Parent/toddler groups for all

By Laurel Stowell

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SKIP Whanganui facilitator Lynette Archer, dad Sean Shemwell and daughter Ella, who is nearly 2. PHOTO/ BEVAN CONLEY
SKIP Whanganui facilitator Lynette Archer, dad Sean Shemwell and daughter Ella, who is nearly 2. PHOTO/ BEVAN CONLEY

SKIP Whanganui is starting something new - flexible and informal groups for parents and their toddlers.

The initiative, Parents Alongside Parents in Whanganui, started in July. There are four groups happening so far, facilitators Kathy Parnell and Lynette Archer say.

They are a response to the needs of parents.

"Parents were saying to us "I would love to just know my neighbours". And "It would be great to get the feeling of a safe neighbourhood again"."

SKIP (Strategies for Kids, Information for Parents) still has online services - a phone app and resources. But it will no longer be funded to put on events such as Children's Day.

The parent/toddler groups are a way of connecting communities, Mrs Parnell said. The parents of toddlers can feel isolated in their own homes. The groups will connect them to others, and keep their children stimulated and connected as well.

The leaders are volunteers and can take them in any direction.

"This enables it to be anyone's dream."

Sean Shemwell says Whanganui is his "field of mission". His Daddy Toddlers Play & Pray group is based at the Wai Ora Christian Community Trust hall in Brunswick Rd, Aramoho.

It's on every Thursday during school terms, from 10 to 11.30 and open to dads, grandads and children under five. He'll read a story, they might sing or pray or have nursery rhymes.

Toys for the children are stored there and the men can talk "bloke stuff" such as putting a bike or car together, how to make baby formula or cope with arguments with the wife.

Mr Shemwell is the stay-at-home parent for his two children. He says it takes longer for men to open up and his group has started small but he expects it to grow.

There's a group that meets at Gonville Kindergarten, and two that meet at Whanganui East School. A Castlecliff group starts next week, and another leader wants to start a group that meets and takes children outdoors.

Usually the venues are donated, and some of the morning tea food is too.

Leaders will meet with the SKIP facilitators monthly, to share ideas. The base is a room at a Central Baptist Kindergarten Trust house in Wicksteed St, and funding comes from the Ministry of Social Development.

The facilitators are looking to recruit more volunteer leaders. They will also provide resources and support.

To learn more or get involved, look for SKIP Whanganui on Facebook.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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