What to expect at our sessions.
I attended so many toddler groups while childminding and with my own boys. My eldest was born when I was 21 and although I wasn’t a teenage mum I did feel very young, none of my close circle of friends had children.
I remember my first experience of walking into a toddler group, it was a large rectangular shaped room with a line of chairs down both of the long walls facing each other. All the adults were sat talking and the children were tearing up the centre of the room like they’d each eaten their body’s weight in orange smarties (you know they’re the bad ones right?)
I stood in the door way clutching tight to my 6 month old as if we were facing a hurricane, I was mentally running through the conversation I was going to have with my mum the next time I saw her for forcing me to attend this awful place. I think we stayed for about 20 minutes then both left for a nap to recover.
Now I expect you’re waiting for me to say but I persevered and found they were an absolute life line aren’t you??? Well sorry to disappoint – they weren’t!!! However the experience did get slightly better and both the children in my care when I was minding, my boys and I definitely took positive experiences away from these sessions.
While setting up 4 Cheeky Monkeys I made sure it had everything I felt other groups lacked, my top priority was outdoor play. I wanted safe enclosed spaces, lots of variety in resources, toys that had working batteries in, toys that were clean and in good condition… I also wanted to break up the adults sat at the edges children running riot theme a lot of them seemed to favour.
I really didn’t want to ‘cliquey’ unapproachable feel to the group which is something you can’t really stop happening however we planned and arranged the room in a way we hoped would stop this.
Were we successful?
Do you know, I think we’ve come as close as possible and to the degree I’d hoped. Yes there are friends that meet up and have a catch up, but they keep a close eye on their children. The majority of adults move round with their children and engage in play with them. It’s a place you can go and have one to one time with your child however if you speak to any of our regulars they will all happily chat to you. I am confident in saying everyone that attends is lovely, our regulars are as friendly as our staff and will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. It’s been lovely to witness so many friendships evolve both with children but also with lots of adults.
What can you expect during a session?
- As you enter 4 Cheeky Monkeys you’ll be at the back of the building, Lesley our centre manager is ‘usually’(unless she’s run off to put full signs up or deal with an emergency) stood opposite you at the other end of the room. If you sign in with her she’ll show you where the toilets are.
- Its then free play until 10am/10.15am when teas and coffees are available for adults to buy we provide free juice and biscuits for the children. I just want to address here why we choose biscuits as it has been asked before and I know everyone is trying to promote healthy eating. To provide toast would be time consuming (Lesley is on her own during sessions) and we’d also have to change our food safety registration to be able to provide hot food – which we don’t really want to go through. We tried fruit in the past this worked out very expensive with a lot of waste and people still asking for biscuits.
- After snack there is usually a craft activity set up and outdoor play available. Please always supervise your children outside.
- At 11.10am it’s tidy up time followed by singing and dancing.
That was when I started to look for help and support…
I started Googling and emailing everyone and anyone I thought might be able to help which is how I found the amazing Ralph Rudden.
Ralph was the first person (out of many) to agree to meet up with me and hear about my crazy plan for the run down, derelict scout hut building. We met at the sun shine cafe where he listened to me waffled on about how amazing our project was going to be but (then in a quiet voice I mentioned) how we’d run out of money.
Ralph said not to worry he knew two people I needed to meet with, Andy Hemming from Unltd and Dan Shelston from Trafford Housing Trust.
Ralph has continued to supported us, pointing us in the right direction whenever we’re stuck, he’s such a generous man he always has time to listen and has remained interested in our plans since that very first meeting.
Andy put me forward for the Unltd ‘Do it’ application for £5000. Meeting him was such a big boost in the right direction, the first time I showed him the building I remember he said to me ‘Jeneane, it doesn’t matter what it looks like now, it matters what you’re going to do with it and what you’re going to achieve. We’re investing in you as a person because we believe you’ll be able to do this.’ That has stayed with me five years on, that first conversation gave me the confidence and reassurance that what we we’re doing would work and that other people could see the potential and vision I had. It’s now 2018 and Andy’s on-going support (and gardening business meetings) and advise are invaluable to 4 Cheeky Monkeys.
Dan recommended us for THT’s ‘Give and Gain’ day. Once they were both involved people were happy to invest, support and match fund. Dan Shelton’s, an absolute legend, I’m so very grateful for all his help and advice. I apologise for the millions of emails and questions I bombarded you with on a weekly basis in the early days.
At the same time as meeting Ralph I also felt stuck as to what to do with our setting…should we be a charity, a private business, hand it over to someone else that would then let us run it.
A lady at Blue Orchid gave me the details of an accountant based in Sale that specialized in CIC’s, I met with her and she explained all our options and we decided a CIC would be best for us.
Brooks Institute closed around the time of these meetings and once Unltd awarded the £5000 they we’re happy to match fund via a grant application.
It’s from here the ball started rolling and 4 Cheeky Monkeys became what it is today.
The individuals that have helped since the start getting involved around the same time as Ralph, Andy and Dan have been:
Cllr Rob Chilton he has been very helpful, kind and approachable his advice has been fantastic especially when I’ve had to communicate with Trafford Council.
Mike Morin from MoforLess he has done a lot of our ground work (football area, pram store, growing area…) if anything happens we can’t fix ourselves its Mike we contact. Thank you Mike.
Tom Rock and his team at Rock paving they did an amazing job of our grounds and we’re forever grateful.
Above is everyone listed from 2012 to opening in 2104. We’ve had masses of support, grants, funding, donations, volunteers since and I just want to thank everyone. We really appreciate it and wouldn’t be what we are without you all.
Lets start at the beginning
Gosh it seems so long ago..
I know lots of you will have read this before so I’ll try and throw in a few bits you don’t know rather than the professional “We set up 4 Cheeky Monkeys as we were disappointed at the lack of affordable, supportive, daily, accessible amenities for families within the Sale area”…which is 100% true but I’ll make the following a bit more informal.
Back in 2008 I started a Foundation degree in Early Years Child Hood studies, at the time everyone thought I was a bit crazy due to the fact I worked full time as a childminder, I was a single mum of two boys (my youngest was 8 months old) and my parents we’re very poorly, they both had cancer.
I remember my tutor asking me if I really thought I should be enrolling, I said yes because there’s never “a perfect time” to do anything – you can’t ever predict what’s round the corner. The course was hard but I enjoyed every minute and I learnt so much.
Sadly my dad passed away during my final year.
Once my course was complete (I passed YAY) health wise my mum was better and in remission, she registered as my assistant and we worked together childminding.
I always spoke to my mum about how important I thought toddlers groups were but I found:
- The boys would just run round the open space not really engaging in anything.
- The toys often didn’t have batteries in or were broken.
- I had noticed the adults didn’t engage with their children (at all!) it was more of an adults social. I know I have done this as a mum a few times however I wasn’t a mum in these situations I was being paid to do a job, looking after the children in my care, so I would sit on the floor and play with them and generally be where they were.
- None of the groups had outdoor play and my children (childminded and my own) thrived in outdoor play.
It was through these conversations we started to discuss opening our own group or just a bigger setting to childmind in, my two bed house just wasn’t big enough.
We looked at a couple of buildings in Sale however the old scout hut on Dawlish Road kept popping back up in the conversations we had.
Finding out who owned the building took about 6 months, no one seemed to know who it belonged too, I contacted Trafford Council, the scouting association, the local parish church and then Trafford Council again.
Finally they found it did belong to Trafford Council and we arranged to view it, this is what it looked like, not our first visit and believe it or not this was after some work had been done…
Honestly its only now looking back I see what a state it was in, back then we were over the moon.
We could see so much potential in the setting, we could vision what it would be like, I don’t think I registered just how derelict it had become over the 18 years it had been closed.
Once the council had agreed we could buy the property I took people down to see it – they looked at me as if was crazy.
Undeterred by our friends lack of excitement we started the renovations using our own personal savings, which wasn’t very much when you look at the work the property needed, as you can imagine it ran out in no time.
That was when I started to look for help and support… (to be continued in our next blog)