Thomas, Liam and James – a rather curious and industrious trio – met at Babies Can Play some six years ago, before moving onto Lincoln Playcentre. Alby, Finn and Luke joined their big brothers a couple of years later. Then Henry made his Playcentre debut. At 20 months old, he is the youngest of the group – and has approximately 20 months of Playcentre experience already.

But this is also a story about three mums who met at Babies Can Play, and the friendship they share. As their respective families grew, their friendship also grew – over coffee and conversations about toilet training, tantrums and tractors, surrounded by the ordinary and wonderful moments at Lincoln Playcentre.

Meet Mel with Liam (nearly 7) and Finn (4), Sarah with James (6) and Luke (4), and Louise with Thomas (6), Alby (4) and Henry (20 months). 

Mel (left), Sarah (middle) and Louise (right) share their story of babies, big boys and going from 1-2.

For Mel, Sarah and Louise it has been a busy six years marked by some big milestones. As Sarah says, ‘we had our second babies at roughly the same time, and it was absolutely magic to be able to share the experience of going from one to two’.

And while they could have taken a break from Playcentre when their second babies arrived, all three decided that Playcentre was just what they needed. ‘Finn was only a week old when he started’, shares Mel. ‘It was actually easier than being at home – there were so many mums wanting cuddles.’

The six years have gone fast, especially when they reflect on the growth of their boys. ‘I used to look at what “big” four-year-old boys were like. You know, boisterous and adventurous’, says Sarah. ‘It was quite hard to imagine my little baby turning into that. Well they do!’

Second sons Alby, Finn and Luke are now the ‘big boys’ at Playcentre – where besides climbing and building and creating and doing all the things that four-year-olds like to do, ‘it is their turn to look out for the little ones’, says Sarah.

Playcentre is a place where kids are surrounded by supportive, caring adults, where through a process of absorption they learn about looking out for each other. Which is something these mums exemplify in their relationships with each other.

‘We are always there for each other’, says Louise, ‘I text Sarah and ask for her to pick up Alby and take him home. And Mel and I take each other’s kids over the holidays.’

Sarah recalls the support that she received from other mums – like Louise and Mel – especially in the early years. ‘Being able to talk to them every week and knowing that I wasn’t alone with my worries and problems was invaluable and certainly strengthened our bond.’

Mel agrees: ‘Playcentre is not just for the kids – you get to talk to your friends about what’s going on.’

‘With seven boys between us, we were frazzled together!’ laughs Louise.

These mums share certain values and at the top of the list is their love for their boys and with this their appreciation of Playcentre: ‘My kids have grown up at Playcentre’, says Louise.

‘It’s their favourite place’, adds Sarah – who let her eldest son James have the day off school on Wednesday to visit his Playcentre.

‘Having boys, I have to get out of the house every day – so that they can do something physical’, she shares. ‘Part of what drives me to go to Playcentre is having this physical outlet for the kids. The boys get so much out of it, especially being together.’

As for the youngest member of the seven, Playcentre is what he knows and loves. ‘Henry gets so excited when we arrive: he squeals and runs up the ramp. They all just get into it’, says Louise.

Speaking of getting into it, Mel recalls her first day at Playcentre, ‘I thought: What have I got myself in for?’ But as time ticks by, you realise what Playcentre gives you.’

In one word: Friendship. Born out of a shared desire to get involved with their kids, strengthened by an understanding of what it is to have boys (being frazzled…), and anchored by an appreciation of Playcentre.