Tuesday 6 May 2014

In praise of children's centres

Since we were discharged from the Mother & Baby Unit, a place where the boy and I have always been encouraged to go is our local Children's Centre.  We are lucky to have several within walking distance of us (the joy of living in densely-populated central London!).  At four months old, the boy enjoyed a free course of baby massage.  Now, at the grand age of 18 months, he enjoys the messy play, arts and crafts, and the well-equipped garden.

I guess the target market for this council-funded service are families who maybe wouldn't attend a fee-paying playgroup and who may not have much space for playing at home.  But they are used just as much (if not more!) by families of all backgrounds.  The regular activities organised by these centres seem designed to encourage interaction between adults and children, and to develop language, sharing skills and other foundations before children start school.

As a new mum recently recovered from severe mental illness, I found it a sanctuary. 

This morning, as the boy darted to and from the play garden to the art easel and the water tray, I reflected on how lucky we are to have these places.  When local councils are having to find budget savings, lets hope these centres remain protected.  Investment in the early years really does seem to pay dividends further down the line.  And if families can be helped to play together, then hopefully they will stay together too. 

I laughed (ruefully) when I heard that a nearby council had recently given £17,000 to a local park to purchase dog agility equipment.  Really?  Don't dogs enjoy the park regardless? I thought of how far that money could have gone at a children's centre... I realise that dog owners are tax payers too - but don't our representatives have a responsibility to allocate our money according to wider societal benefits?  Agile dogs or happy kids?  I know what I'd vote for...


  1. Centres like these are fabulous. My boys were both in nursery full time when we were in the UK, but a lot of my friends went to groups like this, an absolute life saver; and so important for kids to interact with other kids their own age. I worry that my daughter doesn't get enough of that, as there are less options like this over here; but I take her to classes and play dates, and I put her into the crèche at the Y while I go to the gym, which she absolutely loves and is independent time for her! She will go to preschool once she turns three, but until then I need to make sure she gets the social activities that she needs x

  2. We used our local children centre and loved it, such a great facility to help get parents and children out together. We still go to twins club at a children's centre, but they have recently cut the club from weekly to twice a month due to funding. That's not good when lots of twin parents really need the interaction of other twin parents for support and advice. I would vote for the children's centre over the dog agility equipment too.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids

  3. Frankly, I don't know where I would've been without our local children's centres. Insane with PND most probably...

  4. I loved our Children's Centre when my son was born, like you we did a free baby massage class and I also went along to the breastfeeding support and the weighing clinics where I could have a chat with a health visitor. We've since moved and the local centre was only open a few times a week at first and now it has closed down, which is a real shame, it had a lovely garden. There are still a couple more fairly locally, but not within walking distance. It was definitely a lifeline for me in those early months!

  5. As I am a forreign mother who is alone. I am a regular in our childrens center and they are so warm in welcoming me & my son. My son learned so much from our center and they are a big oart of my life here before. I suddenly miss them when I saw your post =) #LetKidsBeKids

  6. I could not agree more. Children's centres are great places to meet other mums, have a chat and a cuppa and see our little ones interact with other children. x Mel