"Like all good stories, this one has a happy ending"

About: Warsop Children's Centre

(as a staff member posting for a patient/service user),

Once upon a time a daughter asked her father if he could look after her one year old son for perhaps two days a week...

"Ok, show me how to change his nappy, put six scoops of formula into 180mls of boiling water, then shake and let it cool", she said. Was my little girl now a mother giving me the practical task as part of an interview?

'Wanted - carer for my one year old son, twice a week. Duties to include changing nappies, making up bottles, feeding and winding, keeping him entertained and most importantly, safe from harm. No financial benefits to be paid, just the opportunity to bond with your grandson'.

It sounded like my dream job! I applied, sailed through the practical tasks and to my non astonishment, go the job! I had done the job before, over thirty years ago, but things were bound to have changed - Pampers, SMA and wipes were all pretty much straightfoward. Pinky and Perky had been replaced by Peppa Pig and her family and Magic Roundabout had been replaced by In The Night Garden - although not a true replacement as Magic Roundabout made sense!

I told my daughter that I had a plan. She was impressed "Well, what's the big plan? " she said, emphasising the word 'plan' with inverted commas. The truth was, I didn't have a plan, and in particular, no 'big plan'. I sort of knew what I wanted to do, but I hadn't got round to working out the fine details of it. My wife, as she often does, came to my rescue. What about SureStart? Would there be anything suitable for my grandson there? I decided to find out.

I received what could only be described as a warm and friendly welcome from the lady on the reception. Her professionalism and understanding helped me steer me to two possible sessions which might be beneficial for my grandson. 

Each session follows familiar routines. Admittance to the reception area, via the receptionist, sign in, admittance to the two play areas via staff or other adults. The system works well - keeping the little ones safe and secure. Play is either indoors or, weather permitting outisde, or a combination of the two. Curious minds, new experiences, aeroplanes in the sky, clouds, terrified insects scurrying, trying to get out of the way and fun. Play is temporarily suspended by "Stop what you are doing - it's tidy up time". A request, rather than an order, but is generally obeyed.

Our first attendance was, for me, a bit awkward. I could sense people trying to assess me - was I his's daddy? His grandad? Maybe his carer? I introduced myself as his grandad, confirming most people's inner thoughts. At one year old, he was the youngest child in the group. The majority of his classmates, being two or older - all but him were able to walk. On entering the play area you immediately encounter children having (and here's that re-occurring word again - fun - it was such a nice place to be. Children playing on their own or in groups, interacting with each other. Touching, seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting. Areas which contained water, sand, building blocks - all stimulating their young minds.

I found myself observing the reactions and interactions of both the children and mothers - after all, it's over thirty years since I have been in this position - had things changed? The children watch each other, copying and sharing. Mothers enforcing good behaviour. My grandson loved it (and so did his grandad). This is not all about children learning through play; it's a place where mothers and carers can socialise, share experiences and seek advice. Singing old favourites and some new nursery songs - an activity the majority of the children enjoy - followed by "Wash your hands, it's snack time".

Snack time - Wow! For me, snack time has been a revelation and I believe one of the most, if not the most important part of the session. Why do young children/toddlers sit quietly and well behaved, whilst simple snacks and drinks are collected and placed in front of them? After all, it's not 'party food' - no jelly, ice cream, cake or chocolate, but the fact remains, they all do. I have heard mother's comment, "She's never as good as this at home", or "I can't believe he's trying that". Is this simple act of sharing food and drink, this communal social event, something that lies deep inside us all? Even at this early age? I have been lucky enough to share this special time with my grandson. I have witnessed him attempting to crawl, walk and talk. He is comfortable in the company of other children and adults and I firmly believe much of his progress is down to his time spent here. My wife is so envious, and so she should be, I wish we could both share these experiences that my grandson and I enjoy. I started with the classic opening "Once upon a time" and, like all good stories, this one has a happy ending. So, in the words of the great Mr T of the A Team - I love it when a plan comes together!

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Response from Carol Pearce, Children's Centre Co-ordinator, Sure Start Children's Centres, County Health Partnerships

Thank you for sharing your experience of Warsop Children's Centre with your grandson Charlie. It is so entertaining to read about all your lovely experiences and how you have seen Charlie develop during the last couple of years.

Carol Pearce
Children's Centre Co-ordinator
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