The best toddler group you’ve never been to.
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?