I'm a qualified UK lawyer, who emigrated to Australia in May 2012. I have three small children and we've been getting to know Brisbane and making it our home.
Published May 5th 2013
New to the area, in fact new to Australia (we emigrated from the UK nearly a year ago), I have made it my business to find out what is on in the area to entertain my 2 year old and for us both to make new friends. Playgroups were the ideal place to start building a friendship group.
Bulimba Uniting Church runs the Kids Uniting Playgroup at 9-11am on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Held in the hall below the church, this is a very friendly and inclusive playgroup, where everyone is made to feel very welcome by Miss Janie.
Miss Janie is the paid co-ordinator, a fairly recent appointment with volunteers running the various sessions previously. Miss Janie's appointment has resulted in a more coherent, structured playgroup from which the children, parents and carers, who attend, benefit greatly.
The playgroup is easy to find at the top of Oxford Street. There is a gate across the entrance to keep little ones in and loads of space outside the entrance to park up pushchairs.
Toys are set out in themes to allow the little ones to explore and have free access to what is available. There is always a little craft area set up with a different craft to enjoy each week. This could be play dough, making Christmas decorations, painting or any manner of exciting and stimulating activities.
On the work top in front of the kitchen, you will find various cakes and treats for the parents and carers and you are encouraged to help yourself to tea and coffee.
The format is free play from 9-10.45am sometimes with a story around 10am. At around 10.45am, the toys and activities are packed up and the room cleared for singing. This is mine and my little man's favourite part of the group.
We all gather in a circle and sing various nursery rhymes and songs. Miss Janie uses various puppet prompts, such as a spider puppet for Incy Wincy and the children help themselves to musical instruments to join in with the music.
The children start to learn the songs and actions to them and obviously thoroughly enjoy it. There was a moment last week when all of the little ones were lying on the floor for 'sleeping bunnies' that really made me laugh, but also made me feel part of a community. All the parents and carers finding it equally amusing, smiling at each other.
For me, Miss Janie makes the group a wonderful place to be. She quickly learns the names of all of the parents, carers and children and remembers things that are going on in your life and checks in that you are ok. She is fabulous.
As well as being a lovely way to spend a morning, I have made many firm friends from this group, who I know I will always be friends with.
The cost of the group is $5 per family. This can be paid in cash on the day or you can pay up front for the term.
So, that is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday taken care of, what to do on a Thursday?
Well, Bulimba has the answer. There are two playgroups to choose from on a Thursday, both equally good.
Held at Bulimba Senior Citizens' Centre
Bulimba Bilbies is held at the Bulimba Senior Citizens' Centre from 9.30-11am. This is a Playgroup Queensland playgroup and is very welcoming and friendly.
Toys are set out in themes. There is a soft play area with baby toys, a dressing up box, a home corner, a number of tricycles and many other toys for the children to play with. There is also a craft table with little chairs.
It is a spacious hall with plenty of room for the children to run around and use up all of that excess energy.
As I am heavily pregnant, I love all of the chairs around the edge of the hall, where you can sit and chat whilst keeping an eye on your little one(s). A lovely aspect of this group is that all of the parents/carers look out for each other's children, there is a real sense of community.
This playgroup was set up by Felicity Donaldson, who is lovely and doesn't get the credit she deserves for running this fantastic group. Felicity invites new members to attend two sessions and if they enjoy it, they can then pay the $20 fee for the entire term.
Felicity uses these tiny subs to pay the hire costs for the hall and buy craft materials etc. I am not sure how she does it with so little, but there is always enough left in the pot to organise special events for the children, such as a Halloween party. Dressing up, decorations, themed food, carved pumpkins and complete with a disco and bubble machine. I'm not sure who had more fun, the adults or the children!
The format is free play until around 10.45am when it is pack up time and the room is cleared apart for the little chairs, which are brought to the front of the hall for story time and singing time. This is mine and my little one's favourite part of the session. We sing the same songs in the same order each week, accompanied by music and the children know all of the actions and what comes next. Lots of crazy toddler dancing often ensues.
The children then take responsibly for taking their little chair to the stock room to be stored. They all seem to take great delight in this. It's a funny sight, a queue of toddlers, each with a tiny chair in hand, walking to the stock cupboard and proudly handing them over to be put away.
The excitement then mounts as the giant parachute is brought out. This is raised in the air and the children run around under it. It is then placed on the floor and they all jump on to be spun around. A fun way to bring an easy and relaxed session to an end.
The playgroup now has its own Facebook page and Felicity is encouraging a rota for set up and lock up of the hall. I like this idea as it makes it feel like it is our playgroup.
Again, I have made some firm friends from this group and my little one and I look forward to it every week.
The alternative Thursday group is the St. Peter and St. Paul Church Playgroup.
This is a large Playgroup with fabulous facilities and equipment. The highlight for my toddler being a bouncy castle and the craft table.
There is an amazing array of toys to suit all ages and preferences. The selection really excites the children and they happily explore what there is on offer for the duration of the session.
There is a kitchen off the main hall, where you are encouraged to help yourself to tea and coffee. There are toilets off the other side of the hall with great changing facilities and ideal if you are potty training.
The playgroup is a very reasonable $2 per session and is well attended by a friendly group of people. Many of whom I have met at the other playgroups in the area.
It is ideally located to grab a quick coffee with new friends at one of the many cafes on Riding Road afterwards, if you haven't had your fill of tea, coffee, biscuits and chatting during the session.
A playgroup on offer everyday in Bulimba, so that's your mornings taken care of and, with a number of parks to choose from in the afternoons, Bulimba has so much to offer a young family and at very little cost!