On a regularly Thursday morning, the sounds of happy children fill the playground and friendships form during craft sessions while parents bond over a cup of coffee. But this ‘normal’ Thursday morning playgroup is temporarily no longer.
Wesley Family Centre Westlakes playgroups are running a little different in 2020. Sadly, the uncertainty of the coronavirus (COVID-19) means playgroups can no longer meet face-to-face.
But in the face of adversity, Wesley Family Centre Westlakes Coordinator and playgroup director Louise, has found new ways for families from Lake Macquarie, along NSW’s Central Coast to connect.
Using Zoom video chat, Louise has brought two playgroups into an online space. “I think staying connected is so important when there’s families who are already isolated. That’s what the playgroup is there for,” Louise said.
Many of these families are either new parents or vulnerable Australians who are facing hardship and access support from Wesley Mission’s community services. When COVID-19, hit, Louise quickly recognised the importance of creating a safe space where parents could continue to connect during a season of isolation.
“That time where they can come out and chat to other parents has been taken away. And it’s a time for the kids as well to chat about what’s happening in the home,” she said.
“I think if they can stay connected, they know there’s someone there when things get too tough or things get hard.”
Louise said their online playgroups are another way to keep the lines of the conversation open with parents, so they can access further support from Wesley Mission where needed.
“Keeping that connection open, knowing we’re a supportive playgroup. We’re there to provide parenting support, emotional support and link them to financial assistance through Wesley Mission.”
Each online playgroup session involves storytelling, singing songs, completing craft and a time for parents to connect over a cuppa.
Ahead of playgroup Louise prepares and personally delivers activity and craft packs for each child to complete while participating in playgroup online.
“William has been busy today with the art pack you brought out for him. He loves it so much. Thank you so much for the pack,” Chloe said, playgroup participant.
Sirikan, another playgroup participant, is also grateful for the activity packs produced by Louise.
“Thank you for bringing kids’ stuff for Alicia. She very much enjoys painting, drawing and decorating. We can’t wait to go to playgroup again,” she said