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Gorleston church reaches out to families with toddlers

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The group is called Magpies and will be co-led by Matt and Hannah Ashpole from the church in Gorleston. The group is primarily for children from birth until their 3rd birthday, but with flexibility for families who have other children of preschool age. Children can come with any responsible adult – grandparents, aunties, uncles, family friends.

Hannah Ashpole explains: “The idea came as a result of our experience of becoming first-time parents during lockdown. Opportunities to mix with other parents with young children were limited. We could see that there was a great need for us and parents like us to meet with others in a similar situation. Since we are currently in a situation where we have the time to do something to meet this need, we decided there was no time like the present! We are keen for this to be a place where all adults involved with the child, male and female, feel welcome.”

Sessions will last between 60 and 90 minutes with lots of opportunities for children to enjoy themselves including soft play and outside bikes. There will be an optional time together of nursery rhymes, story and craft and a snack time with homemade treats for the adults and healthy snacks for the children. For parents who are breast-feeding there will be a screened off area if preferred. There will also be sign-posting information available to help parents/carers find support for issues they are struggling with.

Hannah continued, “Having been through recent lockdowns where we haven’t had much support from one another, the main thing is community- everyone needs community. And we want it to be a place that supports mental wellbeing. Also opportunities for young children and babies to mix together. We’ve seen in our own daughter Emmaus how spending time with other children has spurred on her development, and that’s really important.

“God has given us the gift of time at the moments when we have most needed it. He has shown us who He is sending to be involved with particular aspects of the group. We have also been blessed to receive funding from Norfolk County Council which has allowed us to buy what we need to get started, and we believe God was in that.

“I’m most looking forward to getting to know more families locally, and providing a space where people can feel at home and amongst friends. I’m looking forward to us being able to learn from each other.  I don’t think anyone is ever fully ready to be a parent, but we can support each other. We would appreciate prayer for the logistics, and that it will be fun!”

For more information, follow Magpies on Facebook, where there is a booking enquiry form that needs to be completed before people come along for the first time, or email Hannah Ashpole.

Magpies starts on Monday September 27, and will run on Mondays at 10.00 a.m. at St Mary Magdalene Church in Gorleston. There is no charge but donations toward running costs are appreciated. If the group is oversubscribed families from the Magdalen estate and nearby areas will be prioritised.

This article first appeared in Network Norfolk.

The picture shows Matt and Hannah with two year old Emmaus, and is courtesy of Imagine Norfolk Together, where the interview on which this article is based was first published.