Space, just like any Playcentre group, is running as well as it can throughout lockdown. Many facilitators are running a Zoom session once a week during the group’s regular meeting time. Each session is designed by the two facilitators to meet their Space group’s needs as much as possible. Space runs for three terms and a group can be in any of the three units during lockdown, depending on how old babies are and when they started as a group. So, the needs of parents and babies are different for each session. Many new mums are desperate for discussion on sleep; the mums of older babies are looking for play ideas for their moving babies.

The sessions normally go for up to an hour. There is a check in chat, then a discussion perhaps, or a guest speaker. Some groups include music and stories, although this relies heavily on internet working well enough.

Due to many reasons not all participants are able to attend the Zoom session. They often have older tamariki to support, husbands are using the computer, or they may get no reception. In order to try to reach as much of the group as possible, facilitators are putting play ideas on the group’s Facebook page and encouraging families to connect outside of Space hours.

There are many lonely and lost new mums out there. Partners may be essential workers, or working from home shut in an office trying to concentrate. Some people have said that they are dreading Level 3 as their husband will head back to work and leave mum alone, trying to cope without the support of activities or regular friend meetings. Space helps to provide a connection point for the mothers of new babies. It is a time to discuss challenges, great things that have happened (she rolled today! Or, his first tooth has just appeared) and what people are doing in the day.

It’s not just mum that needs support. Often a dad will listen into the session. He might be unable to work and feel so much pressure from that. Or, he might be the one that is looking after baby while mum does the work. One facilitator said that they had a lovely session recently. The topic was ‘Meaningful Whānau’ and the men started to join in from the background. How lovely to be able to facilitate a session online that ended up like that.

One facilitator finds it helpful to do a weekly mental health check-up with the families. She posts a photo of a chart, the group just have to reply with the appropriate colour heart, which is easy and fun. Those who have indicated they are struggling, she contacts personally to allow them to share more, if they want to, and to offer support. She said “it is lovely to see others in the group also offering support for each other”.

Facilitators do such wonderful activities with their groups. Here are a few of the things that have been happening:

  • Music – during the Zoom call and links to fun videos to support singing, dancing and making music with instruments
  • “Old McDonald had a kitchen” or “Aquarium” whereby parent had to find for “show and tell” an object from eg kitchen, and do a solo making the noise.
  • Speakers – from Plunket, Playcentre, exercise teachers, weaning, baby sign language and many others. This is what one of the facilitators said “I have had Kimiyo from the Plunket safety team talking about home safety, which is very relevant for lockdown. I also had a friend of mine who is a dental hygienist talk about caring for little teeth. She would not normally be able to do this, but at the moment she’s bored at home! Next I am going to try to get someone from the Playcentre to join us to talk about what they do and answer questions. Also I have booked in Helen from Dorothy Butler Bookshop to talk about books and reading, although she is only able to do it in Level 3 when she can get in her shop, so we are hoping for the last week of term”.
  • Posted a New Challenge weekly
  • Fathers day cards, painted footprints etc.
  • Lots of swapping of recipes
  • Play and post a photo – messy play, painting, box play, ice
  • “The Great Outdoors” Mums were postings pics from walks off the beaten track eg Bastion Point, Waiatarua, golf clubs…beaches. Walks that they would never normally do
  • Encouragement of te reo and tikanga Māori
  • A-Z photo share of what activities the group are doing with baby
  • “Sometimes stories have been read to us by the older children of my co-facilitator, or of one of the Space Mums, which is absolutely delightful”

As one Space facilitator said “I’m always exhausted after the weekly Space sessions on Zoom! It is the highlight of the week for many of our Mums so despite the tiredness…I’m very happy that we have the opportunity to continue checking in with them and see the babies grow!”