Abbeycroft Leisure has re-started its ‘Just Play’ SEND programme at their facilities in Haverhill, Newmarket and Sudbury, for families with children with disabilities, designed to play and learn with each other in a safe, stimulating and nurturing environment.

The programme, which had been successfully running at Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury since 2015, wasn’t available during the pandemic due to their purpose built soft play areas having to close.

The ‘Just Play’ disability sessions take place once a month, supported by a dedicated play-worker and children are encouraged to run, jump, and climb as well as expressing themselves creatively with an organised arts and crafts activity.

Families are able to bring children with ability and disability to the same session, which encourages learning and mentoring and feedback from families who use the sessions, say that the play-worker significantly enhances the session by increasing the children’s participation and enjoyment and at the same time, provides the parents with valuable time to socialise with other like-minded parents and to network, share information and create friendships.

Within the 12 month delivery schedule, Abbeycroft will include climate combatting activities such as building bee houses and planting flowers along with recycling education and other fun, educational activities

Tracey Loynds, development director at Abbeycroft said:
“It’s good news that we’ve been able to restart the Just Play programme at Kingfisher and also extend it to Haverhill and Newmarket.

Having dedicated sessions such as these are vital for families and we’ve seen how friendships and communities strengthen through the power of play and activity.”

Hazel Dawkins, Mum of Olivia aged 14 said:
“These sessions are so great for us. My daughter Olivia has got down syndrome and autism and we’ve been to soft play sessions before where she has literally been surrounded by other children who just stare at her because they are inquisitive. So she gets frustrated and the whole experience isn’t pleasant.”

“So being here with other kids and parents who are in the same situation as us just removes all the tension and worry. Every parent knows that if your kids are happy then you’re happy, and the support network here is so important. We’ve met other families and that’s helpful too.”

“I would really recommend parents give it a go – it’s not overwhelming for the kids because it’s quieter than a mainstream session so it’s really ideal.”

Find out more about the Just Play SEND sessions available at Abbeycroft.