The best toddler group you’ve never been to.

Fri 12 May 17 | Mummy Stuff | 26 comments

Just a few weeks before I went back to work, I discovered the nicest place to have a cup of tea and home baked scone.

It was also a place where my then 3 year old and 9 month old could rag about with walkers and ride on cars squealing together, play next to other kids (let’s face it they don’t exactly play together with randoms), and do some painting or sticking if they fancied. I’m not a craft-friendly zone so hurrah for outsourcing mess. Both kids were so occupied, I could even have a 10 minute conversation with a friend without having to pepper each sentence with ‘STOP THAT’ or ‘GET YOUR FINGER OUT OF THERE’ or ‘FOR THE TENTH TIME IT’S NOT TEATIME YET!’.

It wasn’t a High Street cafe, nor a friend’s house. It was a local Church toddler group.

First time round with my little boy, it was all about NCT and some cute-sounding-animal music classes or CRAZY EXPENSIVE baby looking at lights and crinkling paper session. Second time round with Little P, she got lugged about in the car seat or carrier to whatever big bro was up to. I felt pretty guilty about that… Although I did make it to a non-cringey drop-in singing session once or twice.

But this group is really special. It’s like a warm hug on a Wednesday morning, where a group of somewhat unlikely people come together without having to pay an extortionate termly cost, to have a hot drink, a chinwag and a couple of hours entertainment for the kids.

Run by awesome women – volunteers of course – who brought their own children to the group 30 odd years ago (one of whom now plays the guitar for our sing-along bit), they could have been cliquey and aloof. But instead, they are the warmest bunch of ladies I’ve ever met who care about their community, their church and all the kids, and by the second time I came, Beth was welcoming us by our names and asking after Little P’s doctor’s appointment.

In fact, there are so many charming, funny and brilliantly British characters there I think James Cordon and Ruth Jones need to pop along on a recce for the next Gavin and Stacey-esque series. Take note you two – rife with material it is!

The vicar walked through the Church one morning just as my little boy crashed THAT red and yellow ride-on car (you know the one) into the front pew. After some loud ‘be careful next time’-ing I smiled sheepishly at her and said how lovely I thought the group was, and how accepting she is to let the children run like mad things in the Church itself.

Her answer? “Well the Church always was the heart of the community, where families would come together and kids would play. They’re happy, so we’re happy. Why should it be different now?”

I imagine there weren’t plastic Little Tikes cars when the Church was first built, but she makes a fair and very gracious point. So before you sign up to that term of costly lessons, look up your local Church group. Maybe – just maybe – you’ll be lucky enough to have one as lovely as mine around the corner from you.

 I mean, move over trained Baristas. Wouldn’t you rather have Welsh Beryl knock you up a brew?

Welsh Beryl smiling with tea at toddler group

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Naptime Natter

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26 Comments

  1. kris

    We have a church playgroup near us and there much more chilled than other groups. Also a fraction of the price 🙂

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      Totally! I don’t think it crosses most people’s minds to go. They don’t have funky posters or a ‘cool’ following! ?

      Reply
  2. Genevieve Whitelock

    I went here for a while, I think I recognise you! Good old Beryl she’s lovely 🙂

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      Hi Genevieve! She is amazing, I want her to live in my pocket and make me tea and cake whenever I so please… x

      Reply
  3. The Squirmy Popple

    I used to go to my local church toddler group before I was working full-time too. It was run by local parents, and it was great to meet other people from the local area and have a big indoor space for my kid to play in – all for a pound a week! #BlogCrush

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      Bargainous and community hug!! X

      Reply
  4. Helen

    It’s great to see parent and toddler groups being highlighted in your blog. They do an amazing work. My role at Care for the Family is the Playtime Coordinator, resourcing and supporting church based toddler groups in the UK. What is the name of the group and where is it based?

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      Hi Helen, I didn’t even know such a lovely job existed! Lucky you. I fancy that title ☺️it’s at St Mary’s Church in Staines, Surrey. ??I’m not sure it has a name! Thanks for reading.

      Reply
      • Helen Lock

        Hi Kimberley, it is the best job ever! I also get the privilege of putting on a national conference for parent and toddler group leaders once a year with Care for the Family. This year it’s in Sheffield on 30th September. http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/faith-in-the-family/playtime/playtime-conference-2017 if anyone is interested in coming. The day is packed full of workshops, main sessions, exhibitors and a free lunch! People come away with so many new ideas and resources and feel supported and uplifted in the vital work they do. Great blogs by the way.

        Reply
        • Kimberly

          Hi Helen, thank you so much! I’m sure some of my Northern buddies would like to know about the event – find me on Twitter and I can promote it for you nearer the time x

          Reply
        • Julia Myles

          Hi Helen I am the Curate at St Michael’s Alnwick in Northumberland- we have a rather awesome Mini Michaels group! Thanks for the link to conference – I will advertise it.I am shortly movingnto Winchester Diocese to be Priest in Charge of the Arle Valley Benefice and pur New Alresford church has Chatterbox which I am really looking forward to – perhaps we can come to more southerly conference? Checkmout Mini Michaels at Minimichaels alnwick fb page and alnwickanglican.org.uk church website for a slide show and pics ! Thanks for all Care for the Family do !

          Reply
  5. plutoniumsox

    Oh gosh yes, I totally agree with this. We go to two local church toddler groups, they’re both lovely and the only groups we’ve stuck with.
    Nat.x

    Reply
  6. Judith

    I started going to this toddler group after my first child (now 11) with a few friends I had made from NCT, but as the other classes and baby massage etc fell away, this toddler group remained a weekly highlight. When my next child came along (now 8) I kept going. They are the loveliest group of people, and are so non-judgemental – if you turn up early to help set up they love it, if you turn up and rant about stuff they let you vent, if you burst into tears after a stressful morning they are there with a cup of tea & a smile to make it alright. The leaders are real women & real mothers and they know what mums (and a few dads too!) need. Its relaxed and fun, and you know that the toys get washed, the floors are moped before each session, there are child friendly toilets & change mats and best of all the mess & noise is encouraged. The singing is brilliant (although I have to admit to being pleased never to have to sing ‘wind the bobbin up’ ever again). This group was a stable highlight of my week for many years and even now I bump into people I met there and we still say ‘hi’ and ask after each others children. Its brilliant. So thank you – to Beth & Birdie & Ellen & Viv & Beryl and all the others who help make St. Marys Toddler Group what it is, and to you for blogging about it! Long may it, and other church & community run toddler groups, thrive. x

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      You have said it all. There’s so much love for these ladies they might need to feature in a post of their very own! Thanks Judith x

      Reply
    • Kimberly

      Hi Judith, I had to read this twice as the first time I was blinking back tears (when do the Mummy hormones settle down?!). Enjoy your week with zero bobbins x

      Reply
  7. Maria

    Blooming marvellous that you have written about this! I help out at a local toddlers’ group in my church and I’m just so in love with it all, especially how everyone gets together and support each other. Sounds like your group is full of superheroes (very much like the ladies who help out at mine!) and it’s a lovely thing that you have taken the time to notice them and write about them. Be blessed!

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      Hi Maria, I think it’s too easy to take something so simple yet so important for granted! The volunteers really inspired me and the blog was the perfect place for a massive pat on the back – after the one i gave them in person too of course 🙂

      Reply
  8. John

    Many a good time had at church groups when ours were little, not to mention ‘Dads breakfast’ on a Saturday – bacon sarnies, coffee, papers and Mums get a lie in! May still be going on at St James West Streatham. Thanks to those who give their time energy and love!

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      I may be suggesting this Dad’s breakfast to a few people…! Thanks for reading John.

      Reply
  9. Naptime Natter Wendy

    Love this. I take my 2 to 2 toddler groups on 2 different churches and we all love it. They are both only £1.50 per family and we get cake and the kids get a snack, there’s music, singing, toys and crafts and it gets us out the house at least twice a week..hurray for church run toddler groups!xx #BlogCrush

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      They are amazing right?! I’ve had so much love for this post – hats off to the brilliant volunteers and excellent cake x

      Reply
  10. Lucy

    Love this! I help run our church toddler group with my two little men, and I just love the sense of love and support and REAL relationships that are being built. We’ve supported each other through some tough times and celebrated the joys with each other too. You don’t have to wear a ‘face’, like some of the more NCT-ish groups where you feel like you have to look glamorous etc! Love it! Thanks for writing and supporting your church toddler group. I hope those who need this support read your post and go and check out their local group. Xx

    Reply
    • Kimberly

      Thank you so much Lucy. I am definitely NOT glam when I rock up on 3 hours sleep! ?

      Reply
  11. Becky

    Lovely comments! I run the Trinity Church Toddler Group (Mondays 9.30-11.30) & love the friendly relaxed atmosphere, despite being full every week! Becky

    Reply
  12. Claire

    Really glad you’ve had a good welcome at a church toddler group. I help out with one in central London, right next to the Gherkin where not many people actually live, but we still get lots of people along, including some dads!

    Reply
  13. Richard Bray

    Good to hear some people mentioning dads as well. We do a Saturday morning session every couple of months called, ‘Who let the Dads out?!’ at our church.

    Reply

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