Priceless time for tots at Park Baby

Toddlers and their parents have enjoyed another summer of fun-filled activities thanks to grants from Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity and Tesco.

Mother and daughter smiling while at Park Baby

Clifton Park in Rotherham was brought to life with the smiles and giggles of children attending Park Baby - an annual, free community group for parents with newborns and toddlers run by The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust’s 0-19 Integrated Public Health Service.

This summer’s events were boosted by grants worth £1,750 from Tesco’s Community Grants Scheme and Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity. The funds paid for a new gazebo and interactive, creative woodland toys and games to help bring mums and tiny tots together.

Stephanie Jones, one of the Trust’s Health Visitors, organised the sessions alongside members of the 0-19 Health Visiting and School Nursing Team. The outdoor sessions ran every Thursday for six weeks have been attended by an average of 60 children. 

She said: “Parents love Park Baby because they can come out and meet other families, which is especially attractive after Covid when many children spent their whole lives in lockdown. It’s a great way to meet other people with small children in a friendly, informal and beautiful setting near Clifton Park’s band stand. It brings people of all ages together. 

“Some of the children have had a long period of isolation during lockdown, but now they have the chance to interact, play and be with other youngsters. 

“We try to provide a sensory, colourful and tactile experience and to show the alternatives to playing with expensive toys. We have everything from wooden pegs and spoons, shells, stones, water and sand, bubbles and wind chimes pinned to the trees. We have a hand-made den, art and crafts and a balancing challenge. 

“Its good fun but we also know that active children and more likely to be healthy, happy, school ready and sleep better. It’s good for parents’ wellbeing too. 

“The funding has also paid for a gazebo to help the sessions run during unpredictable weather as well as an amazing trolley to help us set up in the park. We’re so grateful for the charity funding and hope to see even more mums and dads here with their children next summer.”

Michelle Pickering, 39, from Catcliffe, enjoyed Park Baby with her 15-month-old daughter Freya.  She said: “It’s so relaxed at Park Baby, everyone is friendly and welcoming and being outdoors has been a refreshing change. It has given Freya a new environment and resources to explore and has given me ideas to continue this play at home. Freya has been a little social butterfly, interacting with lots of new people and she has shown me things I didn’t realise she could do, all of which has been great for her development."

Three-month old Ella and her 21-month-old sister Amelia have been enjoying Park Baby too. Mum Tealah Smith, 27, of Dalton, said: “Ella learned to roll here and now she doesn’t stop! She loves that its outside and the beautiful scenery. I enjoy doing something different with them and I love that it's so social – my auntie and my best friend are here too. I’d definitely recommend the group to other parents, it’s great.”

Sarvet Iftikhar, 38, of Eastwood, came along with 13-month-old Kazim Wasif Ali.

“We love coming to Park Baby because my baby can interact with other children and he loves the park,” she said. 

“As a parent, it’s good to see so many other people and it’s good for my mental wellbeing to get out of the house too. I would definitely recommend Park Baby to other parents, it’s so lovely.”

Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity raises funds to provide the extra special resources, equipment and projects which the NHS cannot afford.

In addition to resources for Park Baby, the charity has recently funded exercise bikes for haematology patients, uniforms and refreshments for Purple Butterfly volunteers, which support families of those receiving palliative care, as well as goodies for afternoon tea parties for patients across the hospital.

Rachael Dawes, Head of Fundraising, said: “Thanks to your generous donations we have funded some incredible things for the people of Rotherham, including resources to boost the Park Baby sessions. Thank you so much to Tesco for supporting the charity and for helping to bring the team’s aspirations for Park Baby to life. It’s making such a difference to families in Rotherham.”

Park Baby will return for the summer in 2024 – watch this space for more information!