Marit Vestby, Hub Manager for Lewisham Homes, tells Betty and Rob’s Creative Homes story
A rainy day on my way into Creative Homes group hub session “All-In One Tuesdays” at Honor Oak Community Centre in Lewisham. I hear noises, drumbeat, chanting and laughter. I open the door to the big sports hall full of soft play and bright colours and see the children all gathered around Creative Homes’ artist Helen as she takes them on a dinosaur adventure. But there’s another adult surrounded by the children too. I look closer to see who it is, it’s Betty – Rob’s mum!
Betty is a mum of four, and her youngest son Rob is twelve years younger than his closest siblings. She lives with her four children, her dad, four cats and two guinea-pigs. Rob is not in nursery so before the playgroup opened, Betty would stay home with Rob most of the day. She would play with him but never messy play!
The first time Betty came to the playgroup with Rob, she lingered on the side observing Rob. ‘He’s not doing what he’s asked to’, she said to me in an outdoor play activity. ‘It doesn’t matter, look how much he’s enjoying the digging!’ I said – she smiled. For the first few weeks, Betty joined a lot of the other parents who took a seat on the sideline. But this week it was different. Betty was the centre of attention, joining in the games and the dinosaur hunt, even coming up with playful ideas herself. A picture of Betty appeared on my Whats App group sent from Helen – Betty dressed in a play tunnel from head to foot pretending to be a dinosaur. She laughed and shook her head when I asked her about it. Her friend said ‘I think this playgroup is just as important for Betty as for Rob’.
After a lot of persuasion Betty finally said ‘yes’ – we could come to her house for a Den Consultation. ‘I don’t normally have people over’ she said. ‘Also I would normally have all my Christmas decorations up by now, but I have hardly started!’ We arrived to a house full of tinsel and with a massive tree in the corner of the living room, Betty smiled ‘This is nothing yet!’ Her dad was sat on the sofa looking at us, we turned the music on and did the Rainbow Song
Rob was running up and down the rainbow mats, Betty and her dad were smiling. By the time we got the den constructed it was all hands on deck. Betty was gluing and decorating with tissue paper, Rob was drawing windows and his granddad (Betty’s dad) was cutting out the windows, three generations working together. The result was so good they still have the den now five months later.
Coming regularly to All In One Tuesdays playgroup is now a really important part of their weekly routine. ‘Rob knows if it’s Tuesday and I’m missing it, he will be grumpy with me! And if we walk past the road he will point towards the community centre.’ says Betty.
After the first day at the group Betty rated the group with 5*on Facebook: ‘Rob really enjoyed his time there’ But this was neither the last visit nor the last online post from Betty, as every week she would share her experiences at the club, helping us advertise and spread the word about the club online. She also started posting photos to our WhatsApp group sharing Rob and her having a go at the Creative Homes take home craft packs.
Doing messy play at home is now part of their weekly routine, using craft packs from Creative Homes, but also coming up with their own ideas. Betty is now also more connected to the local area.
Betty also opened up to us about her concerns around Rob’s speech delay. We put her in touch with Beecroft Garden Children’s Centre where they run parent and toddler sessions specifically to help children with speech delay.
At Creative Homes we believe that playing together with your children every day offers them the best start in life. Play together supports specifically children with communication, speech and language as well as coordination and rhythm. Listening to music and singing to your children, playing simple games, having a dance together or dressing up like a dinosaur are all possible.
A balance of playing at home and getting out and about together is great, making sure that you and your children get to socialise. For ideas for play at home visit our blog: https://creativehomes.tdlp.co.uk/funactivities/
If your son or daughter has difficultly with speaking, they may need some help. In Lewisham alone you can get support at your children’s centre or drop-in to have a chat with a speech and language therapist: https://www.lewishamandgreenwich.nhs.uk/speech-and-language-therapy.
Creative Homes helps families create pathways to and build confidence in local home, health and play services.