Children’s centre activities: Venturing out to SaturPlay
With September here, the new termly timetable for local children’s centre activities has been released. Jenna plans to capitalise on maternity leave and make the most of the sessions, but she noticed one for dads – SaturPlay.
A stay and play session geared towards dads and other male carers – though working mums and female carers unable to access weekday activities are welcome – SaturPlay invites parents to bring babies and children up to eight-years-old.
Running from 10am-12pm, the sessions take place once a month, and I tackled the first one today.
I’ve been alone with Roma for daddy-daughter time, but I got a proper shot at solo parenting in this weekend as it was the first time I had to be somewhere with Roma alone for a specific time, and man did that open my eyes to just how much organisation is needed.
The centre isn’t far from home, but I wanted to arrive on time to make sure we secured a space. I was up before my alarm, of course, with Roma rousing me at 8am in need of a nappy change and feeding.
With that taken care of, and an autumnal outfit chosen to battle the seasonal chill in the air, somehow 9.15am had arrived and I realised I hadn’t sorted myself out. And to think, I’d woken up 45 minutes earlier than I planned to!
Let’s just say I now have a clearer understanding of why some parents head out in pyjamas – I scarcely had time to brush my teeth, let alone have breakfast and shower before leaving for the session!
Thankfully there was no traffic on the way and I made it to the children’s centre with time to spare, the second to arrive, joining a mother and daughter already waiting for the fun to kick off.
The session was a breath of fresh air, and not just because the back door was open for outdoor play. I’ve made it clear how few of my friends have children, so being among other dads (and mums) was a pleasure and made for a good atmosphere.
Claire, the lead coordinator, was welcoming and greeted some of the dads who were clearly regulars warmly, and was equally inviting to me and the other newbies.
At 15 and a half weeks, Roma was by far the youngest of the bunch – the next up, if memory serves, was 13 months – so I had a much calmer time than the other parents having to keep an unrelenting watch on their miniature wanderers.
That said, even I had to keep an eye on the toddlers. One in particular was very handsy and found her way into our changing bag and tried half-inching Roma’s Upsy Daisy, proceeding to trip onto Roma in the process.
Having spoken with the guys there, like me, they see the session as a brilliant bonding opportunity to spend time with their children while giving the mums a break.
The sad thing about that is, in addition to SaturPlay, there was also a session called SaturDads each month, giving dads two chances to mingle with their babies and other fathers. However, budget restraints meant that SaturDads was thrown on the scrap heap.
Again, it would seem the needs of fathers are overlooked by the government, a point backed up by the limited paternity leave on offer after a child’s birth.
Speaking to a couple of experienced SaturDads, I was informed that the £2 session came with bacon sarnies, which was music to my ears. That’s until I was told that SaturPlay had a slightly different theme each month – and September’s happened to be healthy eating.
That meant bacon had been replaced with carrot sticks and portions of oats to take away.
My empty belly aside, Roma was having a lovely time. We spent most of the session in the baby area, free of the toddler tornados swirling around, experimenting with musical instruments and miscellaneous items found stashed in baskets for a DIY baby sensory experience.
She managed to stay awake until 11.20am, at which point the excitement of my sick musical skills got the best of her and nap time became her new activity.
As obvious as it may sound, it’s clear that everyone in the room really wanted to be there, and coordinators Claire and Anne were both friendly and energetic, so the next session is already outlined in my calendar.
Until then, I’ve got four and a bit weeks to brush up on my nursery rhymes, so I won’t need to mime and mutter my way through the sing-along time that closes the next session.