Over 3.7 million under fives live in Britain today. Toddler groups provide local communities with essential open access play sessions for pre-school children, their parents and carers. Toddler groups are also a fantastic but often unrecognised mission opportunity for parish communities.
When describing the role of the Christian family Blessed Pope John Paul II said 'without love the family cannot live, grow and perfect itself as a community of persons.' (Familliaris Consortio) Pope Francis reinforces this message by encouraging us to 'announce Jesus with our life, with our witness and with our words. When we do this, the Church becomes a Mother Church that bears children.' (Rome, April 17, 2013)
Toddler groups reach families during the critical first three years of a child's life. Their warm, supportive environment allows parents, often isolated and under stress, the chance to fulfil their mission to give their children a loving and secure space in which to grow and thrive. With commitment and support from the local church, with a clearly stated mission and regular prayer, toddler groups can provide families with a critically positive encounter of the local faith community.
In Spring 2011 the Project Office enjoyed the services of an intern from the University of Notre Dame, Katie Petrik, who was commissioned to explore the rationale of toddler groups from a family ministry perspective, to summarise the opportunities offered by toddler groups to the life and mission of the church and to research the experience of toddler group leaders.
Read 'Quality Time' a Parish Practice article co-authored by Katie Petrik and Elizabeth Davies (available by kind permission of The Tablet.)
http://www.1277.org.uk/ National strategy for Christian toddler groups
http://www.danielsden.org.uk/ Church based parent and toddler organisation with a mission to encourage and enrich family life
http://www.familymatters.org.uk/ Christian charity working to support, improve and sustain healthy families