Parent and Toddler groups: a guide for grandparents

After several wet days prevented us from visiting the nearby playground with Daisy we decided to visit a local Parent and Toddler group, and ended up returning on the following two wet days. It’s the first time that Daisy’s been to Parent and Toddler sessions and experienced some free play opportunities in a well-equipped environment, along with other toddlers.

The Parent and Toddler group that we attended included a ‘Time Out’ slot when all the adults and children sat together in a large circle, had refreshments and sang nursery rhymes, and songs with actions, together. There are lots of benefits to taking your toddler to a similar session. The Parent and Toddler Group provides a fresh play environment where a toddler has a chance to experience a whole range of stimulating new play equipment so they have an opportunity to practise their decision-making skills: what sit-and-ride-on toy will they pick? Which doll will they choose? How long do they want to play with the bricks?

Gaining confidence
Your toddler might select equipment that they don’t have at home, gaining confidence and new skills, and overcoming any uncertainties: using the slide, trying the tricycle or even investigating the dressing-up clothes and selecting a play outfit.
And sometimes – when clambering up the climbing frame or coming down the slide – they will have to learn to share equipment and wait their turn. Some sessions may offer a focused seasonal craft activity that allows toddlers to be creative and use their imagination; at one of the sessions we attended around the Easter weekend, we decorated small wooden egg cups. And at Parent and Toddler sessions there are very few electronic toys, and certainly no passive time sat in front of a TV, tablet or smart phone.

Supporting unstructured play
Throughout the session, play is unstructured and led by the toddler. Grandparents and parents are there to support their toddler and make it possible for them to try out different toys and activities while making sure that they are safe at all times.
We found that Daisy was really active throughout the 90 minute sessions and we came away from them talking about the kind of toys Daisy had selected and how she had interacted with them. Parent and Toddler groups provide a valuable opportunities within the community. There is probably a Parent and Toddler group in your area and Sure Start runs lots of different sessions for parents and carers/ grandparents.

Granny Smith says:
· Parent and Toddler Groups can provide opportunities to try out new toys and activities
· During unstructured playtime, the children lead, while the adults are there to support them and keep them safe
· Unstructured play encourages children to make choices and learn to share.

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