When I had preschooler back in 2006 aged 16 the thought of toddler groups sent shivers down my spine. I’d heard all the bad stuff about them and very little good stuff. My memories of them weren’t brilliant either, I’d been to enough as a child as my Mum and her best friend were childminders, don’t get me wrong some of them were fine, others less so. So I remained pretty isolated until I finally visited my local Young Parents Group when preschooler was around six months old. However after a year or so they shut down our group, my connexions advisor at the time did everything she could to try and find a new venue who would take it on and found the local Childrens Centre was willing to take it on. This was back in Spring 2008, it was one of the first in our area to open so no one quite knew what to expect. As our group had been disbanded a good few months previously it was hard trying to get all the girls to get back into the routine of going to a group again but the childrens centre stood by us even when some weeks we would only have two or three parents there.
Gradually I became more involved with the childrens centre after forming a close friendship with one of the ladies who worked there, she had been a young single parent like I was at the time and she took me under her wing. The childrens centre offered up various opportunities ranging from trips out at good prices during the holidays to the farm and such with coach travel included, picnics in the park, trips to the local playground as well as a whole range of courses within the centre including literacy and numeracy for those who needed it.
The children’s centre had the chance to offer a course in Indian Head Massage which a bunch of parents took part in, myself included. We didn’t have to pay a penny as it was funded by the charity that runs the children s centre. We were trained over 8 weeks and eventually received our qualifications after meaning we could set ourselves up as Indian Head Massage therapists if we wanted too.
One of the things preschooler loved about the centre was that he was able to go in their sensory room which he thought was just amazing. They had a bubble tube and a funky coloured dance mat which he adored jumping on!
Sadly as preschooler got older and then I started college in Sept 2009 our attendance dwindled alot. But the memories we made their and the friends we made are for life.
Recently though there has been alot of discussion in the news about the closure of childrens centres. The other day BBC reported that 250 Childrens Centres are at threat of closure. A significant number are going to be running reduced services due to budget cuts. The thing that I found was different and better about children’s centres than toddler groups etc was that the outreach staff were there to help. They always had the answer to your questions or knew who to ask to find out. Weather you needed to speak to a health visitor, wanted to start looking for work, needed to find a childminder, they had the resources and all under one roof. The centre we attended ran a Home-Start group for parents of home start families which for many parents was an invaluable resources as without it they probably wouldn’t have left the house that day. I cant tell you the amount of days we spent just sitting at home doing nothing, too many, but the days that we had our group to go to it got us out and about and I cant thank them enough for that. Parenting is lonely at the best of times let alone in the world of bitchy toddler groups and playground mothers but at our children’s centre my experience was that everyone was included, no one was left out.
Ultimately I wouldn’t be as confident as I am now if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement of the staff
at the children’s centre. They got to know everyone individually and knew that some of us had less confidence in ourselves, they nurtured that and gave us the opportunities to change that. So for that reason I have everything crossed that no children’s centre will have to close because it was by far the most valuable resource I could have used when I was still discovering my feet in the world of parenting.
Have you ever used your local childrens centre? How would you feel if it closed down?
EXTRA: Netmums have launched a Save Our Childrens Centre campaign, you can check it out HERE and HERE.