Tuesday, 7 September 2010

We used to call it ‘Play School’.

Thursday 15th July

We are continuing our Summer 2010 tour of middle England toddler groups. We arrive at a charming church hall and all the cars in the car park are black range rovers and BMW’s.
“Hayley, we’ve got a new one!”
Hayley, a qualified playgroup assistant, is sat at the table collecting money but she says that my first time is free. The notice-board knitters proudly smile down at me from photos, having raised £1000 for the church heating fund. My daughter, dressed as a pirate, offers me juice, then wine, and then plastic dinner for her baby sister. I fantasise that the local news might be, ‘Cat Stuck Up Tree!’ I wish I lived somewhere like this. Then I realised that I do – I have a riverside view. But the local news stand in the high street declared that the local news is actually ‘Man Stabbed in Stanstead Abbots Fracas’.

To get from the play area to the toilets clutching baby and supervising my eldest, I fumble with the mechanism of the stair gates. I can’t use stair gates, so I clumsily struggle and then climb over. We don’t have stair gates at home, because we don’t have stairs.

Back in the play room daylight streams through a tall window. I have a bleary eyed view of the allotments below. It’s an underwater day. Why are there two peacocks wandering around the church garden? That must be the lesser known proverb, ‘you know it’s a high-class area when peacocks graze in the churchyard’.

Teddy Club is held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the church hall in Stanstead Abbotts.
“The club is aimed at children up to three years old, accompanied by their mother/father/guardian/childminder etc. There are experienced staff to oversee the activities and the object is for parents and children to socialise.”

This is in contrast to the leaflet I picked up for a pre-school music group for babies and toddlers. The sessions can help your child to be ...

“A skilful communicator by developing language and co-ordination
Emotionally developed through sharing stories and songs whilst meeting new friends
A confident child by joining in the activities in a relaxed group atmosphere
A creative child by letting the children explore the instruments, sounds, rhythm and movement
Each structured session encourages cognitive, physical and emotional development through the use of music, instruments and stories.”

Don’t get me started. I much prefer the remit of Stanstead Abbot’s playgroup where the aim is simply to socialise. Hurrah! Let’s not suggest that children need structured activities to develop to their full potential. Just let them play for goodness sake. And let the mother’s drink coffee and moan and gossip. Sorry, but I come from the seventies when a play group was a play group and did not pretend to be pre-preschool for pre-schoolers.
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