I wrote this after just dropping Immy off at playgroup, with the twins asleep in the back of the car. “Me time” looks quite different nowadays. We are one week into lockdown take 2 in Wales, and last week there was no playgroup as it was half term. The fact that childcare settings are still open for the remainder of lockdown is such a welcome relief. 

I love my little love so much, don’t get me wrong. But a week stuck indoors with an adventurous toddler who never stops talking is quite intense. Add the twins on top of that, who seem to be taking after little Miss daredevil, and we have ourselves a party.

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree I guess. My mum has always said that as soon as I learnt to talk I never stopped. My husband can probably concur! They say you get a new found respect for your parents when you have children of your own. I now know that’s true. Sorry Mum 🙂

So, playgroup. 

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Towards the middle of September, Immy started a local playgroup, and I have to say it’s the best thing we could have done for her (and me).

There are so many options for childcare, and I’m not saying that playgroup is any better than any other form, not in the slightest. There are pros to all types, whether that be a playgroup, nursery, childminder, family, or staying at home with Mum or Dad. Every child is different and what suits one might not suit another. Every family situation is different too, and I know every parent does what’s right for them and their child.

For Immy though, playgroup has been a great option. She has always been sociable, right from a baby. Despite the blank gazes and the death stares she used to pull, she did love being out of the house and seeing other babies. Although to be honest, she didn’t have much choice in the matter as I was always taking her out and about. A far cry from my maternity leave with the twins.

After a long summer being stuck at home, she was craving social interaction and I wanted her to be able to go and play with other children in an environment where Mummy wasn’t a distraction. I find she is better behaved for other people when I’m not around (or so they say). And to be honest, we needed the break from each other! 

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I’ve managed to keep her somewhat entertained over these past few months with crafty things, park visits and probably far too much TV (okay, YouTube). However as the days grew shorter so did my patience for dealing with the terrible twos, and I knew she needed something more than just me. I also wanted to spend some alone time with the twins, as with Immy around they don’t get a lot/any attention. They are basically left to scooch around the floor whilst Immy and I negotiate when she’s allowed another ice cream.

The playgroup that Immy attends is in a setting where you leave them there for two and a half hours with a snack, and then pick them up. It’s quite cost effective in comparison to a private nursery, but as she is only there for a short amount of time, it’s not as convenient for Mums in full time work (unless you have a family member who can drop off and pick up). 

When I went back to work last year after my first maternity leave Immy went to a private nursery for 4 full days a week and she loved it. I considered nursery this time too but a playgroup worked better for us while I am still off work with the twins. Because she had been in a childcare setting before, she settled right in at the playgroup. On her first day she just strolled right in without batting an eyelid and went straight onto the slide outside to play with the other children.

Although she has only been there for 6 weeks I have already noticed a difference in her.

As I said in an earlier blog, she used to play around other children, and now she plays with them. When she first started she couldn’t tell me what she had done there, but now she recalls her morning (well, to a certain extent, half of which I imagine is made up). 

She has started to role play at home too. Talking to her toys and mimicking them talking back. She has become quite the actress. She has also started to tell me the names of her friends. Some I’m sure are imaginary as they do have some weird and wonderful names. So if anything, playgroup has certainly expanded her imagination! 

I do sometimes wonder if people might question why I send Immy to a playgroup when I’m still on maternity leave and available to look after her myself. It only briefly enters my thoughts though, as I don’t see it merely as a childcare setting. For us it’s much more than that. It gives Immy some independence away from home, to express herself and to be an individual, rather than competing for my attention with the twins. 

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There’s such a variety of toys and activities there to broaden her mind too, which I just wouldn’t be able to provide at home (popping some paper and paints on the kitchen table is about as good as it gets). 

She can also make new friends without me being there. Although I have lots of fabulous Mum friends with children Immy’s age, we aren’t all as available as we were during maternity leave, so playgroup gives Immy some consistency. 

Above all, it gives us two and a half hours, three times a week to recharge our relationship; and I definitely think that makes the time we do spend together even more enjoyable, and in turn makes our bond even stronger.

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