New scheme to boost little ones’ early learning

Family support worker Victoria Horne reads The Tiger Who Came to Tea at Fakenham Gateway Children's Centre.
Family support worker Victoria Horne reads The Tiger Who Came to Tea at Fakenham Gateway Children's Centre.
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A new scheme to boost communication and literacy skills in babies and toddlers is being piloted in Norfolk.

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 in West Norfolk.

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 West Norfolk, the cafes have been piloted at children’s centres including in Hunstanton and Fakenham. At a recent session at Fakenham Gateway Children’s Centre, children, parents and carers read The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

They then took part in role play using cuddly tiger toys, tea sets and shopping baskets; explored colour and touch with paint and made their own sandwiches and tins of tiger food.

Other popular children’s stories used so far include The Three Little Pigs, Dear Zoo, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

They run once a month, with the next one in Fakenham taking place on Monday, June 1.

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