Our very popular Portswood Pod babies & toddler group was forced to stop mid March 2020 as the Covid pandemic swept our nation, with everyone saying we shall hopefully see you all soon, may be after Easter.....Fast forward to now, well after Easter just 2021 and we have finally been able to get back together again! We are sad not to have had the chance to say goodbye to those who had moved on to school in September 2020 but whilst the new Portswood Pod is very different to before, it has been so nice to have some familiar faces back in the building. The core of what makes Pod special remains the same, an inviting, safe and non judgmental space where parents and carers can share and support each other.
We have been allowed to open with 15 adults and their children, so it is defiantly a lot quieter than what we had before (often having 80-90 in the building on a Tuesday morning!) and we have had to make some adaptions. To make sure we could open to as many people as possible we now have 2 groups, Toddler Pod and Baby Pod (for non walkers) where people can sign up for a 6 week period at a time and pay online.
Toddler Pod was full within 12 hours of sharing the link to sign up, with many excited to get back to some normality. Yes, it is very different with masks, hand gel and anti bac wipes everywhere but the essence is the same as always; children are having so much fun playing again and the parents/carers are enjoying being able to talk to each other. There are toys, books and individual packs of play dough. The outside area of bikes and slide is always popular (once we could get the lock open, after 13 months of not being used it had rusted over!) but there is laughter and chatting again and people are starting to get some of the support they need.
Several of the children had never been to a toddler group before having been born just before the pandemic hit and it has been a joy to gradually watch them learning to interact with other children over the last few weeks and develop some confidence in those all important social skills. We are enjoying getting to know the parents/carers in a way that wasn't possible before as the numbers are smaller. We already know everyone's names. It has definitely been the right thing to start again.
Baby Pod is completely new to us and is taking a little longer to get going as we strive to find ways to help new parents find us. This is a space for new parents to get to know each other and spend time talking and sharing with other people who are going through the same experiences as them, after such a long period of relative isolation. There is a story, something to explore and bubbles. Hopefully soon there will be cups of tea (always a welcome addition to a group of tired parents/carers :)). It is just so nice to be a place where we can support new parents and the team feel blessed to be in a position to do so.
So, although there is change, we can see some real positives in many of the changes in the way we are able to develop relationships and support our community during this important and often difficult stage of parenting and we look forward to continuing to welcome families along in the coming months.
This year is particularly special to Portswood Pod as we are in the the 40th year of running in group!
Suzanne Millman - Children's Ministry Team Leader