That’s a Wrap End of term for PACS

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A time for Goodbyes and Reflection.

Playgroup sessions come to an end for summer 2021. Many of our toddlers will begin their next adventure by starting school in September. We will miss those little faces who regularly come to play and readily sing along, joyfully showing us their dance moves at song time. It has been a pleasure to watch children grow and progress through our playgroups, from babes in arms at our Bumps and Babies session, to the energetic and inquisitive pre-schoolers they have become. Good luck to parents and children as they start school in September. 

Attending playgroup is an excellent way to prepare for school. Children & parents alike form friendships at playgroup, they can often recognise a familiar face on that first day at school. Playgroup prepares a child to feel confident being in new settings, explore different play, & learn to share and take turns. One of our sessions Totally Toddlers is structured allowing children a two-hour window into a school day, offering story time, craft, play, snack and song time. 

As we come to the end of term at PACS we can reflect on the year. Normally when the school term starts in September, playgroup volunteers are ready to return with new play ideas and firm favourites alike. However due to covid restrictions our sessions returned slowly with limited numbers of children attending.  On Friday 18th of September our Friday playgroup session Diddy Discoverers returned at a new location of The Methodist church, already home to our Bumps and Babies session.  We settled into our new normal, which included a booking system to reserve places for playgroup, smaller groups, mask wearing, and cautiously cleaning equipment between each session. Despite these challenges those familiar faces little faces returned to play, and we met new families and lockdown babies. So, it continued week on week that our playgroup sessions were fully booked. 

After this initial high of our first term Gibraltar’s second lockdown began at the start of 2021. We returned to supporting parents via virtual playgroup on our facebook page, with story time, song time and cooking club. Our volunteers were once again reluctantly back in front of the camera. Our articles in the Gibraltar insight magazine allowed us to continue to reach out to parents and offer words of support.  

March 2021 saw the relaxing of covid restrictions and as before Bumps and Babies and our Friday playgroup Diddy Discoverers session cautiously returned. We were overwhelmed by the number of children wanting to attend playgroup and were fully booked week in week out. Whilst frustrations were felt, parents were patient and followed covid guidelines. 

In April our Monday session Totally Toddlers returned at the Family centre, subject to strict covid guidelines and offering very small group sessions. It was an adjustment for everyone.

Week on week volunteers felt that we were returning to the playgroup we knew and loved. Covid restrictions were relaxed, and we could offer space to more children, booking systems disappeared and finally the masks came off. It was wonderful to have the old buzz of playgroup back. 

At the end of April The Methodist Church became a permanent home to our Friday playgroup Diddy Discoverers, and offered us access to a new room which allowed for the return of cooking club. JP haulage Ltd kindly moved our equipment for free, and volunteers worked around the clock to get the new venue ready.

In May we introduced a new play session to the PACS family. Sensory Story Session runs every Thursday from 1-2, at the Methodist church catering for children 18 months and above. Sensory stories are a great way to include all the senses into storytelling. It is a relaxed session, where stories are brought to life by sensory play, and theatre. By adding sensory to a story, it can create magic and a sense of wonder.

May also saw the return of our beloved cooking club. A twice weekly class on a Wednesday and Friday afternoon. Pre-schoolers returned to making and cooking fun recipes. 

I can’t help but feel this article mainly details playgroup stopping, starting, returning gradually, ending abruptly to restart again, with covid restrictions increasing and decreasing at times. The reason for this is because this in the precise journey we have all been on this year. I think we can all agree its been quite a rollercoaster.  

There is no doubt that the pandemic has had an effect on our toddlers. We have seen an increase in children struggling to socialise. Many were extremely attached to their parents and nervous of new environments. At times children have struggled to share and there has been a marked increase in toddler behaviour of hitting and biting. 

Despite these struggles we have watched parents support their children through these challenges, and with patience & time their toddlers have grown in confidence. It is also evident that even through the challenges of covid, children find joy in any situation. Story & song time continue to be hit even if told through a mask. Whilst parents felt the challenges of the covid restrictions their children did not. Play is truly the work of childhood. 

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