Emneth cafe serves up learning aid for little ones

Water way to have fun at the Discovery Cafe at Emneth Children's Centre.

Water way to have fun at the Discovery Cafe at Emneth Children's Centre.

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A new scheme to boost communication and literacy skills in babies and toddlers is being piloted in the Fens.

The Discovery Café programme, created by Norfolk County Council, helps brings stories to life by using activities, objects and craft – and is already proving a big hit with youngsters at Emneth Children’s Centre.

Having fun during the Discovery Cafe at Emneth Children's Centre

Having fun during the Discovery Cafe at Emneth Children's Centre

Aimed at children aged three and under, the informal sessions invite parents to share a book with their children before taking part in a range of activities connected to the story.

Delivered at children’s centres across the county, the aim is to get children looking at books from birth, with parents talking about the story and helping their children to explore what is going on.

In Emneth, the pilot has been running since March, with some of the stories being read by parents and carers including Dear Zoo, Don’t Put Your Finger in the Jelly Nelly and Wow! Said The Owl.

After the stories, youngsters have enjoyed all manner of activities, from role play using cuddly toys and sand pits to exploring colour and touch with paints and jelly.

Using a sand pit and toys to bring the book, Dear Zoo, to life.

Using a sand pit and toys to bring the book, Dear Zoo, to life.

The next Discovery Cafe hosted by Emneth Children’s Centre is being held at Marshland St James Primary School on June 23.

Early years play worker Carole Gunns, who runs the Emneth cafes with fellow play worker Maxine Thorpe, said the event will also be a chance for youngsters to become familiar with the school they will attend in a couple of years.

“During the pilot we held the cafes in quick succession to see how they would be received, and they have proved a big hit,” said Miss Gunns.

“We will now be running them every five weeks.”

Mum Rosie Newstead, who visits the cafes with her son, said: “It gives him a chance to learn and explore new things. I hadn’t really thought of making things and doing activities around books before, but we have made lots of things together now.”

Lindsey Symington, an early years adviser for the county council’s Home Learning team, said: “Sharing books with children is important from birth because interaction with their parents and carers is crucial to a child’s early development.

“The cafes link books with fun experiences which parents can develop at home. By bringing stories to life, children get an interest in books and their motor skills and senses are supported, which helps brain development, communication and eventually reading and writing.”

To book a space on the Discovery Cafe at Marshland St James Primary School, contact Emneth Children’s Centre on 01945 582401.