Teacher Nikki Allen gave birth to her second son just before a month-long lockdown. Feeling isolated, she went on to set up a network of classes that help parents and babies bond and develop
With two boys aged three-and-a-half and one, primary school teacher Nikki Allen knows how difficult it can be to keep in touch with other mums and keep little ones entertained – especially during lockdown.
“Lockdown was not a great time – I was expecting my second child at the time and had to go through everything on my own. My husband Ben couldn’t come to antenatal classes or scans with me in the run up to the birth.
“As I was pregnant, I was classed as high risk and so had to work from home. I felt lucky that it wasn’t my first baby and that I had a network of friends from having my eldest son.”
Luckily Ben was able to join Nikki for the actual birth but only during the final hours, as Nikki explains: “I was quite wary of going into hospital due to the Covid situation but thankfully Ben was there at the birth. It was quite a scary time to be going through all that.”
When Nikki returned home from hospital, just before Christmas during the month-long November lockdown she found herself with a newborn and toddler – unable to socialise and see family: “We wanted everyone to meet our new baby, but obviously couldn’t. We were basically in a situation where all new mums with babies of a similar age to mine, were kept apart. I felt any support network I had from having my first child was disappearing during that first year. It was quite an eye-opener and really highlighted the benefits of groups for mums and babies. It was a case of, where do you meet people who are going through the same experiences?”
Once lockdown was over Nikki set about exploring new career options online – focusing on groups that centred around babies as well as new mums and she discovered
Tots Play: “It was as much for the parents as the babies,” she recalls. “Tots Play has an ethos that really resonates with me.”
With various classes aimed at varying age categories, Nikki set up classes at Langho Parish Centre and from January will do more classes in Great Harwood and eventually she hopes to run classes in Clitheroe.
Classes include a Baby Development Course suitable from birth to six months: “All the classes are child-led and go at baby’s pace. They aim to empower parents and give them a toolkit of things to do with their newborn to help them bond and develop.”
Other in-person classes include Discovery Tots and Social Tots – each designed to help development and give parents ideas for engaging activities to do at home with children.
“The feedback I have had has been brilliant!” says Nikki. “It has been so worthwhile and I am really passionate Tots Play Ribble Valley and its future.”