Our Artistic Producer and CEO, Miranda Thain, reflects on the importance of the Hullabaloo Baby Play Packs and how play should never be trivialised by the adult world.
One of the saddest things about having to close the doors of The Hullabaloo in March was knowing that we probably wouldn’t get an opportunity to meet all the babies yet to be born but who would usually come to play with us in the first weeks and months of their lives.
Our youngest visitor to The Hullabaloo so far has been just 4 hours old (a hero Mum who had promised her eldest daughter a trip to see Luna and wasn’t going to let having a baby get in the way!) and we know that the shows, play sessions, groups and creative play spaces we offer are often some of the first experiences of the outside world that our local babies have.
As well as all the beautiful and brilliant creative opportunities, The Hullabaloo also proudly plays an important role in supporting families with new babies socially too; be it a hot cup of tea, somewhere where the staff are genuinely delighted to see a young baby or some relaxing play time, we understand how important it is for new parents to have somewhere to go where we they will be wholeheartedly welcomed.
Remembering some of the long, lonely days and nights with my own son who wasn’t big on sleeping as a newborn, made me think about how difficult lockdown with a new baby must be and how we must try and give our families something joyful and useful in their role as new parents.
Theatre Hullabaloo’s mission is to ‘ensure creativity is part of everybody’s childhood’ and, as the world leapt to the challenge of exercising its creativity in some extraordinary ways as we were all thrust into the pandemic, we wanted to ensure that parents and carers were equipped with the tools to play that we know are crucial to babies’ development and to their relationships with their grown-ups.
And so, with support from some brilliant local authority partners, we created Hullabaloo Baby Play Packs. The packs include a Hullabaloo Playbook, which explains the hows and whys around play and has lots of ideas for ways you can play at home, a range of toys and instruments – from finger puppets to rattles and board books – and importantly signposts families to Theatre Hullabaloo’s website where some of our Hullabaloo friends have created short films explaining how you can use the pack to stimulate and delight your little one.
This week we have distributed 1,100 Hullabaloo Baby Play Packs to Health Visitors, Hub service teams and School Readiness teams across Darlington, Redcar and Middlesbrough and, over the next few weeks and months, we will continue to work in partnership to deliver more, ensuring that babies across parts of Tees Valley receive the packs in their homes.
Play can often be trivialised by the grown-up world, but we do so at our peril as it is fundamental to our ability to be creative and have fun. For babies, it’s even more significant than that as play is our babies’ way of learning about the world around them, developing their imaginations, supporting their physical development and helping them to develop stronger bonds with their parents and carers.
With the doors of The Hullabaloo still sadly closed until we know it is safe to welcome children and their families back to play, we hope these packs and the Creative Play Films will bring some joy and play into the lives of those babies we are still yet to meet.