Room to Play was an innovative drop-in style provision in a community shopping centre, underpinned by the Peep ethos and programme. It aimed both to welcome and value all parents and carers, and to extend their existing parenting practices. Room to Play sought to appeal to ‘excluded’ or isolated families who, for a range of reasons, may not have accessed other services. The project was funded by the Sutton Trust and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
Several recent research studies point out that it is often the services themselves that inadvertently exclude families. As Oxford University’s evaluation (Evangelou, Smith, Coxon, Sylva, 2008) indicates, Room to Play has gone a long way towards overcoming these barriers and engaging with a wide cross section of families.
engaging families: approaches used in room to play
Taking the service to the user, rather than expecting the user to come to the provider: Room to Play was based in a busy community shopping centre, and was open six days a week throughout the year.
Effective engagement requires time, sensitivity and flexibility: relationship-building, friendship and social interaction were some of the successful ways of supporting parents and children. Staff also helped parents to ‘move on’ and access other provision.
It is important to locate the service in attractive premises: parents said that they felt comfortable within the open-plan, home-from-home environment. They could relax with their child(ren), as well as joining in ‘messy play’ activities (such as painting, and playing with playdough, water, sand and ‘gloop’).
An independent evaluation of the project was carried out by the University of Oxford, in three phases. Download a brief summary or the final full research report of the evaluation here.
Peep-trained practitioners from any professional background can use the Learning Together programme with families in any context or setting. Follow the links for more information about our Learning Together Programme and Training.
‘Room to Play had decreased [the mum’s] social isolation, and importantly, she had begun to interact more positively with her child, and was growing in confidence. She had made a treasure basket for her child and was beginning to use everyday objects such as wooden spoons in playing with her son.’