access via the Brynland Avenue entrance. Unusually for a playgroup, Chatterbox is held in the afternoon. The only other playgroup that runs in the afternoon in this area that I am aware of, is St Bonaventure’s Baby and Toddler Group. Unusually also, Chatterbox runs on two afternoons each week, Thursdays and Fridays, 13.00 – 15.00. It is a drop-in playgroup and there is no waiting list.
It felt slightly strange when I first stepped through the main door, having been such a long time since I last visited. However, it was exactly the same as I remembered. Admission was £1.50 (which included both my children) and drinks and biscuits for both myself and the kids were included in that price.
Chatterbox is a traditional playgroup, held in the large church hall. All the toys and equipment are nicely spaced out and arranged into particular sections. There is an area especially for babies, which is sectioned off from the rest of the playgroup, with large cushions and suitable baby toys.
For toddlers, there are many activities and toys. There is a little library section with a good range of books and large soft cushions for children to flop on if they fancy reading a book. There is a sand pit, a toy kitchen, an area with a garage and cars, tables with a train track on, a play dough table, craft activities and a climbing frame, among other things.
A nice feature of this playgroup is a well-stocked dressing-up area.
Another nice touch is a baby changing area actually in the main playgroup, with a changing mat, wet wipes and nappy bags provided. This is especially useful if you are there with more than one child, as you can change one child while still being able to keep an eye on your other one. There are also baby changing facilities outside the main hall.
I suppose that by the time you have had child number two, you have met so many mums from various playgroups, antenatal classes and other activities, that you end up knowing an awful lot of people! At Chatterbox today, as when I visited Piglets, I bumped into several people I knew through various means. Other people there were friendly, too, and I chatted to a couple of mums who I had not met before which was nice. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always find it easy to start conversation with mums I have not met before.
I have to mention, the playgroup leader was very thoughtful today. She had noted my daughter’s spica cast when I first went in and I had explained why she had it. She approached me a little later to offer her help with my daughter at any time while we were there and told me to make her comfortable by taking the large cushions available.
However, despite her cast, my daughter remained fully occupied and happy the entire session due to such a large amount of toys at ground level. She played in the car and garage section for a while. This section is surrounded by chairs so she was able to play safely and happily. She approached a group of mums and ‘chatted’ with them for a while, enjoying their attention. Then she generally explored for a while, heaving herself easily over the wooden floors quite happily.
At the end of the end of the session, all the children gathered together for songs and a story told by the playgroup leader. I was pleased that my son sat down happily with the rest of the children on the large cushions provided. When I used to bring him to Chatterbox when he was small, he disliked sitting down for this part of the session. He preferred to run around or climb on the climbing frame. It showed me how much he has grown up since those early days and it was nice to see him joining in with the singing and enjoying the story.
The many activities at Chatterbox are interesting and varied. In my opinion, Chatterbox is a playgroup suitable for babies and children of all ages and stages up until school age. It also caters for different likes, dislikes and moods, for example, the library section is great for toddlers who like books and the climbing frame suitable for more active children. Volunteers are welcoming, warm and helpful.
When I went to Chatterbox today, I had been interested to see whether, eighteen months down the line, it was still a playgroup worth visiting. Well, after today’s visit, I can tell you that in my opinion, yes, Chatterbox is most definitely worth visiting!
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We like Chatterbox too! We go on Friday afternoons. It's usually nice and quiet, which makes it seem a more relaxed and easy session. And it's the playgroup I went to, over 30 years ago… so it MUST be good!