A Dundee toddler-parent group is campaigning for Covid-19 restrictions on classes to be lifted, claiming current rules are a “huge blow” for young families.
Kelly Smith of Dundee & Perth Toddler Sense claims parents and children who attend her classes are missing out on valuable social interaction, because new rules limit numbers to a maximum of five adults.
Following a national outcry, restrictions on classes for children under 12 months were eased by the Scottish Government on Monday, with baby classes now able to accommodate up to 10 adults in a room.
However, adult attendance rules have not been relaxed for classes catering for children aged one to five years.
Kelly, who started up classes again at Toddler Sense just three weeks ago, said: “This is a huge blow to anyone with a kid in that age range.
“It makes no sense either. Older children are allowed to attend a baby class with a younger sibling, but can’t attend a class for their own age group.
“Having these classes means that parents who have been locked up for months can finally get out. It’s socialising for mum and dad.
“We’ve had mums come back and just break into tears because it’s the first time they’ve been able to come to a class in ages. One mum in particular said that she felt safer in our class than she did on the bus or at the supermarket.”
Kelly, who has over 100 families on her books, said classes provided vital support for children’s development and wellbeing.
She said: “In the short time we were able to hold classes I noticed that some pre-school children had lost confidence because they were not used to other children. It’s something they’ve not had experience of in their life.
“They are so clingy with their parents and it took time for them to come out of their shells. Now – with these rules – they are being put back in their shells.
“It’s so sad.”
She added: “Being at home and having to entertain children all the time is hard for some parents to sustain, week after week.
“Some people can but others need ideas to help them. We don’t just help parents play with their children, we give them the tools, developmental information etc – that’s very important.
“Catching a ball is not just catching a ball, it develops fine motor skills and hand/eye co-ordination which will one day help that child to hold a pen.
“I just don’t understand why the Scottish Government can open things like pubs and have everyone mingling together but limit our class sizes.”
The regulations have also had an impact on Toddler Sense financially because, as rules stand, classes are “unviable” to run.
Kelly added: “Before lockdown we used to have a lot more people coming into our classes, so we’ve already reduced in numbers dramatically.
“If we could get up to 10 adults with their kids in a class that would be great – but at the moment we can accommodate a maximum of four families at a time, which is unsustainable.
“A lot of businesses won’t survive this, and if we’re like this for much longer then how do we stay open afterwards? We still need to pay our bills.
“We’ve started campaigning for the restrictions to be lifted slightly, like with baby classes.
“On Monday night at 7pm, lots of parents and childcare workers sent a mass of tweets at the First Minister asking for lighter restrictions.”
Amy Black, who is a single parent and usually attends the classes with her two-year-old son, Romeo, supports the campaign.
She said: “I’ve been going to the weekly classes since Romeo was just six weeks old, but at the moment I haven’t been able to go to any classes.
“It’s a bit of a nightmare at the moment, keeping a two-year-old at home with nothing to do, there’s nowhere that we can go and it’s a struggle to find things to keep him busy.
“It’s good for both of us to get out, right now I’m feeling a lot of loneliness because I don’t see many other adults.
“These classes really do have a benefit for both adults and kids, it’s good to be able to go and do something together while still being with people our own age.”
Maggie Kier, who attends the classes with her four-year-old son, added: “The classes are extremely important, not only for children but for parents.
“It’s one of the only places that new parents can go to be around people their own age.
“I don’t know how we can have pubs and everything else open, and not open these classes. It’s just a bit bonkers.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said restrictions were being kept under “constant review”
“We don’t want any restrictions to be in place any longer than necessary,” he added.
“We have prioritised maintaining provision for children under 12 months and their parents as perinatal mental health is most crucial in the first year following birth, and children under 12 months are less likely to have access to socialising opportunities.”