Laura Wilkinson from the Early Years Alliance's Central England Service Hub shares a story of providing a successful pop-up children's space at the 10th Annual Breastfeeding Festival at Milton Keynes.
In the summer the Breastfeeding Festival approached a children's centre in Milton Keynes to run a children's space for them at their annual festival.
The children's centre felt it wasn’t something they could provide but instead recommended they try us, the Early Years Alliance's MK Crèche Service. The children's centre knew about us because of children's services we run in the area such as the crèche service and the MK: Toy Library.
Creating the perfect space
After meeting someone from the festival, we discussed their requirements and we agreed that we could set up an area for babies, toddlers and older children in a quiet corner of the festival.
At first when we spoke to the festival organisers we offered them various MK Toy Library packages but borrowing toys and soft play equipment wasn’t enough because the festival still needed people to staff it and they didn’t have anyone to staff it.
So we came up with a bespoke package where we offered the toys, soft play equipment and two people to staff it the whole day from 8am til 5pm.
So on 13 and 14 September MK Crèche Service with the support of MK:Toy Library attended the 10th Annual Breastfeeding Festival at Milton Keynes University Hospital Academic Centre.
By having us there it meant the equipment was regularly wiped down and cleaned throughout the day as the festival were worried about food contamination.
We had to adapt the space as it was quite small and we had more children than expected so we had to adapt it again as we went along as we didn’t really know what to expect in terms of numbers.
In the end we had just over 30 families using our soft play area during the two-day event.
Benefiting parents and children
Having us there meant parents who did not want to or who were not able to go upstairs to the conference itself, could watch the events on the live screen while their children played.
The festival wanted to provide parents with a space to feed their babies or just be with their children, to let the children have room to run around while still remaining part of the event and being able to watch the speakers’ presentations live on TV screens.
Parents would have been welcome in the auditorium of course with their children, but the soft play area was there in case they felt self-conscious being in the auditorium with babies or children who needed to run around.
The auditorium was a more formal environment but by having the soft play space it meant parents could watch while their babies could crawl around and play and older pre-schoolers could run around and stretch their legs.
A chance to chat to others
The children had a whale of a time and it was great that the parents could still feel part of the event.
It was really nice to hear the parents talking to each other about the speakers as they gave their presentations.
And you could see that when parents came out of the auditorium and brought the children down to the soft play space the babies could calm down and play and crawl about. A time and space for them to feed.
Although the parents never left their children alone in the soft play space – it wasn’t a crèche — we still played with the children and chatted to parents. It gave us a good opportunity to tell them about the Service Hub and the services we offer such as the toy library.
And it was a great opportunity to meet families from both the local community and from as far as Devon.
It was a really nice event – I feel like we all learned something. It took me and the staff back to our breastfeeding days and we could share our experiences with the parents there. We had a good discussion.
Feedback on both days was extremely positive. One mother who attended the event wrote on her feedback form: “This soft play area should be available at all events — it’s a great idea to have this with the screens so we can hear the speakers too.”
We would like to do it again and will definitely discuss how we could market it for future events.
MK: pop up crèche is an Alliance childcare service based in Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes.
It offers crèches in the community to children centres and other local business across Milton Keynes. This enables parents and carers to access educational courses either on a long term basis or as a one off crèche.
All crèche supervisors are qualified to an NVQ level 3 in Early Years and Childcare or above and a staff employed has an enhanced DBS disclosure.
For further information or any queries please contact
tel: 01908 266688 or 07718404592
Or visit the Central England Service Hub website