• Gareth Ellis

Stay and Play!

Today I got invited to stay and play – and I loved it.

Stay and Play sessions are held across the country (run by the council) and give parents and carers a free place to take children between 0 and 4 to play – hence the name.

Jess takes Rupert a lot on Fridays because she’s off work and it gives our little one a chance to play and explore.

Previously, he went to Sensory class, and whereas he used to love it, he outgrew it and wanted to do more than sit still and watch, he wanted to be getting involved and wandering around doing different things – like he does at nursery.

So Jess came home yesterday and told me that the first Saturday of every month was for Daddys to take their little ones. I was buzzing.

Being at work all week there aren’t many things I get to do that are just Ru and I. I don’t often complain as it means we’re doing things as a family, but sometimes it’s nice to give Mummy some time to herself.

In Milton Keynes each Dad’s stay and Play sessions moves around to a different Children’s Centre each month – this month was held at The Robins in Heelands (literally a five minute walk from where we live.)

So Rupert and I went off for a couple of hours of play. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I’d gathered from Jess’ report from previous sessions was that there was loads for Ru to do, lots of children and he didn’t sit still for any of it.

When we arrived we were greeted by some wonderful staff, who even knew Rupert’s name, and after signing in we literally just got on with it.

What followed was so much fun. Rupert got to play, both inside and outside, and there were snacks for both me and him when and if we wanted them.

There were two different rooms, one with baby specific toys and activities, such as cuddly characters, sensory play and musical instruments, and another that was full of more interactive toys for older children.

In there, children could explore a little bit more of their imagination, with play-doh, colouring pens, roleplay toys and so much more.

Then outside, there were some trikes, a slide, a play house and of course some green space for them to run and around and explore – of course Rupert splashed in the water area – soaking himself and me in the process.

Inside there was a kitchen area where parents could help themselves to snacks for them and the little ones, with a selection of age appropriate food for all.

Of course, I get to see Rupert at home and I know him to be a confident little explorer who loves getting into mischief. When he’s in public, around other children, he has a tendency to be shy (at first).

Today I watched as he wandered around playing with all sorts of toys, interacting with lots of different people, waving at both adults and children and just generally having lots of fun. I loved watching him be so confident, and exploring his surroundings.

As fun as the session was though it got me thinking. Did I like the concept of a Dad’s only session? I mean, I get the concept. Nine times out of 10 it’s the women who are off on long-term maternity leave, so they have time to go to these sessions with the children while Dad goes off to work.

But are we as Dads so useless at being proactive with making plans for the children that we need our own separate session? I know this is a sweeping generalisation, but I guess in my case, it’s partially true.

All I will say is that if you’re a parent, or a guardian, and you work all week then every now and again, just have a look what is going on in your local area.

You might not get to stay and play in the week, but you can at the weekends.

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