stay and play drop-in sessions

Drop-in sessions, such as Stay and Play or Parent and Toddler groups, are a great way for families to meet each other and have a change of scene and activities. They are more flexible than a group, in that there is no expectation that parents/carers attend every week or get there for the start time. They can provide a relaxing way for parents to chat together, while their children play with other children and toys. However, they also offer a great opportunity to share ideas with parents and carers (in bite-size chunks) about how they can support their children’s learning through everyday activities.

We drew on four years of experience in our Room to Play drop-in (in our local community shopping centre) when developing Stay and Play sessions. Practitioners maintain a relaxed, low-key approach, but use a variety of strategies to actively encourage parents to interact with their children, both during the sessions and at home.

A Peep Stay and Play session will focus on a different aspect of child development each week, linked to one of the Learning Together Programme topics. Practitioners generally provide five main activities, some on the floor and some at a table, a couple of which will directly link to the topic. The activities will also cover different aspects of children’s learning, such as communication and language, and early reading and writing.

Perhaps the most important aspect though, is encouraging each parent or carer to join in some of the activities with their child, with the practitioner sharing one simple but key idea with parents about the activity.


example: early maths activities and key ideas

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activity on the floor: posting things into a box

Families are encouraged to post items (eg socks, toy cars, pegs) into a posting box (a cardboard box with holes cut in the top and sides) and find them again when the lid is lifted.

Key idea: The practitioner talks to the parents/carers about matching things into pairs and counting 1 2 as they are posted in the box. Counting an object in each hand is helpful for very young children.

activity at the table: feeding three bears porridge

Families are encouraged to feed the small, medium and large sized bears (made from shoe boxes), thinking about which size bowl and spoon (small, medium or large) each bear should have.

Key idea: The practitioner discusses how adults can help their children’s understanding of size, by talking about different sizes and pointing them out in everyday life.

sharing messages
As well as conversations, Peep practitioners also share these messages with parents through the use of short signs next to each activity, handouts, and cued modelling (explaining why and how they are doing something as they are doing it). Peep Stay and Play sessions also have a singing and story time, so a relevant story (eg Goldilocks and the three bears) and songs (e.g. Three furry monkeys) can link to the activities.

“Parents and siblings can become empowered to develop into major contributors

in their child’s development when provided with appropriate support and guidance”

L. Peterson, 'Keys to a Better Future’, Early Years Education: June 2008