Time for Tots – toddling on at Sawston Free Church

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                                   Time for TotsResized Time for Tots 2

Our group has in fact been going for many years, but was in decline and the two ladies who ran it were exhausted and ready to give up. Five years ago, my mother died and it just seemed right for me to become involved in the time that I had formerly saved for her. I appealed to the congregation, formed a team with friends (all retired, and gathered from three churches in this large village), and we worked together to hash out how we could run something manageably, with clear Christian ethos. It helped that two of us were experienced primary teachers prepared to plan ahead and involve the congregation. We visited other groups, were inspired by Toddler Rocks sessions via the Entheos Trust, gathered practical ideas from Sue Greene of SU, enjoy great support from Nicola Grieves (Eastern Synod CTO) and her collaboration with Ely Diocese.

Since Time for Tots has become so popular that we have had to impose a limit of 40 children at a session, we're delighted that both the Parish Church and the Catholic Church in Sawston have started groups on other days – the need here is so great.


So what happens at Time for Tots, then?

As a toddler: you step into our large, warm church with your carer. While you’re being signed in, you choose an activity straight away – perhaps dressing up, jigsaw, construction kit, looking at books, practising going up and down stairs, peeping behind the Cross. Soon it’s time to gather on the story blanket for a lively Bible story, songs and nursery rhymes, and be shown the craft activity. Then you move to sit at a chair and table to do the craft, before snack time. Feeling re-energised, you ride or push a larger toy or two, have a go at a sensory activity, or continue playing. As soon as you hear music on the loudspeaker, you know it’s time to help pack away and put things ready to go in the Toy Cupboard. If there’s time you might dance to the music or practise running up and down in the big space. If you’re a young baby, you might sleep throughout. Sometimes you really don’t want to leave!

As a carer: you know you are coming to a safe place with your child, or children. You are warmly welcomed, and have a chance to meet new people, especially if you’ve just moved to the area, or left work. You know your buggy is safe as it’s with you in the church (on a protective sheeting, of course.) You appreciate someone else making you a hot drink, and chatting with other adults. You haven’t had to think how to occupy your children this morning. No one is going to try to sell you anything, and you can enjoy watching your child play independently and attempt new things.

As a volunteer: you come in by 9.30 to help make the area safe for inquisitive children, and set up activities. You appreciate the prayer and coffee before the session opens at 10.30. You know you are a valued part of the team, whether you’re keeping the register, preparing the snacks, serving the hot drinks, telling the story or leading the singing. Behind the scenes, church people have prepared the themes and the craft materials, and bought supplies. You enjoy enabling children to play and adults to talk as you try to show and share God’s Love during the morning. Once the session has closed, you’ll be stacking the toy cupboard, cleaning and storing the protective sheeting, or vacuuming the church carpet, closing the partition doors and making the building ready for other users. You go home shattered, knowing that 35 or so children (and their carers) have had an active, enjoyable morning and your time and energy have been worthwhile.


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