Joining a baby or toddler group when you have your first baby can be one of those life saving moves! Just as you are getting over the extraordinary experience of your first birth, and you are trying to return to a normal life, but suddenly find this dependent little thing everywhere you turn, life can become a little overwhelming. Find a local group and start meeting and mixing with other mum's and baby's, and you will find a supportive community and quickly make a host of new friends.
There are bound to be toddler and baby groups in your area - you may never have even considered there existence, but they really are all around you! Here are some ways to find a group near you:-
If you really can't find a group near you, or you can't find one that suits you for whatever reason, you could even start your own!
Mum's that aren't working tend to have a busy social live revolving around their babies - have you thought of starting a book club for toddlers? Meeting up with other Mum's is great because it gets you out, and introduces your children to others of a similar age. Although you don't need an excuse any greater than 'coffee', having a focus helps you to establish meeting on a regular basis. Start a toddler book club and this will help you to meet routinelywhilst educating your children.
Each week, select one mum member to choose a book to 'study' - it may be just a picture book, a board book or any story book. Take turns meeting at each other's houses, and after a bit of play, all settle down into a circle with your children and have the lead mother go through the book, reading it aloud to all the children and other mum's. As you go along, look at the pictures and point out the characters, and any objects mentioned in the story. At the end of the story, have a discussion about the story and ask questions about the characters, and what happened. Ask the children what they would have done if they were in the various situations protrayed in the story.
A toddler book club will introduce your children to the idea of sitting still in a group and listening to stories - something that they will do many times when they start nursery and school. The club will also encourage them to listen to understand because they will want to be able to answer the questions. They will extend their vocabulary as they will be learning new words, and they will learn participation through the discussion and build their own confidence.
Tell us if you already run a book focused activity for toddlers, or if you start one, and we can feature your group in our newsletter!
There are established toddler groups in almost every area, but there's not always a toddler group that you like, or can join for various reasons. If that sounds familiar, why don't you start up your own group?
Groups can vary in style, you might want an informal gathering around your own, or someone else's, house. Or you might want to take a more formal approach by meeting in a local hall. There are many spaces that will hire cheaply to you for a couple of hours during a weekday morning, churches and their own halls, community centers, libraries or even sports centers. Often you can apply for grants from local authorities or local businesses who have funds to support such activities. Grants help with the cost of hiring a venue and the initial outlay to buy some toys and other necessary equipment.
Running a group is a lot of work for one person, so seek out collaborators and get three or four mothers involved; you'll find that this helps spur you on as well as lightening the load. Form a committee to make decisions and meet regularly prior to establishing the group. Once you're ready to start, you may already know enough mothers to bring to your group, but supplement who you know by printing a few leaflets cheaply and placing them in libraries and on community notice boards. Charge a nominal fee to help with the ongoing costs, it's a good idea to build up a surplus of funds so that you can renew equipment when you need to.
Creating your own group is no minor task, but it's great fun and you can reap the reward of having your babies attend a group organised just the way you want it to be! Why not take along ToucanLearn activities for everyone to join in with too?!
There are lots of attractions for older children, such as soft play, theme parks and farms, whilst there's seemingly little for babies, but look around and you'll find there are plenty of activities for babies too! Babies will go almost anywhere and do almost anything, they are, after all, largely pram-bound and to them everything is excitingly new. Many activities designed for babies are community or group based, such as meeting with other mum's at toddler groups, attending baby massage groups and baby swimming lessons. If you find there's not a lot going on in your area, why not be a proactive mum and set up your own local baby groups? Even if there seems to be a dearth of baby activities, there's probably no shortage of babies. Make sure that you don't find yourself imprisoned in your own home for the first few months after having a baby, it will really help you to get out and meet and talk with other mums. Your baby will also enjoy the company of other babies, even though they don't interact or play together until they are much older.
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