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Toddlers & Co: 30 years of meeting the needs of children and their parents at Bishop's Stortford Baptist Church

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Hazel Bintley, a leader with Bishop's Stortford Baptist Church playgroup Toddlers & Co, reflects on its 30-year history...

In 1992 a group of parents from Bishop’s Stortford Baptist Church saw the need for a playgroup for their children and others in the community. As a result, in June of that year, Toddlers & Co was launched.

The group met on a Thursday morning at the Baptist church hall in Portland Road (now a day nursery). Demand for places increased, and in January 2004 a Tuesday morning session was added.

Toddlers & Co, the Bishop's Stortford Baptist Church playgroup, was formed in June 1992 (56992713)
Toddlers & Co, the Bishop's Stortford Baptist Church playgroup, was formed in June 1992 (56992713)

In September 2006 a Wednesday morning drop-in session started at the newly-built Havers Community Centre. This group continued until the 2020 Covid lockdown.

The Tuesday and Thursday groups relocated to the new Baptist Church Centre in Twyford Road in September 2012 and continue to be well attended and well regarded.

Although there have been many changes over the years, we continue to be motivated by our belief that every child and adult is special and loved by God, and we want everyone who comes to Toddlers & Co to know that.

Our core aims are welcoming and offering friendship to everyone who comes, in a safe and happy environment, and have remained the same.

Volunteer leaders, a small donation rather than fees, and snack time for the children and a cup of tea for carers have been constant features of the groups.

Carers often comment how nice it is to have a hot drink made for you. Many joys and sorrows have been shared over coffee, encouragement given and friendships made.

One mum, who was a newcomer to Stortford, told us: “We barely knew anyone, and playgroup has helped us massively with making friends and for my son to mingle with other children. Thank you.”

Toddlers & Co (56762442)
Toddlers & Co (56762442)

Singing time and crafts are a weekly occurrence and are themed around seasonal events. Christmas is always a highlight, with a Nativity play and party. One child often reminded his mum “We saw baby Jesus in there” when he passed the hall where the Nativity was held.

The summer term includes an outing, and we have been to parks, a children’s farm, taken train rides and other fun activities.

We try to remember that others are not always as fortunate as ourselves and we regularly support charities that are relevant to our families, or national events such as Red Nose Day.

The Covid-19 pandemic presented a huge challenge for us as we tried to keep in touch with our families. When meeting was not possible, we held weekly online singing times and regularly posted activity packs, birthday cards and little treats to our families to keep everyone going. We all valued our groups more than ever when we were able to meet again.

We are so grateful to have had 30 years of fun, friendship and support that we are celebrating with a special service at Bishop’s Stortford Baptist Church on Sunday June 12 at 10.30am. There will be singing, activities, memories and cake (always important to us!).

If you have ever been associated with us as a helper, carer, parent or toddler, then we’d love to have you with us.

* For further details or information about our groups, email toddlers@stortfordbaptist.org.

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